Kc McDermott is about to begin his final season at the University of Miami.
Mark Walton will begin his third – and possibly last.
Shaquille Quarterman: Year 2.
And redshirt junior Malik Rosier?
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Might as well be Numero Uno.
Regardless of the back story of each Hurricane in the 12:30 p.m. season opener Saturday, or the level of competition they’ll face in FCS opponent Bethune-Cookman, each has a reason to run through the smoke at Hard Rock Stadium like his future depends on it.
Are you ready for some football?
The No. 18 Hurricanes (9-4 in 2016) kick off the season against the Wildcats of Daytona Beach (4-6), and despite their lower-rung nemesis, the Canes already had their gas tanks filled with high-octane fuel days ago.
“It gives me chills just thinking about it,’’ left tackle McDermott said.
Walton, the star tailback whose daughter was born Feb. 9 and who lost his mother after a stroke less than a month later, already had his stomach churning on Wednesday. “That’s the first game my mom won’t see,’’ Walton told reporters, trying to keep it together. “…I’m getting emotional just thinking about it.’’
Quarterman, UM’s All-American middle linebacker, still recalls his first trip through the smoke before last season’s 70-3 opening victory against Florida A&M. “Like a movie scene,’’ he said.
The Hurricanes will exit that smoke with a 12-game regular season and likely a bowl game after that – at least two postseason games if they win the Coastal Division like most media members project, and maybe as many as three games if they do the nearly unthinkable and get into the College Football Playoffs.
“We know we are good,’’ Quarterman said of the defense, ranked 20th nationally in 2016, up from No. 69 the previous season, when UM last opened the year against B-CU. “But this offseason – especially in this camp – we’ve been grinding not just to win every game in the regular season. We’ve been grinding for the championship.
“Championship preparation doesn’t start once you start those first games and get to the playoffs. It starts now.’’
Rosier, who has started only one game in his career, will follow UM passing-yardage record holder Brad Kaaya, now with the Detroit Lions.
“Go be great 12! Your turn!” Kaaya tweeted on Aug. 22, when coach Mark Richt named Rosier as Kaaya’s successor.
As Rosier goes, so, likely, will go the Hurricanes.
“He has come such a far way,’’ senior receiver Braxton Berrios said of the new starter. “He has always been athletic. He has always been pretty smart. He has always known the offense. When you get flustered. When you get rushed out of the pocket, are you going to make the right decision? In that keen split second, what are you going to do?
“From freshman year to now it’s a tremendous difference.”
Richt has not made Rosier available since the day he was named starter. When asked this week if it’s important for Rosier to face adversity Saturday, Richt indicated it’s impossible to avoid the pressure.
“It’s already happening,’’ the coach said. “He’s living it out as we speak. He’s the guy. He knows he has to perform in the game. The game is different…It’s time to play against somebody who has had bad intentions toward you, quite frankly.’’
Richt said he had not made a decision on whether he’ll play any of the other quarterbacks Saturday. “It’s up in the air,’’ he said of backup Evan Shirreffs and freshmen N’Kosi Perry and Cade Weldon. “If I could look into the future, and know exactly how Malik would play, if I could look into the future and know his health status for the entire season, it would be easier to decide what to do.’’
The last time these two teams played, UM won 45-0 in a game delayed 75 minutes because of lightning. It was UM’s first shutout since the 2010 opener, and Rosier’s college debut – 1 for 4 for 11 yards.
The Wildcats’ 6-2, 188-pound starting quarterback, redshirt sophomore Akevious Williams, loves to run. He rushed for 371 yards and six touchdowns in 10 games last season. He completed 40 of 81 passes for 414 yards and two touchdowns, with six interceptions.
The Canes are, frankly, sick of hitting each other. They’re ready for a real opponent.
“It’ll be fun to see what we can do,’’ Richt said.
@ No. 18 Miami
Kickoff: 12:30 p.m.; Hard Rock Stadium.
TV/radio: Fox Sports Florida; WQAM 560; 990 AM ESPN Deportes (Spanish).
Favorite: No line.
Series: Miami leads 3-0.
Miami injuries: Doubtful — WR Ahmmon Richards (hamstring).
Bethune-Cookman injuries: No reported injuries.