The public is finally about to witness the Miami Hurricanes football team in action this spring.
And that means the quarterback race will be on full display in the spring game at 6 p.m. Saturday at Hard Rock Stadium — if even for just one day.
So get your binoculars focused on incumbent starter Malik Rosier, redshirt freshman N'Kosi Perry and early-enrollee freshman Jarren Williams. It's unknown if redshirt freshman Cade Weldon, who has missed the last few practices because of what coach Mark Richt has said is conjunctivitis, will play Saturday.
This will be the first time Canes fans get to see Perry and Williams, and the last time until the fall.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Miami Herald
"It means a lot to us,'' said Richt, when asked what type of difference it makes for players with fans in the stands at Hard Rock. "Can you function when the pads are on and we're tackling? I got a bunch of receivers that look really good in shorts. When the pads come on, they don’t look quite as good. Then you put the pads on and you tackle, it’s not the same guy.
"Can you function — not just that position, all positions — in a true-game-type situation? Now, can you function when a lot of people are in the stands watching as well? It’s a little bit more pressure. Even the punter and the kicker, there won’t be a rush, but there will be a lot of people watching. Those will be pressure kicks by virtue of the fact that there will be people in the stands, so how do you handle a lot of people watching? Does it change how you think? Does it change how you perform?”
Everyone except the quarterbacks can get tackled.
Though the format will be the same as usual, what fans will see might be confusing, as far as teams battling against one another.
Richt said the first-team offense will, as usual, face the second-team defense — and the second-team offense will go against the first-team defense when the game part of the evening begins. But the first-team units on defense and offense will be unable to wear the same color jerseys. And likewise for the second-teamers on offense and defense.
“We’re going to have all the offensive guys in one color and all the defensive guys in one color because we don’t have enough depth to divide the team and say, ‘Hey, let’s get a 12-play drive,’ with no substitutions whatsoever,’’ Richt said. “So, we’ll substitute from one side of the field on defense and one side on offense.’’
Thus, instead of calling one team, say, Orange and the other team, say, Green, Richt named the squads “Team Carol’’ and “Team Soffer’’ for the family who gave the lead gift for the Carol Soffer Football Indoor Practice Facility.
“I think it’s kind of catchy,’’ Richt said.
As for those quarterbacks, Rosier, who completed 224 of 415 passes last season for 3,120 yards and 26 touchdowns, with 14 interceptions — 10 of them in the last six games — is still ahead of the pack, despite having a sub-par first closed scrimmage last Saturday (8 of 17 for 109 yards, two touchdowns and an interception).
Perry was less impressive, however, completing 6 of 13 passes for 33 yards and an interception.
Williams, in two series with the second-team offense, completed 6 of 8 for 86 yards and two touchdowns.
After Saturday, the three remaining practice sessions, including the third and final scrimmage April 21 on campus, will be closed to the general public and media, though the last scrimmage will be part of alumni weekend and will welcome all football alum.
Richt said Hard Rock was already booked for next weekend, which forced him to move up the spring game to Saturday.
The gates open at 5 p.m. Saturday, but fans can park and begin tailgating at 3 p.m.
Admission is free, and fans are urged to bring non-perishable food items to benefit Grove Outreach.