CORAL GABLES, Fla. — Six quarterbacks took snaps during Wednesday’s scrimmage but University of Miami head coach Al Golden cut it down to two as Sept. 1 draws closer.
True freshman Brad Kaaya and graduate transfer Jake Heaps were listed as co-starters on the latest depth chart released Thursday afternoon.
Kaaya, who took first-team snaps during drills on Thursday morning, saw his name listed in front of Heaps but Golden said to make nothing of the order.
"That one’s too close to call," Golden said of the pair. "I thought Jake had a really good morning (Thursday). As you guys know, cause you hear it all the time when you’re watching those preseason games in the NFL, you really have to take into consideration who’s out there in each series and who they’re going against. It’s really hard to quantify that into a little sound bite for you. It’s really hard. But they were really … they were … Maybe Brad was a little bit ahead yesterday and Jake’s answered today. Whatever the case may be, but they’re 1 and 2. Really either way right now, but they’re 1 and 2."
What has struck Kaaya’s teammates and coaches since his arrival on campus is his maturity and commitment as an 18-year-old. Thanks to the new NCAA rule, the summer has given him extra time to learn the playbook while on campus.
Although Kaaya was picked off by junior safety Dallas Crawford during the scrimmage, his way of running the huddle, reading the defense and showing poise stand out.
"You wouldn’t think Brad is a freshman quarterback the way he comes in and handles the offense, the plays, the checks," junior running back Duke Johnson said. "He’s able to read defenses. He doesn’t do it as well as maybe the older guys like Jake but he does it exceptionally well to be a freshman."
Heaps, 23, transferred from Kansas in mid-June. He also threw an interception on Wednesday but connected with five receivers during the scrimmage.
Johnson said Heaps is faster and quicker than Kaaya thanks to his experience. His conceptual knowledge, according to Golden, helped Heaps make a quick adjustment at Miami.
When asked whether he knew the order of the depth chart following the morning practice of Thursday’s two-a-days, Heaps dismissed it.
"I’m not worried about that," Heaps said. "I’m just going out there and just focusing on me and every rep that I get and trying to make it count. What coach decides is what he ends up deciding and that’s out of my hands. All I can do is go out there and execute the best I can be."
"I feel like I did a good job of running the operation and completing passes but the biggest thing is continuing to get better, continuing to work on the overall operation and feeling comfortable with everything. After yesterday and today’s practice this morning, feeling good with where I’m at and the progress I’ve made and the next few days is really going to be a big push. We all need to get better as a team. This is the last little bit we have to get better and hone in on our own technique before we start getting ready for Louisville."
Just because those two are listed as co-starters doesn’t mean redshirt freshman Kevin Olsen and true freshman Malik Rosier will not be active moving forward.
"I’m still looking at everybody," Golden said. "We’re more than two weeks out, but I think at some point, you have to at least allocate reps so we’ve got to be careful with that. We still want to develop everybody, we’re still going to make sure everybody gets reps. Then we have a little bit of an outlier in terms of Ryan (Williams) and his progress. He’s doing really well. That’s where we’re at today. It’s by no means a two-man race, but those are 1-2 right now. That’s probably the best way to say it."
A list of the other offensive starters: junior RB, senior WR Phillip Dorsett, redshirt sophomore WR Malcolm Lewis, sophomore TE Standish Dobard, junior LT Ereck Flowers, redshirt sophomore LG Hunter Wells, redshirt senior C Shane McDermott, sophomore RG Danny Isidora, freshman RT Trevor Darling. The only other position with co-starters is at fullback with senior walk-on Ronald Regula and sophomore Walter Tucker.
There are 11 individuals with spots as starters on defense: senior DE Anthony Chickillo, freshman DE Trent Harris, junior DT Calvin Heurtelou, senior DT Olsen Pierre, senior OLB Thurston Armbrister, senior MLB Denzel Perryman, junior OLB Raphael Kirby, junior CB Tracy Howard, junior S Deon Bush, senior S Dallas Crawford and senior CB Ladarius Gunter.
On special teams, the only set job is junior placekicker Matt Goudis. Redshirt senior Ricky Carroll and sophomore Justin Vogel are vying for punting duties. It is a three-person race for kickoffs between Goudis, freshman Michael Badgley and freshman Jon Semerne.
Junior safety Rayshawn Jenkins is likely out for the season with a chronic lower back injury. He was not present at Thursday morning’s practice after re-aggravating it during Wednesday’s scrimmage.
Jenkins played in all 13 games last season, starting 12 of them. He was fourth on the team with 46 tackles, second with three interceptions and also recorded five pass breakups.
According to various reports, Jenkins posted late Wednesday on his Facebook: "Will not be playing this season but I wish my boys the best. I would do anything to be out there with them but everything happens for a reason. #CaneGang #MinorSetBackMajorComeBack."
Senior wideout Rashawn Scott is not listed on the depth chart, and Golden said he has been dealing with a shoulder/clavicle area injury.
"You know, I don’t know," Golden said of Scott. "We didn’t think it was major, but again, rather than put him out for an extended period of time, I just wanted to get the facts before we release it on that. Guys to be honest with you, as soon as we get everything gathered, we’ll be able to release it so we all know what it is. Hopefully it won’t be too long."
Williams took a rep during 11-on-11 drills and completed a pass down the sideline, surprising media in attendance Thursday morning.
Williams, who underwent surgery on his ACL in early April, will not play in the opener but could return during the early part of the season.
Asked if there was a chance Williams could go full speed in two weeks, Golden said it was possible.
"There is a chance. There is a chance," Golden said. "Going full speed, and then being able to protect him against our first or second opponents, that’s a little bit different deal. That’s uncharted waters for us right now. He’s doing really well. I know he’s confident, I know he’s strong, nobody’s been more committed than him. I’m just being perfectly honest. This is not my call. This is his call, along with Dr. (Lee) Kaplan. We’re going to continue to let him progress and let him work in like he has been. But he’s doing really well. It’s hard to say it any other way."