University of Miami

Quarterback quandary at ‘The U’ as first scrimmage in the books

Miami Hurricanes' freshman quarterback N'Kosi Perry (5) slaps five with Reed Ruttkay 4, as players sign autographs at CanesFest after the team's scrimmage at Hard Rock Stadium, August 12, 2017.
Miami Hurricanes' freshman quarterback N'Kosi Perry (5) slaps five with Reed Ruttkay 4, as players sign autographs at CanesFest after the team's scrimmage at Hard Rock Stadium, August 12, 2017.

Who’s the next quarterback at ‘The U’?

Who knows?

Those Miami Hurricanes fans rooting for heralded freshman N’Kosi Perry did not get their plot advanced Saturday at the first fall scrimmage of 2017 — not after Perry threw an interception and completed 6 of 15 passes for 68 yards.

Those who assumed redshirt junior Malik Rosier edged closer after going 8 of 14 for 181 yards and three touchdowns might be right, although Miami coach Mark Richt made it a point to mention that “the bulk of” Rosier’s “yardage and touchdowns were more situational” — adding that “he did throw…a nice touchdown pass” to tight end Chris Herndon.

And those wondering if redshirt sophomore Evan Shirreffs, who has never thrown a pass in a college game, might be it, should know that Richt didn’t specifically mention his performance, other than give his stats: 10 of 14 for 132 yards and a touchdown.

Freshman Cade Weldon, whose dad Casey was Florida State’s Heisman Trophy runnerup in 1991, completed 2 of 10 attempts for 40 yards and an interception.

As Richt hinted as such on Friday, the quarterbacks were not allowed to be tackled.

Hurricanes coach Mark Richt talks about how the UM quarterbacks performed during the scrimmage Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017, at Hard Rock Stadium.

'The one injury of note, albeit a seemingly minor one if the young man’s post-scrimmage gait and cheerful demeanor indicated correctly: a bruised hip for running back Mark Walton.

“Praise the Lord on that one,” Richt said of Walton, who ran for 39 yards and a touchdown on seven carries.

It was clear, Richt explained, that in the intense humidity and temperatures well into the 90s at Hard Rock Stadium, “the veteran guys did better, and not just at quarterback, but with just about every position across the board.”

Added the coach: “It’s hard to be an experienced quarterback without experience. And none of them have really been a starter for a whole season. Whoever becomes the guy has got to be the guy for the first time. The guys who have had the most experience and in this system, Malik and Evan, they did better. They knew what to do, knew where to go with the ball. They functioned much better than the young guys.”

As is usually the case, Richt said his first-team defense won the day against the second-team offense.

“Our defense is very good, we all know that,” the coach said. Defensive coordinator Manny Diaz “was dialing up a few beauties and we were having a tough time picking things up at times so the ball got thrown to the wrong spots sometimes under pressure.”

Mark Richt, UM's football coach, says the number one defense 'won the day' during the scrimmage at Hard Rock Stadium.

'Safety Romeo Finley and cornerback Malek Young each had an interception, and linebacker Darrion Owens led with six tackles. Safety Jaquan Johnson had two tackles and a field goal – “outstanding,’’ Richt said.

Reserve defensive end Scott Patchan had a very good day: four tackles (three for loss) and two sacks.

Offensively, Braxton Berrios led all receivers with seven catches for 92 yards, and All-American Ahmmon Richards grabbed three catches for 91 yards and a touchdown. Freshman Mike Harley made a 56-yard touchdown catch, with fellow freshman DeeJay Dallas adding four catches for 30 yards.

Herndon had three catches for 49 yards and the touchdown from Rosier, with sophomore tight end Michael Irvin II catching two passes for 20 yards — and fumbling.

Richt also said Darrell Langham had two “nice” catches, both “tightly contested throws in real tight coverage.”

Behind Walton, backup Travis Homer carried eight times for 55 yards and a fumble.

Though the basic format was No. 1 offense vs. No. 2 defense, and No. 1 defense vs. No. 1 offense, Richt gave each of the four contending quarterbacks opportunities with each unit.

He said the second scrimmage is next Saturday on campus.

“It was about as hot and humid as I’ve ever felt out there in a practice,’’ Richt said, “and when we’re trying to go with the tempo we’re going, it was taking it out of everybody. That’s something that needs to play to our advantage. We’ve got to fight through that.’’

Hurricanes coach Mark Richt talks about the heat, the humidity and the players' energy during the team's scrimmage at Hard Rock Stadium on Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017.

Is he closer to a quarterback decision? “Probably,’’ Richt said. “I don’t like to make decisions right after a game or right after a scrimmage. …You’ve got to look at the whole body of work. But scrimmages do matter. You weigh those a little bit bigger.”

“The young guys are going to better a week from now. Wherever they are now, a week from now they’re going to be a lot better than they are today. The guys that have been around a long time, next week, I mean how much more are they going to learn? How much more are they going to get better. They may get better just incrementally.

“...I don’t necessarily need to make the decision right this second. I have to make sure I have all the information before I pull the trigger.”