When Trent Miller talks about his first season at Mars Hill, an NCAA Division II school in North Carolina, he harkens back to his days as a Palmetto Tiger.
"It was pretty similar to Palmetto, where all the pieces were in place," he said. "They just needed that quarterback piece."
What the Lions got was Miller, who beat out two other candidates for the starting job and was named the South Atlantic Conference's Offensive Freshman of the Year on Nov. 20.
"I'd say it's worked out for the best," said Miller, who transferred to Mars Hill after being a preferred walk-on at USF. "It was kind of scary leaving USF; it was in the summer and it was late, and it was nerve-wracking trying to find a team that needed a quarterback."
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Miller finished third in the conference in passing yards (2,757) and touchdown passes (23) while completing 53.8 percent of his attempts. He set a single-game program record Nov. 16 by throwing for 439 yards against Tusculum and helped wide receiver Dimitri Holmes set single-season school records in receiving yards (1,591) and touchdown catches (15).
"When I walked in, we had three quarterbacks, and we were all fighting for the job. I wasn't expecting anything," Miller said. "I just focused on what I could control."
The scramble for the starting quarterback job was a little more crowded at USF, especially when Steven Bench transferred from Penn State and Fort Lauderdale University's Mike White signed on. White is now the Bulls' starter.
"They never came out and said, 'This is where you are on the depth chart,'" Miller said. "But with seven quarterbacks, I kind of saw the writing on the wall."
Miller helped lead Palmetto to the Class 5A state final four in 2011, his only year as a Tiger.
His team didn't taste similar success this past fall, when Mars Hill went 3-8 overall and 1-6 in the conference.
"We had the statistics this year, and if you look at the games, we were three plays away from winning those games," Miller said. "We have a lot of returning starters back next year, but now it's time to turn those stats into more production. Let's try and take it one drive more. ... We're losing some key seniors, but we know we have the depth behind them."