Hadn’t planned to write much more about football after the spring game was in the books, but when the topic turns to quarterbacks and Mark Richt speaks transparently about the position—the conversation warrants a revisit.

Pressed days back regarding quarterback play and how things will shake out for senior Malik Rosier, r-freshman N’Kosi Perry. r-freshman Cade Weldon and true freshman Jarren Williams, Richt dropped his guard and made a few things crystal clear.

For starters, he doesn’t need a veteran under center this season to get what he needs to get out of his quarterback—and as if that weren’t enough; a parting shot that all should welcome. Walking away from the media after answering a few questions, Richt responded to one final inquiry about the position battle being open—and remaining that way.

“Oh yeah,” Richt delivered, with a confident half-laugh. “Until the very bitter end. All season long, too. Every week.”

On one level, the response does nothing to lead fans towards a clear-cut answer regarding next season’s signal caller—yet everything anyone wants to know about the battle is right out there in the open. Rosier’s veteran leg up is as flimsy as his output in three consecutive losses to end the 2017 campaign, while any boy-wonder hype surrounding Perry as the next-big-thing has faded with the presence of Williams, as well as Weldon’s dark-horse efforts.

CANES NEED TO GET BACK TO GREATNESS UNDER CENTER

For the first time in a long time, Miami finally has options. “Quarterback U” looked a lot more like “Quarterback Who” over this past decade-plus; highly-touted guys not panning out (5-star Kyle Wright, or the lesser-hyped, local-legend that was Jacory Harris), as well as a few good-not-great guys (Stephen Morris and Ryan Williams could fall here) and the perennial overachiever (Kirby Freeman).

The legacy of Brad Kaaya rings a bit incomplete; a 3-star prospect that Miami got to early—then-offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch getting a jump on neighboring USC and UCLA for the Southern California prospect. Kaaya chose to chase NFL dreams a year early; capitalizing on a strong bowl performance and win over West Virginia to end the 2016 season.

The would-be senior helped lead the Canes on a five-game win-streak to close the season—on the heels of a four-game losing streak with a few heartbreakers to Florida State, North Carolina and Notre Dame (by a combined 11 points), as well as a three-touchdown beatdown suffered at Virginia Tech.

Had Kaaya returned to Miami in 2017, one has to wonder what a quarterback whisperer like Richt could’ve done with No. 15 year two in his system. Rosier helped propel Miami to a 10-0 start before getting chewed up in the post-season. What might Kaaya have done as a fourth-year starter under those same circumstances?

On top of that, the Canes would’ve entered 2018 with a blank slate at the quarterback position; Rosier entering a senior with a back-up’s resume—opposed to a one-year starter—creating zero separation between him and the other three current options.

Regardless of what Rosier did right last season, Richt seems to be viewing this race the way a veteran coach should—as the wide-open battle it is.

ROSIER’S ONE-YEAR LEGACY DEFINED BY UPS & A FEW DOWNS

Comebacks against Florida State and Georgia Tech were thrillers; but a lot of early offensive mistakes in those games put Miami in position to even need a comeback in the first place. There were also those overthrown balls late in the year where Rosier wasn’t on the same page as some speedy, young receivers; those miscues costing Miami dearly—especially in the regular season-ending loss at Pittsburgh.

The logic-minded fan would most-likely look at the situation and feel that Miami has seen the best that Rosier has to offer.

The kid is a gamer, is tough and showed poised in big-stage comeback moments last season; but the limitations regarding precision and general decision-making—he appears to be another one of those good-not-great type guys. Someone who could manage the regular season—but is setting up to be exposed against a divisional foe conference title game, or another conference champion in a New Year’s Six bowl game; both of which were on display last season.

On the other hand, you have that Perry-Williams-Weldon trio that has never taken a meaningful snap. Sky could be the limit with any of them, just as quickly as handing them the keys too early could mean disaster.

When dissecting the “other three”, it’s hard to not laser-in on Williams’ upside and potential as a true freshman. Weldon was an early enrollee in 2017, while Perry showed up in summer—but neither did anything to separate themselves from the path-of-least-resistance option that was Rosier.

Conversely, Williams—an early enrollee this year—has made more with the limited time he’s seen. Working as a third-teamer, Richt has already praised the freshman’s intelligence and speed in which he’s caught up to the rest of the pack.

“He’s a quick learner and he’s got some really good arm talent, I’ll tell you that,” Richt shared on WQAM in late March.

MAY THE BEST MAN WIN THE STARTING NOD THIS FALL

Regarding Richt’s most-recent bread-crumbs dropped in regards to who will be “the guy” come fall; a lot of chatter about putting guys in a position to succeed and not overwhelming them with too much.

Pressed with a question about the “youngsters” showing Richt a lot for consideration-sake, the third-year leader of the Hurricanes put that notion to rest quickly.

“The gotta know enough … and I’ll say this; whoever becomes the quarterback—if it’s not Malik—we’re gonna not make him confused. I have that term; I’m gonna put him on a need-to-know basis,” Richt explained.

“I say, ‘You’re on need to know. I’m gonna tell you what you need to know to function. You might not know why it works, or why we do what we do, but you’re gonna know what to do—and one day you might know why we do it.’ That kind of thing.

If we think somebody can perform better and maybe lighten his load a little bit, or give some responsibility to our center—we have Tyler Gauthier who can direct traffic without a quarterback saying who the mike linebacker is an all that; If I have to do something like that, I’ll do it.”

Not a whole lot of coach-speak in that walls-down response from Richt. Instead of setting a benchmark for his quarterback regarding a full-blown understanding of the playbook and system, it seem’s the Miami head coach is taking a different approach.

Show me your best, do the things we need you to do well, make good decisions—and we’ll work around any age- and experience-related limitations.

Lots of time between now and a September 2nd season-opener against LSU in Dallas. Rosier’s experience might make the most sense for a game of that caliber, but with Savannah State, Toledo and Florida International on deck over the next three weeks—that starting job seems like it’ll remain up for grabs until ACC play kicks off against North Carolina the final weekend of the month.

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