Barry Jackson

UM’s Richt assesses quarterback battle

Miami Hurricane's head coach Mark Richt speaks to journalists about how his team did on National Signing Day at the University of Miami's Schwartz Center in Coral Gables on Feb. 1, 2017.
Miami Hurricane's head coach Mark Richt speaks to journalists about how his team did on National Signing Day at the University of Miami's Schwartz Center in Coral Gables on Feb. 1, 2017. For the Miami Herald

UM coach Mark Richt has no idea who will emerge as his starting quarterback among six contenders.

But he’s clear about this: He isn’t the least bit reluctant to play a freshman if Cade Weldon (who’s already on campus) or N’Kosi Perry (who arrives in May) wins the job, though he acknowledges the downside to that.

“If [either freshman] wins the job, there is no hesitation whatsoever,” Richt said by phone this week. “Usually when a young quarterback makes mistakes, it’s during the time he’s on the practice field or maybe he’s an understudy to a veteran quarterback.

“When you play a true freshman, he will be making some mistakes along the way in plain view of everybody. And that’s what people have got to understand. Whether it’s a true freshman or not, there are going to be some mistakes made by a new starting quarterback. But you tend to have a few more when the guy is brand new to college football.”

Quarterbacks coach Jon Richt said Weldon is “built to play now” if he wins the job.

Mark Richt has said Weldon will get a comparable number of spring snaps as returnees Malik Rosier, Jack Allison, Evan Shirreffs and Vincent Testaverde. Why?

“I think everybody who’s here deserves an opportunity to compete and that’s the way we do it here,” Mark Richt said. “That’s why we’ve had so many true freshmen play and start for us even this last season because we don’t go by seniority around here. We go by who’s the best and we want to give everybody a chance to prove what they can do.”

Does Perry not arriving until the summer hurt his chances?

Hurricanes quarterback Malik Rosier speaks to the media after practice on Tuesday, August 23, 2016.

“They’ve all got a great chance,” Richt answered. “The guys who are here on campus definitely have a head start and have a chance to get coached and get reps and get opportunities to show what they can do. But we do have one more guy coming in in N’Kosi Perry and we’ll give him a chance to compete as well.”

Jon Richt said of Perry: “The dude can make a lot of plays when plays break down. He's an X factor when he's out there. Shows remarkable touch, unbelievable arm strength. He has this thing [former FSU] coach [Bobby] Bowden used to say: ‘He gets guys the ball.’ He's not always going to make the most perfect pass. He can make coaches look smarter than they are.

Miami Hurricanes coach Mark Richt talks about the victory over West Virginia in the Russell Athletic Bowl on Wed., Dec. 28, 2016.

“If you go back to Florida State, he had Charlie Ward. This kid reminds us of Charlie. He can make plays with his feet. That's how we'll use him. He's a guy that can really throw the ball. I don't want to understate how well a passer he is.”

Five other quarterback items from Mark Richt:

• Asked about Allison, Richt said he likes he likes what he has seen. Allison was the scout team quarterback last season as a redshirt freshman.

“I am pleased where he is,” Richt said. “He’s been working hard. He’s really doing a good job of knowing what to do and how to do it. It’s not his first time around. He was here a year ago for spring ball and went through all the summer and fall prep work. He knows it a lot better and he’s bigger and stronger as well. He’s worked hard in the weight room. He’s making progress there as well.”

• Asked about Rosier’s experience and his rough start last spring (before a strong fall camp), Richt said: “The way I see it right now, it’s pretty much a clean slate and I don’t care what they did in the past. I want to see what they do in the spring. I want to see what they do in the fall practices and scrimmages. I am going to base our decisions on what they do from this point forward.”

• I asked Richt if he basically needs to have two offenses prepared – a pro-style system if, say, Allison wins the job, and something different (with more spread elements) if dual-threat Perry does.

“You really don’t, but there will be certain things in an offensive system that might be more geared toward Jack or more towards one of these other guys,” Richt said. “It’s like when I was [offensive coordinator] at Florida State. I had Chris Weinke, who won the Heisman Trophy, but I had Charlie Ward, who won the Heisman Trophy. Both guys, same system. Certain things that Charlie did well, we emphasized within the system. And certain things Weinke did well, we emphasized within the system.”

• Is a running element important to him at quarterback?

“It’s nice to have some of that QB run,” Richt said. “All these guys move. Some move better than others. I want to play the best man for the job and we will take advantage of whatever skill set that he has.”

Perry, Rosier and Weldon are considered the best runners of the six.

• He said he feels both uneasiness and excitement about the QB battle and expects it to stretch into late August.

“You would love to have it nailed down and know exactly who your guy is and build everything around him,” Richt said. “But the good news is we’ve got some really good contenders and it is exciting to try to find out who is best one for it.

“My guess is this thing is going to go well into fall practice. The chances of finding out who the guy is before then would be very doubtful. We’ll have to scrimmage once or twice in the fall to know exactly how we feel about it.”

Richt spoke by phone to promote an All Pro Dad Father and Kids Experience event on UM’s practice field from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday. Richt will be speaking at the event, which - according to organizers - gives “fathers practical fatherhood tips on how to improve at their most important job and strengthening their relationship with their kids through activities on the football field.”

Richt said the event typically attracts “mainly elementary age kids with their fathers and it’s for boys and girls.”

Richt explained how he got involved: “I have always appreciated [former NFL] coach Tony Dungy and the things he’s done in his life and the things he’s been involved with. He’s really been behind this All Pro Dad idea going way back and putting these vent on in NFL venues. I had known him for years throughout Fellowship of Christian athletes and other organizations and he decided to have one on a college campus. So Georgia was the first one that had one on campus when I was there at Georgia.

“Now, being here at Miami, it was natural to have one on our campus. Plus it’s about promoting fatherhood – and dads doing a great job and not only being good dads but good husbands as well.”

For more information about the event, go to allprodad.com.

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