- Heather Dinich, ESPN Staff Writer
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Last season, Miami ranked last in the country in interceptions thrown with 27. Out of 120 teams, Miami was No. 120. The Canes were No. 104 in the country in turnover margin.
One of first-year coach Al Golden’s priorities this spring has to be to change that, and it starts with his choice at quarterback.
Golden and first-year offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch have given embattled quarterback Jacory Harris a clean state, and he will compete with Stephen Morris for the starting job. It’s a tired storyline at Miami, though, as fans have grown weary of opponents catching the ball more than the Canes. Not all of those 27 interceptions, though, were the fault of Harris. He threw 15 picks and had 14 touchdowns. Receivers, running backs, the offensive line, other quarterbacks -- everyone contributed to the burden that has become Harris'. More was expected of him, though, as a junior.
The new staff still has high expectations for Harris, and in a recent interview both Golden and Fisch explained their reasoning behind giving him another chance. Both answers were reasonable and convincing. Let the best quarterback win.
What makes you think you can stop that [interception] trend for Jacory?
Al Golden: “I think in general, quarterbacks -- the more experience they encounter, the better they become. Things start to slow down for them. We’re going to put an extra emphasis for him on protecting the football, being smart with the football and not taking sacks. For us, it’s a fresh start for them. As a fan, I watched Jacory a couple of years back when he was lighting it up. I know it’s in there. What brought the best out of Jacory was when [Robert] Marve was here and they were competing. We’re going to revisit that a little bit here with Stephen Morris and let those guys compete it out. I think it will bring out the best in both of them.”
“Not to say any former coach didn’t do a good job, it’s just that there’s going to be a breath of fresh air to correct some of the errors he’s made here over the past year.”
If we haven’t seen the progress yet, what makes this staff think they can change that in one year?
Jedd Fisch: “Interceptions are just one part of the evaluation process. Everybody has a clean slate, there’s no doubt about it. I wouldn’t take the job if I didn’t feel as if I’d be able to evaluate the quarterbacks with Coach Golden. Coach Golden and I talked about it. We know and we remember what Jacory did in 2009. We remember that. We also know what Stephen does and brings to the table, and we’re keeping an eye on every other option. What we’re looking forward to doing is seeing how they handle the new offense. They’ve got to be able to not just cut back on interceptions, because you can never go backwards, they have to be able to understand how to control a huddle, get in and out of the right play, call the play right, they need to get the team at the line of scrimmage, be a leader. We’re evaluating it all. What we’re looking forward to seeing is if there’s some senior leadership, the experience of Jacory, is there some innate ability Stephen has? We’re going to evaluate them, identify the issues and see if we can correct them.
Interceptions sometimes are total flukes. I promise you that. I’ve seen balls tipped in the air and picked, Hail Mary’s that get picked off at the end of a half, fourth-and-20 and the coordinator says, ‘Hey, just rip it, who cares?’ I’m not going to evaluate a quarterback based on a statistical number. I’m going to evaluate him based on decision-making and the offense we’re installing and we’re running on opening day and seeing who can manage that game the best.
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