Toledo QB Logan Woodside could be best passer Miami faces in 2017

Logan Woodside (Getty Images)

[Miami offense trying to regain timing, post-Irma]

[Hamstring strain still has Richards questionable]

LAKE BUENA VISTA — When Mark Richt returned to his alma mater to coach, he wanted to focus on quarterbacks. His own, that is.

A head coach must know every aspect of an opponent, but Richt is so involved with Miami’s offense that he often defers specific questions about opposing offenses to his trusted defensive coordinator, Manny Diaz.

However, the quarterback the 14th-ranked Hurricanes (1-0) will face this week has his attention.

Toledo redshirt senior Logan Woodside may be the best passer UM faces all season, with all due respect to several highly skilled quarterbacks looming on UM’s schedule. He is certainly the most prolific.

“He’s outstanding,” Richt said Wednesday of Woodside, a 6-foot-2, 215-pound Kentucky native. “His fundamentals are great. He knows the system so well. He knows when and where to go with the ball. He’s the kind of guy who when you pressure him in the ball’s going to come out quick, into the right guy. The ball placement is great. He’s not unbelievable as far as a runner, but he’s a very good athlete. He’s one of the best in the country for a reason.”

Miami true freshman Cade Weldon is playing the scout-team role of Woodside this week in practices.

Woodside, who led the nation in touchdown passes last year (45) and finished second in passer rating, is off to another hot start. He has thrown for 1,004 yards — well on pace for a second consecutive 4,000-yard season — and eight touchdowns with one interception. He ranks ninth in passer rating, thanks to those numbers and a 65.9 percent completion rate.

In his most recent start, a 54-51 win against Tulsa, he threw an interception returned for a touchdown but tied a school record with six touchdown passes. He finished 22-of-33 for 458 yards.

“A young quarterback or a guy that doesn’t have a strong confidence to him and a strong belief in his abilities may have tanked it right there,” his coach, Jason Candle, said of the interception, “because that was a big deflating play for us at the time. But he comes to the sideline, gathers himself, gets on the phone with his coaches, gets himself together and has one of the best games he’s had here in his career.”

The major knock on Woodside is the quality of competition his team has faced. Woodside redshirted in 2015 as the Rockets faced — and beat — No. 18 Arkansas, Iowa State and No. 24 Temple, and didn’t face a Power 5 team last year. He hasn’t tangled with a major-conference school since 2014, when he was a sophomore. Woodside had a good year that season, ranking 33rd in passer rating. But against Missouri and Iowa State — teams that finished the year 39th and 94th, respectively, in opposing quarterback rating — Woodside’s combined rating was 112.05. In 10 other games that year, it was 148.10.

Other impressive quarterbacks UM will face include Virginia Tech redshirt freshman Josh Jackson, who earned the Hokies’ starting job after one-year starter Jerod Evans left school early. He is the ACC’s most efficient passer so far (14th nationally). He has thrown for 829 yards and eight touchdowns with zero interceptions.

North Carolina redshirt freshman Chazz Surratt (586 yards, four touchdowns, zero interceptions on 69.7 percent passing) has been efficient, as has Syracuse senior Eric Dungey, who was injured much of last year. It’s too early to tell what Florida State true freshman James Blackman can do — he makes his first career start this week, at home against North Carolina State — but any Seminoles QB will have the Hurricanes’ attention.

UM will face a few outstanding running quarterbacks, including Georgia Tech junior TaQuon Marshall (274 yards, six touchdowns on 57 carries) and Notre Dame’s Brandon Wimbush (314 yards, six touchdowns on 49 carries). Dungey can run, too (209 yards, four touchdowns on 39 carries).

Virginia senior Kurt Benkert, who struggled against UM last year, has opened the season with decent numbers: 976 yards, seven touchdowns and one interception on 66.2 percent passing. He ranks 63rd in passer rating.

Duke sophomore Daniel Jones was considered the ACC Coastal’s top returning quarterback but has had a so-so start (73rd in passer rating). Pittsburgh has been flipping between struggling transfer Max Browne, named the starter in late August, and backup Ben DiNucci.

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