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Richt See Progress for Hurricanes

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As the start of his second season at UM nears, Richt sees progress for Hurricanes - Sun Sentinel

There have been a few moments here and there where he’s had a chance to catch his breath.

But with the start of his second season looming, Hurricanes coach Mark Richt is already hard at work.

There is film to study. There are freshmen to teach. And yes, there are quarterbacks to evaluate.

Although his first year at Miami came with an established starter in Brad Kaaya, Richt finds himself now in the position of having to find the quarterback’s successor. The competition to determine the next quarterback at Miami started in the spring, with redshirt junior Malik Rosier and sophomore Evan Shirreffs separating themselves from a pack that included redshirt junior Vincent Testaverde, mid-year freshman enrollee Cade Weldon and redshirt freshman Jack Allison, who has since transferred.

From the start though, Richt was adamant that freshman N’Kosi Perry – who didn’t arrive on campus until May – would have every opportunity to compete for the job as well. Now that the highly touted four-star prospect is in Coral Gables and impressing teammates, work has truly begun.

Richt has paired the two quarterback spring front-runners to work with the newcomers in an effort to help everyone get a bit sharper before camp starts in August.

During summer workouts, Rosier – who was Kaaya’s backup the past two seasons – has been mentoring Weldon, while Shirreffs has been working with Perry. So far, Richt says, so good.

“We have a really good spirit from our veteran players to help the young guys,” Richt told the Sun Sentinel this week. “We pretty much gave N’Kosi to Evan and gave Weldon to Malik, so when we’re not out there as coaches and they’re running plays or running new things, there’s a veteran quarterback that can help those guys. If you just threw them out there and said ‘Sink or swim,’ it can be really hard. But the veterans are helping [the freshmen] at every position. You’ve got [receiver Braxton Berrios] back there helping those kids, [Lawrence] Cager, Ahmmon [Richards], all those guys. … When you coach, you learn. When you have to teach something, you really have to know it and own it and be able to explain it, so it reinforces what you know and don’t know.”

As to how Perry and Weldon are progressing in learning Miami’s system, Richt says he’s been encouraged by their progress. He said both quarterbacks – as well as the rest of the recent arrivals including receivers Jeff Thomas and Mike Harley – have been helped by the fact he and his coaches can take a little bit more time in teaching during the slower summer months.

Once camp begins, though, things will get more intense and it could be then where Weldon – who was an early enrollee and participated in spring practice – could have an advantage over his fellow freshman.

“Cade is obviously ahead in the knowledge part of it. He’s remembered quite a bit from spring, so it’s more of a review,” Richt said. “N’Kosi’s at ground zero in a lot of ways. But he learns well. … In camp, you might put in a new install every day for the first eight days, but in the summer, we basically take one install, break it in half and have two sessions where we’ll work on it. One install may be within a week. … It’s a much slower pace than it would be once you’re in camp, and that’s helping N’Kosi eat it piece by piece instead of trying to swallow the whole thing.”

While the quarterback competition will be one of the major focuses once camp begins, Richt also said he’s also been encouraged by the progress some of the injured Hurricanes players have made of late.

And though attrition has hit the program -- with players such as Allison, safety Jeff James and offensive lineman Sunny Odogwu opting to transfer out -- Richt feels better about Miami’s depth as a whole. However, he recognizes the running back position remains a concern, with backs Trayone Gray and Robert Burns missing the bulk of spring practice. That meant the Hurricanes had just two healthy players at the position during the spring: Mark Walton and Travis Homer.

Still, Richt believes the Hurricanes have the players to build on last year’s 9-4 season and he’s looking forward to seeing how all his players – newcomers and veterans alike – respond in the coming weeks.

“When spring was over, we said ‘Let’s put all the names on the board of everybody that should be healthy,” Richt said. “Your Nick [Linders], your Cagers, your [Jamie] Gordiniers, [Scott] Patchans, Trayones. Then you bring in your freshmen and your graduate transfers, your junior college players. And you think, ‘Oh, it looks different.’ Now we actually have a third string and there will come a time when we’ll just about be able to run four units if you really get it going right, and you get good quality walk-ons and we have good quality walk-ons. It just feels better all the way around.”

ccabrera@sun-sentinel.com; On Twitter @ChristyChirinos.
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