Robert Marve, 6-1, 195, RFR
Taylor Cook, 6-7, 205, FR
Jacory Harris, 6-4, 180, FR
Cannon Smith, 5-11, 200, FR
One of the biggest problems the Hurricanes have had in recent years has been the play of their quarterbacks. Of all the things that have gone wrong in recent years, there's not one area of this football team that has struggled more than the quarterbacks. Brock Berlin had a solid career here after transferring from the University of Florida. Kyle Wright showed promise after nearly beating Florida State in his first career start. However, after a decent first year as the starter, Wright faded. The Canes tried Kirby Freeman at times but that experience, minus a few games including the Blue Field Bowl of 2006, didn't work out too well.
Quarterback U. That's what several highly successful quarterbacks from the late 70s through the early 90s gave this program as a nickname. With the exception of a few years of the Kenny Dorsey era, the Hurricanes have struggled to gain consistent play from their quarterbacks. There's no other way around that and the 2007 season was about as bad as it's been.
Wright looked OK at times but struggled for most of the season, finishing with more interceptions (14) than touchdowns (12). Freeman, the starter to begin last season, completed 31 percent of his passes and threw twice as many interceptions as he did touchdowns.
OK, enough of the past. Pretty much everyone reading this knows all about the struggles of last year's quarterbacks. Some believe it was a product of having so many different offensive coordinators/quarterback coaches in recent years but however you slice it, it wasn't pretty and the Canes will get a breath of fresh air this season. Wright graduated and is trying to make the NFL as a free agent. Freeman transferred to Baylor.
It's a new era. New faces. Three of the four scholarship quarterbacks right now weren't even on the roster last season. Not a single one of the four has ever thrown a pass at the college level. Because of that, regardless of how successful they ultimately become, there will be growing pains at times. But like we saw with Tim Tebow at Florida winning the Heisman and keeping the Gators in the national spotlight, you can win with a freshman quarterback in college football. And don't forget, four of the five quarterbacks who led UM to national championship seasons were first year starters. Granted, they may not have been as inexperienced as whomever will start this year will be heading into the season, they still had limited experience heading into their big years.
Lets take a closer look at what each of the four have to offer.
If you ask 100 random Hurricane fans who the starting quarterback will be this season, the one who will likely get the most responses is Marve. Part of it is because he has a one year head start on the other three. Marve brings a lot to the table. When he took over the reins at Plant High in Tampa as a sophomore, they were coming off a one-win season. In his first year as the starter, he led them to a .500 record before taking them to the playoffs his junior season. Then, as a senior, he re-wrote the Florida record books by leading Plant to the Class 4A state championship. He was money in tight situations. His coach bragged about how great a leader/competitor/warrior he is on the field, often talking about how well he understands the game. He might not have the physical tools of certain guys but he's a tremendous student of the game and he's a proven winner at the high school level. He took a bad high school team and turned them into a state champion. Canes fans are hoping he can turn a bad UM offense and turn it into a national champion in a couple years.
Harris first appeared on the radar when he went to Miami's camp before his junior season at Miami Northwestern High School. He won the Top QB award and started to generate a lot of talk around Dade County because of his ability to throw the football and lead his team. In two years as the starter, he never lost. Sure, he had a lot of talent around him but so do a lot of college quarterbacks. Isn't that what Kenny Dorsey did? He had all the talent around him and all he did was win. That's what Harris did in high school and that's what UM is hoping he'll do here. He's tall and very thin and doesn't have the arm of some of the other quarterbacks on the roster but you have to be excited about a kid who never lost a game in high school and won Florida's Mr. Football Award last year. He graduated high school early to get a head start on college life, going through spring practice so he could have a legitimate opportunity to compete with Marve for the starting job. Cook made an early commitment to Miami last year and came to the summer camp to showcase his skills. He might have the strongest arm of the four and at 6-7, he's clearly the biggest of the four. Physically, he has a lot of what you look for in a quarterback prospect. He helped lead his team to the state playoffs last season and he's hoping to add his name to the mix when fall camp starts so that he can give Marve and Harris a run for their money.
Smith, like Harris, enrolled early at Miami. He had an interesting recruiting story. A U.S. Army All-America selection as a senior in high school, Smith helped lead his team to the state championship game as a senior in Memphis. He made an early commitment to Memphis before switching to Ole Miss. Then, just before signing day, he backed off that commitment and took a visit to Miami. He didn't sign with anyone on signing day and instead enrolled at Milford Prep, where he felt he could improve his stock and get a lot more experience throwing the football. He did that and it paid off, as the Canes offered him and signed him. He doesn't have ideal size at 5-11 or 6-0 but he's hoping to overcome that and develop into a legitimate candidate to compete for the starting job this fall.
You have to believe one, perhaps two, of the three true freshmen will receive redshirts this season after the depth chart is organized in the fall. The coaches say they will announce a starter in late August like they did last year. One thing to remember – don't assume the guy named the starter in August will be the team's quarterback this season. Look at 2007 for proof, as Wright became the team's primary starter after Freeman was named the starter at the end of August.
Regardless of who gets the job, there will be competition behind him. They don't have any college experience but they all came from winning high school programs and they're all used to having thrown the ball a lot at the prep level -- especially Marve, Harris, and Smith. It'll be fun to watch the four of them compete for the job and for playing time when preseason camp begins. The winner will have the inside track to being the man of the future for the Hurricanes at quarterback and Canes fans are hoping that turns out better than it has in recent years.