CORAL GABLES — After he was named starting quarterback for UM, Malik Rosier didn’t handle the spotlight as well as his coach hoped.
For “a day or two,” Mark Richt said, Rosier was “not as sharp.”
And then, when UM officially opened Bethune-Cookman week with a Sunday night practice, Rosier “lit it up.”
“You couldn’t have thrown it any better than he threw it,” Richt said. “You couldn’t have made any better decisions than he was making.”
Miami hopes Rosier, a redshirt junior who takes over for departed three-year starter Brad Kaaya, keeps it up until December, at least. Quarterback play is a significant question mark for a Hurricanes team projected to have an excellent defense, lots of skill-position talent, a manageable schedule and aspirations of making their first ACC title game appearance.
Rosier, a 22-year-old from Mobile, Ala., could help them realize that goal. He won’t be expected to match Kaaya, who set Miami records for passing yards, attempts and completions. He will need to have a steady hand and a steely mind.
“I think for the quarterback position, just the pressure of being the man is going to happen,” Richt said. “It’s already happening. He’s living it out as we speak. He’s the guy. He has to perform every day in practice. He knows he has to perform in the game. The game is different – the lights are on, cameras are on, the games count, as far as your record is concerned.
“It’s time to play against somebody who has had bad intentions towards you.”
Saturday’s opener against the Wildcats (12:30 p.m., ACC regional networks) should help him get comfortable. B-CU, normally a strong FCS-level outfit, went 4-6 last year, though it won four of its final five games. Miami, which beat Bethune 45-0 to start 2015, has shut out its last two FCS opponents.
Rosier, who was not made available to the media this week, beat out redshirt sophomore Evan Shirreffs and a pair of true freshmen, N’Kosi Perry and Cade Weldon. Rosier is the most experienced of the group, having started one game — at Duke, Oct. 31, 2015 — and played in 10. He 31-of-61 passes for 370 yards, with two touchdowns and three interceptions. None of the others have thrown a pass for Miami.
Richt said he’s unsure if Rosier is the only one who’ll play Saturday – or the rest of the season. Shirreffs would be first up. UM hasn’t decided whether to redshirt Perry, a high-level, but raw talent, and Weldon.
Naturally, Rosier’s teammates have been nothing but supportive since he was named the starter last Tuesday.
“Most of all, we’ve been telling him to not go into it too amped, but not too low, either,” senior tight end Chris Herndon said. “Just to go into it level, focus and take it play by play. Also, not to get too riled up about what happened. Just breathe and focus.”
And don’t be quiet, either. Rosier, whose speaking voice is smooth and Southern, is still developing his command of the huddle.
“I think he can be louder,” offensive coordinator Thomas Brown said. “Sometimes he gets a little too cool at times. For the most part I think he’s pretty good.”
Since Ken Dorsey led the Hurricanes to their fifth national championship in 2001, quarterback play has been a mixed bag at UM. Rosier, who has played in 10 games at Miami and started Oct. 31, 2015 after Kaaya was injured, becomes the seventh quarterback to start the opener since Dorsey, joining Kaaya (2014-16), Stephen Morris (2012-13), Jacory Harris (2008-11), Kirby Freeman (2007), Kyle Wright (2005-06) and Brock Berlin (2003-04).
Kaaya, Morris and Harris racked up stats, but only Harris (2009) beat Florida State. Berlin led a thrilling comeback against Florida in 2003. Aside from that, there were plenty of forgettable games.
This, from a school that became “Quarterback U” as it pumped out first-rounders, national champions and Heisman winners. Last week, Rosier said he was eager to follow in the footsteps of Jim Kelly, Bernie Kosar, Vinny Testaverde, Steve Walsh, Craig Erickson and Gino Torretta.
“It’s just huge to follow up this legacy of great quarterbacks,” Rosier said, acknowledging he had yet to process the weight of the role.
He’s had time to think. Now it’s time to go.
“He practiced well again today,” Richt said. “He’s probably over that little feeling of, ‘How do I act now?’”