Monday, August 25, 2014
Miami isn't Quarterback U anymore
By Andrea Adelson
Thirty-one years ago quarterback Bernie Kosar led Miami to its first national championship.
If you want a simple explanation for why Miami has struggled to win another championship, look at the quarterback.
The moniker "Quarterback U" no longer fits.
Since Ken Dorsey left in 2002 -- the last time Miami played for a national title -- the Canes have missed on nearly every single prospect they have recruited at the position. There may be myriad reasons why -- coaching changes, coordinator switches, problems with the supporting cast -- but the bottom line remains:
Miami has not been effective at the most high-profile position on the field, the position that helped build the program's reputation and championship pedigree.
Even this season, questions remain -- a big reason why it is so hard to predict how the Canes will fare. They have the talent to win the Coastal, but enough questions to pause. Now that we know true freshman Brad Kaaya has been tabbed as the starter, can he begin to restore what has been a long-standing tradition?
"As I told him, he's our quarterback," coach Al Golden said Sunday when he announced Kaaya won the job. "He's not our true freshman quarterback. He's the University of Miami quarterback."
Before we go forward, we should take a look back. Miami grew its reputation as QBU after producing NFL standouts and Heisman winners over a 13-year period, from Jim Kelly to Bernie Kosar, Vinny Testaverde, Steve Walsh, Craig Erickson and Gino Torretta. They combined to win four national championships. All were drafted. Four were taken in the first round; two No. 1 overall.
The name QBU more than applied. And looking back now, it seems incredible that one successive quarterback after another would deliver without one bit of drop off, even in the face of several coaching changes.
Miami is hoping Brad Kaaya can solve the school's recent troubles at quarterback.
Not only that, many of these quarterbacks had to spend years as backups, waiting for their opportunity to start. Given the way quarterbacks change schools today, waiting three years for an opportunity to start the way Torretta and Testaverde did is practically unheard of.
That patience was clearly rewarded. Each won the Heisman and played for a national title.
After Torretta left, Miami went through a long drought between elite quarterbacks. Dorsey changed that, winning a national championship and playing for another. But it was only temporary.
Dorsey, then, is the only elite quarterback Miami has produced since 1992. That is tough to truly digest considering the history. But perhaps the present is more indicative of where Miami stands, as it becomes more difficult to not only peg recruits but keep them in the program long enough to be developed.
Perhaps what happened at Miami in that golden period will never be replicated, and it is unfair to even compare eras. On the other hand, when you call yourself QBU, it is unavoidable to scrutinize what has happened at the position.
It is not for a lack of trying. Miami still brings in top quarterback recruits virtually every single season, selling the QBU legacy and tradition. But once they arrive on campus, their potential is rarely met.
Since 2000, Miami has signed 10 quarterbacks rated as All-Americans, four-star or five-star prospects. Three transferred; one opted to play baseball; another quit because of a back injury. Two others, Kyle Wright and Jacory Harris, ended up starting multiple seasons at Miami but did not achieve the success expected when they arrived on campus.
Two more -- Kevin Olsen and Kaaya -- are on the current roster.
So what has prevented these players from flourishing? Several factors have come into play. First, the skill players surrounding them have not been as good as they were in the past. Between 1983-1993, Miami had 16 receivers or running backs selected in the NFL draft. Thirteen of them went in the first three rounds.
Now compare that to recent times. Between 2004-14, Miami had just eight receivers or running backs drafted; only four in the first three rounds (and none of them first-round picks).
Coaching instability has played a role, too.
Take Wright, perhaps the biggest disappointment in the group. The Gatorade High School Player of the Year signed in 2003 under Larry Coker. Wright enrolled early and took over as the starter in 2005. But he played for three offensive coordinators and two head coaches. Ultimately, he was benched in favor of another four-star prospect, Kirby Freeman, after Coker was fired.
Freeman did not last long as the starter, and transferred to Baylor.
Harris played for two different head coaches and he never lived up to the hype, either. At times throughout his career, he seemed to regress, a direct reflection on the coaching staff.
Then, there are those players who simply cannot stay out of trouble. Robert Marve, another four-star prospect, started one season at Miami but it was not exactly a pleasant one. He served multiple suspensions and ended up transferring to Purdue.
Olsen, an ESPN 300 player in 2013, was supposed to go into this season as the starter. But he is serving a suspension, the second one in his brief Miami career.
Miami fans have now pinned their hopes on Kaaya as the next great Miami quarterback. He comes with the pedigree and has impressed Miami coaches from the moment he arrived on campus.
But as has been proven, high school ratings do not automatically translate into success at Miami.