Changing QBs tough for Richt
Switching to Perry hit personal note for coach
A former Hurricanes quarterback himself, Mark Richt understands the pressure that comes with playing the position at Miami.
He knows, too, how frustrating it can be to be the guy behind the guy, the backup who practices and prepares day in and day out never really knowing when — or even if — the opportunity to play will ever really come.
“I spent my whole life behind a guy named Jim Kelly,” Richt said this past week. “It’s not fun to be in that position. I understand the feeling.”
For the better part of the last year, redshirt freshman N’Kosi Perry was that backup. He dressed for every game in 2017, but never stepped on the field. He started this season suspended and didn’t travel for Miami’s season opener against LSU.
Perry finally made his Miami debut in a blowout win over Savannah State earlier Hurricanes coach Mark Richt made the decision last week to give redshirt freshman N'Kosi Perry his first start.
this month and played a handful of snaps in the win at Toledo.
Meanwhile, veteran Malik Rosier was the starter. He helped lead the Hurricanes to 10 straight wins last season and while he struggled late in the year during the Hurricanes’ three-game slide and again in the opener, he managed to hang on to his job, even as Miami fans clamored for a change.
Rosier spent his offseason working on his footwork and trying to improve his accuracy, things he knew would help him continue improving so he could lead the Hurricanes to another ACC Coastal Division title.
But as Rosier worked to improve, so too, did Perry. The younger quarterback gained a stronger grasp of the Hurricanes’
offense and began showing the kind of maturity on and off the field that had been missing since his arrival in Coral Gables as a highly touted four-star prospect.
All of that, combined with the fact Perry had played well in his limited opportunities, prompted Richt to start wondering about the possibility of playing Perry in a game that hadn’t been decided.
That chance came in Miami’s fourth game of the season against FIU.
After Rosier started that game and presided over two scoreless offensive series, Richt sent Perry out for the third. The young quarterback connected on his first 10 pass attempts, led two quick touchdown drives and made it virtually impossible for the coach to take him out of what was eventually a 31-17 win over the Panthers.
The torch had seemingly, been passed and five days later, after a little bit of mystery, it was Perry — not Rosier — who started the Hurricanes’ ACC opener against North Carolina last Thursday, an eventual 47-10 Miami win.
“Malik didn’t do anything wrong,” Richt said of his decision. “Just, N’Kosi kept coming on and I felt like it was time to give him the best opportunity.”
As he did against FIU, Perry delivered. Though his opportunities were limited because Miami ran just 46 plays against North Carolina, Perry than held his own, completing 8-of-12 passes for 125 yards and a touchdown.
And though he had two turnovers on back-to-back possessions in the second half, both Perry and Richt were pleased with how things went.
“It was good, but it can always be better,” Perry said. “Always room for improvement.”
Said Richt, “Very accurate. The first pass of the game was just beautiful. If we’d taken a little better angle by the receiver, it might have scored a touchdown. … He made a lot of different kinds of throws and was
pretty impressive in that. He made a couple mistakes on a couple reads. He was working the wrong side of the field maybe once or twice, but nothing horrible by any means. For the most part, I thought he played really good.”
What happened at Miami this past week is part of a trend in college football, with proven veteran quarterbacks being replaced by promising youngsters.
This week, Richt conceded the conversations he’s had to have with Rosier have been difficult, but he’s had extraordinarily high praise for how the fifth-year senior has handled moving into the backup role.
“If I go from my personal experience as a backup all throughout my collegiate career, I know what it feels like to be a backup. I know what it feels like to be one play away and also maybe not get in a game,” Richt said. “The quarterback position is one you don’t freely sub very often. It’s not easy news to deliver. It’s not easy news to take. Malik did a very good job throughout the week and even in the ballgame of staying positive and staying upbeat the best he could. But it was not easy news to take or give.”
And the coach also pointed out that with the way the college game has changed, it’s not out of the realm of possibility both Perry and Rosier could continue seeing time as the Hurricanes move through the rest of their ACC schedule and face the likes of FSU, Virginia, Boston College, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech and more in the coming weeks.
“I think it may be more and more common to play two guys because of how much these guys run,” Richt said. “Not only does running put you exposed to being tackled, it exerts you. … Quarterbacks, I’ve seen [them] cramp up in the middle of the game because it’s hot and they’re running a lot more than they used to.
“So it makes sense, for sure, to have two that can play.”