Miami Hurricanes football: Mark Richt trusts Malik Rosier, but how much?

Mark Richt talks with Malik Rosier at North Carolina on October 28, 2017 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. (Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

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CORAL GABLES — During a full-team drill at Tuesday’s practice, Malik Rosier saw a blitz brewing, changed the protection, and delivered a strike 25 yards downfield to receiver Mike Harley.

Mark Richt was more than happy to share that story.

“He did exactly what a veteran quarterback should do, exactly how he should do it,” Richt said. “That’s where you go, ‘That’s why he’s the starter.'”

Yet Rosier doesn’t show that enough for Richt’s liking. That’s why he will have to keep proving himself over and over to hold onto the starting job this fall. Even though, as Richt put it, “he knows, and everybody else knows, that he knows what to do” while running UM’s offense.

Rosier said that “to this point” in the spring, he has shown enough to add to his 11-3 record as Miami’s starter. “A lot of the linemen trust me,” he said. “The receivers trust me. … I think I’m doing good. My accuracy rating needs to go up, but other than that I’m doing fine.”

His head coach seems to trust him — not wholeheartedly, but enough. Richt also seems to want others to prove more trustworthy.

When asked about Rosier’s progress this spring (which ends Saturday with a closed, on-campus scrimmage), Richt pivoted between praising and panning, recalling examples recent and rehashed.

Rosier’s accuracy “has been the biggest issue. He’s been streaky,” Richt said. “But most games, he’s found a way to win. The only game he really couldn’t hit his target was Pitt. We all know that. We had open receivers, we had good protection, and we missed too many open receivers. That’s why I got him out of the game. Not because I didn’t think he should be our starter ever again, but because at that moment, I kept waiting and waiting and it just wasn’t happening, so I said, ‘We gotta do something.’

“But after that, even the last two games, I’m not saying he was perfect, but we had line issues. If we weren’t functioning well, it wasn’t just a QB thing. One day, he was struggling enough that I felt like maybe Evan [Shirreffs] could give us a spark.”

The bad news, as Richt has said many times, is that Rosier is the type of player who operates more sharply when someone is trying to take his job. Last year, Shirreffs (who transferred to Charlotte), wasn’t starter-caliber, and UM was redshirting N’Kosi Perry and Cade Weldon. This fall, there’s good news: Perry and Weldon won’t redshirt, and Richt won’t guarantee true freshman Jarren Williams will. UM is hoping they’ll give Rosier the kick he needs.

“For whatever reason, he functions better when he knows somebody’s right behind him,” Richt said. “He practices better. He focuses better.”

But Richt added a note of criticism Tuesday.

“Should it be that way? Probably not,” Richt said. “I think it’s true for everybody, but it probably shouldn’t be that way for your quarterback. But that’s how he’s made up. So, OK — we’ll  compete. If we need to throw somebody else in there, we’ll do it.”

Rosier, for his part, seems to have respect for Perry and Williams’ talent (Cade Weldon remains absent from practice with an eye infection, according to UM). Rosier said Perry is “doing really well. As you can tell from the spring game, he’s really athletic.” In Williams, he sees elite skill.

“Jarren makes mistakes, but he’s accurate,” Rosier said. “He’ll go to the wrong side but still throw a completion, which is like, freakish. You shouldn’t be able to do that, especially against our defense. He’s a very accurate passer. He’s young, but once he learns, he’s going to be really good in this system.”

Given UM’s wealth of skill-position options, Miami’s quarterback won’t have to be a superstar. Especially if he’s protected well. Rosier, if he can improve his accuracy, would be a capable starter.

The same could be said of Perry and Williams, if they continue to learn. Perry was a bit scramble-happy during Saturday’s spring game, and Williams is still learning the offense.

“I’ve told him, ‘You’re a pocket passer who can run,'” Richt said of Perry. “You’re not a runner who can pass. When the pocket’s there, you can’t be dipping out of there. You’ve got to run this system the way it’s supposed to be run, and then when it’s time to go, you’ll know.

“I don’t want a guy who’s a scrambler who happens to throw the ball good every once in a while. N’Kosi’s very capable of standing in the pocket and throwing strikes. He is very capable of that. So is Jarren.”

Noteworthy: Rosier’s review of his scrimmage performance (9-of-14, 105 yards) was more negative than positive. “There was some good. There was a lot of bad,” he said. “The biggest thing was the point of attack. Our defense was more physical than us all across the board. The second-biggest thing coach Richt has been harping on has been deep balls. I missed Lawrence Cager twice. Missed Darrell Langham once. Those are shots we’ve got to make, and put the ball up where those guys can make a play.” … He hopes the offensive line’s continuity will “make the biggest difference.” Some plays, he saw “a perfect horseshoe, no one’s around me,” and other plays “with a little bit of miscommunication. I think if you give them the summer and the fall (camp), they’re going to be ready to go.” … Richt said he would like to be able to trust 22 offensive players. If so, he would play them all, go no-huddle and substitute regularly. If not, he said, “I’ll slow it down and huddle every play.” How many players does he trust right now? “We’ve got a good many, but not a bunch,” he said. “Right now I’d be huddling, if that answers your question.”