A day after it was announced true freshman Brad Kaaya had been named Miami's starting quarterback, the guys backing him up -- seniors Ryan Williams and Jake Heaps -- talked about the situation.
> Asked if Kaaya was keeping his seat warm, Williams smirked and said: "I mean, they couldn’t sit around and wait for me, I guess. I’m hurt. I didn’t think I was going to play Week 1. Didn’t really expect to. The recovery’s been a long time, but it’s still been faster than a lot of people. They had to move on. They couldn’t wait around and see if I could play or not. Glad for Brad. He had a great camp. I think he’s very smart. I think he can get the job done.”
Williams, who started as a true freshman for Memphis back in 2010 and lost 56-0 at Louisville during a 1-11 season, will be making the road trip with the Canes next week even though he won't be physically ready to play. Coach Al Golden said he's taking Williams because he wants his leadership there.
With redshirt freshman Kevin Olsen suspended for at least the opener, freshman Malik Rosier will also probably be making the trip, Golden said, as the team's third quarterback behind Heaps.
“It’s a big confidence-booster," Williams said of being on the travel roster. "Just means that I’m there to help my team regardless of the situation. Even though I can’t play, I’ll still be there to talk with Brad on the sideline and the other players on the sideline regardless of what happens.
“I did a lot of that last year. Me and Stephen would talk about everything, every drive, every play, really. So I don’t expect any different this year.”
> Williams said his surgically repaired right knee is about 85 percent. In camp, Williams participated in 7-on-7 work and "did a little bit of team stuff one day," but he still hasn't been into full-speed reps very much.
Williams said he is "just trying to get moving on it and throwing on the run and getting the cutting down and all that stuff” and hopes to get into more team drills soon. But there is no timetable for a return.
> Heaps, who transferred in from Kansas with the hopes of being Miami's starting quarterback when Williams went down in April, said Monday he's not considering transferring after losing out to Kaaya.
"I'm happy to be here," Heaps said. "I don't have regrets being here. This is a great opportunity and we'll just see what happens the rest of the season. All we know is we're getting ready for game one and we're excited for it.
"For me, it's just about keeping my head up, just continuing to work hard and practice hard and be a team guy. When my team needs me I'll be ready. That's all I can do at this point."
Heaps missed UM's second scrimmage with what Golden said was elbow soreness. But it appears it was a little more than soreness. Williams called what happened to Heaps "an unfortunate accident in practice."
Still, neither backup quarterback said they felt Heaps missing the scrimmage factored into Kaaya winning the starting job.
"It wasn’t like my arm got tired or anything like that," Heaps said. "I won’t really get into the details of it, but it was something that I just needed to have some time to recover from.
"So I don't think [that was a factor]. I think it was over a period of camp and a full evaluation. I don't think one day makes or breaks you. But me not being out there, I would have loved to be out there with my team and be in the game situation and compete out there. It would have been better than not being out, but I don't think it was the deciding factor."
Said Williams: "I didn’t think it really hurt his chances. Brad had a great camp, it wasn’t like he was given it for no reason.”
MORE NEWS AND NOTES
> Golden said sophomore walk-on Justin Vogel, a transfer from Florida, had a really good day punting Monday. It appears safe to say he's leading in the race for the job over senior Ricky Carroll. Vogel apparently is also impressing on kickoffs.
"It comes at a good time," Golden said "Tomorrow is a big special teams day."
> Six players on the offensive line -- including sophomore Taylor Gadbois -- were wearing orange starter jerseys Monday, and Golden said he isn't sure who is going to be in the starting five.
"But I feel like we have a rotation now," Golden said. "Kc [McDermott] is making progress. Alex Gall is making progress. Trevor Darling. We're definitely in a better position than we were at the beginning of camp and certainly coming out spring ball.
Golden said a lot of jobs will remain up for grabs all the way up until Saturday's practice.
"A lot of those jobs -- it's all the game within the game," Golden said. "You guys maybe don't see the guy coming in on short yardage and one guy leaving. Well that job is up for grabs. Goalline that job is up from grabs. On the nickel those jobs are up for grabs. Those are all different jobs on defense. Offense the same thing. 21, 12, 11, 10 personnel. Empty package. Those are all up for grabs. We have a long way to go -- five more practices -- before that."
> Tight end Clive Walford said the veterans in UM's offense are all pushing to make Kaaya feel more comfortable in the huddle.
"He's still kind of young," Walford said. "We're all trying to teach him when he calls a play in the huddle to make sure everybody knows the play, and before he snaps the ball to make sure everybody is set and the guys in motion are in motion. We're trying to stay on top of him with that. As soon as he messes up in the huddle the veteran guys correct him."
> Why does cornerback Tracy Howard think Kaaya won the starting job?
"I think it's his pocket presence," Howard said. "He has great footwork in the pocket. He has a natural feel. He does a great job stepping up and avoiding defenders in the pocket. He makes great decisions. You can't beat a guy who makes great decisions. He rarely makes bad decisions. I feel like before he'll throw an interception he'll throw it away. I just feel like he makes great decisions with the ball. He moves the ball down the field. He moves the sticks."
How is Kaaya's arm strength compared to Stephen Morris? "I feel like he's got good strength and he can get the job done. They're starting him for a reason. I feel like his strength is up to par."
Is Howard nervous about starting a true freshman at quarterback opening night? "No. I'm not nervous," Howard said. "I feel like he goes up against a good defense in practice every day. I feel like he handled himself very well. Not saying sometimes we didn't get the best of him. But he goes out there and makes plays. I feel like if he can do it against us he can do it against defense in the country."
> Even though freshman Darrion Owens is wearing a black jersey in practice, defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio said nothing is official yet in terms of him getting the starting nod over Thurston Armbrister at strongside linebacker.
> D'Onofrio said Antonio Crawford, Howard and Corn Elder are the three players competing at nickel corner. "We’ve got some flexibility there as far as the combination there," he said. "Obviously they all play corner as well."