Malik Rosier still appears to be the front-runner to open the 2018 season as the Miami Hurricanes' starting quarterback following Saturday's spring game, but make no mistake: Nothing is set in stone with the Sept. 2 season opener against LSU still months away.
Coach Mark Richt reiterated as much speaking Monday morning on WQAM's Joe Rose Show.
"We're still competing," Richt said on the radio show. "We're not going to go out there and just hand it over to Malik and say, 'You've got it no matter what happens.'"
Richt did say, however, that he liked what he saw in limited action Saturday from Rosier. The soon-to-be redshirt senior completed 9 of 14 pass attempts for 105 yards. While Rosier was sacked four times by the first-team defense, Richt indicated the offensive line played a large role in that.
"He was mostly accurate," Richt said of Rosier. "He took advantage of most every chance he got."
While Richt praised both redshirt freshman N'Kosi Perry and early enrollee Jarren Williams for their abilities to make plays, one key factor for those two younger quarterbacks when it comes to competing for the starting job is being able to command the huddle. Richt acknowledged it's a tough task for younger players to take control of the offense while they are still trying to master the offense themselves.
"When you're first learning, it's hard to go be a leader," Richt said. "You're just trying to make sure you're doing the right thing. ... You're thinking about so many things that it's hard to be assertive and now, Jarren's kind of going through that in the learning process. N'Kosi's coming through that learning process to the point that he can begin to really assert himself as a leader. He's got that in him."
Nevertheless, each had his moments Saturday.
Perry settled down late after missing his first four attempts and opening just 2 for 7 in the first quarter. Overall, he completed 11 of 26 attempts for 166 yards, one touchdown and one interception while splitting time between the first and second teams.
Two of his completions totaled 93 yards and stood out far beyond the rest.
The first came when he found early enrollee Brian Hightower on a deep post pattern for a 52-yard completion in tight coverage with 47 seconds left in the first half.
"That was one of the best throws of spring ball," Richt said of the Perry-Hightower connection.
The second was a 41-yard completion to Darrell Langham with 26 seconds left in the game. Perry also led the team with 45 rushing yards.
"N'Kosi, he knows he's going to compete," Richt said. "He made some plays."
Williams played exclusively with the second team and completed 9 passes on 14 attempts for 107 yards and a touchdown.
"He actually played pretty darn good," Richt said. "He put the ball on the money. He's got some poise back there. He's not panicking back there. "
▪ Meanwhile, the offensive line, tasked with protecting all three quarterbacks, continues to go through its struggles. On Saturday, the quarterbacks were sacked nine times.
Richt made it clear that offensive line coach Stacy Searels is doing his job well and that the challenges are a normal part of growing pains.
"I’ve known Coach Searels forever,'' Richt said after the spring game. "He’s not a good line coach — he’s a great line coach. I’ll say this: When we got here, I thought of all of the position groups on the field, that was the one that had the least amount of guys that were ready to be ACC champion-caliber guys, and we’re still kind of fighting that battle."
Richt said the main issue is continuity. If the season started today, Richt's likely starting group would be senior left tackle Tyree St. Louis, redshirt senior left guard Jahair Jones, senior center Tyler Gauthier, redshirt junior right guard Hayden Mahoney and sophomore right tackle Navaughn Donaldson. That group has only had two full practices working together.
Richt told WQAM that Donaldson appears to have found his true position.
"The big thing for him is he looks, I don’t know what the word is, just re-engerized to play that position," Richt said. "That’s what he wants to be."
The second team, based on Saturday's spring game, appears to be LSU transfer George Brown at left tackle, early enrollee Delone Scaife at left guard, sophomore Corey Gaynor at center, redshirt freshman Zalon'tae Hillery at right guard and early enrollee John Campbell at right tackle.
"I do think we’ve got the right ingredients," Richt said. "We’ve got to just get those guys repping a lot together. ... When you watch tape and you get four out of five doing it really good and one guy maybe having a missed assignment and/or guy getting whipped, it’s not like you want that to happen, but it’s a lot better than three out of five just being lost and you’re in trouble."
▪ Richt and his coaching staff will spend Monday watching film before hitting the field for the final week of spring practice. The Hurricanes practice Tuesday and Thursday before wrapping up the spring with a final scrimmage, closed to the media and public, on Saturday.