Hurricanes notes: Freshman QB Brad Kaaya still a work in progress

Hurricanes quarterback Brad Kaaya (15) finished 12 for 22 with 177 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions in just under three quarters of play in Miami's 41-7 victory over Florida A&M on Saturday.

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CORAL GABLES, Fla. — According to the University of Miami’s Al Golden, most football coaches would say the biggest growth occurs from the first to second games of a season.

Unless of course those matchups take place just five days apart with limited time to tweak and gameplan in between.

"With our team this year it’s got to be this week," Golden said. "We’ll take that deep breath, (had) a little reprieve yesterday and give coaches time to lay out what we’ve got to fix. That’s huge."

After a 31-13 loss at Louisville last Monday, the Hurricanes bounced back with a 41-7 victory in the home opener against FCS opponent Florida A&M. Despite the score, there is plenty of room for improvement, especially on offense.

True freshman quarterback Brad Kaaya, naturally, has the greatest ceiling at the most important position. In both games he has thrown two interceptions, but offensive coordinator James Coley said his targets needed to make plays on the two Saturday guys.

Although Kaaya hasn’t forced passes too much, his presence in the pocket continues to be a work in progress. At times, it seems he holds onto the ball for too long.

"Just a little better in the pocket," Coley said. "Sometimes you’re watching from the sideline and wondering why he isn’t throwing the ball when he’s supposed to throw it and a guy takes an extra step on his route and he has to hold onto the ball. It’s the equivalent of holding onto a grenade. But there’s a maturity level with that when things don’t work out as well with a certain route or defensive guy falls off and he makes an error and Brad’s got to hold it a little bit."

And again, this will come with experience. Kaaya has just two games under his belt on the collegiate level. He arrived on campus in May.

End of an era

Kaaya believes he has progressed, but he isn’t satisfied. Despite the rough performance at Louisville with only 259 total yards of offense, he felt comfortable. Kaaya went 17 for 29 with 179 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions that night. On Saturday, he finished 12 for 22 with 177 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions in just under three quarters of play.

Each week, the offense goes against a different defense that doesn’t show the same looks twice. Different formations and stems mean more studying.

"Nothing too much major right now just timing, timing, timing," Kaaya said. "That’s a big thing. Each and every week, especially because it’s new pass concepts coming in every single week. Getting my anticipation down."

With a normal schedule this week, Miami has time to heal, expand the playbook and work out the "kinks," according to Kaaya.

First on the agenda? Correcting the third-down conversion rate. Through two games, the Hurricanes rank last in the nation at 9 percent (2 of 22).

"Brad’s got to improve, but we all need to improve," Golden said. "Brad’s game’s going to improve as the o-line improves. Brad’s game’s going to improve as the precision of the routes improve. Brad’s game’s going to improve as our running game and first- and second-down efficiency improve. Get us into more third and manageable. In that sense we all need to rally around him."

HESTER’S STATUS

Freshman defensive back Kiy Hester, who has not been with the team of late because of a personal matter back home in Wayne, N.J., has been released.

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Hester was a four-star recruit from DePaul Catholic and a teammate of freshman defensive tackle Courtel Jenkins.

"Again, in fairness to the kid, I want to leave it at that," Golden said. "Kiy’s a great kid. He’s got an issue at home, and we released him."

COLEY’S INJURY

Sophomore wide receiver Stacy Coley was limited in Monday’s practice with a shoulder injury. Coley, who did not record a catch on Saturday, was held out during the second half.

"We’ve got to be careful," Golden said. "He’s got a little shoulder deal. We’ll progress him. Again, he’s at a position here they really don’t get tackled during the week — wideouts. Just little healing today, maybe a little more tomorrow and we’ll progress from there."

WILLIAMS’ PROGRESS

Redshirt senior quarterback Ryan Williams is nearing a possible return after undergoing surgery on a torn ACL five months ago. Miami filmed him doing drills to gauge his progress.

"Today is probably the hardest he’s worked," Golden said. "I’m looking at him right now and he looks gassed, which is good. Today is the hardest he’s worked with the drills. See how he recovers, how he responds and go from there.

Williams still needs to get into game shape, reaching a level where he can plant and protect himself. He must feel comfortable enough in the pocket.

Asked whether there is a chance he is the second quarterback on Saturday, Coley said, "I don’t think so where he’s at right now. I think he’s healthy enough with his knee but his speed’s not there yet. We’ll see though."

SHALALA’S ANNOUNCEMENT

University of Miami President Donna E. Shalala sent an email to the Hurricane community announcing her decision to step down at the end of the 2014-15 academic year.

Shalala, who has been at the helm since 2001, has been an active supporter of the athletic department. The Hurricanes left the Big East Conference and joined the Atlantic Coast Conference in 2004.

Under her leadership, many projects such as the Schwartz Center for Athletic Excellence either began or were completed. She would host a freshman picnic at her house before the fall semester to welcome the incoming class.

"She means a lot," senior wideout Phillip Dorsett said. "I see her walking around campus all the time and she’ll say hi to me. Usually I wouldn’t think she knows my name, but when I see her she says my name. She’s real respectful. She’s real active when it comes to football. She talked to us a lot. I think she knows almost everybody’s name. That’s sad to hear. She means a lot to this community and school. Whatever she wants to do after this season — I don’t know what it is — but we’re going to be by her side no matter what.

"Freshman picnic. I don’t think any other school does that — I’ve never been to any other schools — but that and bringing in Coach Golden, and Coach Golden’s a good coach. For him to turn this program around on and off the field. Obviously she brought in the right guy. A lot of things she did not just one thing."

You can follow Christina De Nicola on Twitter @CDeNicola13 or email her at cdenicola13@gmail.com.