For those University of Miami fans praying that redshirt freshman N'Kosi Perry unseats veteran starter Malik Rosier, and there are plenty of them emoting daily on social media, Hurricanes coach Mark Richt made it clearer than ever Tuesday after practice that Rosier’s grip on the starting job is tight.
Three days after the spring game and four days before the final practice heading into the offseason, Richt lauded the attributes of soon-to-be redshirt senior quarterback Rosier and gave him a resounding seal of approval — with his usual caveat that he needs to improve his accuracy.
And early enrollee Jarren Williams, also a new fan favorite but still learning the offense and intricacies of college football, appears to be pretty much out of the race, despite having been impressive in both scrimmages.
“Just like today, he saw a blitz,’’ Richt said of Rosier. “He made a check. He got us into a great protection. He got us into a great route. He threw a great ball. [Mike] Harley caught it probably 25 yards down the field for a big first down. … He did exactly what a veteran quarterback should do, exactly how he should do it.
"And that’s where you just go, ‘that’s why he’s the starter.’ But he’s just got to be able to do everything on a very consistent basis as far as just hitting his target. And that’s probably been the biggest issue. He has been streaky. But most games he has found a way to win.”
The coach also said that the final practice/scrimmage on Saturday, a session closed to all but UM football alumni, will be “situational stuff’’ and indicated that the only game-type scrimmaging will be done “with some of the guys that don’t have a lot of experience."
“We may not do that with everybody.’’
Rosier, who went 10-3 as a starter in 2017, losing the last three games, finished the season with 3,120 yards passing (54 percent completion percentage) and 26 touchdowns to 14 interceptions. He threw 10 of his interceptions in the last six games.
This past Saturday at the spring game, Rosier was 9 of 14 for 105 yards. He was sacked four times and went against a bruising first-team defense.
Perry, who mostly played against the second-team defense and was given more opportunities to throw, completed 11 of 25 passes for 166 yards and a touchdown, with one pick. He was sacked once.
Williams, sacked three times, was 9 of 14 for 107 yards and a touchdown.
“The only game he really couldn’t hit his target was Pitt,’’ Richt said of Rosier. “We all know that. We had open receivers. We had good protection and he missed too many open receivers. That’s why I got him out of the game — not because I didn’t think he should be our starter ever again. Because at that moment I kept waiting and waiting and it just wasn’t happening. So I said, ‘We gotta do something.’
"But after that, even the last two games, I’m not saying he was perfect, but we had line issues. If we weren’t functioning well, it wasn’t just a QB thing. One day he struggled enough where I felt like, ‘You know what? Maybe [former Hurricane] Evan [Shirreffs] can give us a spark.’ But other than that, the guy is a fierce competitor.”
Richt reiterated that Rosier, like most people, “functions better when he knows somebody is right behind him’’ and that last year it was pretty obvious toward the latter half of the season that Cade Weldon and Perry were going to redshirt.
“He just functions better,’’ Richt said of Rosier’s mind-set with the others competing. “He practices better. He focuses better. ...
“So, OK, we’ll compete. And if you need to throw somebody else in there, we’ll do it.”
Richt also said Rosier “is a much better passer when the pocket is bigger,’’ which hasn’t been happening with the struggling, and developing, offensive line. “Give the skill guys the opportunity to make plays. … When the pocket is in your face it’s hard to be real accurate. So it starts with protection. It starts with a good clean pocket. And then route-running and understanding what you’re doing.
“I really believe he can do that.’’
The coach added that he likes that Rosier “knows and everybody knows that he knows what to do. That’s a huge part of leadership. All the things we need to do to help ourselves have the very best play possible, he can do all those things.’’
Of Perry (and Williams), a gifted escape artist with a strong arm, Richt said he told him, ‘You’re a pocket passer who can run … so when the pocket is there you can’t be dipping out of there. You’ve got to run this system the way it’s supposed to be run. And when it’s time to go, you’ll know.’’
Rosier spoke to the media as well Tuesday for the first time since spring practice began March 20.
“I feel like I’m doing fine,’’ Rosier said. “The biggest thing is just communicating with these guys. There are a couple times today that I killed plays. It was just something I saw. And Coach Richt told me, ‘Good job.’ Kosi is coming along and Jarren is learning. I wish Cade [Weldon] could be out here because this is a great time for us to get reps and get more experience.
"For me, personally, I think I’m doing good. My accuracy rate needs to go up. Other than that, I’m doing fine."
Redshirt freshman Weldon, who didn’t practice Tuesday, has not competed with the Canes the past two weeks because of what Richt has said is an eye infection.