Barry Jackson

Here’s one area where UM’s Perry, off a strong spring, must prove he’s Martell’s equal

UM QBs Perry and Martell during spring practice

UM quarterbacks N’Kosi Perry (5) and Tate Martell (18) during spring practice session No. 7 on April 2, 2019.
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UM quarterbacks N’Kosi Perry (5) and Tate Martell (18) during spring practice session No. 7 on April 2, 2019.

When UM offensive coordinator Dan Enos discussed what he wants in a starting quarterback this offseason, I found this line interesting:

“You’ve got to have the mind of a coach and the game of a player.”

One of the many benefits of Tate Martell coming to UM is that his mere presence has reminded N’Kosi Perry and Jarren Williams that they need to know this offense backward and forward and not rely on teammates or coaches to bail them out.

Martell, you see, has a reputation for taking care of that sort of stuff, of being prepared mentally.

Perry and Williams cannot simply think “we got this” and bypass extra studying and film sessions.

Though he clearly improved this spring — on and off the field — Perry’s preparation was a problem last year, UM people say. Former coach Mark Richt had no confidence in his ability to get UM out of bad plays and into better ones. Center Tyler Gauthier was given some of the responsibilities that ideally would be handled by the quarterback.

Enos won’t allow that. But it’s not just Enos verbalizing that to Perry that should make a difference. It’s also Perry knowing that these are areas where Martell excels.

Same with Williams, who lost focus after losing the starting battle last August but has regained it this spring, according to UM sources.

But here’s the good news, with regard to Perry and Williams: They have appeared to get the message. Their work habits have improved this offseason, and they’re taking this more seriously, UM people say.

Though Perry won the spring MVP quarterback award and might be a slight favorite for the starting job, two UM football officials insist the job is wide open and all three have a legitimate chance to win it. Coach Manny Diaz said all three will start even when practices begin July 25 or 26.

Enos said when he arrived, what impressed him about Martell was “his ability to make reads and go through progressions in the pocket. Had a very good friend on that [Buckeyes] staff and spoke to him at great length about Tate before he came here. He spoke volumes about Tate’s preparation, mind-set, on and off the field, things he did in his leadership ability.”

Tom Lemming, the dean of high school recruiting, said when Martell was in high school at Bishop Gorman in Las Vegas, he spent time with Martell and his coach “watching film on Dean Martin Drive in Las Vegas.”

What Lemming witnessed was a player who was smart, engaged and could decipher defenses at a young age. As a 16-year-old, Martell was watching tape and knew its importance.

Plus, “he’s got instincts, has terrific skills as a runner and can thread the needle [in tight passing windows],” Lemming said. “He’s a big-time quarterback. He can pick things apart but can tuck and run for yards. He’s a defensive nightmare because you don’t know if he will throw or run with it. He can do both exceptionally well.”

Lemming predicts Martell will join Ken Dorsey as the best UM quarterbacks this century.

“Without a doubt he should be as good as Dorsey or [at least] Kyle Wright, and I saw all three,” Lemming said. “He’s a game-breaking-type quarterback.”

Lemming’s comments about Martell’s physical ability and upside aren’t really the point here; Martell still must get better with accuracy and still has to win the job in August. To his credit, he made significant improvements after a shaky start in spring ball.

The point here is that Martell knows how to study film. From all indications, he’s diligent about it.

And that’s put the onus on Perry and Williams to do the same, to never again leave UM in a situation like last season, when Miami had a quarterback in Perry who couldn’t be trusted to make simple audibles.

Diaz cites decision-making as one of the major criteria that will determine this starting job. And do you know how you get good at that?

By knowing what to expect from your opponents and by knowing every nuance of their defense from film study. Enos will keep the pressure on his players to do it, and Martell’s seriousness about this aspect of preparation will put pressure on Perry and Williams to keep up.

When UM begins practice in two weeks, it would behoove all three quarterbacks to have an understanding of the wrinkles of the Gators defense, enough to impress Enos that they’ve used their off time wisely.

Perry already has appeared to improve in reading defenses and going through his progressions, based on his spring performance. Now let’s see if he and Williams can become students of the game and have “the mind of a coach” that Enos wants in his all quarterbacks.

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