University of Miami

Wondering how Canes QB N’Kosi Perry is doing? Coach Jon Richt tells it straight

We all know that the University of Miami is deep into its competition to decide the starting quarterback for 2018.

It’s only spring, but after the first 10 practices, coaches have seen enough — including at Saturday’s first scrimmage — to elaborate on what they’re seeing and hoping.

Hurricanes quarterbacks coach Jon Richt spoke in detail Tuesday about soon-to-be redshirt freshman N’Kosi Perry, whom he and others refer to as “Kosi.” He also spoke about incumbent redshirt senior starter Malik Rosier.

Perry has been here almost a year. How is he progressing and where is he in terms of being able to push Rosier?

“He’s definitely pushing Malik,’’ Richt said. “Jarren Williams is pushing Malik. Cade is pushing Malik. Everybody is pushing Malik. And Malik is pushing Malik.

“But N’Kosi has done a great job. He’s really learning it, and Malik said it a few times. The kid is starting to understand what’s going on around him a little more to where he’s not just going up there and saying, ‘Down, set, hike’ and running a play. He’s getting up there understanding what the defense is doing and maybe making some adjustments to get us in a better play. He’s learning to become a quarterback rather than just a guy back there throwing a football.”

So, what’s Perry’s next step?

Richt indicated he’s still being too cerebral while he’s playing — overthinking on the field instead of being more instinctive. That, of course, is part of the learning process. UM coaches can only hope that Perry’s unquestioned talent to turn nothing into something spectacular will translate to the college game sooner than later. But Richt also made it clear that despite Perry being a gifted escape artist, he must learn to stand in the pocket and confidently wing it.

“He’s got to learn to be confident in the plays that he’s making,’’ Jon Richt said. “He goes out there and right now I think he’s thinking, because he’s learning these things, but he’s still thinking a lot. We want him just to relax and play ball because that’s part of who he is, when he goes out there and makes plays with his feet outside the pocket when a play breaks down. Or even when he’s standing in there, being able to rip a ball into tight windows and really trusting himself and having faith in himself.”

Richt was asked, nonetheless, if “a lot of Perry’s game” is “getting outside the pocket.’’

“I don’t say it’s a lot of his game,’’ the quarterbacks coach said. “It’s a part of his game. ... It’s not necessarily that we’re designing plays for him to get outside of the pocket more than anybody else. But when a play does break down, if the end does pinch inside and we do get leverage, he can make it a little bit nerve-racking for a defensive coach once he gets out there because he can take off and run for 20, or 25 like he did in the scrimmage. Or he can sit back there and rip a ball 50 yards downfield on the run. He’s a talented guy when he’s on the move. ...

“He’s just got to learn that when it’s there, you know, to be that guy [and] become a passer rather than just an athlete.’’

Here’s what Jon Richt said about Rosier, who, according to head coach Mark Richt, is the unquestioned leader so far in the race:

“There’s always room for improvement. Some of it is us and some of it is other things. We have to learn when we got a perfect pocket we’ve got to trust it every single time. That’s one thing we didn’t do on Saturday. They [the defensive line] got to us a few times. I think it got to us mentally, so we were rushing throws. We were doing things that we don’t normally do. We have to understand that the next pocket is going to be perfect and we have to trust it, trust our O-line, trust our teammates, and then be able to stand in there and rip the ball when the opportunity presents itself.”

Richt also indicated that Rosier at times is too nice to his teammates after a play goes bad.

“He’s got to be able to go out there and not always be friendly to everybody every play [and] be like, ‘Oh, that’s my bad.’ No, get on somebody, and pick ’em up and tell them they’re going to be ready to go next time.”

▪ Offensive line coach Stacy Searels addressed the media, and said he is still trying to figure out the best five linemen, with several linemen being rotated at different positions. After a scrimmage in which the offensive line apparently was dominated, it might take a while. Rising sophomore guard Navaugn Donaldson was put at right tackle Tuesday and excelled.

Tyree St. Louis is the first-team left tackle at this point, and Hayden Mahoney replaced Donaldson at right guard.

Is Donaldson seriously being considered at tackle? Former LSU lineman George Brown has basically worked the entire spring at right tackle.

“You think we’ll come out here and practice and not be serious about it?’’ Searels said of Donaldson. “If he’s at tackle, it’s serious. It’s serious. It’s based on [the fact that] we want to protect our quarterback. And we are going to put the best five out there to protect our quarterback.”

Searels also stressed that center Tyler Gauthier did an excellent job at right tackle when coaches put him there to stop the agony.

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