University of Miami

UM football has it all — except starting quarterback

University of Miami freshman quarterback N'Kosi Perry, seen here recently at Paradise Camp, will take part Tuesday in his first official Hurricanes practice as fall camp opens.
University of Miami freshman quarterback N'Kosi Perry, seen here recently at Paradise Camp, will take part Tuesday in his first official Hurricanes practice as fall camp opens. adiaz@miamiherald.com

Curtain, please.

The University of Miami opens fall camp Tuesday and with it comes lofty expectations.

Riding the momentum of their first bowl-game victory in 10 years and first five-game winning streak to end a season since their 2001 national title, the Hurricanes (9-4 and ranked 20th by The Associated Press in 2016) are fired up.

They’ve got the high-profile coach. They’ve got that old-school Canes defense. They’ve got the speed, hands, depth and experience at receiver.

Now all they need is a starting quarterback.

“The pressure is on all of them,’’ UM coach Mark Richt said of the quarterback race.

The top contenders: redshirt junior Malik Rosier, redshirt sophomore Evan Shirreffs and true freshmen Cade Weldon and N’Kosi Perry.

Don’t be surprised if the Hurricanes name one contender the starter, probably after the second fall scrimmage, Richt said, and then go with someone else at any point of the season.

“When you are the starting quarterback, you don’t know what the weight of that position is until you live it,’’ Richt said. “So, I don’t care who we say is the starter. We may find out in a week or two weeks or three weeks or four weeks that, ‘You know what? He’s not handling this very good. I’ve got to give another guy a shot.’ ”

Rosier (10 games played, one started, 31 of 61 for 370 yards, two touchdowns, three interceptions — and one 2015 complete-game victory at Duke) is the 6-1, 216-pound veteran who has played the most snaps.

Shirreffs, 6-5 and a bulked-up 216 pounds, is listed as not seeing any game action last season, though he said he got into one series at the end of the 2016 opener against FAMU and handed off to a running back.

“I think I’m physically more ready to be on the field if asked to be out there,’’ Shirreffs said in late March. “And just knowing the playbook, obviously. … Last year, it was new to everyone.’’

Richt said there were no leaders at the end of spring, and that Rosier and Shirreffs were neck and neck, with the freshmen — including Perry, who had not even arrived at that point — very much in contention. Weldon was an early enrollee, but was clearly behind Rosier and Shirreffs at the end of spring.

“I finally just resigned myself,’’ Richt said last week during an interview with ESPN’s “SportsCenter.” “We have to practice. We have to see for ourselves.’’

Perry, a wiry 6-4 and 185-pound escape artist, is the quarterback Canes fans are bonkers about for a couple reasons: He was considered one of the top incoming dual-threat quarterbacks in the nation coming out of Ocala Vanguard; and he’s the one most haven’t seen yet, considering he just arrived in Coral Gables in late May.

Perry threw for 1,778 yards, 24 touchdowns and had four interceptions his senior season, according to Max Preps, with another 97 yards and four touchdowns rushing. He scored 43 total touchdowns, 11 by running, as a junior.

“I want to say that N’Kosi has got a really good skill-set to play the position,’’ Richt said at the ACC Football Kickoff. “But so does Cade Weldon, and so does Evan and so does Malik. Everybody is excited about N’Kosi because he’s new …

“I just don’t want everybody to feel like it’s all about N’Kosi because it’s not. It’s about who is going to be the guy that I have the most trust in to run this football team.’’

The other big UM position in question: running back. Everyone knows that Mark Walton, a 1,000-yard rusher and team leader up for several major awards, is the man. But the wear and tear on running backs is significant. With sophomore backup Travis Homer having carried only seven times, and Trayone Gray coming off major knee surgery, Walton needs to stay healthy to ensure a more balanced attack.

Stay tuned, because it all begins Tuesday.

▪ UM announced Monday afternoon that it will host Central Michigan University in a nonconference game at Hard Rock Stadium on Sept. 21, 2019. The Canes open 2019 against the Florida Gators in Orlando, previously announced.

The Hurricanes, who open 2017 on Sept. 2 against Bethune-Cookman, also have future out-of-conference games scheduled with LSU in Arlington, Texas (2018), Michigan State (2020 and 2021) and Texas A&M (2022 and 2023).

▪ Tuesday’s practice, at Greentree Field, is closed to the public.

Hurricanes tailback Mark Walton, shown on Friday, April 14, 2017, at the ACC Football Kickoff in Charlotte, N.C., explains how this season will be different for him.

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