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Miami Mind Games: The Quarterback

Out of all the intangibles needed to operate the most important and valuable position in football, the ones you can’t tangibly measure are the most important.

Sugar Bowl X Dorsey

For the better part of a decade, I have immensely enjoyed evaluating the quarterback position. From the high school gunslingers to the college superstars, watching all the intricate details of footwork, mechanics, pocket presence etc. captivates me.

It started out as a hobby and has morphed into a passion filled part of my Hurricane fandom. But ultimately I became aware of a realization that no matter how much you can quantify the tangibles, the intangibles are often the most critical assessment piece.

In the fall camp leading up to the 2014 season, then offensive coordinator James Coley had this to say about freshman quarterback Brad Kaaya. “I have no idea if he’s a freshman or not. He acts like a senior.” “He might be 30.”

It was at this moment and juncture that I made a bold prediction. Kaaya would start as a true freshman.

That particular quarterback battle had Kevin Olsen as a possibility, Ryan Williams (who would eventually get injured) and Malik Rosier. Rosier was the second quarterback taken that class and was essentially brought in to bolster depth.

For me it didn’t matter who true freshman Kaaya was up against that year. Kaaya was going to be the guy. He willed it so.

Just take the snap shot of social media for a second. Where it has been said that your are the byproduct of your three closest friends, I will add that you are the byproduct of your three last tweets.

Now that might be my own empirical definition and not actual science but you would be remiss to totally ignore that. Your social media voice is a reflection of your actual voice. The culmination of it all, sure.

So what is this “it?” I would say the quarterback’s mind and inner compass will guide him to transverse the most treacherous terrain. Without focus, determination, and the outright willingness to succeed, the odds stack against him.

The mind is a battlefield. Playing on a professional level, I can attest that when things didn’t go my way, it was like letting a demon in the front door. Those demons will eventually kick off their shoes and take up residency if you don’t evict them.

Teammates will notice those demonic fiends too. Walk into a huddle and see a quarterback with uneasiness, fear or trepidation tattooed on his face? They will notice you like you were wearing neon lip stick.

You cannot escape the inevitability that besieges you. A quarterback’s lack of confidence will slaughter him and his team. And confidence is tested most under two invariable and inevitable pretenses. 1. When things aren’t going your way. 2. When the game is on the line.

Quarterbacks must have short memories. There is no escaping that you’ll throw an interception. They are part of the game. So many fluke bounces, a receiver runs the wrong route or you simply just read the coverage wrong.

It’s in those moments that I have learned to analyze every single mannerism a quarterback has like a vigilant hawk. If they fall into the nether-realm bombarded by their own doubt, no matter how many life rafts you throw at them, they will sink.

Their head collapses into their hands. They sit alone on the bench. Their shoulders slouch. Confidence doesn’t occupy such empty vessels. I don’t think you could even palpate a pulse at that juncture.

Then number two. “I think he comes alive when the pressure is on.” “He just seems to have that knack of being able to win the big game and make the plays happen when they need to happen.”

That was Larry Coker defining his quarterback after once again beating the rival Seminoles. Coker sensed something that everyone knew. Ken Dorsey had “it.” He had the mental ability to stay confident and perform admirably under the most adverse pressure.

There you have it. When has Miami had a quarterback who was all business, mature, exuding confidence and able to conquer the moment? Every moment? The pressure filled championship dreams still on the line moment?

In recent memory the Miami Hurricanes have had quarterbacks leave open receivers along the goal line and laugh while losing to FIU. They have had the entire quarterback room practically suspended in its entirety.

All the mechanical superlatives can’t save you if you don’t have it upstairs. Maturity, confidence and determination are weapons this game won’t afford you to play without.

The mind game must be won between the quarterback’s ears way before the Miami Hurricanes can win big on the field. Until they find a quarterback with “it,” it will be more of just the same.