This hasn’t been an epiphany in the last week. Mark Richt -- himself a former Miami Hurricanes quarterback -- has known it ever since he arrived at UM as the designated savior.
The Canes needed to be better (much) at the most important position. Not eventually. Now.
He knew Brad Kaaya wasn’t the answer. This young man was OK but one-dimensional. That’s why, when Kaaya opted to leave early for the NFL draft, while so many outsiders saw it as a major blow to the program, Richt was fine with it. Pleased, even.
Malik Rosier, up next, had the chance to be what Richt wanted. A dual-threat QB. Except that Rosier proved inconsistent, and , mostly, too inaccurate. He led a team that was once 10-0 and ranked No. 2 in the nation last season, but failed to close the deal.
So the search continued. It intensified.
It has come to define this 2018 UM season.: A head coach, still looking for his magic man.
It is why the Great Audition continued Thursday night as No. 16-ranked UM routed visiting North Carolina, 47-10, improving to 4-1 overall in its Atlantic Coast Conference opener.
N’Kosi Perry, presumptive heir to the air, was fine in the redshirt-freshman’s first career start. He completed 8 of 12 passes for 125 yards with one touchdown and one interception. It was minimal involvement, minimal pressure. The game wasn’t his to win. Rosier would have won it as well.. Heck, you might have,. Richt knows it.
The finding out goes on. Florida State comes next. Even struggling, the Seminoles are a step up in competition from the Tar Heels. So we shall continue to see.
Richt has been great for Miami, let there be no doubt.. As advertised. Into his third season here, he has the program either “back” or unmistakably headed there. Canes fans collectively are as excited as they’ve been in some 15 years, maybe since the last of five national championships in 2001 -- and rightly.
But this is Richt’s glaring, unfulfilled imperative -- finding a great quarterback. Not an acceptable one. A great one.
The season-opening loss to LSU sort of elevated that on the coach’s to-do list.
This program can bridge the gap between where UM is and where it needs to be (Alabama, Clemson) with gradual progress, with steady recruiting, but Richt knows he can cross that bridge quicker with a dynamic, difference-making quarterback.
It isn’t Rosier, the past week has suggested.
It might be Perry.
Or it might it be Cade Weldon. Or Jarren Williams. Or somebody not yet recruited, a blip on the future radar?
It needs to be somebody.
Maybe Nick Saban can win championships with OK, interchangeable quarterbacking, but that isn’t a formula you’d want to rely on.
The presumption coming out of last week’s comfy win over FIU was that Perry had wrested the job from Rosier. Let’s see moving forward. Versus FSU and beyond. Because easing past FIU didn’t tell us. And neither did Thursday night.
Rosier right now is the ultimate insurance, the experienced safety net. The perfect backup.
But it’s the ceiling Richt and UM need to be staring at. The upside.
We knew what we had in Kaaya. And in Rosier.
Time to fully explore Perry. And beyond?
If there is a great quarterback in this program, it is time to identify him. And to let him fly.