University of Miami

They’ve had growing pains together, but UM’s Mark Richt and Malik Rosier ready to roll

Malik Rosier talks UM quarterbacks and his situation

University of Miami senior quarterback Malik Rosier knows he must be more accurate, especially on those long balls from practice April 17, 2018.
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University of Miami senior quarterback Malik Rosier knows he must be more accurate, especially on those long balls from practice April 17, 2018.

Miami Hurricanes quarterback Malik Rosier occasionally relives an ugly conversation in 2016 with then-new Miami football coach Mark Richt — and the even uglier play during a scrimmage that prompted it.

“Terrible, terrible pick,’’ Rosier said.

“The pocket began to collapse, and instead of me taking a sack or throwing the ball away, I backpedaled and threw it up for grabs in the middle of the field.’’

Then, the soon-to-be redshirt sophomore made another mistake: He turned around to face his coach, one of the preeminent quarterback gurus in college football – a mild-mannered, meticulous, systematic, professor-like man who knows exactly what he wants and teaches it to the last detail.

Rosier learned then what other Richt-coached quarterbacks already knew: God help the gunslingers-gone-wild.

“Coach Richt’s face was literally bloodshot red,’’ Rosier, now a redshirt senior, said. “He ripped me. He was sooo pissed.’’

A bit afterward, in the head coach’s office, the usually mellow, genteel Richt ripped Rosier more and told him, as has been well documented per Rosier, himself, “You will never play for me as a Miami Hurricane if you don’t change who you are.’’

Midway through 2018 fall camp, Richt was reminded of the play, and post-play meeting, during an interview with the Miami Herald.

“No. 1, he didn’t have enough respect for the football,’’ Richt said. “I want it done a certain way. If you don’t do it that way then you’re not going to play.

“And if you start throwing the ball up for grabs, you’re not going to play.

“I have a little saying, and anybody I’ve ever coached can finish the sentence: ‘Don’t turn a bad play into… a catastrophe.’

“I’m not going to let anyone kill this team.”

UM Hurricanes coach Mark Richt discusses his QB situation on April 17, 2018, with only two spring sessions to go.

Richt paused, then softly chuckled.

“So, he got better in a hurry when he had to.”

More than two years later, Rosier has changed who he is on the football field, and in so doing has earned the respect of Richt, who now calls his protégé “one of the smartest guys I’ve ever coached, especially with football knowledge and recognition. He sees stuff, knows what’s coming and knows how to make adjustments.

“It’s pretty fun to watch.’’

Except when Rosier throws those picks, or flat-out misses his open targets, a head-scratcher for even a quarterback whisperer like Richt.

What caused the streakiness? Richt was asked.

UM quarterback Malik Rosier with head coach Mark Richt as they pose for a photograph at the University of Miami Schwartz Center for Athletic Excellence on Thursday, August 9, 2018. Al Diaz ALDIAZ

“I don’t know,’’ Richt said with a laugh. “If I knew and could solve that one, I truly would be a quarterback whisperer.”

As the Canes head into 2018 with a whopper of a season opener against LSU on Sunday night, Richt, who has coached quarterback greats such as Heisman Trophy winners Charlie Ward and Chris Weinke, Heisman runner-up Casey Weldon and Southeastern Conference career passing yards/touchdown record-holder Aaron Murray, has entrusted the program he played for and adores with the same young man he thought would never be the guy.

“Last season, I would have bet 50-50 at best going into the fall camp quarterback competition, that Malik would get the starting job,’’ Richt said. “But he has turned out to be a really good quarterback.”

Richt shows his current quarterbacks – they include redshirt freshmen N’Kosi Perry and Cade Weldon (the son of Casey) and true freshman Jarren Williams – tapes of his former stars going back to more than a decade at Florida State and his 15 season as head coach at Georgia. He says Rosier reminds him most of 2014 Kansas City Chiefs fifth-round draft pick Murray, a Georgia Bulldog who threw for SEC records of 13,166 yards and 121 touchdowns, with 16 rushing touchdowns.

Murray stood at 6-1 and weighed about 207. Rosier is listed at 6-1, 212.

“Just from the ability to see things and react properly, size, stature, arm strength,’’ Richt said. “And that’s a high compliment, because most of our cutups and teaching tapes are of Aaron Murray doing it right.

“Malik can process information like Murray could. He’s kind of a hybrid. He’s got a little more running ability than Murray and has a really good understanding of our system and how it relates to defenses.”

UM coach Mark Richt told Miami Hurricanes beat writers on Wednesday that he expects quarterback Malik Rosier to be his starter, beginning Sept. 2 against LSU.

In 2017, Rosier led the Hurricanes to a 10-0 season start and at one time a No. 2 ranking in the College Football Playoff standings. He threw for 3,120 yards (54-percent accuracy) and 26 touchdowns, with 14 interceptions, and ran for another 486 yards and five touchdowns

Those 31 Rosier touchdowns set a single-season UM record by surpassing Vinny Testaverde’s 30 touchdowns during his 1986 Heisman Trophy year. Rosier’s 3,120 yards were 10th-most in a UM single season.

And Rosier’s 3,588-yard total? Miami’s single-season total yardage record.

But those last three losses at Pittsburgh, against Clemson in the Atlantic Coast Conference title game and to Wisconsin in the Capital One Orange Bowl, were season-changers that stirred the wrath of fans.

Rosier finished 15 of 34 for 187 yards and two touchdowns against Pitt, for a completion percentage of 44.1. He hit 48.3-percent of his passes in the ACC title game, going 14 of 29 for 110 yards and no touchdowns, with two interceptions. And in the season-finale against the Badgers, he completed 11 of 26 passes (42.3 percent) for 203 yards, with three picks.

Ten of his 14 interceptions came in the last six games.

Rosier said his accuracy has improved with his on-field vision, and that instead of getting “funneled into seeing one side of the field,’’ he has learned how to process the entire field, resulting in receivers making plays all over the place.

He believes his streakiness last season – he’d be lights out during some stretches and miss wide-open targets during others – was exacerbated by focusing too much on the bad moments. “The coaches are pushing me to have more energy,’’ Rosier said. “The more I talk, the more I communicate with the guys, the better I play. When I get in moments that I’m focused on only me is when I start playing bad.’’

Richt said he wants Rosier “to be who he is.’’

“He’s not going to get hyped up physically or outwardly get all excited,’’ Richt said. “You’re not going to see a lot of juice, which is OK. He calmly goes about his business.’’

And that bodes well, Richt acknowledged, for incredible comebacks such as the last-second victories against FSU and Georgia Tech.

“But on the other hand,’’ Richt said, “there are times when the quarterback must kick a little butt, times when you’ve got to get the other guys to get going and pick up the pace.’’

That’s part of the reason Richt announced that Rosier had won the job in July, instead of waiting.

“It’s tough when everybody else knows you’re battling for a job,’’ said Jon Richt, Mark’s son and the designated quarterbacks coach who assists his father teaching the players, helps install the running game and sits upstairs in the box during games so he can “describe the action to me like a movie,’’ Mark Richt said.

Said the younger Richt: “Malik has got to be able to go out there and not always be friendly to everybody every play. …Pick ‘em up and tell them they’re going to be ready to go next time.”

As for those disgruntled fans, and there appear to be a lot of them, Mark Richt said he understands their frustration.

“They’ll see him miss an open guy here and there and it’s frustrating to me, too,’’ Richt said. “You’ve got to hit your target. They get mad. I don’t blame them.’’

Nonetheless, Richt suggests to his quarterbacks that they “don’t read anything’’ on social media.

“Back when there were only home phones and no cell phones, every quarterback I ever coached –every one – had to get an unlisted number,’’ he said. “It used to be your name was in the phone book and people could look you up and call you.

“If you’re in a leadership position, it’s going to happen. That’s all there is to it.’’

Rosier, like most 22-year-olds, does look at social media.

“It’s their opinion and there’s nothing I can do about it,’’ he said calmly of his detractors. “All I can do is focus on the guys in the locker room with me.

“Not everyone is going to like me. Not everyone is going to hate me. Hopefully, by winning and getting my completion rate up, it will help.’’

Rosier’s teammates are behind him.

Gifted receiver Ahmmon Richards noted Rosier “has more of an edge to him’’ after taking “a lot of heat’’ at the end of 2017.

“Just the way he handled everything with everybody blaming him for those losses…,’’ Richards said. “He’s locked in.

“That motivated him this whole offseason to be better and lead better and do everything he can to prove everybody wrong. He has to lead this team where it should be, and that’s back in the ACC Championship Game.”

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