Mark Richt isn’t worried about recruiting wide receivers now that his standout, veteran quarterback, Brad Kaaya, has moved on to the pros.
“The thing is, when you play with a veteran quarterback when you’re a freshman, you might not have a veteran quarterback when it means the most to you in your career,” he said. “The big thing they understand is there’s a tremendous talent base within this quarterback group. Whoever rises will get the ball to you and showcase the things that you can do within the team concept.
“More than likely, there’s a good chance that whoever gets the job can grow with whoever comes in as a receiver.”
The only “veteran” Miami returns at quarterback is Malik Rosier, who will be a redshirt junior. He has appeared in 10 games, one as a starter.
Richt spoke about the impending quarterback battle, recruiting and more in a year-in-review conference call with beat reporters Thursday.
In spring drills, Rosier, last year’s backup, will jockey for position with Jack Allison, a former four-star recruit who redshirted last year; redshirt sophomore-to-be Evan Shirreffs, incoming freshman Cade Weldon and walk-on Vincent Testaverde (read a breakdown of their strengths and weaknesses here). Another freshman, N’Kosi Perry, is considered to have the highest ceiling of the bunch, but he will not arrive until the summer.
“First of all, everybody’s got a shot,” Richt said. “We’ll be excited about the competition. That tends to bring out the best of people. When guys are competing, and they know there’s not only a realistic chance of being second-team but being a starter, that changes things for guys.”
He made it clear that Allison, last year’s top recruit, “had every opportunity” to win the backup job last year in camp and didn’t.
“We weren’t going to sit here and say, ‘He’s trying to beat out Brad,’ because that’s not a realistic thing to say,” Richt said. “But there was a battle for second team, and he was in town. … It’s been a full year now. He knows a lot more about the system, and he knows there’s a lot more at stake. I’m expecting him to compete.”
Shirreffs, Richt said, “does a really good job of learning what to do and taking it from the meeting room to the practice field. He’s very consistent in what he does. He’ll definitely be in the race.”
Aside from being Miami’s all-time leading passer, Kaaya was the unquestioned leader of the team. Whomever ascends to replace him will “have earned the right to lead,” Richt said. “I’ve seen a lot of guys who are backups that had all the characteristics of leadership, but maybe that’s not their role yet. When they take over that starting position, that changes things for them. I think it’ll happen naturally.”
Reflecting on Kaaya’s decision, Richt said he was “being real” with him, providing him all the good information he could, and Kaaya decided “what was most important in his life. That’s kind of what it came down to.”
Richt said two players who were considering transferring, running back Gus Edwards and defensive tackle Courtel Jenkins, “haven’t said anything to me. … I’m not saying they’re not considering it, but neither one has come to me with anything.”
At tight end, Chris Herndon will be a senior and the unquestioned showcase player. But without David Njoku around, Miami probably won’t run as many two-tight end sets. That’s unless Michael Irvin II and Jovani Haskins, both freshmen who were suspended for the bowl game, can rise up. “We’ve got a lot of growing up to do at that position,” Richt said.
Richt took the low-key approach when asked about the ceiling of his defensive front seven, which exceeded all expectations. “If everybody comes back with the right attitude of turning it up a notch, even above what we did last offseason, get in the best shape possible and continues to play hard, we’ll be in good shape,” he said. “It’s a good bunch.”
Finally, here’s Richt, reflecting on his first year at his alma mater:
“I guess it’s kind of two-fold. In one sense I feel we gained a lot of ground on trying to be great with a team that could handle adversity, and go through a tough time in mid-season and came out of it with five victories and a bowl victory. A lot of positive things happened throughout the season and especially toward the end. I thought that was a very good sign.
“But then you also look back at what could have been and you kick yourself here and there. It’s a learning experience for everybody. We did a lot of great things. I think we’ve created a good foundation, created a good bit of momentum going into the 2017 season and I’m looking forward to these guys becoming great.”