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Spring Football Position Preview: Quarterback

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For the first time in forever, the Miami Hurricanes have a truly open QB competition. Who will step up and win the QB1 job?

This spring’s biggest attraction: the QB battle between (from L to R) N’Kosi Perry, Jarren Williams, Tate Martell, and Cade Weldon.
State of the U Illustration by Mike Meredith

For a time, the Miami Hurricanes were known for the elite performance of their Quarterbacks. From Bernie Kosar to Vinny Testaverde to Jim Kelly to Craig Ericksen to Ken Dorsey to Brock Berlin, and some others in between, the Canes’s QBs were among some of the best in the college football world for more than 20 years.

To say that has not been the case recently is putting it mildly. With the exception of a select few seasons — Jacory Harris’s 2009 season, Stephen Morris’s 2012 and 2013 seasons, Brad Kaaya’s 2016 season (though all 3 of his years in Coral Gables were similar) — Miami has struggled to get consistent, high quality QB play in the last 15-ish years. Those struggles were a big part of the Canes struggles to a 7-6 record in 2018, and addressing (translation: upgrading) the performance at this position is key for the 2019 season.

Departure

Gone from the roster is Malik Rosier. The 5th year senior from Mobile, AL had a rocky tenure as Miami’s starting QB, with some sky-high highs — like setting a record for most TDs responsible for in 2017 — were undone by some rock-bottom lows — the list of which is well known.

Rosier started the 2017 season by leading the Canes to a 10-0 record, but that covered for some bad performances on his part. In 2018, Rosier regressed badly, and was replaced at QB by N’Kosi Perry, before Mark Richt went back to Rosier again and then rotated the two players.

While Mark Richt repeatedly stated that Rosier was the best choice for Miami’s QB due to his maturity, he simply proved that he wasn’t the caliber of player that Miami needs at the QB position to be a championship contender. Rosier graduates having accumulated more than 4500 yards passing with 34 TDs and 25 INTs over his 2 seasons with serious playing time. He added more than 800 yards and 12 TDs rushing, which was a new element to the Canes offense when compared to previous players at this position.

Returning Players

Returning to the Canes’ QB room are redshirt sophomores N’Kosi Perry and Cade Weldon, and redshirt freshman Jarren Williams. Each player has been around for at least a year, and they have varying skillsets which could be used to great advantage.

Of these 3 players, the only one who has played significant snaps is Perry. When he finally hit the field in 2018, Perry started hot, but cooled off to the point where, based on game performance and social media antics, former coach Mark Richt removed Perry and returned to Rosier at QB. Perry’s stats — 50.6% completions, 1091 yards, 13 TDs, 8 INTs — were far from stellar, but he still has plenty of talent. At 6’4” 185lbs, Perry is tall and lithely built. He has a VERY strong arm, and can make plays with his legs. But, consistency and proper preparation habits are necessary to turn potential into production.

Weldon is the other RS Soph in this group. He is the son of former FSU QB Casey Weldon, so he has good bloodlines and pedigree. Weldon saw very limited action, due to Rosier and Perry playing 99% of snaps on the year in 2018. He was 2 for 3 passing, but that sample size isn’t big enough to extrapolate with.

Weldon has a nice arm and is very tough. He is willing to throw the ball into tight windows, which can be good and bad, and will run more/better than you might initially think. He has some potential, but unless he takes a big, BIG leap, he’s probably not the top choice for QB1.

A HS All-American in 2018, Jarren Williams is arguably the most talented passer of any player in Miami’s QB room. He, understandably, was frustrated by the fact that he took a redshirt in 2018, when neither Rosier nor Perry really lit the world on fire in front of him. Williams is well built at 6’2” 210lbs, and he has worked hard to get to this level. If you can throw the ball as well as Williams can, you’re going to be in the conversation for the QB1 spot. That’s where Williams finds himself heading into this spring.

New Addition

On top of the Perry, Weldon, Williams trio, Miami has added 2 other players to the QB room.

Former 5-star recruit Tate Martell has transferred to Miami from Ohio State. He had a legendary HS career at Las Vegas (NV) Bishop Gorman — yes, the same school that Brevin Jordan attended — but wasn’t able to see the field much for OSU. Backing up Dwayne Haskins this past season, Martell went 23-28 passing for 269 yards and 1 TD. He added 128 yards and 2 TDs rushing, evidence of his dual threat abilities.

Of the QBs on the roster, Martell is aguably the most physically talented. He went 43-0 at Bishop Gorman, and put up video game numbers in doing so. He can run and throw with equal prowess, and he could fit in well with Dan Enos’s offense. While Martell has good potential, that might not be seen this season; the NCAA has yet to rule on Martell’s waiver for immediate eligibility in 2019. Even without a resolution on that point, Martell will be fully engaged in spring practice with the Canes.

He’s not on the roster yet, but Peyton Matocha will be joining this group over the summer. A 3-star recruit from Houston, TX, Matocha was the co-Houston Private School Offensive Player of the Year in 2018. He’s likely to take a redshirt this season as the other 4 players battle for the starting QB job. For more on Matocha, check out this Recruiting Notebook from National Signing Day.

Spring Outlook

With no established starting QB, a new offensive coaching staff, and a new offensive system, the QB position battle is wide open in a way that it hasn’t been at Miami for many years.

With 4 scholarship QBs on campus for spring — 2019 signee Matocha doesn’t arrive until summer — Miami will give each player a look as the Canes search to find the starter for 2019.

As of now, all 4 players — Tate Martell, N’Kosi Perry, Jarren Williams, and Cade Weldon — are on equal footing. New Head Coach Manny Diaz has repeatedly stated that every player on the roster enters spring with a “clean slate”. That’s a good thing for the QBs in particular, as the previous staff, and the previous offensive scheme, were not the best for player development or performance.

While there seems to be a groundswell supporting Martell as the prime candidate to win the QB battle, his immediate eligibility is still in limbo. He’s talented and could be a major weapon if Miami elects to add/keep zone-read and QB run elements in the playbook. But, even with his talent, Martell has played but a scant handful of meaningful snaps in his college career. So he’s is far from a sure thing.

Perry, who has previous starting experience here at Miami, will need to grow from some immature social media antics and improve his play as well. He has all the talent in the world, — he’s tall, has a cannon for an arm, can juke defenders out of their cleats and run very well — but he’ll need to utilize it effectively and efficiently.

Some think that Williams is the most gifted passer of this group, with or without Martell around. He was frustrated by the fact that he didn’t get a real shot to play last year, and should be hungry to prove that he took his redshirt year seriously and is ready to step into the spotlight as QB1.

Weldon is the almost-forgotten man here. He doesn’t have the caché of the other players at this position, but he has some skills. He’s not the first name anyone would probably pick to be the Canes’ starting QB, but he could well win the job, if things break the right way, and he takes a big step forward.

Overall, Miami’s quartet of quarterbacks will steps onto the Greentree Practice Fields or into the Carol Soffer Indoor Football Practice Facility with the sole focus being proving through consistent effort and high level performance that they are the player that should start at QB for the Hurricanes.

Manny Diaz and Dan Enos’s decision about a starting QB probably won’t come this spring, since there’s fall camp on the horizon. But, this spring will go a long way toward showing who’s done the playbook and film study to grasp the concepts Miami will try to run on offense, and who has the performance, both operationally for getting Miami into the right play, and athletically by making the right reads and throws, to lead the Canes onto the field for the 2019 season.

Go Canes