High School: Preston Miller

DALLAS – Nick Rose knew so little about the sport of football just over two years ago, he couldn’t define a hash mark.

Yet in two years time, the Highland Park senior is in the running to be the next starting kicker at the University of Texas.

[+] EnlargeNick Rose with Randy Allen
Travis L. Brown/ESPNDallas.comHighland Park kicker Nick Rose committed to Texas on national signing day.
Wednesday, Rose gave his commitment to the Longhorns during the school’s national signing day ceremony inside Highlander Stadium.

Rose grew up a soccer player in Copperas Cove. When he moved with his family to Highland Park before his junior year, Rose thought he’d try football, which became a vehicle to college athletics.

“I was just trying to meet people and I figured I could kick a football well, so I walked out on the field and didn’t know what to do – didn’t even know what a hash mark was or any of that,” Rose said. “Time went on and the coaches liked how I could kick. My first kickoff went out of the end zone and I realized I had a knack for kickoffs. I don’t know how or why.”

Technically, Rose did not sign a letter of intent, as was the procedure of most recruits across the country Wednesday. He made a public commitment to follow a plan Texas laid out for Rose, beginning as a preferred walk-on for the Longhorns.

Rose will have his tuition paid for by the football team throughout a summer semester, which will cover fall two-a-days in Austin, but he will assume walk-on status for his first season, which means his family will cover tuition.

Rose’s next step in preseason practices will be to earn a starting job and a scholarship to carry him throughout the remainder of his eligibility.

Competing for the same positions will be Coppell's Nick Jordan, who faxed his signature Wednesday to accept a scholarship from the Longhorns.

“Texas has a kicker that they have all the confidence in the world in,” Rose said of Jordan. “They came up here to scout another player and ended up noticing my kickoffs and from there everything took off, and I can’t be grateful enough how everything happened.”

Rose and Jordan have kicked together in offseason kicking contests, and that familiarity and friendship is as important to Rose as the competition he will face for playing time.

Preliminary indications from the Texas coaching staff, relayed to Rose, are favoring Rose as a starting kickoff specialist and punter and Jordan as the starting place kicker.

Rose spent his senior year booting kickoffs consistently out of the back of the end zone for the Scots, impressing Highland Park coach Randy Allen from the moment he set foot on the school’s campus and eventually sparking the same interest of Texas co-offensive coordinator Major Applewhite.

“Nick Rose has lots of potential,” Allen said. “He’s the best kickoff guy I’ve ever coached. I know he’s going to compete for that starting position at Texas.”

Rose was key in securing Highland Park’s District 10-4A title this season, drilling a game-winning extra point in overtime to give the Scots a 31-30 victory over Rockwall-Heath, clinching the district No. 1 seed.

“I was just thinking keep my head down and follow through,” Rose said after the game. “Stick with my basics and hopefully it would go in. My heart was going crazy before I kicked it and then it was all relief that I could pull my team through.”

Trying to earn a starting job and a scholarship puts extraordinary pressure on a freshman kicker, but high-pressure situations are nothing new to Rose.

“I’ll be good for Nick to have competition, but I can’t imagine anyone kicking it further than he does on kickoffs,” Allen said.

Other Highland Park notes:

* Long-time Duke commit Tanner Stone signed with the Blue Devils. He said a summer trip to take part in a football camp sold him on Duke.

* Backup quarterback Tyler Rentfro signed with McMurry University. Rentfro attempted only one pass for the Scots in his senior season for 4 yards.

* All three parts of Highland Park’s top offensive trio from 2012 held out on national signing day. Quarterback Brady Burgin hopes to snag a late offer from a school that possibly lost a quarterback recruit on signing day, Allen said. Receiver Dalton Stogner, who is still recovering from a season-ending knee injury, recently returned from a “good” trip to the University of North Carolina, Allen said. Stogner and running back Preston Miller both visited SMU as well and liked their experience with the Mustangs' coaching staff, Allen said.

Class 5A: Southlake Carroll vs. Dallas Skyline

No high school game this season was raised to the attention of the public like the 5A Division I state semifinal between Southlake Carroll and Dallas Skyline at SMU’s Ford Stadium.

Carroll trailed the arguably more talented Skyline squad the entire game but managed to work the deficit to three with just over a minute left on a 3-yard dive by quarterback Kenny Hill. The play was made possible by a pass interference call on Skyline that remains one of many points of contention to the Skyline faithful.

Dec. 27: Coaches of the year
Dec. 28: Games of the year
Dec. 29: Newcomers of the year
Dec. 30: Best of the rest
Jan. 2: Defensive POYs
Jan. 3: Offensive POYs
Jan. 4: MVPs
Ray Crockett then made the most controversial play of the game, recovering the onside kick in the air, directly over the 50-yard line which was the required 10 yards the kick had to travel.

Two plays later, Hill completed the comeback, running in a 35-yard rush for the game-winning touchdown, bringing the score to 28-24.

During the play, a fox ran through the heard of players storming down the field, toward the grass hill at Ford Stadium. It escaped the Carroll crowd up the hill and out the gate, but it didn’t escape the imaginations of the Dragons. Carroll fans showed up to the 5A Division I state final with stuffed foxes as a show of support and a cheerleader dressed as a fox appeared on the sideline as a sidekick to Carroll’s traditional dragon mascot.

The outcry of Skyline fans toward the officiating in the game was heard by the media, local and national, as soon as the game ended and the UIL’s voicemail boxes were filled to capacity over the weekend.

Even Dallas City Council member Dwaine Caraway issued a statement questioning the calls in the game.

Regardless of the debate, Carroll rode it’s “Sliver Fox Swag” to a 36-29 win over Fort Bend Hightower in the state finals to claim the school’s eighth football title.

Class 4A: Highland Park vs. Rockwall-Heath

Rockwall-Heath’s defense stood strong against three straight Highland Park runs up the middle from inside Rockwall-Heath five, but Highland Park running back Preston Miller would not be denied a fourth time, leading his team to a 31-30 overtime district win.

Rockwall-Heath had scored on the first possession of overtime on an 11-yard rush by Rico Henderson, but the point-after try wobbled low and left, hitting the upright and bouncing back onto the field.

Highland Park was able to work the ball down to the Rockwall-Heath 5, and until Miller’s fourth-down, second-effort push into the end zone, it appeared Heath’s defense would render the missed PAT useless.

But Miller did his job and burst into the end zone, putting the pressure on Highland Park kicker Nick Rose.

Rose overcame his nerves and split the uprights for the win, which would ultimately give Highland Park the District 10-4A title after handing Rockwall-Heath its only district loss of the season.
ESPNDallas.com gets ready for the start of the high school football season by unveiling its preseason rankings, one spot at a time:


Highland Park Football
Travis L. Brown/ESPNDallas.comQuarterback Brady Burgin (left) and running back Preston Miller provide a solid foundation for Highland Park's offense.
2010 Record: 12-1

Predicted 2011 regular-season record: 10-0

ESPN Dallas spring ranking: No. 3

Division I commits: OT Tanner Stone (Duke)

Why they’re here: Highland Park returns a triple-threat attack on offense in WR Dalton Stogner, RB Preston Miller and QB Brady Burgin after a playoff run that was cut short by Mesquite Poteet in 2010.

The chemistry between the three is easily recognized, and Burgin can make an arsenal of throws that key off the skill sets of the other two.

Former HP quarterback Jake Howeth said Burgin had worked hard last season and this offseason to step into a leadership role and build a connection with all of his receivers.

Part of that included being active in a summer conditioning program that had this year’s squad in amazing shape before fall practice even started, coach Randy Allen said.

Holes to fill: Allen was quick to say his defense had the most questions going into the season, but that unit had the upper hand in the team's first scrimmage.

Even if the defense needs a few games to develop -- which isn't likely -- the offense should put enough points on the board to make up for it.

Key game: at Wylie, Oct. 7
This week, ESPNDallas.com spotlights five of the top quarterbacks returning to Friday night football in 2011.

School, class: Highland Park, Sr.
2010 Stats: 126-for-176, 1,945 yards, 15 TDs, 6 INTS

Burgin had the opportunity to get significant playing time at quarterback at Dallas Highland Park as a junior in 2010, splitting time with senior Jake Howeth. For the majority of the season Burgin, a strict pocket passer, would take control of the Scots offense in the second and fourth quarters, only relinquishing his position to Howeth, who was a running threat, during those quarters in short-yardage or high-pressure situations.

Highland Park head coach Randy Allen changed his season-long quarterback strategy when his team fell behind to Mesquite Poteet in the regional round of the 4A Division II playoffs at Cowboys Stadium, leaving Burgin in at quarterback for the entire second half. While Highland Park would go on to lose, that experience gave Burgin a taste of the high-pressure atmosphere he will be more likely to face as the full-time starter this year.

Burgin’s biggest asset going into his senior season is the experience he gained splitting time with now-graduated Howeth. That includes developing a connection with his receiving corps, Howeth said, which returns two top pass-catchers from 2010 in Dalton Stogner and William Morris.

“Brady is a great thrower and a really good leader,” Howeth said. “The thing I like about him, he’s a good leader. He gets the guys together and throws all the time with them. He has a great sense of camaraderie with is receivers.”

Beyond the intangibles, Burgin flat out has skill. His ability to sit back in the pocket and manage the traditional Highland Park offense fits right in to Allen’s plan for the Scots in 2011.

“He is a good drop-back passer and he runs play action spread-outs very well,” Allen said. “He can run the ball, but passing is his strength.”

The only question that remains for Burgin in 2011 is how he will preform in pressure situations. While he will no longer have Howeth to help pick up that key first down or short-yardage touchdown, Burgin is not alone. Allen said he worked senior running back Preston Miller at quarterback in a wildcat formation through spring ball, which will give the Scots a Howeth-like threat in short-yardage situations.

Burgin and Highland Park will be thrown into the fire in the first game of the season when they face a very athletic Everman defense at SMU. The Scots' other big test is the first game in October against Wylie’s aggressive defense.

As usual, Highland Park will be a very complete team with the ability to maintain a balanced attack that will keep any defense off guard, relieving some of the pressure from Burgin to carry the offense in his first year as a full-time starter.