Q&A with Chaminade-Madonna HC Jason Milgrom
Jason Milgrom finally got the chance to run his own program last year. After spending 18 years at St. Thomas Aquinas as an assistant and offensive coordinator, Milgrom took the reigns at Chaminade-Madonna with a chance to build a powerhouse of his own.
After posting a 7-3 record and earning a playoff birth in his first season in control, Milgrom and his program have their sights set even higher this year.
Q: Talk about the difference from your first season to this year. How much more comfortable are the players in your system?
Milgrom: We’re totally different than we were from last spring from a standpoint of the numbers we had out there. Last year, we were trying to do some stuff that I wasn’t necessarily accustomed to, but I think this year it’s been more about installing schemes and getting them ready to play. Last year we really had to get the kids acclimated to the way we wanted to do things and letting them know what we wanted to accomplish so it will show in the fall.
Q: What would you say is the strength of your team after what you saw in the spring?
Milgrom: Defensively, I think we’re going to be good. We’re very fast on defense and very physical. On the defensive line, Christopher Whittaker is going to be a very good player for us with Brandon Mincey, Corey Prince, Anthony Valcarcel, and C.J. Williams. We have a major amount of depth on the defensive side of the ball and at linebacker as well. We had some young guys in the secondary last year who are a year older now, but we are going to be really good defensively overall.
Q: It seems like you guys have a versatile group defensively. What kind of advantages does that give your team on that side of the ball?
Milgrom: We were a 4-3 last year, but we are going to switch it up because we feel like our skillset is a little bit more suited to a 3-4. We’ve got some guys who can be like the hybrid players on the outside for us and also cover slot receivers and play well against the run. I sat down with our defensive staff and our defensive coordinator Brian Sheridan and we went over everything and our ideal philosophy is to get the best eleven guys out there on the field, and the 3-4 gives us the best chance to do that.
Q: I know you’re an offensive guy at heart, so just talk about your philosophies on that side of the ball.
Milgrom: We’re gonna operate with the tight ends in the game most of the time. I’m a pro-style guy who likes to run the football and dot the i. We’re going to play smash mouth football and obviously use the play-action game off of that, but also with that being said, we are going to spread teams out because from a wide receiver standpoint we have four really good ones and a really dynamic quarterback in Henry Colombi. We have to play to his skillset because he was doing some things during spring, like playing under center, that he’s not normally used to. Getting him comfortable under season was big for us and by the end of spring he was really calling out protections and all that.
Q: Let’s talk about a few of your prospects in particular.
Milgrom on 2018 WR Xavier Williams: I knew right away when I came in last year and saw Xavier running around that he was a special kid and I think the rest of the country is starting to see that as well. He’s a complete player, very disciplined in his craft, does a great job of running routes, blocks exceptionally well, receives the ball exceptionally well, and can run better than most. He will probably be one of the most highly recruited players in the country when it’s all said and done.
On 2018 ATH Shaun Shivers: Shaun does play like he has a chip on his shoulder. He plays like he’s 6-foot-3, 260 pounds. He’s a lot bigger than what people give him credit for because he’s a bowling ball. We call him a little action figure. He’s the type of kid who I firmly believe is a tailback at the next level because we run the ball and he sticks it up there between the tackles. He’s not the type of kid, even though he’s a 10.4 100M guy, who is going to try to press the edge all the time. He’s going to get the tough yards for you, but he’s also dynamic enough to play in a system where they can put him in the slot and run jet sweeps and stuff with him that he can. We’ll do that stuff with him too, but he’s as good as I’ve been around.
On 2018 OT Davoan Hawkins: Davoan was dynamic for us on defense last year. We were able to beef up with depth on the defensive side of the ball and he’s a kid who holds about 12 or 13 division-1 offers on defense. Being around him everyday, he seems better suited to play tackle at the next level just the way he bends and moves and how athletic he is. He’s got grwat hands and feet and we have a need at offensive line. Obviously we are trying to set the quarterback up front and the left tackle is the centerpiece of it. Coach Courcy does a incredible job with Coach Hubbard, our two offensive line coaches, of working with those guys You saw a great change out of Davoan in the spring as far as picking up the technique and footwork and understanding the nuances of what we are trying to do up front. The sky is the limit for him.
On 2017 QB Henry Colombi: He’s a sponge. He wants to be a part of everything and learn everything. I have to kick him off the field most the time because he always wants to throw extra and stay longer. You love his competitive nature. He’s better when we go live. He’s a gamer who can make all the throws in a pro-style offense. He’s going to be a special, special player.
Q: Chaminade is obviously a smaller private, Catholic school down here, so how do you approach “protecting your turf” when it comes to transfer season?
Milgrom: Our kids are involved in a great culture. With the culture of our school and what goes on from an academic and football standpoint, you want the kids to become engulfed in that. They really enjoy that type of atmosphere, so I don’t necessarily worry about other people poaching our kids. I know it goes on, so obviously it’s in the back of your mind, but if you are doing things the right way the kids are going to stay. You hope to get to the point where the kids are going to believe in what you’re doing and they understand that you have their best interests in mind.
Q: How would you describe your coaching style?
Milgrom: I would definitely say I’m a players’ coach. The kids know that I love them, but with that being said, I’m tough on them. I’m very old school in the sense that we will do things a certain way and if you don’t do things that way, you will get yelled at. If you do things wrong in the classroom, you are going to get punished. Football is a great metaphor for life, so these kids are going to get lessons in football that will benefit them in everyday life when they get older and have jobs and kids. You’re trying to make these kids the best possible citizens that you can make them.
Q: What is your approach with the recruiting process and how involved do you get with your kids?
Milgrom: It’s going to be the kid’s decision and the parent or guardian who is involved with the kid. As the coach, all you can do is make sure you are putting them in the best situation possible and laying out all the facts for them and factors out there for them. I’m very comfortable with different guys from staffs across the country because I’ve been doing this for 20 years. Kids do their homework on the situation and you have to let them know who they have, who is coming in , how long the staff will be there – will they be there in four years when you still are? You don’t want to go into a place where you go into a place where that staff ends up getting let go and a new staff comes in and you aren’t their guy. My responsibility is to take care of my kids and help them make the most responsible decision for themselves.
Q: Talking about the recruiting process, what are your thoughts on the new Miami staff and have you had an opportunity to sit down with them to talk?
Milgrom: When Coach Richt first got hired, he came by and spent a couple hours in the office and laid out the plan and foundation, so we had a really good conversation. I thought that everything he talked about was the right way to do things. I think the hiring of Mike Rumph from American Heritage was a great hire and he’s been great as far as reaching out and calling and contacting us. Mike was up at the spring game and came by and got a chance to see some of the kids play and run around. Ron Dugans keeps in touch with us because they’re obviously after Xavier (Williams) and I know Ron well from his previous stints at USF and Louisville. They have a good staff assembled. They’re in a tough situation as far as what they have to do and as a high school coach in the home state, you want them to recruit more of your kids, so that’s always going to be a level of discontent that we have as coaches down here. You hate to see kids leave and go elsewhere when you could keep them home.
Q: It’s early, but do you see a difference in how this staff operates compared to the previous staff?
Milgrom: I think they’re more personable and that’s nothing against the old staff, but I just think that they have guys on this staff who are more familiar with the landscape down here. They understand the dynamic of what it’s going to take to be successful so I think Mark has made a concerted effort to have the high school coaches down at UM. They’ve had an open door policy if you want to go down there and talk.