The battle for the University of Miami quarterback job began in earnest with the start of spring practice on Tuesday, and Malik Rosier didn’t need coaches — or anyone else — to tell him what needs to happen for the senior-to-be to remain ahead of redshirt freshmen N’Kosi Perry and Cade Weldon and freshman Jarren Williams.
Rosier took a hard look at himself after last season and his shortcomings were obvious.
For starters, he knew he must improve his accuracy.
Coach Jon Richt made a point that resonated, that “not every ball is going to get caught,” Rosier said. “His big thing is, I don’t care if it’s caught. I just want an accurate ball that they can catch. If they’re not catching, that’s on them, not on me. If I’m throwing an uncatchable ball, that comes back on me. Those are the big things that he harped on. Of course, you want to be 100 percent, but you’re not going to be. There’s going to be dropped balls. ... Keep going and don’t let the last play affect you.”
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Rosier returned to Mobile during the holidays to work with quarterback coach David Morris. He tinkered his mechanics, and “small things that I can do to improve my accuracy rate a lot.”
Though Rosier was 21st in the country in touchdown passes with 26 and 29th in yards with 3,120, he ranked 112th among 125 major college quarterbacks in completion percentage at 54 percent and threw 14 interceptions.
And here’s the other thing Rosier said he must be better at:
“Urgency,” he said. “There’s a couple times we had to call timeout, a couple times where my energy level isn’t up and it affects the guys around me. I just remember after the Wisconsin game, [Jon Richt] said we need leadership and we need a guy that’s going to come in and demand greatness. Being the quarterback, you’re the head of the team, the head of the offense, and so if you’re not great, the guys around you can’t be great.”
Mark Richt didn’t discuss quarterbacks before ending his interview session Tuesday, but he said last month that “Malik is our starting quarterback, but we are going to let everybody compete ... and see who might be able to overtake anybody at any position. … If he does what he’s supposed to do, he’ll probably continue to be.”
On Tuesday, Rosier took the first snap, followed by Perry, Weldon and Williams. Team drills and most of practice were closed to the media.
Offensive coordinator Thomas Brown said he wants Rosier to be more consistent.
“If you look at his great plays from last year, it looks like one of the best in college football, which he can be if he’s in a zone and hitting his targets,” Brown said. “There were couple times at the end of year he might have gotten a little banged up from the amount of carries he took.”
Brown said at times with Rosier there was a “lack of focus” and having competition will help him because “he needs guys that can push him consistently.”
Brown said Perry seems “a lot more relaxed” after having a year in the system: “He’s looking pretty good today. But this is Day One. I don’t get too excited in shorts.”
Richt has said he doesn’t expect Williams to be an immediate factor in the starting battle this spring but added that could change in August. “It’s rough coming in midyear [as a quarterback],” Brown said. “[Williams] handled it pretty well. He’s a very confident guy, very smart guy. He’ll be fine.”
Rosier spoke Tuesday of having the proverbial chip on his shoulder but not because he has to win his job over again as a senior. Instead, his irritation stems from UM losing its last three games to Pittsburgh, Clemson and Wisconsin.
Rosier wasn’t very good in those games, throwing three touchdowns and five interceptions and completing 40 of 89 passes.
Asked if that humbled him, Rosier said: “Not really. That’s not how we wanted to end it. So I kind of have a chip on my shoulder about that. I’m not humbled by it. I’m more pissed off. We have a point to prove now. We’ve got a lot of guys back so if we don’t come in and dominate the ACC, something’s wrong.”
Rosier praised his competition, noting that Perry is “very athletic. The [UM defense] ran the coverage for the right play [on Tuesday] and you’d see N’Kosi break the pocket and get 8, 9 yards, which is exciting to see. He’s an explosive kid. And you can finally see him starting to understand the offense, not just doing it right, but understanding why he’s doing what he’s doing. That’s really nice to see.
“With Cade … you see the ball come out of his hands a lot better. And [for] Jarren is to come in here and complete as many balls as he did on the first day versus our defense is really good. He’s throwing accurate balls.”
Of himself, Rosier said: “Last year, I was kind of understanding the offense as it was. This year, I’ve got a good grasp of it. I’ve got to show guys that I am the guy and I have to take us to the ACC Championship [Game] again and this time, win it.”