Mark Richt on Brad Kaaya’s November turnaround, NFL draft tidbits, David Njoku

Brad Kaaya was at his best in November. (Getty Images)

Brad Kaaya was at his best in November. (Getty Images)

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Brad Kaaya, who struggled through October like the rest of his teammates, closed his junior season with his best month. In November, Kaaya threw for 1,266 yards, 10 touchdowns and one interception (which came on a ball that bounced off Chris Herndon‘s hands and into those of a Virginia linebacker).

What changed?

First, none of the teams Miami played in November were especially renowned for their pass coverage. In opponent passer rating, Pittsburgh (111th of FBS teams), Virginia (117th), North Carolina State (62nd) and Duke (110th) didn’t score high.

But it’s worth noting Miami was able to protect Kaaya against three top-30 teams in sacks. Pitt (10th), N.C. State (25th) and Duke (28th) were able to rush the passer, while Virginia (62nd) was less impressive).

“I think we blocked better. That helps,” said Richt, who got solid play from center Alex Gall and left guard Tyler Gauthier, both inserted into the lineup because of injuries. UM was encouraged by Kc McDermott‘s play at left tackle, after his move from left guard.

Richt, speaking on his weekly coaches’ show, also said he had to “reteach” his quarterback to find his touch. Kaaya’s stats was hurt by drops; at the midway point, no Power Five team was flubbing passes at a higher rate than UM. But Kaaya’s decision-making was at times questionable. No only did he miss receivers, he threw three interceptions in each of the first two months.

“I think early on, he was trying to throw the ball where we get it or nobody gets it,” Richt said, “but a lot of times, nobody got it. I had to reteach him. I had to say it better. Throw the ball where we have a better chance to catch it than they do. … When he did that, everything changed.”

Now Kaaya, who became Miami’s career passing yards leader (9,686) in the season finale against Duke, enters the bowl game with a chance to add to his legacy.

Even with the midseason stumble, he’s one electric bowl game from having the best statistical season in Miami quarterback history: 26 completions, 35 attempts and 393 yards would give him new single-season marks in those categories (he would need eight touchdowns to be No. 1).

More career marks: Kaaya is five touchdowns from tying Jacory Harris (70) for second all-time at UM, and 16 attempts and seven completions from surpassing Harris for No. 1 in those categories. His career completion percentage (60.3) is third. He is also 314 yards from joining N.C. State’s Phillip Rivers, Clemson’s Tajh Boyd and Duke’s Thaddeus Lewis as the only 10,000-yard passers in ACC history.

Now, about that big question: Is Kaaya staying or leaving?

No word on that. UM sources told The Post no one (aside from Joe Yearby) is rushing their decision, with coaches on the road recruiting and the deadline to enter more than six weeks away (Jan. 16).

We’re well into the time of the year where anonymous NFL personnel are weighing in on prospects via websites. Here’s WalterFootball.com, which pegs Kaaya as a potential second-to-fourth-rounder, should he choose to come out:

“One general manager of a playoff team that is very skilled at quarterback evaluation said they had Kaaya as fifth-round pick. They feel he has no mobility, can’t throw well while under pressure, and while his arm is decent, he doesn’t blow them away. Two other teams said they graded Kaaya as a late third-, early fourth-rounder. Multiple teams also expressed that they have concerns about Kaaya lacking leadership.”

Richt has said he hopes players don’t listen to that talk, but if those are widely held beliefs, he might wind up working with his prize pupil for another year.

That same website, which did not have Kaaya among its 50 best draft-eligible players, rated David Njoku No. 27.

“That guy, he is a pretty thing,” Richt said Monday on WQAM. “He can run and he has a really good ability to run after catch. He has a great stiff arm and great balance. A lot of guys can catch, but not many can have that ability to run fast and have some ability to make people miss. He has a determination to score. A lot of guys are just happy to catch it. He loves to try and score.”

Richt said Kaaya and Njoku were “considering it, but I don’t think anybody is a slam dunk that they are staying or going. I think they are going to keep an open mind and listen to all the information.” 

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