Brad Kaaya feels the love.
He also feels the gnawing tug from reporters, radio shows and fans continuing to discuss whether he might be inclined to declare for the NFL Draft after this, his junior season.
But the University of Miami’s prolific passer for now is resigned in a most polite way to “acknowledge that yeah, that’s out there. But at the same time,” he said Thursday from the ACC Football Kickoff media days, “I have an obligation — especially me in my position. I have an obligation to put my wholehearted effort into this offseason and coming season.
“It can’t be about what’s after that. It’s got to be about this season.”
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Kaaya, 6-4 and 218 pounds, ended the 2015 regular season ranked No. 1 in the Atlantic Coast Conference in passing yards per game (274.5). He threw for 3,238 yards with 16 touchdowns and only five interceptions. He is fifth place in all-time UM passing yards with 6,436, behind No. 1 Ken Dorsey (9,565), No. 2 Jacory Harris (8,826), No. 3 Stephen Morris (7,896) and No. 4 Gino Torretta (7,690).
His goal is to win the Coastal, then ACC, then whatever comes next, and he realizes that South Florida fans are hungry for success.
“Yeah, I feel when I go out it’s always, ‘Hey, Brad, good luck this season,’ [or] ‘Hey man, I’m pumped. I can’t wait to see what you guys do,’ ” he said.
“I really appreciate and take note. Hopefully we can just keep this momentum going as a community in general. Coaches, players, fans, families … take this energy into the season and keep it going and get as many people to games as possible. Because that really does make an impact.”
And if the Dolphins’ stadium construction isn’t completed by UM’s Sept. 3 opener against FAMU and the Canes have to play in, say, Orlando at Camping World Stadium?
“It would be rough,” Kaaya conceded. “But no matter what happens the team will be ready to play.”
Kaaya was accompanied Thursday by punter Justin Vogel, who said he’s “aiming to be the best in the ACC.”
“He’s one of the best punters I’ve ever seen,” UM coach Mark Richt said. “… This guy is super talented. He can bomb it high and deep; he can directional kick. When you’re kicking in, he can pooch it in there and land it where he wants to land it. He’s going to be one of our greatest weapons.”
▪ He said sophomore split end Lawrence Cager, who tore his right ACL recently and is being replaced by Ahmmon Richards, was doing so well this summer that he “was almost unguardable. He’d catch like eight or nine passes a day in seven-on-seven. To have him go down was a huge blow.”
▪ He said freshman receiver Sam Bruce is really quick and that “you can’t cover him with a linebacker. You need a DB.”
▪ He said tight end Michael Irvin II is “really good” and “shocked” him with his athleticism. He’s got his father’s hands — huge hands. He has one of the best catch radiuses on the team. I can throw him balls and I mean one-handed he can lay out.”
Kaaya also gushed about last weekend’s wildly successful Paradise Camp on campus, where several former UM and NFL greats, including Ray Lewis, spoke or helped coach dozens of recruits.
“I used to have a Fathead of him in my room, and now he’s giving speeches at my school. … It “makes you thankful to wear that ‘U’ on your chest.”