Miami backup quarterback A.J. Highsmith has the name -- his father, Alonzo Sr., was a fullback for the Hurricanes from 1983-1986. He has the Hurricane lineage -- his mother is a Miami graduate and his grandmother works in the campus bookstore. And he has the potential -- Highsmith was rated the No. 24 quarterback in his class by ESPN.com.
The one thing Highsmith is missing right now, should he be called upon to take over for starter Jacory Harris, is experience.
“We have to keep developing another quarterback,” Shannon told the Palm Beach Post in April. “Everybody knows we can’t get Jacory hurt.”
This spring, though, Harris was hurt -- no big surprise after a season in which Miami allowed 35 sacks.
Harris missed spring practices while recovering from a thumb injury, leaving Highsmith to split the reps with freshman Stephen Morris and transfer Spencer Whipple. Morris probably has the strongest arm of the three, but Highsmith is the most athletic. Whipple, a walk-on, is the son of offensive coordinator Mark Whipple and spent last season on the scout team. Shannon finished spring practices unwilling to name his No. 2 quarterback until fall practices begin, but Highsmith appeared to be the leading candidate.
He was thrust into the role a year ago after the transfers of Cannon Smith and Taylor Cook. Highsmith relished the opportunity, as it had always been a dream to follow in his father’s footsteps and play at Miami. He got his first chance as a true freshman last season, playing in three games. He completed 4 of 6 passes for 53 yards and a touchdown on the season. It should give him confidence if and when he’s called upon again.
As a senior at Hightower High School in Texas, Highsmith threw for 2,192 yards, 28 touchdowns and only four interceptions. He finished his career there with 6,673 passing yards and 70 touchdowns.
Highsmith was recruited to Miami because of his talent -- not his pedigree. Eventually, he’ll be able to showcase it. The best he and Miami fans should hope for this season is to stay at No. 2 where he can continue to learn from Harris and grow within the system.
Despite the potential looming behind Harris, Miami needs veterans if it’s going to contend for the Coastal Division title this year, let alone the school’s first ACC championship. This is not the season for rookies at Miami, and “everybody knows” it.