Before scoring their opening touchdown against Virginia Tech last Thursday, Miami was in a 3rd and 8 situation in their own territory when freshman Brad Kaaya completed a pass that impresed not only his teammates, but the entire audience watching the game.
Matt Porter of the Palm Beach Post posted a great quote from OL Jon Feliciano in his column where Feliciano said it was the best throw he's ever seen in his time at Miami. As you can see in the picture below, Feliciano was looking directly at Kaaya throughout the play.
This play, however, not only tested his physical abilities, but his mental skills as well.
1) The first thing to notice is the distance between Kaaya and the line of scrimmage. He had to backpedal 11 yards before even thinking of launching the ball to Duke. The reason for this was because Kaaya couldn't throw it to his first look, Phillip Dorsett, who ran a slant route over the middle, but was covered.
2) The second thing to notice is Kaaya's arm strength and touch. Sure, throwing the ball 20 yards is no issue for any quarterback. But when that quarterback is being hit in the chest by a linebacker, forcing you to throw an over-the-shoulder pass off your back foot and into an exact window, things get a little difficult.
This is where Kaaya's height also comes into play. At 6'4" he's able to see down the field just enough to notice Duke getting open. If, let's say, Jake Heaps was on the field, those three inches of separation he has with Kaaya would've made all the difference in completing that pass.
Let's take this into perspective:
This is what 20 yards looks like for an average 6'4" QB. In this instance, Brad Kaaya. (Picture taken with go pro for realistic value)
- See? Not so bad. It's one-fifth of a football field, but still a relatively easy throw.
This is what Kaaya actually saw. (Give or take)
- Don't mind the mediocre photoshop or the lack of balance in uniform colors. Just pay attention at the fact that a 6'2" 213 lb. linebacker was running full speed at Kaaya, yet he still managed to hit Duke in stride from the corner of his eye.
When he spoke to the media, Kaaya said that he had ran that play multiple times in practice last week. He mentioned what he saw prior to the snap and how he was going to expose what the defense brought. Below is his soundbite about the play post practice.
3) Kaaya's been described by his teammates, specifically Braxton Berrios, as a lowkey type of guy. He doesn't jump in excitement and yell, he simply gets the job done and smiles about it.
After the play, UM's sideline was hyped about the catch because it kept Miami alive in the drive. When the camera panned to Kaaya, he did none of that.
He gave a small fist bump, patted Deon Clarke on the back, told him "nice hit" and moved on to the next play.
Here's the full play:
Kaaya has built a reputation amongst his coaches, teammates and fans as the mature leader of the team. "In Kaaya we trust," is something Tracy Howard says often, and it's something Canes fans will likely believe for the next few years to come.