Almost kickoff time.
Thank you to Bethune-Cookman beat writer Zach Dean of the Daytona Beach News-Journal for answering five questions about the Wildcats, who open the season against the University of Miami at 12:30 p.m. Saturday at Hard Rock Stadium.
I answered five questions from Zach about the Miami Hurricanes.
Here are the questions and answers:
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Z: It’s been the Brad Kaaya show for the past couple years. What’s the scoop on new-kid-on-the-block Malik Rosier?
S: Rosier, 6-1 and 216 pounds, has actually been around the block before, though it has been quite a while and it was only one complete trip. In his only start, when Kaaya had a concussion, Rosier led the Hurricanes to a victory at Duke in October 2015, completing 20 of 29 passes for 272 yards and two touchdowns. That was the famous — or infamous — UM victory after the eight-lateral touchdown with the clock at 0:00. He has played in 10 games, completing 31 of 61 passes in two seasons, for 370 yards, the two touchdowns, with three picks.
S: Bethune-Cookman is usually a conference champion contender every year, but the Wildcats went 4-6 last season. What went wrong?
Z: Around here I'll sound like a broken record, but last season was a weird combination of untimely injuries and bad weather. The Wildcats were down to their third string quarterback by Week 3, lost their starting running back before the season even began, and weren't at full health on defense until October. As for the weather, B-CU had a game canceled due to lightning, another one delayed three hours for the same reason, and another one postponed because of Hurricane Matthew.
Z: Sticking with Rosier, he was obviously in a tight QB competition with a slew of other guys, including freshman N’Kosi Perry and redshirt sophomore Evan Shirreffs. Is that battle officially over now that a starter has been named?
S: The competition is never really over with Richt, and probably most coaches, when it comes to quarterbacks — especially a new starter. For now, Richt said Rosier has that starting job firmly in his grasp. However, he also said Rosier stood out above the rest, but not by “an unbelievable amount.’’ In the first two fall scrimmages, Rosier completed 25 of 39 passes for 441 yards, five touchdowns and one pick. His newly named backup, redshirt sophomore Shirreffs, completed 23 of 33 passes for 359 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. N’Kosi Perry, the highly rated dual-threat newcomer out of Ocala Vanguard High, arrived in late May and just hasn’t had enough time to learn the offense and adjust to college football.
S: The Hurricanes feature plenty of talent on offense, starting with RB Mark Walton. Who are the Wildcats that can stop this offense?
Z: There are two clear leaders on the B-CU defense — junior linebacker Trenton Bridges, and senior safety Diquan Richardson. Both guys were named to the preseason All-Conference team, and both are coming off monster seasons. Bridges finished with 55 tackles (eight for loss), three sacks and an interception, while Richardson, who was also named to the Black College Football Player of the Year Watch List, led the Wildcats with 60 tackles and four interceptions.
Z: Richt is entering Year 2 in Miami. What have you learned about him so far?
S: I have learned he is a detailed, meticulous coach who wants things done the exact way he teaches them. I also have learned that he is as calm a coach as I’ve ever encountered, and a gentleman. He is a humanitarian and highly involved in the community, traveling to various youth football leagues and speaking to the kids and coaches and parents, as well as forming a network for football alumni to reconnect with each other and better integrate into society after their playing days are over. He has been reinvigorated by his return to his alma mater, has donated $1 million of his own money toward a $34 million indoor practice facility now being built, and has put together an amazing coaching staff.
S: The Wildcats announced redshirt sophomore Akevious Williams the starting QB earlier this week. What should we know about him?
Z: Williams was pressed into duty prematurely last year due to all the injuries, but showed steady growth throughout the year. He's the quintessential mobile QB, rushing for nearly 300 yards and six scores last season, but also came on as a passer late and has shown improvement in that area throughout camp. Williams has a good, experienced corps around him this year, so if he can limit the turnovers (6 interceptions last season) he should have success.
Z: Last season the 'Canes were 9-4, and the preseason hype machine has been turned up to 100. Is this the year Miami finally reaches the ACC title game?
S: Unless the quarterback underwhelms and there are major injuries on the defense, the answer is yes.
S: You mentioned a solid offensive corps earlier. Who are some players we should watch for?
Z: Running back Michael Jones missed all of last season with a hamstring injury, but is back to 100 percent for his redshirt senior season. Two years ago he gained nearly 600 yards and seven touchdowns as a backup, so, assuming he can stay healthy, he has the potential for big numbers this season. Also keep you eye on wide receiver Frank Brown, who was named to the preseason All-Conference team as a receiver and a returner, and tight end Ja-Quan Lumas, who stands at 6-foot-3 and is a matchup nightmare.
Z: Prediction time. Who ya got?
S: Canes win big.
S: Same question.
Z: Wildcats have plenty of players with experience against FBS teams, so I don't expect the stage to be too big. That being said, yeah, Canes win going away.