- Jan 16, 2012
Worst kept secret in the ACC.Although QB N’Kosi Perry began practice with the first team offense today, the first time that’s ever happened, Miami head coach Mark Richt has not named a starter for Thursday’s game against UNC and also gave first team reps to Malik Rosier (started with two’s) and Cade Weldon (started with three’s).
“I’m going to continue to watch practice, let them know when it’s time,” Richt said. “Malik got first team reps, N’Kosi got first team reps, Weldon got some first team reps. We think all three have got to the point they’ve earned the right to play. We’ll watch them practice, see who is the best to help us win.”
Is there a reason Richt is keeping quiet on naming a starter until as late as possible?
“The less your opponent knows the better,” Richt said.
In the past at UGA, Richt has had QB controversies and has had experience handling those type of delicate situations.
"I've had times where I was not 100% sure," Richt said. "I've had more times where I had a starter and the twos splitting time. I feel good because I know we have guys that can play… Malik did nothing wrong, just the young guys are maturing, getting better."
Richt listed off everything he looks for when evaluating a QB.
"Accuracy, leadership, understanding of the game plan, helping the team get in the right protections, get in the right run game, a guy who knows when to pull the ball, when not to in the zone read and all the QB run we have," Richt said. "A guy that won't throw the ball in harm's way every time something doesn't go well."
Will we see two QB’s again against UNC this week?
"I don't know, we'll see," Richt said. “The quarterback situation is harder to rotate every couple of series. I’m going to observe a little more practice. I have a pretty good idea but I don’t want to (share it). I’m not 100 percent sure. I do a lot of things based on what my gut, my spirit is telling me.”
When asked what has Perry improved on since the end of fall camp to be given a shot at QB1, Richt deflected the question.
"He wasn't even at the first game (due to suspension)," Richt said on Perry. "If he's not at the first game how can he be the starter? That's the best answer I can give you… He is doing very similar stuff (to fall drills). It comes to a point you put a guy in the game, see what he can do.
“I mean I’m going to leave it at we’re going to play the guy that gives us the best shot at winning. That’s the deal. At every position there’s a lot of competition.”
In the post-game interviews following the FIU win, Richt said it was scheduled to put in Perry during the third series of the game and he elaborated more on his though process on that decision.
“Well first of all just to explain what happened, I really wasn’t sure what I was going to do all throughout the week as far as substitution,” Richt said. “It wasn’t till the night before the game that I said `Series three I’m going to put him in and just see how it goes.’ I didn’t know how well we’d start. Instead of trying to predict it, I said ‘Let’s just put him in and see what happens.’ He played well, hit 10 in a row, we were moving the ball and scoring points, so I kept him in there.
“The other thing in consideration - the fact that N’Kosi is growing up, maturing as a player, doing much better. But Cade Weldon has done the same thing. It’s taken them a while to understand what it takes to be a guy that deserves to play out there. Now they’re both practicing well and playing well. Cade had the mishap on the fumble, but it was more of a situation where the snap was a little left, the back was too close he was getting ready to throw the bubble screen… Those young QB’s are now becoming the kind of practice players and students of the game, classroom, they’re doing what they need to be doing to have even a shot to become a player for us.”
Miami plays UNC on a short week this week, matching up against the Tar Heels on Thursday night. The Canes will wear all black jerseys.
“Coach (Larry) Fedora has done a wonderful job, 11 years of experience, has had a lot of success,” Richt said. “They’ve played three really quality opponents - Cal, East Carolina, Pittsburgh. They got the big win when they needed it most, in conference play (against Pitt).”
Jeff Thomas took a punt back for a touchdown against FIU last week, but it was called back for holding during the return on Nesta Silvera. If the full return stood, UM would be leading the country in punt return yardage.
“I think we’d be leading the nation in punt returns if all the yardage would have counted,” Richt said. “32 counted at the point of the hold. It was a great job of all our players that weren’t carrying the ball getting on their man. One stuck a little too close, got a holding.”
Since a poor opener against LSU, Miami’s O-Line has continued to elevate their play with each passing game and Richt has been pleased with their progress.
"The offensive line play is going to be really good for a while," Richt said. “You look at Venzell Boulware, he’s pushing Jahair Jones and Hayden Mahoney, is rotating with those guys. DJ Scaife played a lot at right tackle and spelled Navaughn (Donaldson) and now is working at left tackle too where Tyree (St. Louis) knows he has to play well and we’ll substitute a little bit.”
While offensive line play has improved, the punting game has continued to struggle. Richt alluded to sitting Zach Feagles this week to clear his head.
"We may give him a break just to calm down," Richt said on Feagles. "I promise he'll become a really good punter for us."
Sophomore safety Amari Carter got his first career start against FIU and Richt believed he played well.
"Amari is a guy who has been very conscientious since the first day,” Richt said. “It was a matter of learning what to do, trusting the coaching staff. I think he had a good feel for what he was supposed to do and how he was supposed to do it, which gives you confidence. As the game progressed, he had a lot of success and the defense had success."
Sophomore WR Mike Harley had a career game on Saturday, catching 7 passes for 76 yards and Richt said he’s becoming more of a leader on the offense.
“Mike has taken on a leadership role,” Richt said. “Last week before FIU, he was telling the offense they needed to perform better. Everyone took it well.”
Junior WR Lawrence Cager caught two touchdowns from Perry against FIU last week and Richt said he is excited to see how Cager progresses in the future.
"Obviously he's a guy that has been around, knows the system, is a veteran," Richt said. "He's enjoying the fruits of his labor in the off-season, because he worked super hard. It's showing in the games."
Richt said Jeff Thomas (dehydration) practiced fully today, but that Jaquan Johnson (hamstring) and Ahmmon Richards (knee) remain out.
As for captains this week against UNC, according to Richt, they are Mike Harley, Trajan Bandy, Jon Garvin, and Demetrius Jackson.