CORAL GABLES, Fla. (AP) — Brad Kaaya prefers to say his football seasons start in January, which illustrates how much value he puts into things like offseason workouts and spring practice.
So to him, Saturday’s Miami spring game is more than some glorified workout with fans watching.
The Hurricanes’ quarterback threw for 3,198 yards and 26 touchdowns as a true freshman last season, even after arriving on campus from his native California in June and not having the chance to go through spring ball and get to know teammates on and off the field. This year has been more in tune with his preferred schedule, and he thinks there will be a payoff.
"I can see where it would have helped me last year," Kaaya said when asked about the value of Miami’s spring season. "Just to be able to be in this offense, because every year a new team is born. New offense, new defense, new special teams. So to be able to be in a new offense, to be in an offense at this stage really helps everyone who’s here."
Spring games are typically dumbed-down to an extreme level from a playcalling standpoint, since teams rarely want to show potential opponents anything that they’ve been working on during the offseason.
And Miami — which started 6-3 last season, then ended the year with a four-game slide — clearly won’t put its entire playbook on display, or anything close. But Hurricanes coach Al Golden suggested that he’ll walk a line between keeping some secrets and seeing who can execute in certain situations.
"Every team’s different," Golden said. "I think if we’re going to lean one way or another with this team, it’s going to be about executing what we do and not worrying about who sees it. So I think we’re going to call a lot of different things, put guys in challenging situations and see who can respond. That’s kind of been our M.O. all week."
In many respects, Golden wants Miami’s spring game to serve as a final exam of sorts for players and simulate what will happen on Saturdays this fall. Situations were reviewed on the field Thursday, meetings were going on Friday, all leading up to a noon kickoff on Saturday with fans, officials and a scoreboard — a far cry from the practice-field environment.
"We’ve learned a lot about our team, which is part of spring, right? Identifying who can do what and then obviously putting that into the big picture conceptually, like ‘What can we do better than anybody and what can we do best in terms of our personnel?’ ” Golden said. "So I think we’ve learned that. And for them … the game is a big deal."
Jobs this fall might not necessarily be won or lost on Saturday, but it will give the coaching staff some more game-situation data to use when formulating plans for training camp and beyond.
Kaaya will watch things around him with a critical eye as well, but likes what he’s seen from Miami overall throughout the spring season.
"It seems like we got a lot closer as a team," Kaaya said. "Just a lot of guys meshed, a lot of guys jelled, a lot of guys got to know each other better. And that just helps your continuity on the field."