With the University of Miami season opener closing in, the next starting quarterback has yet to be named.
But be assured that the race has been narrowed.
Judging by statistics and coach Mark Richt’s comments after the team’s second closed fall scrimmage Saturday at Greentree Field, Malik Rosier and Evan Shirreffs are firmly entrenched as the finalists battling to take the field Sept. 2 against Bethune-Cookman.
Despite an interception apiece, Rosier and Shirreffs each had strong performances alternating with the No. 1 unit Saturday, Richt said.
Rosier, a redshirt junior with one career start in 2015, completed 17 of 25 passes for 260 yards, two touchdowns and the interception.
Richt said Rosier’s pick resulted when “he got hit as he was throwing.”
Shirreffs, a redshirt sophomore whose college experience is limited to handing off to running backs in one series in the 2016 opener, completed 13 of 19 for 227 yards, two touchdowns and the pick.
Richt said Shirreffs’ interception “was a deep ball that he gave the defender a better chance than the offensive player.”
After two scrimmages, Rosier is 25 of 39 for 441 yards, five touchdowns and one interception. Shirreffs is 23 of 33 for 359 yards, three touchdowns and one interception.
N’Kosi Perry, the nationally touted, dual-threat freshman who arrived on campus in late May but had fans salivating over his potential, went 6 of 12 for 88 yards and a touchdown.
And fellow freshman Cade Weldon, who was an early-enrollee and practiced with the team this past spring, was 1 of 5 for 11 yards and mostly competed with the No. 3 unit, Richt said.
Weldon, who had a poor scrimmage last week, is obviously out of the starting competition and could redshirt, though Richt didn’t say as much.
Perry, who needs more time to adjust to college football and UM’s offense, is likely out of the starting race as well. But Perry is expected to play this season, probably sooner than later with packages designed for him.
“By Tuesday I’ll have made up my mind,” Richt said regarding a starter. “Whether or not I announce anything, I don’t know. More than likely I will by Tuesday.”
Richt said unlike Friday, when he railed against the offense, Saturday’s offensive production was “very good,” and began with “excellent” protection in the passing game by the starters.
“Guys running good routes, quarterbacks making good decisions and accurate throws,” he said. “Guys snatching the ball and getting yards after the catch. [Quarterbacks] hitting guys on the run instead of throwing them a ball that forces them to stumble or whatever.
“Pretty precise throwing and catching today, with the No. 1 unit especially. You had Malik and Evan really sharp – both hit almost 70 percent of their passes.”
Richt said Perry has “bright moments” and “then he’ll do some things that will get you beat. He is still trying to get there.”
Braxton Berrios had another exceptional scrimmage with six catches for 107 yards, and Darrell Langham again “had a big day,” Richt said, with six catches for 97 yards and a touchdown.
Starting running back Mark Walton is being held back because of a bruised hip and carried only three times for no gain. His backup, Travis Homer, carried six times for 48 yards and a touchdown.
Defensively, 6-5, 258-pound sophomore end Joe Jackson, who led the team last season in tackles for loss, with 11.5; and in sacks, with 8.5, continued his dominance with six tackles — five of them sacks.
Freshman safety Amari Carter had eight tackles and one for loss.
Linebacker Michael Pinckney had an interception, and cornerback Jhavonte Dean forced a fumble.
Richt said that “the No. 1 defense probably won every single rep” in third-down situations, “and forced a field goal in an overtime situation.”
He said he hasn’t installed the goal-line offense, but that he’s concerned nonetheless.
“It’s obvious,’’ he said. “We’re not very good. I don’t even know if we have the personnel to do it, quite frankly. We don’t have some of the big fullbacks and tight ends as we’ve had in the past.
“I’ve got to figure out how to score on the goal line.”
▪ All-American receiver Ahmmon Richards pulled a hamstring, Richt said, and did not participate in the scrimmage.