As we continue our SOTU preseason coverage, we take a look at the position that gets the most scrutiny, and whose impact means more than any other on the offensive side of the ball: Quarterback
This one was easy for me to do:
Let's be real about this: Brad Kaaya is the franchise. He's the reigning ACC Offensive Rookie of the Year, coming off an impressive season that saw him complete 58.5% of his passes while throwing for 3,198 yards, and a 26/12 TD/INT ratio.
You all know the story by now: Kaaya couldn't graduate early from his HS (they don't allow it), he came to Miami in June, didn't do anything but work on his craft, took advantage of Ryan Williams' unfortunate knee injury, Kevin Olsen's inability to be a productive member of this program, and Jake Heaps' overall lack of ability, and went from 4th string freshman to Starting QB in the space of about 5 weeks of Fall camp.
After that ascension, and incredibly productive freshman year, Kaaya has benefited from having an entire offseason to work on his craft, and is now the unquestioned leader of this team. Where he may have not fully asserted himself as the leader of this team last year, he now confidently leads this group of Canes as we move towards the season.
As for Kaaya's game, he'll need to show up better in big games. Most of his interceptions came during losses (which isn't surprising), but he has the talent to raise his game from it's already high level. When Miami was clicking in the middle of the season (playing at a 99% S&P+ efficiency through the Cincinnati, Virginia Tech, North Carolina, and 1st half of the FSU game), Kaaya was unreal. He'll need to perform in that fashion more often than not for Miami to be successful this season.
Now, we know that Kaaya loses his top 3 receiving targets (Phillip Dorsett, Clive Walford, and Duke Johnson), as well as the Canes' all-time leading rusher (Johnson), and 4 starting offensive linemen, with Danny Isidora the only returning full-time starter. So, while Kaaya is working to elevate his game to new levels, he will need the mostly new supporting cast that will be surrounding him to do the same.
Here's a highlight video, just because. (WARNING: explicit language in the audio of the embedded video)
The Back-up Quarterback
While Kaaya threw 97% of the passes for the Canes last year, his primary backup Malik Rosier redshirted and ran the scout team.
Rosier, an Alabama native who plays both Football and Baseball for the Canes, is more of a dual threat player than Kaaya. He has a live arm, which is showcased both on the diamond and the gridiron.
There has been some chatter that the Canes could install some packages to showcase Rosier's abilities. Whether those are read-option based or dual QB based (yes, please), I'm interested to see what OC James Coley does to take advantage of Rosier's skillset.
Do I see Malik Rosier playing a ton of snaps this year? Hopefully not. Brad Kaaya is the man, and we need him healthy to be competitive. BUT, should he be forced into action, I think Rosier can be a sufficient QB for this team.
The Other Guys
Now, a quick look at the rest of the QB position:
- Gray Crow - 4th year Junior who has bounced between QB and TE. He's little more than a depth player at this point. If we get to the point where Crow is clocking serious snaps at QB, this season is in a lot of trouble.
- Vincent Testaverde - the Sophomore walk-on is the son of Canes legend and 1986 Heisman Trophy Winner Vinny Testaverde. He played at Texas Tech last year, and comes to Miami this year to add depth and a modicum of talent to the QB position. He could honestly end up as the 3rd string QB for this team above Crow.
- Evan Shirreffs - the most talented of these players is also the most intelligent. Shirreffs was Valedictorian of his HS's graduating class and chose Miami over Columbia. On the field, Shirreffs has a live arm and is very accurate (as I said when we signed him, he's arguably the most accurate HS QB that I've ever seen). With his combination of intellect (to digest the playbook), and talent (Georgia 3A Player of the Year as a senior; Georga/Florida All-Star Game MVP), Shirreffs could end up as the best player at the QB position not named Brad Kaaya. It's highly unlikely that Shirreffs sees the field this year, but keep him on your radar for the future.
Like videos instead of words, here's the video I did with Mark Rogers on the QB position for this year: