No matter who was named the University of Miami’s starting quarterback for this season, they were going to be examined under a microscope.
But because the keys to the offense were tossed to the most veteran guy in the running – redshirt junior Malik Rosier – everyone will have their eyes peeled on his performance this coming Saturday when the Hurricanes open their 2017 season against FCS opponent Bethune Cookman University.
If it was true freshman N’Kosi Perry that was handed the ball, fans would probably have watched with more anticipation and been quicker to forgive what they would consider a bland performance.
With Rosier, a player that won the only game he started during his college career, the general feeling from fans is a more guarded optimism.
Since being named the starting quarterback this past week, UM head coach Mark Richt said he’s been paying close attention to what Rosier has been doing on the practice field.
“For a day or two, he was not as sharp,” Richt said when asked about how Rosier has performed in the days since he was declared “QB1”.
“It’s just like my son [quarterbacks coach] Jon [Richt] said, ‘Dad, he wasn’t bad.’ I said, ‘No, he wasn’t, but he’s not as sharp as he was.’ I would say he was still practicing good, but up until that time, I thought he was practicing great. He had a day or two that was so-so. And then Sunday night, he lit it up. You couldn’t have thrown it any better than he threw it, you couldn’t have made any better decisions than he was making. He practiced well again today. I saw the same thing today.
“He’s probably over that little feeling of, ‘How do I act now?’,” Richt said.
Considering Miami, ranked No. 18 in both Coaches’ and AP polls, will be going up against a definitively lesser opponent in Bethune Cookman this week – the expectations for Rosier’s performance are going to be high.
In the Canes’ 2016 opener against FCS-level Florida A&M, Brad Kaaya threw four touchdown passes while completing 12 of 18 passes for 135 yards in a 70-3 win.
Would similar numbers give Rosier a pass?
He has the added bonus – or extra pressure – of being able to also produce yards as a runner. Unlike Kaaya, Rosier is a legitimate threat to run when operating Richt’s “run-pass option” (RPO) offense. So, fans will be expecting to see him be a dual-threat weapon in the pocket.
Ultimately, if Rosier has a so-so game, a good game, or a great game on Saturday – it should be taken for it what it is: the season-opener, against Bethune Cookman.
Miami starting tight end Christopher Herndon IV may have given Rosier – and the fans – the soundest advice for the weekend.
“We’ve been telling him to not go into it too amped, but not too low, either…just to go into it and take it play by play,” Herndon said.
“Also, not to get too riled up about what happened.”
According to the depth chart that Miami released Monday, redshirt sophomore Evan Shirreffs will serve as the No. 2 quarterback Saturday.
Neither freshmen, Cade Weldon or Perry were listed.
Coach Richt said he hasn’t made a decision on whether he’ll choose to redshirt either or both of the young quarterbacks.
“We haven’t really gotten to the nitty gritty of it…it’s up in the air,” Richt said. “I don’t know what’s best. If I could look into the future and know exactly how Malik would play, if I could look into the future and know his health status for the entire season, it would easier to decide what to do. Right now, we don’t know that.”
“Like I told both of them, you better keep learning. You better keep competing. Because you don’t know what could happen. One play, God forbid Malik gets hurt, now Evan is in there, who knows? Now you’re one play away…you can’t just relax. You have to keep learning,” Richt said.
Redshirt junior defensive tackle Gerald Willis re-joined the Canes on the practice field this week.
The school announced in July that Willis would be taking a “leave of absence” and that he wouldn’t be playing for the Hurricanes this season.
He recently enrolled in classes at the school and attended practices this week. He didn’t have on shoulder pads and is still going through a “five-day acclimation period” according to Coach Richt.
Willis’ absence from the roster doesn’t hurt the team at the defensive tackle position – especially since true freshman Jon Ford has qualified and is a part of the team.
Richt reiterated Willis’ status for the season.
“He won’t play this year but he’ll practice this year,” Richt said.