UM quarterback N’Kosi Perry is a winner in first career start
He is anointed. He is The Chosen One. That is not the same as knowing yet that he is the right choice, the hand capable of shaping the future.
We are just finding out about N’Kosi Perry. We will learn a lot more Saturday.
“It’s something I’ve been looking forward to my whole life,” says the 20-year-old young man in the bright light.
Perry meant growing up in Ocala, discovering you could throw a football, signing with Miami, becoming a starter five games into your redshirt freshman season, and now this — facing rival Florida State in the biggest home game of the season Saturday at 3:30 at Hard Rock on ABC.
Canes fans have been waiting for this, too. Not their whole lives, but for the past 16 years, anyway. They have been waiting for the Next Great Quarterback, the first special one since Ken Dorsey departed in 2002. They are waiting to see if Perry is that guy.
Already, we have seen the desperation of UM fans coalesce into a willpower that Perry is the answer, the next big thing.
A Miami Herald online poll ran during those recent couple of days when coach Mark Richt played coy on his quarterback decision. It asked whether Malik Rosier or Perry should start against . North Carolina.
The kid we’re not sure about yet won with 93 percent of the vote — 93 percent.
That is remarkable because the known and capable Rosier was 14-4 as a UM starter, while the largely unknown Perry would be making his first collegiate start. Also remarkable, because, in an online poll, the question could be “Would you prefer happiness or misery?” and you would likely not get 93 percent consensus.
Don’t take it personally, Malik. It isn’t you, exactly. It’s more the weight of history.
Miami was called “Quarterback U,” once. It actually was.
There were All-Americans Fran Curci and George Mira, way back in the day. There was Jim Kelly to jump-start the halcyon days. Bernie Kosar, Steve Walsh, Craig Erickson, Gino Toretta and Ken Dorsey led the five national championships. Vinny Testaverde and Torretta won Heisman Trophies.
But since Dorsey and that last national title in 2001, the position of excellence has become the position of just OK.
Post-Dorsey, a parade of Brock Berlin, Kyle Wright, Robert Marve, Jacory Harris, Stephen Morris, Brad Kaaya and Rosier all have had a big chance to steer UM back to elite, and all have been various shades of pretty good to something’s missing. A couple have been prolific statistically — Kaaya set a program record for career passing yards — but they all fallen short of being the answer.
It was Kaaya, despite all those bountiful stats, who was encouraged by then-new coach Richt to leave early for the NFL. Richt wanted a dual-threat at QB, which Kaaya was not.
Now it is Rosier whom Richt has decided isn’t good enough. Rosier was that dual-threat guy, but he wilted late last season and never solved his inaccuracy issues.
The lesson in turning to Perry?
Life is too short to not be special at the most important position. Maybe you can get by with that if you are Alabama with first-round draft picks all over the field. But Richt has discovered that, for UM, excellence at quarterback is a shortcut to the elite level Miami strives to get back to.
UM’s defense is really good. It has enough surrounding playmakers on offense. Now we see if Perry can lift the whole thing and lead it forward in a way Rosier could not.
Richt has groomed his Heir to the Air slowly. Smartly.
After sitting out all last season Perry dipped a toe into college ball in Game 2 this season, off the bench against Savannah State in a zero pressure home game Miami would win 77-0.
There was a step up in competition as Perry came off the bench again versus FIU, also at home. Still negligible pressure, though. UM led 31-0 into the fourth quarter before coasting 31-17.
Perry got his first college start last week, again at home, versus North Carolina. Another clear step up in caliber of foe. It was Miami’s ACC. Still low-pressure for Perry, though — by design. The Tar Heels are down. Perry threw only 12 passes as UM won 47-10.
Saturday, then, is Perry’s biggest challenge, maybe his first real test.
Yes, the Seminoles are only 3-2. Yes, Miami is 4-1, 17th ranked and a 13-point favorite. But forget that. Perry — who is 34 for 51 for 442 yards and seven touchdowns but also three interceptions — will be on his most intense proving ground yet. FSU has playmakers of a level Perry has not yet faced. The rivalry factor torques the intensity further. Perry also inherits a run of six consecutive UM home losses to FSU. Kid QB was in first grade when the Canes last beat the Noles in MIami, in 2004.
All that is known for sure about Perry so far is that Richt hopes he’s the answer and Canes fans fervently do, too.
The finding out accelerates on Saturday.