University of Miami

After final spring game, the ‘race is on’ to see who will be the Canes’ starting QB

UM offensive coordinator Dan Enos says quarterbacks have improved

UM offensive coordinator Dan Enos says quarterbacks have improved after Miami Hurricanes spring
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UM offensive coordinator Dan Enos says quarterbacks have improved after Miami Hurricanes spring

And you thought the quarterback race was hot before.

After reviewing the University of Miami spring game film from Saturday in Orlando, coach Manny Diaz seemed extremely pleased on Monday regarding the quarterback situation — and the entire team, really — during an interview with WQAM’s Joe Rose and Zach Krantz.

“All three guys have really improved,’’ Diaz said of redshirt sophomore and part-time 2018 starter N’Kosi Perry, redshirt sophomore and Ohio State transfer Tate Martell and redshirt freshman Jarren Williams. “All three guys made outstanding throws in Orlando. And I think we’ve got a good thing.

“... To me, now the race is on and for us as coaches to really find out when we come back that last week of July when we report for training camp and see who really, really grasped this thing and what level we’re at.”

Rose asked Diaz how coaches can determine in such a short period of time who the starter is when they have been rotating a lot. “How tough is that decision to make?”

“It will really be up to them to make it obvious,’’ Diaz said. “We’ve been pretty consistent on what it takes to be the quarterback. No. 1 that’s the guy that can avoid the critical errors. Then it’s the decision-making and then it’s the accuracy. You can already see they’ve made strides in that throughout the spring because they’ve become more comfortable with the scheme, so therefore they can make better decisions and if you’re more confident in your decisions you’ll throw a more accurate ball. And that’s kind of what you start to see happen.”

At the spring game Saturday at Camping World Stadium, Martell made the biggest jump from his poor scrimmage the previous week at Traz Powell Stadium in Miami. He finished 6 of 10 for 154 yards and two touchdowns, proved his adept scrambling ability and was sacked twice, as opposed to four times for N’Kosi Perry (9 of 13 for 145 yards and a touchdown, with four sacks) and three times for Jarren Williams (4 of 6 for 44 yards and a touchdown, with a safety, one interception and one fewer drive after the errant throw).

“They may pop at different times,’’ Diaz told Rose. “One guy may get it after Day 7. One guy may get it after Day 10. This is just all part of the teaching process. They gotta come and they gotta run with that now. And that’s when they’re out there throwing in the summertime with their fellow teammates and seeing who really can take control of the team.”

Added Diaz on the QB race: “When you open things up and everybody takes a peek, everybody wants to make assessments. That’s the same exact thing as trying to figure out who Einstein is in fourth grade. The reality is this: If our guy is only at a fourth grade level we’re going to get our butts kicked anyway.’’

Other highlights from the WQAM interview:

Diaz, on the offensive line:

“Considering the mixing and matches of what we’ve had to do with some guys being out, I’m pleased with the progress of our offensive line this spring... [early enrollee] Zion [Nelson] has become a major factor in our rotation at tackle...’’

On sophomore tight end Will Mallory and graduate transfer receiver K.J. Osborn, both of whom have been standouts in spring and the scrimmages: “K.J. has been as hard of a worker as anybody on our team since he showed up... And Will Mallory is just a matchup nightmare. He’s so tall and has a humongous catch radius — great hands. Even the touchdown he caught in the red zone. You can be in great coverage and the quarterback can just throw him open because there’s such a large radius to throw at.”

On replacing NFL-bound defensive tackle Gerald Willis: “Really pleased with the jump that [Nesta] Jade Silvera made. I think that really helped us on. Jonathan Ford, we didn’t have him Saturday but he made a massive jump and really looks like a guy that can cause a lot of destruction. We know Pat Bethel has been super steady on the inside... And Jordan Miller played his best on Saturday. We see him kind of coming along that same track as Jon Ford. We think he’s got an outstanding future. And obviously we’ve got [UCLA graduate transfer] Chigozie [Nnoruka] and a couple of really, really talented freshmen when they get here in the summertime.

On if there is a position Diaz still is concerned about being depleted or not good enough: “Well, I think we’re all greedy, right?’’ The coach said he’ll assess the roster and “step back’’ and go recruiting while watching “spring cutups.’’

Diaz: “Obviously there is a chance for us to add a couple more guys to our roster... ”predicated on need and a little bit predicated on what’s the best available...We need guys that are going to make us better.’’

Said Rose: “I just wanted you to tell me you’re hitting that [transfer] portal again. I was ready for you to go all portal on me, coach.’’

Diaz ran with that one.

“We may peek in there and see what’s floating around.’’

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Miami Herald sports writer Susan Miller Degnan has been the Miami Hurricanes football beat writer since 2000, the season before the Canes won it all. She has won several APSE national writing awards and has covered everything from Canes baseball to the College Football Playoff to major marathons to the Olympics.