“I think the biggest thing was we saw how much he was devoted to it, how many sacrifices he made, how well he learned and how it translated to the field,” Golden said. “A guy can be good in the film room or out of the book, and then it doesn’t translate. It has translated here.”
After watching Kaaya battle with senior Jake Heaps, redshirt freshman Kevin Olsen and freshman Malik Rosier over the previous three weeks, Golden decided on a starting quarterback Sunday morning and informed the players of his decision prior to practice.
“It was a tight battle,” Golden said. “It was a battle that none of us could have foresaw at the end of June or July or the beginning of camp. I’m excited about that position. In Ryan’s absence, those two had a great battle. I think Kevin Olsen really improved, so I am excited about him. Right now, Brad nudged out Jake and he’s our quarterback.”
Just two days before his 19th birthday, Kaaya will be under center as the Canes face Louisville in the season opener on Sept. 1.
“We’ve put him in very tough situations. We’ve put him under the gun,” Golden said. “His completion percentage is really good. He’s protected the ball really well. He can articulate the offense. He is very poised.
“As I told him, he’s our quarterback. He’s not our true freshman quarterback. He’s the University of Miami quarterback.”
Jacory Harris was the last true freshman to start a season opener at Miami, throwing for 190 yards and a touchdown in a 52-7 victory over Charleston Southern on Aug. 28, 2008. Stephen Morris was the last true freshman to start a game at quarterback for the Hurricanes, throwing for 186 yards and a touchdown against Maryland on Nov. 6, 2010.
“He’s come along great,” Golden said of Kaaya. “He’s done a great job and really maturing. We are putting him in a tough environment every day…We don’t have our whole offense in for the opener yet, so he will improve by leaps and bounds over the next few days.”
Kaaya enrolled at Miami in May and Golden believes his early arrival helped the 18-year-old prove himself on and off the field.
“If he wasn’t here for 13 weeks before preseason camp plus three now, I don’t think we would be having this conversation,” Golden said. “That combined with the fact that he made incredible sacrifices personally, and he’s smart, and he’s disciplined. He is one of those guys that got better incrementally every day so here we are.”
A standout at Chaminade-Madonna College Prep in West Hills, Calif., Kaaya played in the Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl. He was a first-team California Division II All-State selection and was named to 2013 Los Angeles Daily News All-Area team. Kaaya was also named Los Angeles Daily News All-Area Player of the Year.
He compiled a 23-3 record as the starter at Chaminade, finishing his career with 5,730 yards and 40 touchdowns in two seasons. He led Chaminade to the California Division II State Championship in 2013, throwing for a school-record 3,855 yards and 27 touchdowns as senior.
A limited supply of lower-level season tickets are still available for as little as $215. The 2014 home schedule features seven games, including Homecoming on November 1 vs. North Carolina and a matchup with in-state rival Florida State on November 15.
For more information on ticket options, visit CanesTix.com or call the Hurricane Ticket Office at 305-284-2263.