Mills closing in on No. 1 spot
2017 Stanford quarterback commit Davis Mills is closing in on becoming the nation's consensus top prospect at his position. On the heels of a strong offseason, Mills was elevated to the No. 1 spot by Scout.com and 247Sports.com. Rivals.com considers Mills the nation's second-ranked pro-style passer.
What's fueled Mills' rise in the recruiting industry? Both exposure and improvement.
"I guess a little bit combination of (exposure and improvement), but I guess more (exposure)," Mills said. "I feel like I've always been one of the top guys, I just haven't been on the nation level in front of everybody at the key moments when all of the rankings are coming out. It's just fun to get out there and I guess get the praise, but at the end it's not really about all the rankings and stuff - it's more about winning football games for your high school. It's fun to be ranked pretty high, but at the same time I have to do me and play football."
Mills' longtime private coach, Tony Ballard, agrees.
"I think it's both. It's both," Ballard said. "Because, really, Davis doesn't camp a lot. So a lot of these (national media members) don't get a chance to see him. Those guys don't really get a chance to see him like they see everybody else because so many quarterbacks camp all the time. Davis doesn't do that. So there more eyes on him now, but also, too, let's call a spade a spade. And that is - the kid is definitely getting better. You just don't go from being middle of the pack and then all of a sudden become the No. 1 guy just because all eyes are on you. No, you've gotten better at all aspects of playing this game."
One of those specific areas has been Mills' physical maturation. He's continued to add size and strength, and that's been evident in his performance.
"Definitely physical development (has been an area of improvement)," Mills said. "I know I've grown a couple of inches every year and definitely put on some weight, so I guess physical development and explosiveness and then just consistency with making all of the passes on the field."
"One thing that Davis does better than any quarterback that I personally know is that Davis gets his rest." Ballard said. "That's one thing. You see a lot of kids who just throw, throw, throw, throw. Davis doesn't just throw, throw, throw, throw just to be throwing. He actually gives his body an opportunity to rest, He takes time off after the fall season. He relaxes, takes probably about a month or so off. Then he gets back into basically his conditioning and building his body back up. One thing he's definitely done from the last season until now is that he's definitely gotten bigger, faster and stronger. I think he uses his core more to throw. He absolutely turns it up another notch. Those things that I'm telling you about Davis, a lot of people have really never looked at him like that because they felt that because he plays 3A football, how good is this kid, really? But when you put him on a platform with the rest of the guys that you say are (top) guys, then he'll show you exactly what his skill set is.
"People fail to remember this - and no offense to (Greater Atlanta Christian High School) or any kid at his program, but there is no other Division One player on his team. So Davis is by far the best player on his team."
In addition to making physical strides, Ballard said that Mills has refined some of the intricacies of playing the quarterback position.
"(Over the past year) I think anticipation - anticipating throws (has improved)," Mills said. "Throwing into small windows. And I think his progression read has went to a whole different level... He's just matured a tremendous amount over the last year or so."
Rivals.com has long been a fan of Mills. It was the first service to rank Mills among the nation's top 30 prospects. (There's a chance Mills will rise even farther when the company releases its next rankings update; Rivals has not updated its rankings since early June, and Mills has impressed at the Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge and The Opening since that time.)
"Mills was invited to his first Rivals Camp Event following his freshman year and we have been following him very closely ever since," Rivals.com Southeast recruiting analyst Woody Wommack said. "He's always had great upside and now he's really just getting recognized for his ability. After watching Mills play live last fall and lead his team on a game-winning drive, I was completely sold on his ability, both in terms of physical talent and the type of poise you look for in a top-level quarterback. Mills command of the offense and his team reminded me of watching former Five-Star quarterback Deshaun Watson as a high school player, and the praise doesn't get much higher than that."
When all is said and done, Mills could be the highest-ranked quarterback in the history of Rivals.com to sign with Stanford. That distinction is currently held by Trent Edwards, who checked in at No. 20 overall in the 2002 Rivals.com rankings. At No. 54 overall, 2016 signee K.J. Costello is currently the second-highest ranked Cardinal signal caller signee.