Ryan Williams‘ offseason injury paved the way for a true freshman to become the starting quarterback of the Miami Hurricanes.
“Brad Kaaya will be the starter,” Miami head coach Al Golden told the Miami Herald‘s Susan Miller Degnan. “Jake (Heaps) understands exactly what he needs to do in terms of getting ready and supporting Brad, and Brad knows that the competition is going to continue.
“We’ve got a long way to go in terms of the season. There’s competition at every position.”
It comes as a surprise for Golden to name Kaaya the starter. The freshman wasn’t an early enrollee, while Heaps was a senior transfer. It wasn’t too long ago Heaps was considered the favorite to win the job. In a close competition, though, the younger player usually gets the nod.
“It was a tight battle,” Golden stated. “It was a battle that none of us, including you guys, could have foresaw at the end of June or beginning of July or maybe even at the beginning of camp. I’m excited about that position.”
Kaaya was considered a four-star recruit and ranked by Rivals.com as the eighth-best quarterback prospect in the nation. While Heaps had an advantage in experience, he didn’t clearly outplay Kaaya. At 6-4 and 206 pounds, Kaaya fits the mold as a traditional pocket passer to play in Golden’s system.
“He’s really maturing,” Golden said. “We’re putting him in a tough environment every day in terms of the music [UM blasts at practice]. I think the biggest thing now is to get him to… because we don’t have our whole offense in for the opener, he’ll improve by leaps and bounds in the next three or four days.”
The most interesting aspect of Golden’s decision is how the coach handles the situation moving forward. Golden already stated the competition will continue. Kaaya isn’t guaranteed anything beyond starting the season opener. If and when Kaaya struggles, Golden may quickly switch to Heaps.
There is also the question of what happens if Kaaya embraces the position and how the Hurricanes move forward with a recovering Williams and improved Kevin Olsen champing at the bit to start in 2015.
But Kaaya has to prove himself first. The freshman already gained the trust of his coaches. It’s now time to prove he can make plays during live game action.
“If he wasn’t here for 13 weeks before preseason camp plus three now, I don’t think we would be having this conversation,” Golden said. “That combined with the fact that he made incredible sacrifices personally, and he’s smart, and he’s disciplined. He is one of those guys that got better incrementally every day so here we are.”