Miami Hurricanes’ young quarterbacks take their first steps leading offense

 <span class="cutline_leadin">Learning curve: </span>UM quarterback Kevin Olsen completed 7 of 21 passes for 61 yards with an interception during the Hurricanes’ spring game Saturday.
Learning curve: UM quarterback Kevin Olsen completed 7 of 21 passes for 61 yards with an interception during the Hurricanes’ spring game Saturday.
Al Diaz / Al Diaz / Miami Herald

On a night when the new University of Miami uniforms were revealed to the world, the young quarterbacks who will soon wear them showed they still need plenty of polishing.

The 2014 UM spring game, actually a controlled scrimmage using about 65 yards of the field, gave first-team quarterback Kevin Olsen and his backup Gray Crow their first taste of being on center stage at Sun Life Stadium.

But be assured that when incoming freshmen Brad Kaaya and Malik Rosier arrive in Coral Gables next month to begin their college careers, the current two-man competition will grow to four.

“Clearly, Kevin is ahead of Gray right now,’’ UM coach Al Golden said. “But he was behind Ryan [Williams]. So I think it’s safe to say that not only are those two competing, but the two that come in. We need someone to emerge as not just a leader but as someone who can execute.”

Neither redshirt freshman Olsen nor sophomore Crow — taking over for previous fifth-year senior starter Williams, who tore his ACL a week ago Friday — looked sharp Saturday running a very vanilla offense in front an announced crowd of 12,160.

In the 11-on-11 scrimmage portion of the night, Olsen completed 7 of 21 passes for 65 yards, with one interception nabbed by Tracy Howard near the end of the night.

Crow completed 9 of 20 passes for 63 yards, with a pick to freshman linebacker Juwon Young that preceded Olsen’s.

Neither quarterback threw a touchdown.

In fact, the struggling offense scored only once on a 3-yard run by Walter Tucker.

The defense prevailed no matter what angle the scrimmage was viewed from, but according to the scoring system set by UM, it edged the offense 61-60.

Golden said Olsen doesn’t need to make every throw.

“I’m very excited by the group we have surrounding him this year,’’ the coach said.

Said Olsen: “We started off a little rough and then we rebounded… It wasn’t really nerves. A couple things didn’t connect and the defense made a couple good plays. Sometimes that’s how football goes. I thought we finished out the scrimmage pretty strong.’’

When asked how his mindset has changed since Williams’ injury, Olsen answered, “completely.

“It was fight for the job and now the job was kind of placed in my lap,” he said. “Now it’s my turn to take it and run with it. I’ve got to watch more film now and get ready for Louisville on Sept. 1.

“Obviously I would have liked to have performed a little bit better and take a couple of those missed throws away, but that happens. It was great to go out there in front of the fans.”

With the not yet fully integrated Duke Johnson sitting on the sideline, tailback Gus Edwards had 19 carries for 70 yards and Tucker added 36 yards on 11 carries.

Defensively, safeties Jamal Carter and Dallas Crawford (named most improved defensive player of the spring) led the team with five tackles apiece. Tackle Ufomba Kamalu and end Anthony Chickillo each had a sack.

Kicker Matt Goudis missed field goal attempts of 47 and 50 yards.

Knighton to return

UM redshirt freshman offensive lineman Hunter Knighton, who collapsed after working out in late February and was hospitalized with an undisclosed illness, was introduced to the spring game crowd at halftime. He wore shorts, an orange cap and his orange No. 54 jersey, hugging Golden as fans cheered.

Knighton, who plans to return to the team, released his first public statement Saturday through the university.

“On February 24th, my football career at [UM] was unfortunately derailed after being taken to the hospital following a workout,’’ he began in the written statement. “With a 109-degree body temperature and unknowingly suffering with the flu, I was stricken by a heat stroke. The results were not good: brain swelling, multiple seizures, kidney and liver failure. Unresponsive, I was placed on a ventilator for twelve days during which time I fought one of the greatest battles of my life against a loss of blood platelets, double pneumonia, and fever.

“By God's grace, and with an amazing medical team at both Doctor's Hospital and UM Hospital and with a great support group of family, coaches, and friends, I was finally able to leave the ICU after two weeks. I am so close to achieving my childhood goal of playing Division I football, and I am determined to make it happen.’’

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FILE- In this Sept. 6, 2014, file photo, Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya watches from the sideline during the second half of an NCAA football game against Florida A&M in Miami Gardens, Fla. Kaaya was walking through the Miami campus earlier this week, totally unbothered and unnoticed as he strolled around Lake Osceola. Call it a rare moment of solitude for the Hurricanes' quarterback, who has been thrust into the fire as a freshman starter and is now getting ready for No. 24 Nebraska on Saturday night.

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