Because of his considerable talent and recruiting pedigree, many Miami fans are convinced redshirt freshman N’Kosi Perry will wrest the starting quarterback spot from Malik Rosier this fall.
That may come true.
Multiple people who have watched Miami’s first three spring practices say Perry has the strongest arm on the roster, with the ability to flick passes far downfield. The Ocala native has a nice touch, and changes speeds better than anyone. He is not thick of frame (listed at 6-foot-4 and 185 pounds), but moves quickly in the pocket. . He is soft-spoken with the media, but he is more assertive in the huddle this spring than last year. He “wants eyes on him,” center Tyler Gauthier said recently.
UM allows reporters to see about 20 minutes of individual drills, mostly throwing and catching, blocking and tackling. Any game-simulation drills and scrimmages are private, except for the April 14 spring game.
But while insiders view Perry as the lead challenger to Rosier, beware of dismissing redshirt freshman Cade Weldon and true freshman Jarren Williams as contenders for the job.
Weldon, a three-star recruit from Tampa, has an impressive pedigree of his own: his father, former Florida State star Casey Weldon, was runner-up for the Heisman Trophy as a Mark Richt pupil. Weldon is well-built (6-3, 212) and athletic. One team source characterized him as “tough as s—,” and referenced a practice incident last year when he shoved hulking defensive tackle Jon Ford (6-5, 300-plus) after a perceived late hit. Weldon’s freshman year ended with a one-game suspension — he violated team rules before the Orange Bowl — but there is no indication he is still in Richt’s doghouse.
Williams (6-2, 206), who enrolled in January, is fourth in the rotation for practice drills behind Rosier, Perry and Weldon. Richt said he has been working as a third-teamer (and, since UM is light on defensive linemen this spring, has been throwing in mostly 7-on-7 situations). Recruiting analysts praised Williams, a four-star recruit from Georgia, for his passing ability; UM’s official account called him a “big-time gunslinger” in a tweet on signing day. Richt likes his intelligence and said while he’s new to the system, he’s not lagging far behind the others.
“He’s a quick learner and he’s got some really good arm talent, I’ll tell you that.” Richt said Monday on WQAM. “I’ve got all these guys getting good, quality reps.”
As for Rosier, the incumbent starter, he feels healthy and refreshed after last season’s late struggles, some of it because of a shoulder injury Oct. 28 at North Carolina. Monday, Richt said Rosier’s completion percentage numbers — 54 percent on the year, 50.7 in the final three months, 44.9 UM’s last three games, all losses — were “deceiving.” UM has a grade for accuracy, grading quarterbacks on their ability to hit an open receiver with good protection. He said Rosier missed “a few deep shots” (the underthrown ball to Jeff Thomas early in the ACC title game springs to mind), and that he wants a quarterback to hit “80, 90 percent of our open targets.” He didn’t say how UM graded Rosier.
Meanwhile, UM’s top quarterback target, Michael Johnson Jr., will be on campus Wednesday and Thursday, according to 247Sports. Johnson, from Eugene, Ore., is the son of Oregon’s wide receivers coach. He visited Alabama and Mississippi last weekend and told Rivals he is also interested in those schools — as well as Nebraska, Arizona State, Penn State and LSU — but Miami is recruiting him the hardest.
Johnson’s father, who spent 10 seasons in the NFL and was the San Francisco 49ers’ offensive coordinator in 2010, signed on at Oregon in Feb. 2017. The Ducks are also recruiting his son, rated by both Rivals and 247 as the 4th-best dual-threat quarterback in the 2019 class.
Incidentally, two big-name opponents on Miami’s schedule have quarterback competitions. LSU has three contenders for the job, all of whom seem to be even. At Florida State, a pair of second-year players, one of them Glades Central grad James Blackman, hope to make an impression on new coach Willie Taggart while redshirt junior Deondre Francois recovers from knee surgery.
SPRING FOOTBALL 2018
[Yes, Mark Richt can still throw a football. Here’s proof]
[Recruiting: Sean Taylor’s cousin decommits from Miami]
[Saturday notes: QB mobility, RB change, OL absent, DE ‘problem]
[A look at Miami’s expected depth chart through three practices]
[7 talking points with Blake James, incl. UM-FIU at Marlins Park]
[Video: The most interesting quotes from UM spring practice]
[UM Sports HOF ceremony date; Mark Richt spring speaking tour]
[Rosier: If UM isn’t ‘dominating ACC, something’s wrong]
[Perry stepping up as a leader, teammate says]
[Lingard a ‘freak,’ two other freshmen stand out]
[Early observations from Miami practice]
[10 important storylines to follow]