With Fall Camp for the Miami Hurricanes starting tomorrow, and the season just 33 days away, it’s time that we take a focused look at the biggest storyline for the upcoming season:
QB N’Kosi Perry.
I know the QB position battle is the thing that people are looking at most closely heading into fall camp, and I even wrote a bunch about that in the position preview earlier this summer, but Perry is the singular player who is drawing the attention, and imagination, of Canes fans.
And, rightfully so, in my opinion. Perry is a very different player than Brad Kaaya was, and that change is intriguing. Add in the fact that he was Mark Richt’s hand-picked QB at the top of the 2017 recruiting class, was the 2016 Mr. Football in Florida’s 6A classification, was compared favorably to Usain Bolt, led his team to the playoffs twice, and set numerous records, including breaking all of Daunte Culpepper’s career records at Ocala (FL) Vanguard, and it’s easy to see why.
Now, I’m on record saying I believe the Canes’ QB job will be Perry’s before too long, and I stand by that. But today I’m going to lay out a couple different plans for that to happen. You can choose which plan is your favorite, but each of them, I believe, offer Perry the opportunity to start and play well when he does so.
Plan 1: Start Perry from Game 1
This is probably the plan that most Cane fans want to see happen. Perry, who has reportedly been showcasing his talent very well during player-led 7v7 workouts since he enrolled in May, steps up early in camp, dominates the battle against Malik Rosier and Evan Shirreffs, wins the job easily, is named starter after the 2nd scrimmage (the time that Mark Richt said he wants to name a starter) and rolls from there.
Even if Perry is the best player and starts from game 1, there are still things that Miami will need to do as a coaching staff and as a team to help him be successful. This is going to sound very similar to what I wrote 4 years ago ahead of Brad Kaaya’s first start, mainly because I believe a Freshman QB faces many of the same hurdles, even if his skillset is different than his predecessor’s.
The main thing for this plan is not going back and forth. If Perry is going to start the opener, an entirely possible scenario, then he’s gotta be the guy all season long. Good and bad. Win or loss. Strong play or struggles. You can’t rotate Perry in and out and expect him to get in a groove or develop. For this to work, you have to put him in and LEAVE HIM IN. Just like was done with Brad Kaaya in 2014.
The second point of the “Start him from day 1” plan is using scheme effectively to highlight Perry’s skills and talents. Miami has a lot of returning and developing talent on the Offensive Line, the best RB (Mark Walton), WR (Ahmmon Richards) and TE (Christopher Herndon IV) in the ACC, along with a host of other skill position players who can impact the game in a variety of ways. With all that talent on hand, it’s not going to be incumbent upon Perry to make everything happen himself. Which is awesome.
Here’s the Recruit Notebook I wrote on Perry, where I compared him to former Oregon star Marcus Mariota (but Perry has a stronger arm). And, below, here’s the video our Justin Dottavio put together highlighting that comparison, and looking at some of the things scheme-wise at which Perry excels.
As for the overall scheme that can help Perry be successful, I have 4 points to present:
- Work the run game. As I said, Mark Walton is the best RB in the ACC. Let him prove it. He has the skills to control the game and be the foundation of the offense. Don’t let that exist in theory, use it in practice. Give Mark Walton the ball. A lot.
- Quick passing game. Don’t let Perry hold the ball for a long time. That’s when things can go awry. Continue to use the quick pass game (slants, TE seam and stick routes, “now” screen, bubble screen) to get the ball out of Perry’s hands and into the hands of the many playmakers the Canes have on offense.
- Integrate the QB run game. This is something that has been missing in recent years due to Brad Kaaya’s lack of athleticism. This can be the RPO (which isn’t a dictated QB run as we all know, but has a QB run component if the QB keeps the ball). This can be speed option. This can be a called QB run (think Cam Newton running Power or any fast QB running a draw). But, Perry is very good running the ball and even though he prefers to use his athleticism to buy time to throw, using his legs in the offense from time to time would be a wise move.
- Dominate on defense. No, this isn’t offensive scheme, but it matters. If Perry is the starter, it’s unlikely that the offense will consistently go 80 yards. So, if the defense plays to their potential and gives the offense the ball in advantageous field position, then that will enable Perry to be more effective on the field.
Apart from those scheme things, it’s absolutely imperative that Miami doesn’t handicap Perry with a partial playbook. If you remember Brad Kaaya’s first start in 2014 (on the road against a good Louisville team), the entire offensive playbook for that game looked like this:
That’s not good enough. Perry might not get the full offense from day 1, and even with the portion of the playbook that he gets he’ll likely be a 1-read and go type player, but the Techmo Bowl (i.e. 4 plays) offense isn’t something that will put him in position to succeed. So, don’t repeat the mistakes of the past with a freshman QB. Give him the offense (or at least the foundation of the the offense he can handle for game 1 and expand it weekly) and go from there.
I’m just gonna leave this episode of The Solid Verbal where they talked about breaking in a new QB (including talk specific to freshmen QBs) here for your listening enjoyment:
NEW EP— The Solid Verbal (@SolidVerbal) May 25, 2017
Talking to @YogiRoth about the plight of new quarterbacks, from learning playbooks to becoming a leader: https://t.co/7wREGEdVwV
Plan 2: Rotate series early and eventual start
Before people go off the deep end, let me remind you that there are other players competing for the job who could be Miami’s starting QB early in the season. Even if Rosier or Shirreffs were to win the job out of camp, I don’t foresee any circumstance where N’Kosi Perry would sit for long.
To that end, Miami’s 2nd best plan for N’Kosi Perry would be to follow the path that Clemson took with Deshaun Watson in 2014. Have one of the incumbents start the first 3 games and rotate series with Perry. For Watson, he entered around the 3rd drive of the game and would play a couple possessions before yielding back to the starter. This would be repeated in the 2nd half of the game as well.
For Clemson in 2014, the first 3 games were at Georgia (and Mark Richt), home vs South Carolina State, and at Florida State in week 3. Cole Stoudt started all 3 games, but shared time with the freshman Watson.
Things turned in week 3 at FSU. After Stoudt started, Watson entered for his normal series. But, instead of rotating back to Stoudt, Clemson stuck with Watson and that was that. He would go on to start 2 more games, and would have started the rest of the season if not for a knee injury.
The parallels to Perry are clear. Week 3 for Miami is at FSU, just like it was for Clemson in 2014. And, just like Watson before him, Perry could easily seize the job at Miami’s QB during the marquee matchup that week, if not sooner.
While I’m not going to rehash what I’ve already written, many of the same schematic elements from plan 1 would be a welcomed help to Perry as starter. Still run the ball. Still get the ball to the Canes’ playmakers. Still dominate on defense. This 2nd (and the 3rd plan to follow) are accounting for the fact that Perry, while good, may not be FULLY ready to be the starter for the opener.
Plan 3: “Perry package” for a month, start him after the bye
This plan is similar to plan 2, but different in the end timing.
With 4 games in a row to start the year, followed by a bye week, there is the natural break in the schedule where Miami could then work Perry into the starting role.
It’s simply, really: still rotate series or work the “Perry Package” in games 1-4, then move Perry up to the starting job on the bye week, and unveil him as starting QB for the Thursday Night home game vs Georgia Tech following the bye.
With 4 games down, and 8 to go, this plan would have Perry start 2/3rds of the games on the schedule, while still giving him the first month to integrate himself into the offense, get a feel for the flow and speed of the college game, and let Miami slowly (relatively) develop the QB of the future.
Regardless of which plan you favor, the Brad Kaaya plan, the Deshaun Watson plan, or the “wait until the bye week a 3rd into the season” plan, the overwhelming consensus among Canes fans is that it’s a matter of when, not if, N’Kosi Perry is Miami’s starting quarterback.
I’ve given you 3 options for when. Which do you prefer? Vote in the poll and let me know in the comments below.
Which "Perry Plan" do you prefer?
This poll is closed
Plan 1 (start him from game 1)
Plan 2 (rotate him until he takes the job)
Plan 3 ("Perry Package" early, start after bye week)