Miami was long known as “Quarterback U,” and for good reason: it consistently churned out some of the best passers in the land, from Jim Kelly to Bernie Kosar to Vinny Testaverde.
Now add Brad Kaaya’s name to the list of signal-callers to don the Hurricane uniform. Oh, and by the way, the kid’s a freshman.
Miami coach Al Golden announced that Kaaya will be the team’s starting quarterback a little more than three months after the first-year player arrived on campus in May. But that doesn’t mean the young Los Angeles-product will have lower expectations.
“He’s not a freshman quarterback,” Golden said to the Associated Press. “He’s the University of Miami quarterback.”
A ‘bookish’ quarterback
Miami offensive coordinator James Coley admitted that he couldn’t have necessarily imagined a freshman leading the team’s high-flying spread offense three months ago.
“You know what? No,” Coley said.
But Kaaya, the 7th-ranked pro-style quarterback from California in the Class of 2014, impressed with his study habits and ability to play mistake-free ball for the Hurricanes in summer practices. In a city like Miami that is full of distractions, the bookish player was often found studying his playbook and working as if he already was the starter.
“For me, if I was coming to Miami to just go to the city, go out and have fun, I would’ve stayed back home,” Kaaya said to the Associated Press earlier this month. “I came here to play football.”
Kaaya beat out transfer Jake Heaps, a senior who has previously played for BYU and Kansas.
Less experienced players are getting more opportunities in college than ever, especially at quarterback.
All you have to do is look at college football’s star signal-callers the last few years. Florida State’s Jameis Winston came in as “Famous Winston” and preceded to win both the Heisman and BCS National Championship in his redshirt freshman year.
Before that, all the buzz was about Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel, who toppled college record books with more than 3,000 yards passing and 1,000 yards rushing in his redshirt-freshman year and Heisman campaign of 2012.
What made those players perform so well at such a young age was their cerebral play and high-level athleticism.
Winston was blessed with a 6-foot-4 frame and a cannon arm that somehow also sported tremendous precision. While undersized, Manziel was one of the fastest athletes and seemed to possess a preternatural ability to avoid incoming pressure from defenses.
Kaaya looks a lot like San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, a former star at Nevada.
They both weigh in at about 6-foot-4 and sport sinewy frames that are more muscular than bulky. Kaaya looks like he could just as well be a wide receiver, at a toned 206 pounds.
The question, of course, will be if Kaaya can show the same calm disposition while leading Miami against some of the best teams in the country – and not wilt once he’s no longer playing in summer workouts against friendly defenses.