Every so often you read a story about a small-school player that blindsided competition, rose to stardom as a campus legend and brought notoriety to a program that doesn’t get much attention outside of its local newspaper.
By this time next year, Ball State redshirt sophomore quarterback Jack Milas may have already accomplished that.
Listed as one of Athlon Sports’ college football quarterbacks “on the rise” heading into the 2015 season, Milas steps in as the likely starter for an offense that has thrown for 12,998 yards and 101 touchdowns in Pete Lembo’s four years as head coach.
Milas replaced former starter Ozzie Mann halfway through the season, making his first appearance in a start against Western Michigan on October 11th. Though Ball State lost 42-38, Milas immediately showed his capability as the ideal candidate for Lembo’s multiple offense, scorching the Broncos’ defense for 326 yards (a school record for a freshman), four touchdowns and 85.2 QBR.
“We threw the ball better today than we have all year,” Lembo said after the game. “[Milas] did a really nice job. … [he] is my starter.”
“I thought I did some things well, but I’ve definitely got to improve,” Milas said. “I missed a lot of easy reads.”
Though the 6-foot-2, 200-pound Illinois native went on to throw just five more touchdowns in as many games before a season-ending wrist injury that kept him out of the season finale – and the Cardinals would finish 5-7 with no bowl game appearance – it was obvious that he had stabilized himself as Ball State’s future; something that had been done previously with former four-year starter Keith Wenning.
With an experienced receiving corps and tremendous amount of young, yet talented players scattered throughout the two-deep roster, Milas could be the missing piece of the puzzle to help get Ball State its first postseason win in school history – and possibly its first MAC championship since 1996.
“I like him a lot as a quarterback,” said HustleBelt blogger Brandon Smith. “He’s a bit of a gunslinger, so will have to cut down on turnovers. But [he] gave the offense a jolt when playing.”
It wouldn’t be all too surprising if Milas were to go on to have a successful sophomore campaign and eventually become one of Ball State’s all-time passing leaders and highly-coveted quarterbacks. A former three-star prospect, Milas completed 67 percent of his passes for 5,961 yards 71 touchdowns and just 19 interceptions throughout his time as a starter for Rolling Meadows High School.
His senior highlight tape suggests that he’s very comfortable in a system that forces the quarterback to make pre-snap reads with aggressive downfield passing ability, making him a perfect fit for Ball State’s offensive game plan. Milas has shown that he’s capable of fitting the ball in tight spaces and throwing his receivers open, which is a commodity at the college level.
If he can continue to develop and make better decisions under duress – a trait that many young quarterbacks obtain through experience – there’s no telling just how valuable he can become for a team that desperately wants to return to the top of the MAC West and battle for position with the likes of Northern Illinois, Toledo, and Western Michigan.
Milas has the potential to take Ball State to new heights. Whether he capitalizes on the opportunity is yet to be seen – but keep your eyes wide open this spring and fall.