- David M. Hale, College football
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Expectations at Miami have gone unmet for a while now, but there’s optimism among Hurricanes fans largely because of the emergence of quarterback Brad Kaaya. We caught up with Kaaya to find out how his first spring in Miami went and what he thinks about the Canes' need to win big in 2015.
David Hale: How big was it just to go through a full spring with this offense for the first time?
Brad Kaaya: It’s good for me to come in and see where guys fit in our offense, how the offense has been developed. For me, every season starts in January. The first game is in September, but a lot goes into that game. So for me, I wasn’t in this offense last year at this time, so to be here in the early stages has really helped me and helped our continuity. It’s allowed us to see our strengths and weaknesses and what we need to get better at and where we need to put our point of emphasis over the summer.
Hale: So where are those points of emphasis?
Kaaya: It’s hard to pinpoint an exact area because as last year went on, certain teams played us different compared to the start of the year. The way teams played us, it changed a lot from week to week as I developed and our offense developed. One thing we’ve definitely worked on is the red zone, throwing into tight windows, being able to cram balls in the goal line and short yardage and especially on third down.
Hale: Do you feel like this is your offense now, that you have to be the leader?
Kaaya: Definitely. I have to. As a quarterback, I have to. I can’t wait until I’m a junior or senior. I can’t do that because a lot of guys -- Raphael Kirby, Dallas Crawford, Tracy Howard -- a lot of those guys are stepping up now and I can’t let them down by waiting until my senior year to step up. I wouldn’t be doing justice to them by letting them take the whole ship.
Hale: Does that role feel more comfortable now than it did last season?
Kaaya: Our team dynamics have changed a lot. A lot of guys are more comfortable stepping up and being more accountable and speaking up. We built that up over spring and even through workouts. A lot of guys are being more accountable, and it’s making it easier to fix things and check certain guys. A lot of guys aren’t taking it personal. They’re just saying, ‘Oh, Brad’s stepping up and he’s saying it for the benefit of our team.’ A lot of guys have put their egos aside.
Hale: Miami really collapsed down the stretch last year. What was the cause of that, and how has it been addressed this offseason?
Kaaya: It feels like so long ago, and we’ve moved on from that for a while now. I feel like just as the year went on, we didn’t respond to adversity well. In football, there’ll be ups and downs, and I feel like we didn’t respond to adversity well enough and that killed us after the Florida State game. But this spring, we’ve done a lot better job with that. We’ve all talked about it and kind of moved on.
Hale: One guy who struggled last season was Stacy Coley. How has he rebounded this spring?
Kaaya: I’m sure it was tough on him. Of course he had a lot of opportunities, and this year is just capitalizing on those opportunities. A few plays were just unfortunate -- a couple overthrows, a couple drops, a couple PIs. I’m sure it wasn’t the season he expected, but he’s really worked hard this spring, and he’s been one of those unselfish guys that realizes that there’s a lot more than just him in our receiving corps. Even last year, there was a lot of receivers. They have to realize they won’t get the ball every play, but they have to still run their route to get other guys open. I hear people complain about why certain guys didn’t get the ball more last year, but when a lot of guys are capable of making plays, it’s hard to put it all on one guy.
Hale: You lost a ton of talent on the offensive line. What’s your level of confidence in the guys stepping into those roles?
Kaaya: This spring, we had a lot of guys rotate around. They’re still figuring different things out. But they’ll get after it and get better. They know what they have to do, and that will help over the next few months. The decisions don’t have to be made for a few months, and those guys are going to be working hard. The fact that they’re eager and willing to step up, I feel like they should be a lot nastier this season than they were this spring. I see a lot of potential, and the guys in that room feel the same way, too.
Hale: Every year there’s talk of “When will Miami be back?” and the questions seem louder than ever now. Is that something you guys keep in mind?
Kaaya: For us, we all know exactly what we have to do and have our goals in mind. We all want to win the Coastal and compete for a championship. And we can’t be focused on what the outside world is saying, but a lot of these guys really have a chip on their shoulder. I don’t know if there’s been another time when Miami’s really had that chip on its shoulder. Other teams were always gunning for us, waiting for us at 8 p.m. on Saturdays, scheduling us for their blackout or whiteout games. For us, I feel like it’s the time for us to be gunning for those teams.
A Q&A with Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya, who wants to shrug off the disappointing way the Hurricanes ended the 2014 season.