College Miami Hurricanes

UM Spring Notebook: Rosier Still Leading QB Race; Jackson Welcomes Fatherhood

Unlike most programs, the Miami Hurricanes returned to the practice field Tuesday – three days after its spring game – for their 13th practice of the spring.

Because of scheduling conflicts with Hard Rock Stadium, the Hurricanes’ home field, UM held its open spring intrasquad scrimmage this past Saturday – leaving another two practices still to be had over this week.

After practice Tuesday, Miami head coach Mark Richt said he plans to pare down the final closed scrimmage (Saturday).

“We’ll do some different things on Saturday,” Richt said. “We’ll do some situational stuff – goal line and other situations – and we’ll use a lot of the guys that don’t have a lot of experience.”

Rosier Still Leading

The recurring theme for the Canes’ spring practice has been the quarterback battle between redshirt senior Malik Rosier and redshirt freshman N’Kosi Perry.

While fans have continued to clamor for Perry, the coaching staff has remained consistent in its saying that Rosier – the player who started all 13 games for Miami this past season and broke the single-season touchdown record in the process – is still the No. 1 quarterback on the depth chart.

Richt gave the fans what they wanted, an extended look at Perry, during the spring game. Perry took snaps with the No. 1 and No. 2 offenses and ended up throwing the ball nearly twice as many times (26) as Rosier (14) and freshman Jarren Williams (14) did.

While Perry made a couple of dazzling plays, his overall stat line was “meh” – completing 11-of-26 for 166 yards with a touchdown and an interception while also rushing for a game-high 45 yards.

Rosier, who completed 9 of his 14 passes for 105 yards during the spring game, still received votes of confidence from Richt Tuesday.

It has been Rosier’s game experience and knowledge of Richt’s system that has kept him out in front of Perry, Cade Weldon (who has missed multiple practices and the spring game with conjunctivitis) and Williams.

Even though Perry is undoubtedly the more physically dynamic player in and out of the pocket, Rosier understands and executes the small detail nuances of the game – recognizing defensive coverages and making adjustments at the line of scrimmage.

However, the reason that there’s still a very real quarterback competition is that Rosier seems to thrive from the prevalent risk of losing his spot as the starting quarterback – a fact that Richt isn’t necessarily thrilled about but is willing to oblige.

The reality of it all remains: there are high expectations on Miami for the 2018 season; the year begins with a huge showdown with SEC heavyweight LSU in Texas and Richt doesn’t have the luxury of throwing Perry out there and hoping that he is ready to be “QB1”.

If Perry doesn’t do enough to prove that he’s the best quarterback for the team and earn the trust of the coaches through the spring, Richt has to go forward with Rosier.

First Time Father

Spring is a time for new additions, and Canes senior cornerback Michael Jackson welcomed a new addition to his family this past Friday with the birth of his first son, Michael A. Jackson Jr.

It was unclear whether Jackson would be available to play in the spring game the following day, but he was able to join the team and ended up recording 2.5 tackles and forcing a fumble.

Jackson, who has emerged as Miami’s No. 1 defensive back this spring since announcing he would return for his senior campaign, said that becoming a father was a life-changing experience.

Only The Strong Survive

With the spring session winding down, it appears that Miami’s coaching staff is ready to “take the gloves off” – getting away from including and acclimating everyone to demanding the best from the players that will actually play come the fall.

The spring is a time when coaches will try to get as many players reps during practice as possible – especially the early enrollees and the redshirt freshmen that didn’t see much action the year before.

Yet, this coaching staff knows full well the expectations for this coming season and they don’t have time for “hand holding”.

Miami offensive coordinator/running backs coach Thomas Brown echoed Richt’s words after Tuesday’s practice.

“All of these guys talk about ‘how great they want to be’ and ‘how they want to win these championships’, but now is the time to start putting in the work to do those things,” Brown added. “We, as coaches, have to continue to hold them accountable and push them to reach those heights.”

Brown’s and Richt’s words were aimed at the offense.

Defensively, Miami has looked solid and “game-ready” throughout the spring. It’s been the offense – specifically the offensive line – that has repeatedly needed prodding the past couple of weeks.

During Saturday’s spring game, there was a dearth of running room.

Four Canes running backs – Travis Homer, Lorenzo Lingard, DeeJay Dallas, and Robert Burns – combined to rush for 57 yards on a combined 22 attempts.

For reference, Miami rushed for 2,090 yards (on 414 total attempts), averaging 5 yards per carry and just under 150 yards per game.

There has been plenty of shuffling along the Canes’ offensive line this spring as it is trying to replace two starters from 2017.

For all the talk about the quarterback battle, it’s the play of Miami’s offensive line that is at the crux of the matter of how the Hurricanes’ offense will look in 2018.

No matter who is the quarterback and no matter how much talent UM has in its backfield or on the edges at receiver; if the O-Line struggles – everyone will struggle.

Homer, who rushed for 966 yards (5.9 yards per carry) and eight touchdowns during his sophomore season, said that he has faith that the offensive line will get better throughout the offseason.

“I know [offensive line] coach [Stacy] Searels is going to teach them well as he’s been doing,” Homer said. “I’m putting all my trust in the coaches and I know they’ll get better.”

One thing that will help the offensive line improve its play will be settling on the best group of five and allowing them to build camaraderie and become one cohesive unit.

Richt said after this past Saturday’s spring game, when the O-Line gave up a total of nine sacks, that he feels they’ve found the best five – with Tyree St. Louis at left tackle, Jahair Jones as left guard, Tyler Gauthier at center, Hayden Mahoney at right guard, and Navaughn Donaldson at right tackle.

Moving Mahoney and Jones into the No. 1 group puts two of the team’s older linemen up front while moving Donaldson out to tackle puts – arguably – the team’s most athletic lineman on the edge.

Richt said Donaldson has been “re-energized” by the move to tackle and said he’s been working hard to shed weight to be better suited to play the position. Donaldson, who is listed at 6-foot-6, 360 pounds on the spring roster, was seen running sprints after practice Tuesday.

Just because the offensive line is “set”, there’s still work to do.

J.T. Wilcox
J.T. Wilcox is an award-winning sports journalist who has worked in South Florida for more than a decade. He authors "The Bald Predictions" blog and "The Baldcast" podcast.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: