When training camp opened for the University of Miami I made an assumption and you know what they say about people that make assumptions.
I assumed that Jake Heaps would outperform Brad Kaaya and almost win the job by default. I never thought that the kid from suburban Los Angeles would perform the way that he has and would show the moxie and poise that he possesses. Who ever heard of a freshman outperforming a senior, or at least hanging in there with him stride for stride.
Who knew that "Bye Felisha's" son would step up and claim the prize of all prizes; the keys to drive the high-octane Miami Hurricane offense? (Kaaya's mom Angela Means played Felisha in the 1995 comedy Friday with Ice Cube, Chris Tucker and the late Bernie Mac. Ice Cube turned to Means in her big scene and said "Bye Felisha")
I will admit that I was wrong. Kaaya, a true freshman, has stood toe to toe with Heaps and has been just as good, if not better than the well-traveled journeyman. I did not give Kaaya a shot to win the job. With the season rapidly approaching, I am presently calling for the Kaaya Era to officially begin.
This is not to say that Heaps has had a bad camp. He performed well in practice and in the first scrimmage, before being held out of the second. His performance has not been underwhelming.
It is just that with him and Kaaya being tied, the program owes it to Kaaya to give him the ball against the Cardinals. He was committed to Al Golden and James Coley since he was a junior in high school and turned down scholarship offers from USC and UCLA, where he could have played in front of his family and friends. Kaaya was committed to the Hurricanes when they were still facing NCAA sanctions and was in the ear of other players at the all-star games and camps that he performed in. He maintained his commitment and could not wait to wake up early and fax in his Letter of Intent early, West Coast time, on Signing Day.
This kid was meant to play for Miami and his actions on and off the field qualify him to get first shot at the starting job. With all things being equal he should be given the job based upon the fact that he has stood by the program and he has shown his teammates that he can deliver. Currently, Kaaya and Heaps are listed as co-starters on the most recent depth chart released by the team last week.
He will also not be a one-year wonder and leave the program after the season. Heaps has only one year of eligibility remaining.
By starting Kaaya over Heaps, with the two of them just about even, it shows recruits that even if you are a freshman, if you are the better player, you are going to play. It also shows that it pays to be loyal and to honor your verbal commitment. Starting Kaaya over Heaps, would tell recruits that when UM tells you that you are wanted and needed and will be given every shot to play right away, they mean it. Golden would be walking the walk instead of just talking the talk. That would go a long way with recruits, especially the local ones that do not want to sit idly on the sidelines too long.
Heaps has had opportunities with both BYU and Kansas before packing his bags for Miami when senior signal caller Ryan Williams went down with a torn ACL this spring. Heaps saw an opportunity to come to UM and capitalize on a situation where Miami was thin at his position and he had only freshmen to beat to win the starting job. This was the ultimate free agent signing where a player could pick a team that he thought he had the best opportunity to play. There was no real recruiting period for Heaps and there was no real competition to sign him. He needed UM just as much as UM needed him at the time.
If Kevin Olsen had a better showing in the spring game, who knows if Heaps would even be here. He had a one-way ticket out of Manhattan, Kansas and he could have punched it to go anywhere that a starting job was up for grabs. Heaps chose Miami and, but for an over-achieving freshman who has had an equally successful training camp, would be the starter.
With Miami not expected to compete for a national title this season, and Heaps being a one-and-done guy, Golden might as well let Kaaya run the offense and get the experience under his belt and give it his best shot. Kaaya is a very cerebral passer and will not make poor decisions or reads. He is not the type of player that will cost UM games with dumb decisions. Neither is Heaps for that matter. Heaps has been praised by his teammates for his ability to read defenses, sift through coverages and go through his progressions.
However, if Miami is going to start planning for its future, that time is now. They should go with Kaaya and let him take his lumps now, if there are to be any, so when the classes of 2015 and 2016 arrive, they will be able to contend for championships and have an experienced leader at the quarterback position for several years to come.
For those that are worried about starting a freshman quarterback, or a quarterback new to the college game, remember this. Four UM national championships have been won by a Miami team with either a freshman quarterback or a quarterback making his debut.
Further, Johnny Manziel won the Heisman as a freshman starter at Texas A&M and Jameis Winston won a national title for Florida State as a red-shirt freshman making his first career starts.
Senior linebacker Denzel Perryman, a ferocious beast of a player, said the following about Kaaya. "I can't rattle that guy for nothing. I think nobody can."
It should only ring true that Kaaya is the next in line for freshman greatness and that the Canes bear all of the fruits of victory.