Team counts on Brad Kaaya to carry new-look offense

How does Miami recover from losing its top rusher, its top two receiving threats and three key offensive linemen in a single offseason? Having a star quarterback helps. Brad Kaaya will have to carry an enormous load this year for the Hurricanes, especially now that junior running back Gus “The Bus” Edwards is out for the season, but the sophomore is up to the challenge.

Duke Johnson, Phillip Dorsett and Clive Walford are all in the NFL now, so it’s up to Kaaya to pick up the slack in his second year as starting quarterback. In addition to losing his three best playmakers from a year ago, the six-foot-four, 210-pound quarterback will be protected by five offensive linemen this season with just 22 combined starts in their careers. Two of them, right tackle Sunny Odogwu and left guard Nick Gall, have never started for the Canes.

As long as the players on this new-look offense study and prepare properly for each game, Kaaya trusts the group will succeed in 2015.

“Preparation is key,” Kaaya said after practice Tuesday. “That goes for everyone, but especially the young guys.”

The Los Angeles native knows a thing or two about stepping into an offense with unfamiliar personnel around him. The 2014 ACC Rookie of the Year led the conference in yards-per-attempt (8.5) and in passing TDs (26) last season. This year’s offense isn’t as talented or experienced as 2014’s squad, but there are still dangerous playmakers for Kaaya to get the ball to.

Sophomore running back Joseph Yearby and freshman Mark Walton, a top-recruit out of Booker T. Washington, should get the bulk of the carries this season. Yearby carried the ball 86 times for 509 yards for a healthy average of 5.9 yards a carry as a freshman, and Walton has received rave reviews throughout preseason camp. Backing them up is sophomore Trayone “Choc” Gray, a converted quarterback out of Miami Carol City Senior High with big play potential.

Redshirt senior receiver Rashawn Scott, who missed most of 2013 and all of 2014 with shoulder injuries, is healthy and ready to make up for lost time. Scott showed promise as a sophomore when he caught 35 passes for 512 yards and three touchdowns.

Senior receiver Herb Waters and junior Stacy Coley should play better after disappointing seasons in 2014. The duo caught just 43 passes for 461 yards and one touchdown last year. If they struggle early on, six-foot-five freshman Lawrence Cager could find himself in the starting lineup sooner than expected.

Kaaya was put in a difficult situation last season when he unexpectedly had to start right away in his first year on the team. He responded by becoming the first true freshman quarterback to throw for 3,000 yards and 25 touchdowns in the last decade. With Kaaya in charge, this offense is in good hands.