The University of Miami spring football toy chest is about to fling open.
But this is serious playtime.
“You can tell all these guys have a little spark in their eyes,’’ UM quarterbacks coach Jon Richt told the Miami Herald. “You can tell they’re hungry.’’
The five spring signal callers vying to replace Hurricanes all-time passer Brad Kaaya begin their on-field competition Tuesday, the first day of spring practice, with one other contender still at home in Ocala waiting to graduate high school and arrive in May.
And for the many fans guessing that the next UM quarterback will be either true freshman early-enrollee Cade Weldon or current high school senior N’Kosi Perry, it’s time to step back and let the competition unfold.
“People talking about Cade and N’Kosi,’’ Jon Richt told the Miami Herald during a recent interview, “is just like having a shiny, new toy and everybody wants to play with it.”
Richt and his father, head coach and quarterbacks guru Mark Richt, said the quarterback competition will run through fall camp, when Perry gets going. The 15 spring sessions, closed to the public, end on April 22.
“You would hope that somebody would run away with it,’’ Jon Richt said. “But with the quarterbacks we have, there’s a lot of great talent. It might not be the guy who can run. It might not be the guy who throws the best. We’ve got to find somebody who is consistent and does things right over and over and over. And that’ll be the guy we can trust when it comes down to crunch time.’’
Richt’s “shiny, new toy’’ comment was in reference to a question about the newcomers in relation to 6-1, 215-pound rising redshirt junior Malik Rosier, the only Hurricane quarterback with game experience and an outstanding performance (20 of 29 for 272 yards and two touchdowns, with an interception, for the victory) in his lone start at Duke in October of 2015.
“They kind of forget about that toy that has been there for the long run and working hard in the background,’’ Jon Richt said of Rosier. “Malik has to continue to work hard and be more consistent every day with how he does things on the field and in the classroom.’’
Rosier has passed for 370 yards with two touchdowns and three picks in 13 career games, adding 65 yards and a touchdown on only two carries last season. “Malik is probably the one guy that the team has seen on the field, so they know what he can do and they trust him right now, which is a big deal,’’ Richt said. “He knows how to control the huddle. He knows how to do a lot of things that these young kids haven’t had the chance to do. He can use that to his advantage.’’
Richt stressed that Rosier’s strong running ability is great when a play breaks down, but that his former tendency to “freelance a little bit and go somewhere we told him not to go’’ is one aspect of his game that coaches hope is eliminated. “He’ll have a chance to prove whether he’s getting better at that in the spring.’’
Redshirt freshman Jack Allison is equally intriguing in the quarterback race, as he came to the Hurricanes a 6-5, 200-pound, four-star All-American with a big arm and bigger reputation. But he underwhelmed coaches last season while competing for a backup spot and “we found out pretty quick that he wasn’t ready at that point,’’ Richt said. “He’ll be one of those guys that we kind of figure out who he is this spring, too.’’
Redshirt sophomore Evan Shirreffs, who Richt describes as “steady’’ and “reliable,’’ with smooth footwork and a quick brain, will get his shot as well. Like Allison, the 6-5, 210-pound Shirreffs has “been putting on great weight, not just fat weight – strength and muscle,’’ Richt said.
Then there’s 6-2, 200-pound redshirt junior Vincent Testaverde, a walk-on who is the son of 1986 Heisman Trophy winner Vinny Testaverde and probably spends the most time around the football facility soaking up whatever can help him excel.
“He’s a very smart kid and he’s trying to get smarter,’’ Richt said. “He’s a little bit of a gym rat, and that’s good.’’
So what about those youngsters Weldon and N’Kosi?
Weldon, a 6-2, 203-pound graduate of Tampa Jefferson High and son of 1991 Heisman Trophy runner-up Casey Weldon, excelled in offseason workouts and weight training, Richt said, “which is impressive.’’
“Cade comes in with a body that’s ready to play and that’s a big deal. He has a great work ethic and great attitude. But he’s got to show us something on the field before we crown him anything.’’
Perry will have the most catching up to do, though coaches are helping him so “he’s not in a position of walking onto campus completely blind,’’ Richt said. The 6-4, 185-pound four-star prospect is a dual-threat escape artist who is somewhat raw, but has an ability to turn ugly into beautiful. “The guy, he’s just got so much ability,’’ Mark Richt told WQAM-560 last month.
Let the battle begin.