As soon as Saturday night’s Capital One Orange Bowl was over it didn’t take Miami Hurricanes quarterback Malik Rosier very long to turn his attention to next season.
“As soon as the game was over with [quarterback] coach Jon [Richt] came up to me and said ‘The game is over with. The season is over with. It sucks we lost the last three, but we’ve got to do a better job of leading’,” Rosier said after he completed just 11 of his 26 passes for 203 yards, a touchdown and three interceptions in a 34-24 loss to Badgers.
“It starts off when we get back and start working out. I’m probably going to have coach put together a workout plan so when I get back I’m not out of shape,” Rosier continued. “[The preparation for 2018] starts now. I’ve got to do a better job leading.”
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Through the first 10 games of the season Rosier was arguably the biggest surprise on the Hurricanes roster. He completed 56.4 percent of his passes for 2,620 yards, 23 touchdowns and nine interceptions and rushed for 377 yards and five more scores, leading the Hurricanes to a No. 2 ranking in the national polls.
Three losses later, the Rosier bandwagon has gotten awfully lighter. His performances against 4-7 Pittsburgh, No. 1-ranked Clemson and Saturday’s loss to the sixth-ranked Badgers were his three worst quarterback ratings of the season. Combined the numbers aren’t much better: 44.9 completion percentage, 500 yards, three touchdowns and five interceptions.
Rosier did have a couple nice passes Saturday including a 48-yard connection with Jeff Thomas in the fourth quarter. His 38-yard touchdown pass to Lawrence Cager with 10:52 left in the third quarter not only trimmed Wisconsin’s lead to 24-21, but it also made history. It was the 31st touchdown Rosier was responsible for this season, a program record – one more than the 30 TDs Vinny Testaverde had during his Heisman Trophy winning season in 1986.
But for all the good Rosier did this season, the lasting image he’s left the coaching staff with is a quarterback who couldn’t complete better than 50 percent of his passes in any of his final three games and who lost his last three starts.
It’s why, as he looks ahead, Rosier knows the competition for UM’s starting quarterback job is wide open – and he’s embracing it.
“The only way someone gets better if someone pushes them through that ceiling,” Rosier said. “N’Kosi is going to do a great job of competing. So is the freshman [Jarren Williams] that’s coming in the spring. So he’ll learn the offense by the time the fall gets around. But I love competition. That’s the reason I came here. I had other offers. Brad [Kaaya] and I were committed in the same class. He was ranked higher than me. It didn't matter to me. I wanted to compete, be the best I can be. The only way you can do that is by competing.”
Perry, a four-star recruit rated the country’s seventh-best dual threat quarterback out of Ocala Vanguard last year, feels like he’s ready to compete now. Speaking for the first time since media day back in August, Perry (6-4, 187) said he’s added 10 pounds of muscle during his redshirt season and he’s ready to give Rosier a run for his money.
“I know when I first got here everything was going fast and faster,” Perry said. “I don’t know if I know the offense 100 percent now, but I’m very comfortable with the offense. I just know with the preparation coach puts in and I put in and the talent around me, we should be unstoppable.”
Perry admitted when he came to UM in the fall he just wasn’t mentally ready to compete for the starting job.
“I was focused when I came in, but I wasn’t 100 percent sure of what it takes,” he said. “But sitting out a whole year and seeing the good and the bad, I understand what it takes now. I wasn’t here in the spring last year. So, now is the time to put on the weight. It would be good to get to 205. I'm at 187 now. I came in at 177. So, now is the time to put the weight on.”
What will it take to win the job?
“Leadership,” Perry said. “Coach Richt hasn’t told me specifically that’s what he wants, but I can just tell from my observations that’s something that’s missing from the offensive side of the ball.”
Perry didn’t mean it was a swipe at Rosier. He’s just repeating what Rosier said coaches have told them will be the deciding factor moving forward.
“I think the biggest way N’Kosi has improved is he’s starting to understand coverages and what people are trying to do to you in some coverages,” he said. “Sometimes you say ‘OK, it’s too hot.’ There’s different forms of coverages, very exotic coverages. I think that’s the biggest thing now, he distinguishes coverages, knowing where to go with the ball, make safe throws. I’m helping N’Kosi as much as I can. He’s my brother and I love him.”