Starting quarterback decision looms for Mark Richt, Miami Hurricanes; post-practice injury, OL updates

Mark Richt speaks to reporters after Monday’s practice. (Matt Porter/The Palm Beach Post)

CORAL GABLES — A decision is coming on a starting quarterback, Mark Richt said after Monday’s practice, but he said he hasn’t made it yet.

His thought process for the next couple days: “Just keep practicing and keep observing and  keep evaluating.”

“We’ll probably sometime (Tuesday) talk to the players about what we’re going to do as far as naming a starter for the first ballgame,” Richt said earlier Monday on WQAM. Richt is not scheduled to speak to the media until Thursday, after UM holds its final scrimmage of camp.  That will  be a game simulation, of the first half of Miami’s Sept. 2 season-opener against Bethune-Cookman.

On Monday Richt continued to observe, in order of how they took practice reps, Malik RosierEvan ShirreffsN’Kosi Perry and Cade Weldon. The first two, who steered the first-string offense in last Saturday’s scrimmage, are the apparent leaders. Richt has said the de-facto veterans are leading the way, and they have the numbers to back it up.

Rosier, a redshirt junior with one start (in 2015) and 13 games to his credit, and redshirt sophomore Shirreffs, who hasn’t thrown a pass in a game, outstanding stats in the first two scrimmages. The environment was controlled — as in, the offense and defense play from a predetermined down and distance, at a given spot on the field. However, Richt would love for quarterback — or quarterbacks — he plays this season to produce the passer ratings, completion percentages and touchdown-to-interception ratios Rosier and Shirreffs have so far.

In the two scrimmages, Rosier is a combined 25-of-39 for 441 yards, with five touchdowns and an interception. That’s a 64 percent completion rate, and a quarterback rating of 196.27. He, like Shirreffs, has mostly faced UM’s second-string defense. Shirreffs has had a better completion percentage (69.7) and passer rating (185.02). He is 23-of-33 for 359 yards, with three touchdowns and a pick.

Perry, a true freshman, hasn’t done  as well. He has been facing mostly first-string defenders — players who have helped Miami earn a preseason rep of having one of the nation’s best defenses — and is completing passes at a 44 percent rate, and a 95.3 efficiency rating. Through two scrimmages, he is 12-for-27 for 148 yards, with a touchdown and a pick. Fellow newcomer Weldon has completed 3-of-15 passes for 51 yards, with a touchdown and a pick.

Richt on scrimmage stats, as it relates to quarterbacks: “I evaluate everything. Stats are good too.”

“But I will say Malik did very well, Evan did very well — and they did get the reps with the No. 1 unit,” he said. “N’Kosi and Cade struggled a little bit more. Mostly, when you go with the No. 2 [offensive] unit vs. the No. 1 offense, it’s not as easy to have a good day.”

Richt said both Perry and Weldon are “outstanding players’’ who “have got the skillset you want. They got the right learning ability, they’ve got the right character in my opinion. … But you’re racing against the clock.”

Injury updates: Senior left tackle Kc McDermott, seen riding the bike before practice, “got his foot stepped on” in Saturday’s scrimmage. “We don’t think it’s anything too serious, but we don’t want to keep aggravating it at this point,” Richt said. “We wanted to let it calm down a little bit before we put him back in there. We think he’s fine.”

UM is being cautious with Ahmmon Richards‘ hamstring, not wanting a strain to linger beyond camp. Richt said earlier Monday the Hurricanes were hopeful to have their top wideout for the opener. Do not be surprised if UM  sits Richards for a game against an FCS opponent.

McDermott’s absence put Trevor Darling at left tackle, with true freshman Corey Gaynor taking Darling’s spot at left guard.  Gaynor is emerging as a top interior reserve. Richt said the choice to make Gaynor a temporary first-stringer over redshirt sophomore Hayden Mahoney was “mostly” to get Mahoney reps as a No. 2 center. “I didn’t want (Gaynor) to go eight plays  in a row,” Richt said. Mahoney would likely be the first guard off the bench in a game, with Gaynor the first center. “I’d say he’d probably be the guy,” Richt said.  

Starting defensive tackle Kendrick Norton called Gaynor “tenacious.” Of Mahoney, he said, “I like him, too.”

Richt encouraged by O-line: Richt expressed confidence in the starting group of (left to right) McDermott, Darling, center Tyler Gauthier, right tackle Navaughn Donaldson and right tackle Tyree St. Louis, calling it a “great group.” He also believes Miami is reasonably close to having a solid group of backups.

He has 10 offensive lineman “who can physically do it,” but aren’t reliable enough mentally. Mahoney and Gaynor, he said, are “knocking on the door” of the first unit. Gaynor, Richt said, got “a million reps” when  senior Nick  Linder left the program  last week and is the second-string center.

Richt said Miami is to get “a little bit more” from two tackles, true freshman Kai-Leon Herbert and redshirt sophomore George Brown Jr. At guard, redshirt junior Jahair Jones “has his moments where you’re like — he can physically do it, things start happening fast. We have to make sure he has his assignments right.”

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