Barry Jackson

UM’s freshmen QBs eager to win job; Heat notes; Larranaga milestone

The Miami Heat’s Willie Reed (35), who recorded 22 points and 18 rebounds against the Suns on Tuesday, has stepped up in the absence of center Hassan Whiteside.
The Miami Heat’s Willie Reed (35), who recorded 22 points and 18 rebounds against the Suns on Tuesday, has stepped up in the absence of center Hassan Whiteside. AP

A six-pack of UM and Heat notes on a Wednesday:

• With Brad Kaaya departing, UM’s two incoming quarterbacks are eager for a chance to compete for the job immediately.

Tampa Jefferson’s Cade Weldon, who arrives at UM in nine days, told Canesport’s Matt Shodell that he expects to emerge as the starter.

"Absolutely," Weldon said. "Not saying anything bad about the other quarterbacks, but I think I have a strong chance to go and prove people wrong."

Weldon, rated the Class of 2017’s No. 18 pro style quarterback by Rivals, also said: "I'm definitely excited. I was ready to redshirt, but I'm ready to go compete, do everything to the best of my ability. [Kaaya] leaving has thrown me in the fire a little bit but I'm excited and I'm ready.

“I'm going to get in the playbook. The reps in spring is the biggest thing that's an advantage in my case. And just assimilating to college life. That's a huge step, getting used to balancing school as well."

Ocala Vanguard’s N’Kosi Perry won’t arrive until this summer but is considered the quarterback with the highest ceiling. He’s rated the No. 183 prospect in this class by Rivals and the No. 9 dual-threat QB.

Asked by Canesport’s Shodell if he can learn the offense enough to compete for the starting job immediately, Perry said: "Yes, I feel like I can, especially with the help of Miami's staff."

Perry said: “Brad leaves opens the door for me a lot more to compete for that starting quarterback position. I definitely would have enjoyed to play with him and learn from his experience, but it's all good. I'm happy for him to take his talents to the next level."

Also competing: Malik Rosier, Evan Shirreffs, Jack Allison and Vincent Testaverde.

• Sacramento based defensive end Deonte “DJ” Johnson, UM’s highest-rated defensive oral commitment in this 2017 class, told Rivals that UM said it plans to use him at both defensive end and linebacker.

“I see multiple national championships in our future,” Johnson said.

Rivals rates him the No. 6 weakside defensive end and the 106th best player in the country.

• Jim Larranaga has done a remarkable job with this UM basketball program, and for some perspective on how good his career has been, consider:

A win Wednesday in Syracuse would make him the 97th college-basketball coach all time and 15th active with 600 career wins (against 393 losses) in 33 seasons. And keep in mind that the four ACC coaches with 600 wins (Mike Kryzewski, Jim Boeheim, Rick Pitino, Roy Williams) are in the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass.

Among active college coaches who are now at major programs, Larranaga will be the sixth with 600 wins who’s not in the Hall of Fame, joining Bob Huggins, Lon Kruger, Rick Barnes, Bill Self and John Beilein.

Larranaga has won 27 games at American International, 170 at Bowling Green, 273 at George Mason and 129 at Miami.

• The Heat’s clutch play, usually very good during the Dwyane Wade years, has deteriorated.

In games with a margin of five points or fewer in the final five minutes, Miami has 15 loss (second-most, behind the Lakers), compared with seven wins, and shoots 40 percent from the field, 23.8 percent on threes and 59.6 percent from the line.

Especially poor offensively in the clutch this season: Justise Winslow (shooting 7 for 21), James Johnson (2 for 10) and Dion Waiters (2 for 13).

• With 22 points and 18 rebounds, Willie Reed was terrific filling in for Hassan Whiteside in Tuesday’s loss to Phoenix. But the better Reed plays, the more he will make it difficult for the Heat to keep him.

Reed is well positioned to opt of a contract that would pay him $1.5 million next season. He was originally due to make $1 million next season, but the new labor agreement adds $500,000 to that amount.

The Heat will have around $40 million in cap space but likely couldn’t allot a significant amount of that to backup center.

• The Heat enters tonight’s Sacramento game losers of six in a row and again with a depleted bench, with Whiteside, Justise Winslow and Josh McRoberts back in South Florida; James Johnson recovering from food poisoning; Dion Waiters another game-time decision and Tyler Johnson hoping to return from a migraine.

If the Heat loses the final five games of this road trip (Kings, Lakers, Clippers, Warriors and Bucks), it would reach the season’s midpoint at 10-31, a pace for 20-62.