True freshman Brad Kaaya will be the starting quarterback for the University of Miami’s opener Sept. 1 in Louisville.
Head coach Al Golden made the announcement following Sunday’s practice as the team begins prep week for the Cardinals. Kaaya will be the first true freshman to start Miami’s season opener since Jacory Harris in 2008 against Charleston Southern.
"As I told him, he’s our quarterback," Golden told reporters in Coral Gables, Fla. "He’s not our true freshman quarterback. He’s the University of Miami quarterback."
What started as a four-person race was quickly trimmed to two between him and graduate Jake Heaps for much of camp. They were listed as co-starters once the first depth chart was released.
Kaaya, a four-star prospect from Chaminade-Madonna College Prep in West Hills, Calif., went 23-3 in high school with All-State honors. He threw for a school record 3,855 yards and 27 touchdowns as a senior. He also attended Golden’s camp.
"As of right now we’re just taking it day-by-day," Kaaya said last week at media day. "We’re focused on Week 1 and beating Louisville."
Despite his status as a true freshman, the 6-foot-4, 218-pounder has impressed both his coaches and teammates with his maturity. He enrolled in May and has been an avid student of the playbook.
Helping him with the transition will be a strong supporting cast that includes All-ACC playmakers Duke Johnson, Stacy Coley, Phillip Dorsett as well as senior tight end Clive Walford.
"I don’t look at him as a true freshman…he’s a vet to me," Dorsett said. "He’s a real calm guy, real cool and collected. I feel like he’ll be able to handle it."
Golden told the quarterbacks of the decision prior to Sunday’s practice, two days before Kaaya’s 19th birthday.
"I thought that Jake did a great job this camp, and I just thought that Kaaya towards the end here really pulled away and started getting really comfortable," offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach James Coley said. "Like I’ve been saying, he’s not your regular freshman, right? He’s not a freshman anymore. He’s the starting quarterback at the University of Miami. He’s embraced it…in the last 8-10 days, you saw him get really comfortable out here with the players and the speed of the game."
Heaps, who did not participate in Monday’s scrimmage to rest a sore shoulder, transferred from Kansas in June. In his only season with the Jayhawks he played in 11 games (nine starts), throwing for 1,414 yards and eight touchdowns with 10 interceptions.
The 6-foot-1, 210-pounder began his collegiate career at BYU where he collected 3,768 yards, 24 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. Over parts of three years, he has appeared in 33 games and made 25 starts. The 23-year-old has stated from the beginning he came to Miami to start.
This situation developed as such when redshirt senior Ryan Williams tore his ACL in early April. He continues to progress in his rehab and could return by October. His injury left no quarterbacks on the roster with any collegiate experience.
"It was a tight battle," Golden said. "It was a battle that none of us could have foresaw at the end of June or July or the beginning of camp. I’m excited about that position. In Ryan’s absence, those two had a great battle. I think Kevin Olsen really improved, so I am excited about him. Right now, Brad nudged out Jake and he’s our quarterback."