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."

Ryan Pace finds silver lining in social distancing at Halas Hall

Ryan Pace finds silver lining in social distancing at Halas Hall

Bears general manager Ryan Pace, like everyone else in the United States right now, is doing his best to do his job in what's become a bizarre new normal of social distancing. Fortunately for him and the rest of the team's staff and players, Halas Hall is well-equipped to handle COVID-19's challenges.

The renovations at Halas Hall couldn't have come at a better time. The more expansive campus provides the Bears with the space needed to keep the players and coaches as safe as possible. For Pace, it offers a greater opportunity to appreciate the little things while catching a meal with Matt Nagy.

“So the last two nights, we discovered how nice it is,” Pace said, via MMQB. “You sit out there, and it forces you to take a different vantage point during the day. Beautiful view, and it’s pretty peaceful.”

As Albert Breer pointed out, Pace and Nagy's view includes four outdoor practice fields and a couple of ponds. Not too shabby.

The most important takeaway isn't the landscape. Instead, it's safety. 

NFL players have until Thursday to decide whether they'll opt-out of the 2020 season, and for teams that are lacking the facilities Chicago has, it's more likely high-risk players or those with families at high-risk will choose to sit out the season.

Bears nose tackle Eddie Goldman and safety Jordan Lucas have decided to opt out this year, and there's a chance more will do the same. 

Pace is confident in Chicago's COVID-19 plan. We'll see if the players are too.

For now, Pace is finding comfort in the little things. 

Why Chicago Cubs starters Jon Lester, Alec Mills are two of MLB's best pitchers

Why Chicago Cubs starters Jon Lester, Alec Mills are two of MLB's best pitchers

Usually when GMs, managers and fans get ready for a baseball season, any consistent production from the Nos. 4 and 5 starters is a luxury. In the Cubs’ case, it’s been an embarrassment of riches through two turns of the rotation.

Through 10 games, the Cubs are 8-2, good for the best win percentage in the National League. One huge reason for that has been the team’s incredible starting pitching. Kyle Hendricks set the tone early when he pitched a complete game shutout in the very first game of the season. Now, the Cubs’ starters lead MLB in ERA (1.95), batting average against (.156) and WHIP (0.780). They’ve done all that while also throwing 60 innings, second only to the Indians who have thrown 70 innings.

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At first glance you’d probably think, yeah, that makes sense with Hendricks starting the season the way he did, and Darvish getting back on track with six innings of two-hit ball in his second start. But surprisingly the only two clunkers came in Hendricks and Darvish starts. In fact, the analytics say Jon Lester and Alec Mills, the Cubs’ last two guys in the rotation have been two of the most impressive starters in MLB.

Let’s start by looking at the ERAs of all starters who have at least 8 IP, since the name of the game is keeping runs off the board. If 8 IP seems like an arbitrary cutoff… well, it is. But it seems like a fair number to assess quality pitchers who have made two starts in this shortened season with short leashes on pitchers. Among those pitchers, Lester and Mills each rank in the top-10 with ERAs of 0.82 and 1.38, respectively, according to FanGraphs.

So how are they doing it? Neither is a power pitcher who relies on strikeouts. In fact, Lester’s four punchouts place him tied for fourth-fewest in our split of SPs who have thrown more than 8 IP. Mills’ seven strikeouts (tied for 10th-fewest) aren’t much better. These guys succeed by keeping guys off the base paths, and not allowing hard-hit balls.

Looking at batting average against, Lester and Mills move into MLB’s top-five, according to our FanGraphs split, with each pitcher holding batters under .120. Since we’ve already established that neither guy is a power pitcher, when we filter further to just show BAA on balls put in play it should come as no surprise that Lester and Mills rise to No. 1 and No. 2 in all of baseball with .118 and .139 marks, respectively.

Great defense, like Javy Baez’s tag in Monday’s game, certainly helps the pitchers’ stats. But the starters also make things easier on the defense by inducing poor contact, regardless of whether the ball is hit on the ground or the air. According to FanGraphs, Mills ranks second in MLB by inducing soft contact on 33.3% of all balls put into play. In addition, he’s 11th in MLB with a 54.3 ground ball percentage. Lester ranks ninth by getting hitters to make soft contact 26.5% of the time, although he’s 11th in the league in getting batters to hit fly balls 47.1% of the time.

In the end the result is the same, with Mills and Lester combining to only allow four extra base hits in 24 IP. So although they aren’t typical “dominant” pitchers that teams like to make their aces, Mills and Lester have been two of the most effective starters in the game.


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