The anticipation is over. Kirby Freeman, the unheralded back-up to Kyle Wright most of his career, will start under center for the Miami Hurricanes in 2007, beginning this Saturday against Marshall.
This comes after an off-season of guessing by outsiders, as new head coach Randy Shannon opened all starting positions for competition, including quarterback. Shannon’s announcement also follows a fierce and secretive competition for the job during spring and summer practices.
“As a coach, you have to make tough decisions and we felt like Kirby gives us the best opportunity to win games,” Shannon said at a press conference Tuesday. “Neither one of them did anything to lose the battle. Somebody has to be the backup, and somebody has to be the starter.”
Kyle Wright, the former Gatorade High School Player of the Year, has struggled at Miami, with a completion percentage under 60 percent. But Shannon has strongly emphasized the fact that the competition is never over.
“I always tell the guys, ‘You always need two quarterbacks because all this competition makes the other guy better,'” Shannon said. “It’s like the way Steve [Walsh] used to sit back and watch Vinny [Testaverde] and [Craig] Erickson used to sit back and watch Walsh.”
On the flip side, Shannon has pointed out that whoever starts on Saturday has the full support of the coaching staff, and he is not eager to switch without good reason.
“Whoever your starting quarterback is who you’ve got to go with,” Shannon said last week, expressing his commitment to his choice. “It’s just like anybody on the defensive line, linebacker, running back. A starter is a starter. You go with him and have confidence in him getting it done.”
It’s been a long road for Freeman, as he was the backup to Wright for two years. After losing out on the starting job last season, there were some whispers of a possible transfer. After talking with former Head Coach Larry Coker, however, he recommitted to the program, even getting a tattoo of a “U” on his back. Now, it appears the commitment has paid off, and Freeman will be the leader of the offense this season.
“(Shannon)’s given me an opportunity, and I’m going to run with it,” Freeman said to reporters after Tuesday’s practices. “I’m overwhelmed; this is everything I’ve worked for.”
Freeman, a junior from Brownwood, Texas, replaced Wright after he injured his thumb against Virginia Tech in last year’s game. He started four games, including a bowl victory in the MPC Computers Bowl over Nevada. Freeman will now look to build on that, and continue growing into 2007.
“This is a new era of Miami football, and I’m proud to say I was there, I was a part of it.”
Matthew Bunch may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.