In 2017, starting quarterback Malik Rosier led the Miami football program to heights it hasn’t reached in years. But he also left the team with a number of questions.
What if he was able to complete one of many deep passes to a wide-open Ahmmon Richards in the loss to Pittsburgh? What if the pass to Jeff Thomas was thrown just a little bit further to give UM a chance to score on the opening drive against Clemson? Would this have changed anything? Regardless, the games were marked by a multitude of missed opportunities on offense.
And that started and ended with the man under center and the struggles he faced.
Regardless of what happens in the Orange Bowl against Wisconsin Dec. 30, the uncertainty surrounding Rosier’s ability to consistently throw accurate passes means there will likely be an open competition for the starting quarterback spot come 2018.
Head coach Mark Richt said “focus, discipline and accuracy” made Rosier stand out in August.
“He showed up focused every day on his job,” he said. “He was disciplined in his fundamentals. He was hitting his targets and he did a very good job.”
While Rosier, who will be a senior next season, did throw 25 touchdowns this season, he completed just 49 percent of his passes in the final six games. That’s just not going to get it done. Accuracy can’t be a problem for a team with aspirations to win the national championship in the near future.
Rosier will have some talented quarterbacks to compete against next fall.
Now, freshman N’Kosi Perry is going to make Rosier work for his starting job. Even though Perry has yet to play a minute in a college football game, his talent and potential to both throw and run the ball at a high level excites Canes fans.
Many believe he will be the dual-threat quarterback to flourish in Richt’s system and help bring Miami back to the top.
Cade Weldon is also a name Miami fans may get used to hearing. The pro–style quarterback will be entering his sophomore year and has an accurate arm. He is the son of Casey Weldon, runner-up to Desmond Howard for the Heisman Trophy in 1991. Then coaching at FSU, Richt was Casey’s offensive coordinator.
“The young guys need to know what to do and own it for a while before they can compete at a high level at that position,” Richt said. “But you can see the skillset of Perry and Weldon. You can see them making plays that you are like, ‘OK, this guy not only is smart but he has the ability to make plays.'”
Come 2018, they might reach that level.
The only other quarterback that had playing time in 2017 was sophomore Evan Shirreffs. He was Rosier’s competition for the starting job at the beginning of the season, but his brief moments of playing time weren’t pretty. Shirreffs completed just two of his seven passes for only 16 yards this season.
“Evan knows the system,” Richt said. “He knows our defense. He knows how our system reacts to our defense. Certainly, that was an advantage.”
Miami will also have incoming freshman and four-star recruit Jarren Williams. The U.S. Army All-American is rated as the No. 6-ranked dual-threat quarterback by 247Sports.
While Rosier did have problems throughout the season, he had his highlight moments. Against Florida State, he executed the drive to win the game. Playing against No. 3-ranked Notre Dame, his mobility allowed Miami to jump out to a huge lead and go on to beat the Fighting Irish.
But the problem was always Rosier’s consistency. Despite playing a key part in bringing the Hurricanes back into the national spotlight, fans just never knew what to expect, not only from game to game but also from quarter to quarter.
“I missed multiple receivers, and it’s something I’ve got to fix,” Rosier said after the loss to Pittsburgh. “There are multiple times where we play lackadaisical in the first half, and in the second half, we explode. That’s something I’ve got to fix. I got to motivate the guys in the first half, so the second half doesn’t have to be some sort of miracle.”
UM tried this method again against Clemson, and it backfired. Badly.
Second-half wins were a crucial part of Miami’s season, but reliance on this path to victory really hurt the team in its final games.
The Hurricanes need better, and that starts with the quarterback.
Whoever is chosen as the 2018 starter will have to stay consistent in both halves for UM to have a chance to make the College Football Playoff next season.