Bears

Rolling Meadows' Milas has reason to smile

Rolling Meadows' Milas has reason to smile

Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2011
Posted: 11:17 a.m.

By Taylor Bell
CSNChicago.com

Jack Milas smiles too much. Maybe it is because he is examining his awesome passing statistics. Or the Rolling Meadows quarterback knows he has another year to get even better and he hasn't been sacked by a linebacker as mean as Dick Butkus.

"I always smile. I'm just a happy person. I just like to have fun," Milas said. "I have several goals this season -- complete 70 percent of my passes, lead the area in touchdown passes and yards passing, be the No. 1 quarterback in the area, be a leader, don't get down like I did last year, have fun and keep smiling."

The 6-foot-2, 192-pound junior has good reason to smile. He is one of the most prolific and accurate and productive passers in the state. In four games, he has completed 68 percent (108 of 160) of his passes for 1,261 yards and 15 touchdowns for a 3-1 team that hopes to contend in the Mid-Suburban East Conference.

Milas is on pace to become only the fifth player in state history to pass for more than 4,000 yards in a season. In his opener, he passed for 493 yards, 13th on the all-time single-game list. He was 33-of-59 in that game, then was 16-of-20 for 294 yards and four touchdowns in a little over a half in last Friday's 53-7 rout of Hoffman Estates. He'll test Wheeling Friday night at homecoming.

"He is as accurate as any quarterback I've been around," said coach Matt Mishler. "It's too early to compare him to (former Prospect star) Miles Osei, the most accurate high school quarterback I have seen. But Jack is right there. He has all the throws. He has swagger. He understands the game. He is a Division I prospect and there isn't a lot he can't do with a ball."

Rolling Meadows' spread offense, which averages 37.7 points per game, is effective because Milas has two exceptionally talented receivers in Artie Checchin and Ryan Gunderson, who operate on one side, while Tyler Bobowski and John Burkiewicz or Jacob Grant line up on the other side.

"It's four-wide-and-let-it-fly. We pass the ball to set up our run," Milas said. "That's why Missouri is my dream school. They run a spread offense and I want to be in an offense that throws the ball. I like what they do. It is like our spread. They don't run much. They rely heavily on the quarterback."

Until four weeks ago, nobody knew anything about Milas. Neither he nor Rolling Meadows commanded any respect. The Mustangs were picked to finish last in their division. Milas was a defensive end as an eighth grader, then decided to try out for quarterback as a freshman. As a sophomore, he started the last five games for a 4-5 team, then suffered an arm injury.

So nobody expected very much from Rolling Meadows this season -- except Mishler, Milas and the folks in Rolling Meadows.

"I expected (Milas) to be what he has been this year," said Mishler, who was the offensive coordinator last season. "I'm not surprised by what he has done. He always has had arm strength and accuracy. I knew he could get better. If he can function like this with the line in front of him, the sky is the limit."

Milas isn't surprised, either. "The players and coaches knew we would be good. We returned every skilled player and a lot of defensive players. We just had to put it together. Last year, nobody was like a team. Now we have great leadership. Our team always hangs out together. Now I have a lot of fun completing passes," he said.

To improve his footwork and ability to read defenses, he attended Jeff Christensen's quarterback camp. He didn't like defense and wanted to be a quarterback. As a pitcher and third baseman on the baseball team, he knew he had a strong arm. And he played quarterback in pickup football games.

"I love football. It's my favorite sport, what I want to pursue in college," said Miles, a versatile athlete who also plays basketball.

"Baseball is fun but it doesn't have the same feel as football. Football is a team sport, intense, with highs and lows. But the highs are great. I want to go somewhere where I have a chance to play in college at the highest level I can."

Milas credits Christensen and Rolling Meadows offensive coordinator Steve Kolodziej for sharpening his skills and teammate Checchin for helping to change his attitude and approach to the 2011 season.

"I learned to be a leader, to make all the throws, how to warm up, proper footwork," he said about working with Christensen. "And Artie always tells me that I was too uptight as a sophomore, that I didn't feel as if I belonged on the varsity. Now he tells me to have fun."

He hopes college recruiters who haven't heard about him will look at his film against York, to check out what he describes as "my most memorable throw."

"It was fourth down and 15 and we never had run a slot post play before," Milas explained. "I threw a 20-yarder to Gunderson on a post across the middle. He cleared the linebacker and got to the one-yard-line for first down. We scored and won the game. It showed my accuracy, knowing what the coverage was and what I had there.

"Nobody knew who I was four weeks ago. Now I am making progress and doing everything I can to be recruited. I hope people will notice me. I hurt my arm in baseball and took two months off from throwing. So I plan to work harder in the off-season. I can be twice as good as I am."

Collecting some final thoughts on if Tarik Cohen isn't getting enough snaps for the Bears

Collecting some final thoughts on if Tarik Cohen isn't getting enough snaps for the Bears

John Fox on Friday sought to clarify some comments he made earlier in the week about Tarik Cohen that seemed to follow some spurious logic. Here’s what Fox said on Wednesday when asked if he’d like to see Cohen be more involved in the offensive game plan:

“You’re looking at one game,” Fox said, referencing Cohen only playing 13 of 60 snaps against the Green Bay Packers. “Sometimes the defense dictates who gets the ball. I think from a running standpoint it was a game where we didn’t run the ball very effectively. I think we only ran it 17 times. I believe Jordan Howard, being the fifth leading rusher in the league, probably commanded most of that. I think he had 15 carries. 

“It’s a situation where we’d like to get him more touches, but it just didn’t materialize that well on that day. But I’d remind people that he’s pretty high up there in both punt returns, he’s our leading receiver with 29 catches, so it’s not like we don’t know who he is.”

There were some clear holes to poke in that line of reasoning, since the question wasn’t about Cohen’s touches, but his snap count. Cohen creates matchup problems when he’s on the field for opposing defenses, who can be caught having to double-team him (thus leaving a player uncovered, i.e. Kendall Wright) or matching up a linebacker against him (a positive for the Bears). The ball doesn’t have to be thrown Cohen’s way for his impact to be made, especially if he’s on the field at the same time as Howard. 

“They don’t know who’s getting the ball, really, and they don’t know how to defend it properly,” Howard said. “… It definitely can dictate matchups.”

There are certain scenarios in which the Bears don’t feel comfortable having Cohen on the field, like in third-and-long and two-minute drills, where Benny Cunningham’s veteran experience and pass protection skills are valued. It may be harder to create a mismatch or draw a double team with Cohen against a nickel package. It's easier to justify leaving a 5-foot-6 running back on the sidelines in those situations. 

But if the Bears need Cohen to be their best playmaker, as offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said last month, they need to find a way for him to be on the field more than a shade over one in every five plays. As Fox explained it on Friday, though, it’s more about finding the right spots for Cohen, not allowing opposing defenses to dictate when he’s on the field. 

“We have Tarik Cohen out there, we're talking about touches, not play time, we're talking about touches so if they double or triple cover him odds are the ball is not going to him, in fact we'd probably prefer it didn’t,” Fox said. “So what I meant by dictating where the ball goes, that's more related to touches than it is play time. I just want to make sure I clarify that. So it's not so much that they dictate personnel to you. Now if it's in a nickel defense they have a certain package they run that may create a bad matchup for you, that might dictate what personnel group you have out there not just as it relates to Tarik Cohen but to your offense in general. You don't want to create a bad matchup for your own team. I hope that makes sense.”

There’s another wrinkle here, though, that should be addressed: Loggains said this week that defenses rarely stick to the tendencies they show on film when Cohen is on the field. That’s not only a problem for Cohen, but it’s a problem for Mitchell Trubisky, who hasn’t always had success against defensive looks he hasn’t seen on film before. And if the Bears are trying to minimize the curveballs Trubisky sees, not having Cohen on the field for a high volume of plays would be one way to solve that. 

This is also where the Bears’ lack of offensive weapons factors in. Darren Sproles, who Cohen will inexorably be linked to, didn’t play much as a rookie — but that was on a San Diego Chargers team that had LaDanian Tomlinson, Keenan McCardell and Antonio Gates putting up big numbers. There were other options on that team; the Bears have a productive Howard and a possibly-emerging Dontrelle Inman, but not much else. 

So as long as Cohen receives only a handful of snaps on a team with a paucity of playmakers, this will continue to be a topic of discussion. Though if you’re looking more at the future of the franchise instead of the short-term payoffs, that we’re having a discussion about a fourth-round pick not being used enough is a good thing. 

Are Blackhawks starting to find their early season form again?

blackhawks_2.jpg
USA TODAY

Are Blackhawks starting to find their early season form again?

The goals came in bunches for the Blackhawks in their Oct. 5 season opener against the Pittsburgh Penguins. For the Blackhawks, it was a nice memory, albeit one that seems far away given they went from scoring at will through their first two games to not being able to buy a goal for a sizeable stretch.

As for the Penguins, well, you figure their memoires of that game means they’ll be more than a little ticked off when the Blackhawks arrive on Saturday night.

“We’ve been on the wrong side of a few losses like that,” Patrick Sharp said. “You certainly remember them more than other losses.”

This is kind of/sort of about the Penguins, who in the first meeting were clearly tired not only from two Stanley Cup runs but also from their season opener/banner raising the prior night. But it’s more about the Blackhawks who, after a lengthy scoring drought, are starting to get their offense going again (15 goals in their last three games).

And while they’d like to shore up their defense – they blew a 4-1 lead vs. New Jersey and just about did it again vs. the New York Rangers – overall they’re trending in the right direction. And just as they face the team against whom they played their best game of the season.

“I’m sure [the Penguins] will be excited about playing us and making things better. They’re playing well, winning some games. For [us], we’re looking for more consistency in our game with the puck and we’re generating some offense,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “I still think it has some ways to improve. That was one night, whether it was the quality of the plays we made or [what], we seemed like we had the puck a lot and did some good things with it. We haven’t seen much of that lately so I think that maybe we can recapture a little bit of that with the puck as well.”

In the past three games the Blackhawks haven’t just reignited their offense, they’ve regained their confidence. Their lines are finding some chemistry. As frustrating as their scoring drought was, they’re hoping it’s behind them.

“At some point in the season I feel like every team goes through it, either in the beginning, the middle or toward the end. You just don’t want to have it right at the end of the season,” Ryan Hartman said. “You can look at it in in a positive way. Hopefully we got that part over with and now we’re just coming in confident and hopefully we put the puck in the net.”

The Blackhawks got off to a hot goal-scoring start against the Penguins by doing the right things: shooting, pouncing on rebounds, getting traffic in front of the net and capitalizing. As they head into their 20th game of the season, the Blackhawks are finally getting back to what worked so well in Game 1.

“Things dried up for a bit but I think we have a good rotation going here with the lines; the chemistry’s starting to fill in a little bit. Some guys are stepping up. [Artem] Anisimov had a big night and Brinsky’s [Alex DeBrincat] playing great. It’s good to see those guys step up. It makes you want to be that next guy who’s called up to step up in the next game,” Patrick Kane said. “It’s good to see some goals go into the net. More important, it’s good to see some wins. But we’re playing the right way and hopefully this will trend in the right direction for us.”