Debate all you want, but University of Miami football coach Mark Richt made it clearer than ever Wednesday: Come the Sept. 2 season opener against LSU, Malik Rosier, barring injury or something completely crazy, will be the starting quarterback.
The fifth-year senior, Richt told a small group of South Florida beat writers at the Atlantic Coach Conference Football Kickoff, has done enough to secure the job. And though Richt will obviously encourage contenders N’Kosi Perry, Cade Weldon and Jarren Williams to fight like heck to unseat him, he indicated you can pretty much count them out — at least initially.
“He’s the starter. Malik is the starter,’’ Richt said. “And if something changes I’ll let you know...”
Rosier threw for 3,120 yards and 26 touchdowns last season and ran for another 468 yards and five scores. But he had 10 of his 14 interceptions during the last six weeks.
At UM’s spring game on April 14, Rosier was 9 of 14 for 105 yards. At the final scrimmage a week later, he was 3 of 4 for 82 yards and a touchdown in his limited opportunities.
Redshirt freshman Perry, redshirt freshman Weldon and true freshman Williams have never played in a college game.
Added the coach: “Malik is without a doubt the No. 1 quarterback going into fall camp. Right this minute, I’m not sure anybody is going to be able to unseat him, at least going into Game One. I will have an open mind and we’ll give reps and we’ll compete.
“But even from my standpoint, when time passes [and] the emotion of the season ends, you go back and you review game film — coaches’ copy, TV copy, and just kind of watch what happened last year. He made a lot of big plays in some really big moments. And without it, we’re not going to win.
“He made some great plays with his wheels. He ran the ball well and did some things that if he doesn’t do the things that he did, we probably don’t win 10 games last year.”
After 10 games, however, things didn’t go so well. UM lost to PIttsburgh in the regular-season finale and then to Clemson in the ACC title game and Wisconsin in the Capital One Orange Bowl.
“At the end, we all know we had our struggles as a team,’’ Richt said. “But the quarterback always takes the brunt of it. But I do know this as I went back to study everything, the bigger the pocket was, the better [Rosier] threw the ball. Can you imagine that? The more space he had, the more time he had, guess what? He threw it a lot better. So we’ve got to get better at blocking, we’ve got to get better at pass protecting as running backs, we’ve got to get better at route running, and I’ve got to do a better job of getting us in the right looks at the right time. “
Richt said he’s teaching Perry, Weldon and Williams “what it means to be the leader of the team.’’
“We’re teaching them what it means to be the quarterback,” Richt said of the three younger signal callers. “The quarterback has a different standard of how you behave on the field, off the field, how you prepare. It’s different. And these guys got to learn that. They’re making strides, but I haven’t seen it to where I’m like this guy is ready to take the reins. But we’ll see.
“I don’t anticipate anyone knocking him out of the box right now.’’
▪ Hurricanes junior tailback Travis Homer was named a candidate for the Doak Walker Award that goes to the nation’s best running back at season’s end. Homer rushed for 966 yards on 163 attempts last season, averaging 5.9 yards per carry and finishing with eight rushing touchdowns. The West Palm Beach native compiled 1,203 all-purpose yards and three 100-yard rushing games.
▪ ACC commissioner John Swofford said in his state of the league address Wednesday that ACC coaches will no longer release injury situation each week. “We have had not a rule but a gentleman’s agreement among our coaches to share publicly injury information. We were the only conference that was doing that, and ironically, we decided not to do it this year.”’