When you are accustomed to running your own program, the itch to run one again is hard to ignore — even after retiring.
This is what brought veteran football coach Bruce Miller, a legend at Gainesville High, to south Hall’s Lanier Christian Academy.
Miller, who retired in 2018, said that building a program brought him back to the gridiron as a head coach.
“I tried being an assistant and enjoyed it, but there was something unfulfilled,” Miller said. “I knew what it was — I was a head coach for over 30 years.”
Miller retired from Gainesville High after the 2017 season. During his 30 years as a head coach, Miller won 225 games (64 percent of his games).
With the Red Elephants, Miller guided the school to 16 straight playoff appearances.
He served as an assistant for a few years, spending a year each at Lakeview Academy, Flowery Branch and West Hall.
His return to the sideline became official February 23 when Lanier Christian was looking for a head coach.
Miller, who has previously head coached exclusively in the public school setting, was hired six months ago to lead Lanier Christian.
Building a program is nothing new for Miller.
However, leading a program that plays eight-man football is new for the man who led the Red Elephants to nine region championships and the Class 5A state title in 2012 during his tenure from 2002-2017.
Before coming to Gainesville, Miller was head coach at North Forsyth for five seasons and Cass for nine years.
“I wanted to give this a try,” Miller said. “I have always been in public schools. I am learning something every day. What takes place in private schools does not take place in public (schools).”
Lanier Christian plays its home games at Gainesville Middle School.
- Aug. 20 COVINGTON
- Aug. 27 at King’s Way Christian
- Sept. 10 at Holy Spirt Prep
- Sept. 17 JOHNSON FERRY CHRISTIAN
- Sept. 24 PRAISE ACADEMY
- Oct. 1 at Victory Baptist
- Oct. 8 HORIZON
- Oct. 15 at Peoples Baptist
All home games played at Gainesville Middle School
Same game, different league
Miller has always coached 11-man football.
He has achieved success in his spread-offensive scheme.
However, in this eight-man football, played in the Georgia Association of Private and Parochial Schools, Miller has to make some adjustments to his spread offense. He has about 20 players on the roster.
Four are homeschool students, which is allowed, per league rules.
But when it comes to gameday the roster is only 16 deep. With so many adjustments, Miller is still learning the rules.
“I am learning as I go every day,” Miller said. “I get hit with something new. It is a new situation.”
Two players he will count on this season are seniors Ethan Jarrard and lineman Gabe Jaramillo.
Eight-man formation adjustments
Miller has built a championship career running the spread offense.
This was in 11-man football.
At Lanier Christian, there are only eight players lining up for the snap.
Now, he has to make major adjustments.
In his passing game Miller loses two tackles and a player in the backfield. It also takes out one receiver. This will serve as a challenge for the Lightning.
“We have to adjust and make that happen,” Miller said.
Towing the offensive line
In eight-man football, there are only three offensive linemen.
Miller talks about making adjustments for the line.
There are things associated with his passing game where the lineman is an important part of the offense.
Miller knows the adjustments and learning curve will come along with his experienced coaching staff.
Shorter field, same distance
Another adjustment for Miller is the dimensions of the field.
The eight-man format playing field is 40 yards wide and 100 yards long.
He equates this to playing full court 3-on-3 basketball. There are a lot of high-scoring games because there is so much space on the field.
Defensive guys have a challenge.
Miller’s offense is about “finding grass.”
The way the field dimensions are made up, there is a lot of grass to throw, too.
Two different worlds
Miller is making adjustments in making the transition from public school to private school, especially as a head coach.
He went from coaching a program with consistently more than 70 players on the roster to 20 total at Lanier Christian.
The flexibility of being at a private school has left Miller always saying, “Oh, I didn’t know that.”
He has had plenty of those moments since he took the job.
Miller is looking to bring his high-level of success from public school (200 plus career wins and a state championship) to the private school.