Malik Rosier has been named starting quarterback for the 2018 football season. Head coach Mark Richt ended the suspense mid-July, turning the keys over to a senior who helped lead the Hurricanes to a 10-0 start last season and a Coastal Division title.

The most-glaring reason Richt made the call; not wanting to spend last week’s ACC Kickoff media event fielding non-stop questions about this year’s starter. For now, old is new and the Canes are sticking with the guy who held things down in 2017.

A quick refresher; Miami went on to lose the regular season finale at Pittsburgh, was throttled by Clemson in the ACC Championship and let an Orange Bowl victory slip away against Wisconsin in the post-season; that negative trifecta leaving a bad taste in the mouth of many—while causing some to lose faith in No. 12.

Rosier’s rise to fame in 2017 was ultimately a process-of-elimination situation. True freshman N’Kosi Perry wasn’t ready to roll, nor was back-up Cade Weldon—leaving Richt no option other than redshirting both.

Evan Shirreffs handled back-up duty for the Canes last season, with beyond limited action against Bethune-Cookman, North Carolina and Pittsburgh—a combined 1-of-5 passing those three outings. The redshirt-junior transferred to Charlotte this past spring.

Other spring-related news; Richt articulating the fact that the quarterback job was up for grabs. When asked specifically about the job being open after the spring game, a jovial-yet-consumed Richt responded, “Oh yeah. Until the very bitter end. All season long, too. Every week.”

Richt famously told Rosier years back that the quarterback, “you won’t play for me” unless on-field habits and mechanics improved. The latter obviously happened, to a degree, as Rosier looked poised and sharp at times. Late game comebacks against Florida State and Georgia Tech quickly come to mind—as do missed opportunities against Pittsburgh and Wisconsin that kept the Canes from an even better season.

Confidence has never been an issue for Rosier; who welcomed the initial challenge from Richt, as well as the negativity that resulted from a three-game losing streak.

“It pisses me off,” Rosier said, in regards to last season’s finish. “That’s not how we wanted to end it … That’s not how you want to end any season. We have a point to prove. We have a lot of guys back, so if we don’t come in and dominate the ACC, something is wrong.”

Other’s obviously agree with Rosier’s sentiments as the Canes were picked as a heavy favorite to repeat as Coastal Division champions—second in the ACC overall (behind Clemson), as well as a consensus Top 10 team to start the season.

Inexperience certainly worked against Rosier last season; a back-up for two seasons before finally getting the keys to the offense when Brad Kaaya passed on a senior season return. Last year was a warm-up; this season, game on, apparently.

“Last year, I was feeling teams out,” Rosier explained. “I was understanding the offense. This year, I’ve got a good grasp of it. I’ve got to come out here and lead. I’ve got to show guys that I am the guy. I’ve got to take us to the ACC Championship Game again, and this time to win it.”

Experience, confidence and a lack of true competition appear to be the magic formula in making the recent announcement regarding Rosier staying in control. Neither Perry or Weldon have taken that next-level jump; the former looking pretty good in spring, while the later sat out injured.

True freshman Jarren Williams also joined the mix this spring and while the 4-star looks prototypical in so many ways, a lack of experience zero playbook knowledge both work against any raw talent or poise the 6-foot-2, 205-pound, dual-threat quarterback possesses.

All that to say, Richt has praised things about Williams in a way that’s made it clear the veteran head coach and seasoned quarterback whisperer knows he has something potentially specially in “J-Dub”.

Enthusiasts can go back and pore through spring-related comments to case-build, but more was on display last week in Charlotte when Richt opened up about the ongoing battle under center.

Richt confirmed that Rosier is the top guy going into fall camp and that he doesn’t expect anyone to unseat him—especially going into Game 1; which seems to be the true x-factor of this decision.

Where most squads across the country will get the standard tune-up preseason-style game, Miami opens with LSU in Arlington, Texas—The House That Jerry Built—for the Advocare Classic.

Unless a Perry, Weldon or Williams was a glaring favorite in fall, there’s zero reason any of them get thrown to the wolves in a season opener against a quality SEC foe. Where things get a bit more interesting; the three weeks that follow.

The goal in the opener; get a win by all costs. Erase that three-game losing streak and hit the ground running in 2018. The best chance to do that; with a veteran leader at quarterback.

From there, Miami returns home for Savannah State (9/8), heads north to take on Toledo (9/15) and is back home for Florida International (9/22), before jumping into ACC play at HardRock against North Carolina (9/27).

In theory, the quarterback battle this August will take a one-week break for the LSU showdown, but will ultimately resume in September—where Williams, Perry and Weldon will have a chance to show if they’re ready to unseat a senior, or need to accept a back-up role.

Even better for a program like Miami with this type of quarterback situation; the new redshirting rule change that allows players to participate in up to four games, without losing a year of eligibility.

Translation; Richt can let Williams get his feet wet as no expense. It’s a rule the Canes would’ve loved last year with Perry and Weldon, who both sat the season out—but moving forward, a true game-changer—and one this year’s crop of players will benefit from tremendously.

Realistically-speaking, a safe bet Rosier remains the guy for Miami—which is a good thing for a program that’s lacked consistency over the past decade-plus. No. 12 proved good-enough last year and with another go-around, one would be hard-pressed to not trust that he’s put in the work to improve, wants to make up for last year’s mistakes and plans to go out with a bang.

Aside from Richt’s praise about Rosier’s work ethic and effort—not to mention, heads-up play with his arm and legs that ultimately saved Miami early in the season—his teammates are quick to echo the same sentiment.

Wide receiver Ahmmon Richards—who missed the final two games of the season, due to injury—noted how Rosier took the three-game skid somewhat personally.

“Just the way he handled everything with everybody blaming him for those losses, I think that motivated him this whole offseason to just be better and lead better and do everything to possibly be better to prove everybody wrong,” Richards explained.

“He has more of an edge to him. I think he’s locked in a lot. I think he has a lot to prove to people. … He wants to prove so many people wrong because he took a lot of heat at the end of the season and I think he’s just fired up for this upcoming season. … He’s just attacking stuff just a different way and [there’s] just a different mindset he’s approaching this season with.”

All-everything defensive back Jaquan Johnson piled on some positivity with his take, as well.

“Last year, Malik was just doing the drills. This year, you really see him leading them. You see him talking to everyone. I think Malik has really become a more vocal leader. That’s what you want from a quarterback. You don’t want a quarterback who goes inside and doesn’t like to talk, doesn’t like to get in conflict with you. I definitely see that edge that Ahmmon was talking about Malik. He’s completing passes, he’s coaching the younger guys and he’s looking off … and going different directions. He’s trying to improve his game for this year.”

For Richt, though—it all keeps coming back to leadership and being ready to be the guy; something Rosier has a much better grasp on than his counterparts.

“These other guys … we are teaching them what it means to be the leader of the team. We’re teaching them what it means to be the quarterback,” Richt said. “The quarterback has a different standard of how you behave on the field, off the field, how you prepare. It’s different and these guys have got to learn that. They’re making strides. I haven’t seen it to where I’m like, ‘This guy is ready to take the reins.’ We’ll see.”

Sounds like both a vote of confidence in who Rosier has become—while issuing a challenge and leaving a door open for Williams, Perry and Weldon.

In short, spoken like a veteran head coach and true leader of men.

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