Spring ended Saturday for the Miami Hurricanes, with hundreds of UM football alumni and family members witnessing a final scrimmage on campus that punctuated this basic message from coach Mark Richt: Quarterback Malik Rosier is still the frontrunner, but the race to decide the starter is without question continuing through fall camp.
As he walked away from his post-scrimmage interview, Richt was asked if the quarterback race is still open.
“Absolutely,’’ the coach said, his voice echoing in the Schwartz Center for Athletic Excellence. “Until the very bitter end.’’
Once again, young Jarren Williams, 18, the newest Hurricanes quarterback who graduated early from Central Gwinnett High in Lawrenceville, Georgia, to enroll this spring, had an impressive showing.
Richt indicated Williams was still deep in the quarterback battle, and the coach wouldn't commit to redshirting him.
"If we had a guy that was [the] undisputed champ,'' Richt said, "a young guy might know that he's going to be redshirted. I wouldn't say that about Jarren right now, yet. ...I'm not going to count him out.''
Williams, 6-2 and 206 pounds, completed 2 of 3 passes for 31 yards, and ran twice for 13 yards on Saturday— a week after going 9 for 14 for 107 yards and a touchdown in the spring game at Hard Rock Stadium, and two weeks after going 6 of 8 for 86 yards and two touchdowns in two series with the second-team offensive unit.
“I like Jarren,’’ Richt said of the former four-star recruit. “He’s a good student of the game. He’s got a long way to go, but he’s really working hard toward learning. He does throw the ball well. He’s very good fundamentally. We always talk about that he mostly hits what he throws at, and when he learns the proper reads and progressions that will help him.
“Sometimes it’s, ‘Should I be this side or that side?’ It’s hard to tell with a defense that disguises coverage so well. So he got fooled a few times. But even when he got fooled, if he threw over here when maybe he should have been on that side of the field he still progressed well and he put the ball on the money — most of the time.”
Rosier, the incumbent starter who threw for 3,120 yards and 26 touchdowns last season, but had 10 of his 14 interceptions the last six weeks of the season, had a good day in his very limited opportunities Saturday.
Rosier was 3 of 4 for 82 yards and a touchdown to Darrell Langham. Last week at the spring game, Rosier was 9 of 14 for 105 yards. He was 8 of 17 for 109 yards, two touchdowns and an interception in the first scrimmage April 7.
Redshirt freshman N’Kosi Perry was 7 of 12 for 54 yards Saturday. Perry was 11 of 25 for 166 yards and a touchdown, with one interception, at the spring game. In the first scrimmage, he completed 6 of 13 passes for 33 yards and an interception.
And redshirt freshman Cade Weldon returned after spending much of spring at home with conjunctivitis, performing well by completing 9 of 12 passes for 113 yards.
Saturday’s scrimmage, closed to the media and general public, lasted only about an hour and was split into a situational practice with a 27-play, game-type scrimmage at the end. There were no injuries, and Richt purposely played the younger and more inexperienced Hurricanes, especially on defense and among quarterbacks.
“I’ll say this,’’ Richt said after praising Rosier for making a check on a complicated play, and then throwing the touchdown to Langahm. “Whoever becomes the quarterback, if it’s not Malik, we’re going to not make him confused.
“I have the term, I’m going to put him on a need-to-know basis, I say. ‘You’re on a need-to-know. I’m going to tell you what you need to know to function. You may not know why it works or why we do what we do but you’re going to know what to do.’
“If we think somebody can perform better [than Rosier] and maybe lighten his load a little bit or maybe give some more responsibility to our center – you got Tyler Gauthier who can direct traffic without a quarterback saying who the [middle linebacker] linebacker is and all that.
“If I have to do something like that I’ll do it.’’
The first-team offensive line, led by center Gauthier, “protected better,’’ Richt said, but is still developing.
Richt said he’ll have private meetings with each player on Monday and Tuesday. When asked what he’d tell Perry before the summer, the coach said, “That’s private.’’
Defensively, early-enrollee freshman end Greg Rousseau had another dominant performance, with four tackles and two sacks.
Linebacker Bradley Jennings led all players with five tackles.
Ends Jon Garvin and Joe Jackson, and safety Romeo Finley had one sack apiece.