Consistency is Key at QB
By David Villavicencio
CORAL GABLES, Fla. – Fall camp feels familiar across the country, with newcomers looking to learn the playbook and make an impression and veterans leading the way and establishing themselves as leaders on and off the field. But the 2017 edition of fall camp has a new wrinkle for the Hurricanes in the Mark Richt era.
For the first time since Richt arrived in Coral Gables, the Hurricanes have a competition at quarterback. A year ago, Richt entered his first fall camp at Miami with junior Brad Kaaya set to lead the Hurricanes’ offense for the third straight season. With Kaaya now a member of the Detroit Lions, Richt has a talented group of quarterbacks looking to earn his trust and the starting job.
Redshirt junior Malik Rosier and redshirt sophomore Evan Shirreffs are the veterans, while freshmen N’Kosi Perry and Cade Weldon are newcomers looking to learn and grow early in their college careers. Rosier, who won his only career start at Duke in 2015, knows the job will go to whoever can make the right decision with the ball consistently.
“Right now it’s not about which guys you go with, but that you capitalize on what each player can do,” Rosier said. “On coming out here and making the right decisions on every play. At the end of the day, that’s our job.”
Shirreffs has been impressed with how every quarterback has responded to competition so far in fall camp. Though all the quarterbacks are battling to win the same job, they have been pushing each other to improve.
“It’s a competition. Everyone is getting reps,” Shirreffs said. “Cade and N’Kosi are really getting the playbook. N’Kosi is doing really well picking everything up and Malik is just doing what Malik has always done. We’re all just trying to be consistent and push each other.”
When asked after practice about what Shirreffs does well, Richt highlighted several attributes that have stood out. But the veteran head coach emphasized that each of the quarterbacks must prove two things if they hope to earn the starting nod for the season opener.
“Evan is a machine in how he operates,” Richt said. “His ball-handling is pristine. He’s going to the right people for the right reasons. He has got energy. He has got leadership. He’s having a good camp. His arm is strong enough. For everybody, it’s a matter of accuracy and consistency at practice. I’m talking about everybody, not just pointing him out.”
Miami offensive coordinator Thomas Brown believes the Hurricanes have a gifted group of quarterbacks competing for the starting job. While their work in practices needs to be productive, their performance in scrimmages against a stout Miami defense could help the coaching staff determine who is best suited to lead the Hurricanes on offense in 2017.
“I think it’s trying to figure out who’s going to give us the best chance to be successful, from a quarterback standpoint,” Brown said. “You have a couple guys who have different skillsets, who are all different and will obviously somewhat dictate how our offense will be called based on who ends up being the guy. I think it’s a healthy competition right now. I think all those guys are motivated. They’ve all shown great things early. But even from the springtime, we wanted to see how guys react when it does become live. Obviously Evan and Malik had a lot of reps in the springtime when it was live, and N’Kosi hasn’t faced the bullet when Manny Diaz’s defense gets up and comes at him full-speed. But I think so far it’s been good.”
Miami opens the season at home on Sept. 2 against Bethune-Cookman. Kickoff is set for 12:30 p.m., ET. Click here for ticket information.