The quarterback battle is beginning heat up this spring, with QBs Tate Martell, Jarren Williams and N’Kosi Perry all splitting first team reps on day seven of spring practice.
Offensive coordinator Dan Enos is creating a clear set of standards and competition for his signal callers.
“There has been progress,” said Enos, who enters his first season in Coral Gables. But other than that, the former Alabama quarterbacks coach said QB play is still, “Not near where we need to be. Not near a championship level.”
Asked what needs to be improved, Enos said bluntly, “Fundamentals and techniques, learning our system and also defensive identification.”
50-60 percent of the offensive playbook has been installed according to Enos.
Ohio State transfer Martell continues to attract attention among fans, where he completed 23 of 28 passes as a redshirt freshman in 2018 with 128 yards on 22 rush attempts. In a game against Rutgers in 2018, he went 10-10 passing with 121 yards and a 99.4 QBR, and also threw his only passing touchdown of the season while backing up NFL-bound Dwayne Haskins.
Despite announcing his transfer on January 16, it took until March to get his waiver approved to play in 2019. But that also puts pressure on the Las Vegas native to learn the playbook immediately.
“Tate is much more comfortable with the terminology than he was early. He’s thrown the ball pretty effectively the last couple of days. We’re really, really working with his eyes in the pocket – his eyes and his feet and his posture. He drifts around on his drops a lot. There’s not a real distinct set of timing in his drops. It’s something that’s new for him. He’s got to learn how to transition what we’re asking him to do with his feet and do it during team situations when I’m not standing there with him telling him to do it every day,” said Enos.
Enos also addressed the progress of the returning QBs in Perry and Williams.
“They’ve been up and down a little bit. Jarren has to come out here and made terrific throws. He’s had situations where he’s had some mental lapses, as well. Saturday, N’Kosi had his best day. He had a great day. He graded very high. I saw poise, I saw a passer, I saw a guy get through his progression. And then today we got to watch the tape, but I think he had a little bit of a step back. But certainly those things are expected.”
Perry is the incumbent starter--if there is such a thing heading into the fall--but is being pushed hard by Williams and Martell.
Perry did start six games while playing in another five, completing 51 percent of his passes with 13 touchdown passes and six interceptions. Despite rushing for 169 yards and another touchdown, question marks continue to surround the redshirt sophomore’s consistency. He was suspended for the season opener against LSU for a violation of team rules and lost a start in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl against Wisconsin due to a viral inappropriate video posted on social media.
Meanwhile, Williams made his Hurricane debut last season in the fourth quarter against Savannah State and was able to keep his redshirt due to the new NCAA rule that allows players to keep their redshirt if they appear in four games or less.
Head coach Manny Diaz is unsure if the QBs will be live during Saturday’s closed scrimmage, the first of the spring. He does hope to get all three passers first team reps but won’t promise his signal callers anything as “there’s [always] battlefield promotions and battlefield demotions…this isn’t the YMCA.”
Diaz also said there is no clear clubhouse leader yet in the QB battle and there won’t be “until we have 21 [other] guys around playing football. You need to get a bunch of guys around and get the dynamic of changing defensive coverages around you to see who can make the decisions, who can do it accurately and who can avoid the critical error.”
In addition to the primary personnel at the QB position, walk-ons Ryan Rizk, Augie DeBiase, and Juco transfer Carson Proctor lead the scout team in practice. And Peyton Matocha will enroll at UM after graduating this spring from St. Thomas high school outside of Houston, TX.