Everything seems to work in the great circle of life – or in this case – football.
Head Coach Al Golden announced Sunday freshman quarterback Brad Kaaya will start in the season opener against Louisville on Sept. 1.
The true freshman drew everyone’s attention in Southern California in his two seasons as a starter at Chaminade-Madonna College Prep. Kaaya threw for 5,730 yards and 40 touchdowns. His senior year, he set a Chaminade record with 3,855 yards and 27 touchdowns. However, the journey he took to step in the shoes of Kelly, Testaverde, Toretta and Dorsey took much determination, and a little bit of fate.
After the 2013 season ended and Stephen Morris declared for the draft, it seemed fifth-year senior Ryan Williams, after serving in the shadow of Jacory Harris and Morris for so long, would finally get the chance to wield the torch. That chance was derailed with an ACL tear during spring practice, although Williams hopes to be back by the time the Canes play Nebraska on Sept. 22.
Next, redshirt-freshman Kevin Olsen, younger brother of NFL wide-receiver Greg Olsen, was ready to take the offensive reins until Olsen failed a drug test this summer. With these two out for the first game, the starting job was pursued by the senior transfer from Kansas, Jake Heaps, and Kaaya.
Nearly eight months ago, the 2013 season ended flat for the Hurricanes in Orlando, losing to the Louisville Cardinals in the Russell Athletic Bowl 36-9.
This was not the way it was supposed to end. The Canes stunned the college football world, or at least within a 50 mile radius in central Florida, when they upset the 12th-ranked Florida Gators at home.
By early November, the 7-0, seventh-ranked Canes prepared to fly up to Tallahassee to take on the third-ranked undefeated Florida State Seminoles. The Canes surprised many by making a game of it by halftime, only trailing by a touchdown. The second half was an entirely different story; the Noles shutout the Canes 20-0, and sophomore stud RB Duke Johnson’s season came to a sudden end when he broke his ankle in the 4th quarter.
Back-to-back losses followed. The first, a rainy homecoming game against Virginia Tech, then a loss to upstart Duke in Durham. Even two wins against Virginia and Pittsburgh to close the season couldn’t launch the Canes into the ACC Championship Game.
So now the Canes are back, against who else but Louisville on Labor Day night. The Canes have a difficult task ahead, as the Cardinals have held one of the best home-field advantages in recent years, losing only two home games in the past two seasons.
One of the most exciting players to return for his senior season is LB Denzel Perryman. Last year, the man they call The President and the team’s defensive MVP was a semi-finalist for the Butkus Award, a prize recognizing the best collegiate linebacker. Perryman wearing #52 at linebacker doesn’t hurt, either, drawing comparisons to former Hurricanes great, NFL Pro-Bowler and two-time Superbowl champion Ray Lewis.
This season is also a chance for RB Duke Johnson to return to prime form. Before his season-ending ankle injury, Johnson ran for 920 yards and six touchdowns in eight games.
So buckle up, Canes fans! The 2014 season is right around the corner, brimming with possibility. Everyone, including Miami, Florida State and Bethune-Cookman starts out with a fresh record.
Who knows what the season will bring?