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Miami Hurricanes Position Preview: Quarterback

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Miami looks for the player to replace Brad Kaaya in 2017 (and beyond)

Evan Shirrefs (L), N’Kosi Perry (C), and Malik Rosier (R) will battle to be Miami’s QB when fall camp opens.
Mike Meredith / State of the U

For the past couple years, writing the QB preview for the Miami Hurricanes has been one of the easiest tasks possible.

Brad Kaaya returns, looking to build upon an impressive statistical season in (previous year). He will work with a new offensive coordinator, who will look to use Kaaya’s prodigious skills to great advantage.” (add in stats, other narratives for 1500 words; note Rosier and Shirreffs and others)

“Conclusion, it’s the Brad Kaaya show at QB. He’s the guy. Period”.

But, now that Brad Kaaya is gone and playing for MY Detroit Lions (shut up) in the NFL, there are big shoes to fill at the QB position in Coral Gables.

With Kaaya no longer in Coral Gables, here are the guys who will battle to replace him under center, and in shotgun, for the Canes.

QBs on the Roster

Miami Hurricanes QBs

Name Height/Weight Year 2016 Stats
Name Height/Weight Year 2016 Stats
Malik Rosier 6'1" 208lbs RS Junior 6 games, 2/4, 32 yards
Evan Shirreffs 6'5" 216lbs RS Sophomore DNP - CD
N'Kosi Perry 64" 185lbs Freshman 106/164 (63,4% comp), 1778yds, 24 TD/4 INT, 97yd rushing, 4 TD
Cade Weldon 6'3" 212lbs Freshman 169/275 (61.4% comp), 3135yds, 19TD/11INT, 368yds rushing, 11 TD
Vincent Testaverde 6'2" 205lbs RS Junior DNP - CD (walk-on)

That chart is nice, but there’s more to the story. Let’s get into it:

The Contenders

As I see it, the real contenders to start are Malik Rosier, Evan Shirreffs, and N’Kosi Perry.

Following the spring, Mark Richt named Rosier and Shirreffs Co-leaders of the QB battle. Neither was really able to separate from the group with their play. The advantages both of these players has is familiarity with the system. Both are returning players and not freshmen, so they’ve been around both coaches Richt, have a full year and 2 installations of the offense, and know what is expected of them.

Malik Rosier

NCAA Football: Miami at Duke
Rosier dropping a dime for a TD in his only collegiate start (2015 @ Duke)
Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports

Of the players battling to be the Canes’ starting QB, only Rosier has game action at the collegiate level. He’s been Brad Kaaya’s backup for 2 years, and started a game — the 2015 win vs Duke — in his time at Miami. That start only came because Kaaya was out with a concussion, but it’s a start nonetheless.

A 2-sport standout in HS (Baseball and Football), Rosier has good athleticism and a decent if unspectacular arm. He’s a bit shorter than your prototypical QB at only 6’1”, but he’s not 5’10” like Mike Vick or Johnny Manziel were.

Rosier’s ability to extend plays is a double edged sword. He can use his athleticism to move around the field, extending plays to make throws or run for yards. When he makes the right choice on where to go with the football, that’s a great thing. When he presses the action and tries to make a specatular, homerun play when scrambling, that rarely seems to go well.

So, Rosier can create extra time for himself, but rarely uses it effectively. This is something that Mark Richt has noted repeatedly over the last year and some change. He’s frequently heard saying that Rosier needs to stay within himself, and make a smart play — even if that means taking a sack or throwing the ball away.

Until Rosier shows a willingness AND ABILITY to do what Richt asks — play within himself and use his talents effectively — he’ll probably not ascend from backup to starter. He could start short term, sure, but that probably wouldn’t last (unless he starts taking care of the football).

Evan Shirreffs

NCAA Football: Virginia Tech at Miami
The Brainiac
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Likely the most cerebral of the players contending to start at QB, Evan Shirreffs will need to make a big step forward to win the job. The former HS valedictorian from Jefferson, GA has the size (6’5”) and arm strength for the position, but his accuracy needs work.

This is interesting to me, because Shirreffs was one of the most accurate HS QB’s I’d seen when Miami recruited him back in 2015. A player that was once accuracy over arm has flipped that script, but it doesn’t seem to be a positive development.

With 3 years of eligibility remaining, Shirreffs could win the job now and stay in that position for years to come. That potential of (relative) longevity has to be appealing to Mark and Jon Richt. But, Shirreffs has to make plays — and more importantly make the throws — to win the job.

Shirreffs isn’t as athletic as the other players vying to win the QB job, but he’s not as statuesque as Brad Kaaya was. Obviously, Mark Richt wants a QB who can move some, but that won’t be the deciding factor. If Shirreffs can move around a bit, keep himself from being sacked easily, step up and make throws, Miami has the skill position players to be very successful.

And, before you scoff at that notion, there was a tall, thin, cerebral QB who wasn’t as athletically gifted as his peers who won the job and did very well for Miami. I’m not saying the name, and I’m not saying Shirreffs is the second coming of that player, I’m just saying don’t get TOO tied up in athleticism as the deciding factor.

N’Kosi Perry

The Future?
247sports

Well known to have been the #1 player on Miami’s recruiting board for the 2017 recruiting class, N’Kosi Perry has a world of talent, but it remains to be seen if he’s ready to be Miami’s QB right away.

After a record-breaking HS career at Ocala (FL) Vanguard HS — Perry broke former NFL Star Daunte Culpepper’s records at Vanguard that had stood for 20 years — Perry comes to Miami as the prototype at QB. Perry is a bit thin to be sure (he’s listed at 185lbs after playing at 165-170 as a HS senior), but he’s got the height (6’4”), rocket arm, and explosive athleticism that teams would fit on any team.

While Rosier has only started 1 game, and Shirreffs hasn’t played in a college game at all, Perry hasn’t even gone through a college PRACTICE yet. He enrolled in May, and has been working with the team through weight-room and player-led 7v7 work, but he hasn’t practiced yet, and has a long way to go to win the job.

Could Perry win the QB job? Yes, he absolutely could. Some (like myself) hope that happens. But, it should be repeated that Perry has yet to take a college PRACTICE snap yet, so he’ll need to prove himself on the Greentree Practice Field before getting the keys to the offense in 2017.

Others at QB

  • Cade Weldon - son of former FSU QB Casey Weldon, Cade has good size (6’3”) and a strong arm. Yes, he had better raw stats than Perry as a HS senior, but Perry rarely played in the 2nd halves of games as his Vanguard team routinely blew teams out. Weldon enrolled early, but struggled to get up to speed.
  • Vincent Testaverde - son of former Canes QB Vinny Testaverde, Vincent is a walk-on at Miami. He played in a couple games at Texas Tech a few years ago, but he doesn’t have the talent to be a factor at Miami. If he plays major snaps, something went very wrong for Miami.

Outlook

While Rosier, Shirreffs, and Perry are the top 3 players at QB, I’ve long maintained that the QB job will be Perry’s before too long. Another player (likely Rosier) may start a couple games this year, but by the time October rolls around, I’d bet good money that Perry’s #5 will be the one seen under center.

Regardless of which QB wins the job in 2017, there will likely be a statistical regression from what was seen at the position last season. Brad Kaaya threw for 3500 yards with 27 TDs and 7 INT. Those are HUGE numbers and it took him 3 years to get there. The offense will likely lean heavily on Mark Walton’s shoulders, and the pass game will likely not put up those same kind of gaudy numbers.

But, with a QB who can be involved in the run game as either a called run or in the option or RPO series, Miami’s offense will evolve in the upcoming season. The QB will have plenty of options to throw to — Ahmmon Richards, Lawrence Cager, Braxton Berrios, Jeff Thomas, Christopher Herndon IV, and more — so don’t think that regression means that Miami won’t be able to pass the ball at all. There might not be a 400 yard, 6 TD passing game on the schedule this year, but whoever wins the QB job will have plenty of targets, and opportunities, to throw the ball down the field.

No matter who wins the QB job, Miami needs solid play to be a very good team in 2017. With lofty goals (10+ regular season wins, ACC Coastal Division Championship) attainable, the QB will need to step up and make things happen. Otherwise, expect Mark Richt to go to the bullpen early and give another player an opportunity to succeed.

Go Canes

Poll

Which QB will start the Season Opener for Miami?

This poll is closed

  • 29%
    Malik Rosier
    (480 votes)
  • 18%
    Evan Shirreffs
    (290 votes)
  • 50%
    N’Kosi Perry
    (805 votes)
  • 0%
    Cade Weldon
    (15 votes)
  • 0%
    Vincent Testaverde
    (16 votes)
1606 votes total Vote Now