Hurricanes quarterbacks struggle after being thrust to center stage

Kevin Olsen completed 33 percent of his passes during Miami's spring game.

Steve Mitchell/Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — The University of Miami spring game was supposed to have been Ryan Williams’ debut as the Hurricanes No. 1 quarterback.

Stephen Morris’ backup the past two seasons, however, was sidelined after suffering a torn ACL eight days earlier. The injury meant redshirt freshman Kevin Olsen and redshirt sophomore Gray Crow moved up on the UM depth chart.

Olsen, brother of former Hurricanes tight end Greg, thus became the main attraction during Saturday’s spring game at Sun Life Stadium.

"My mindset had changed completely," Olsen said following the scrimmage of 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills. "It was, ‘Fight for the job,’ and now the job was kind of placed in my lap. Now it’s my turn to take and run things."

Maybe.

"Clearly, Kevin is ahead of Gray right now, but he was behind Ryan," coach Al Golden said after the event. "So, I think it’s safe to say right now, not only are those two competing, but the two (true freshmen) that come in will, too.

New uniforms

"We need someone to emerge, as not just a leader, but as someone who can execute. He doesn’t have to make every throw. I’m very excited about the group we have around (the QB) this year."

Incoming freshmen Brad Kaaya, of West Hills, Calif., and Malik Rosier, of Mobile, Ala., will enter the mix when they arrive at Coral Gables in the next month or so. Kaaya is a highly rated pocket passer.

There’s also the chance Williams could be ready by the fall. After Wednesday’s surgery to repair the knee, Williams’ mother told the Miami Herald her son wanted to return for the Sept. 20 game at Nebraska.

"We’ll continue to monitor Ryan’s recovery and see where he’s at in late-July, early-August," Golden said.

Williams completed 68.8 percent of his passes (22 of 32) for 369 yards with three touchdowns and one interception last season. He sat out 2011 after transferring from Memphis, where he started 10 games as a true freshman.

Hoping to return

Golden might not know who his starting quarterback will be for the Hurricanes’ Sept. 1 opener at Louisville, but he knows what he expects from whomever it is.

"He needs to execute the offense, have poise, conduct the game, get us in the right call … the right protection … and trust the guys around him," Golden said. "I’m looking for that guy to emerge at some point here in the next three months."  

Both Olsen and Crow struggled in the spring affair. Olsen completed 7 of 21 for 65 yards and an interception. Crow, from Clearwater, Fla., was 9 of 20 for 63 yards and an interception.

"I think I ran the offense good. I definitely left a couple of throws out there but that happens sometimes," said Olsen, who is from Wayne, N.J.

"It wasn’t really nerves. A couple of things didn’t connect. The defense made a couple of good plays and sometimes that’s how football goes."

Olsen was supported at the spring game by family who included his dad and high school coach Chris, brother and former Virginia QB Christian and brother Greg, a Carolina Panthers tight end.

"It was great. First time, I guess you can say, a college game even though it was the spring game," Olsen said. "I felt it was great they all came and were sitting there behind the bench rooting for me.

"I think right now I’m doing a pretty good job at this level with the speed of the game and all that kind of stuff. As I get more comfortable and comfortable, I’ll be better as the year goes on."

Olsen said he was embracing his new status and would be a team leader through the summer.

"I’ll try to organize 7-on-7s and throw with the receivers and we’ll have the linemen out there," Olsen said. "I’ll do a pretty good job organizing everything however many times a week we think we need it."

You can follow Charlie McCarthy on Twitter @mccarthy_chas or email him at mac1763@bellsouth.net.