Miami running back Duke Johnson is the name and the face of the program as the Hurricanes begin spring practice on Saturday.
There’s only one problem with that.
Johnson is still out this spring with a fractured ankle, and he simply can’t do it all, especially without a dependable quarterback orchestrating the offense. If Miami is going to build upon last year’s 9-4 season, it is going to have to be with a first-year starting quarterback, and as of right now, that competition is wide open and the main plotline of the Canes’ spring.
Only twice in the past five years (2011 and 2012) did Miami finish with fewer than 10 interceptions. In 2010, the Canes were No. 120 -- last in the FBS -- in interceptions with 15. The numbers have improved since the Jacory Harris era, but last year Stephen Morris was injured and took a step back, going from seven picks in 2012 to 12 last year.
The focus now turns to a group of rookies with much to prove this spring. Here’s a quick look at Miami’s top quarterback candidates:
The stats: He played in four games last year, completed 68.8 percent of his passes (22 of 32) for 369 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. He also had three carries for minus-16 yards (he was sacked twice).
The skinny: He transferred to Miami from Memphis and sat out 2011 because of NCAA transfer rules. Williams played sparingly in 2012, and last year was the primary backup for Morris. He got his most significant reps when Morris was injured, completing 11-of-13 passes for 176 yards and two touchdowns in a rout of Savannah State.
The stats: Redshirted last year.
The skinny: He already has a name for himself as the brother of former Miami Hurricane and current Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen. He was considered one of nation’s top pro-style quarterback prospects and ranked a four-star recruit by ESPN.com and the No. 5 player at his position. He was No. 87 in the ESPN 300 in his recruiting class. Olsen missed most of his senior season at Wayne Hills (N.J.) High School with a broken bone in his foot.
The stats: He played in two games, completing 6 of 8 passes for one touchdown, one interception and 55 yards. He also had one rushing attempt for 3 yards.
The skinny: He’ll be a redshirt sophomore and made his debut last year against Savannah State. ESPN.com rated him a three-star quarterback out of Clearwater, Fla., and ranked him No. 81 at his position.
The stats: True freshman
The skinny: Miami fans will have to wait until summer camp to see Kaaya, as he is not enrolled in classes yet this spring. He should be worth the wait, though, as Kaaya is ranked the No. 5 quarterback in his class and is No. 112 in the ESPN 300.