A true freshman will lead the way.
Finally, a week and a day before the University of Miami season opener at Louisville on Labor Day night, coach Al Golden named a starting quarterback -- and that quarterback is 18-year-old Brad Kaaya.
"Brad Kaaya will be the starter,'' Golden said, calling the decision "close'' as reporters began immediately posting the news on Twitter. "Jake understands exactly what he needs to do in terms of getting ready and supporting Brad, and Brad knows that the competition is going to continue.
"We've got a long way to go in terms of the season. There's competition at every position.
"It was a tight battle. It was a battle that none of us, including you guys, could have foresaw at the end of June or beginning of July or maybe even at the beginning of camp. I'm excited about that position.
"In Ryan [William's] absence, those two had a great battle. Kevin Olsen really improved, so I'm excited about him. But right now, Brad nudged out Jake and he's our quarterback.''
Golden said he made the decision this morning and told the media after practice Sunday that Kaaya "nudged out'' graduate transfer Jake Heaps, 23, who played his first two years at BYU, transferred to Kansas and spent the next two years there, and transferred again this summer to Miami.
Kaaya will not be made available to the media until after the Louisville game, which is the usual policy for freshmen who haven't played in a game. Heaps and Ryan Williams, who were both requested by media members, however, also were not made available to the media Sunday.
UM offensive coordinator James Coley said the decision had nothing to do with the injury (elbow) that kept Heaps out of the second scrimmage.
"I thought that Jake did a great job this camp and I just thought that, you know, Kaaya towards the end here really pulled away and started getting really comfortable, and like I've been saying, he's not your regular freshman, right?'' Coley said. "He's not a freshman anymore, he's the starting quarterback at the University. "He's really embraced it. There's no hiccups.
"It was tough early coming in. Down maybe the last eight to 10 days you saw him get a lot [more] comfortable out here with the players and with the speed of the game.''
Kaaya, 6-4 and 206 pounds, is from West Hills, Calif. and was an All-American at West Hills Chaminade College Preporatory. Kaaya led Chaminade to a 23-3 record as a starter and threw for a school-record 3,855 yards during a state-championship senior season, and has impressed everyone this fall camp.
Heaps, 6-1 and 210 pounds, came out of Skyline High in Sammamish, Wash., as a Parade All-American ranked the nation's No. 1 pro-style quarterback by Rivals.com. He completed 219 of 383 passes in all 13 games his freshman season at BYU, good for 2,316 yards and 15 touchdowns, with nine interceptions, setting nearly every BYU freshman record.
But last season at Kansas he completed only 49 percent of his passes for 1,414 yards, with eight touchdowns and 10 picks.
Golden said Kaaya "has come along great'' in terms of progressing with his communication skills and being more vocal. "He's really maturing. We're putting him in a tough environment every day in terms of the music [UM blasts at practice]. I think the biggest thing now is to get him to... because we don't have our whole offense in for the opener, he'll improve by leaps and bounds in the next three or four days."
What was Heap's reaction?
"They were both very positive,'' Golden said. "I don't want to get too much into the personal stuff in terms of protecting our privacy. But obviously both are really positive guys, they've been great the entire competition and they know it's an ongoing thing. It's all about performance and execution. That's where we are today. Brad is the starter going into the opener and Jake knows he needs to support the starter and get ready to go.''
What does this mean for Williams, the fifth-year senior who would have been the starter had he not torn his ACL in April?
"Ryan, as I said all along, that's a medical issue right now,'' Golden said. "When it's not a medical issue anymore and he can do everything that we need our quarterbacks to do,then we'll look at it in every angle and see what's best for our football team. But right now that's not part of the equation. His health right now, his strength, his ability to rehab and return is paramount for him. Once he does that we'll evaluate the situation.''
Kaaya did not come to UM for spring football, which makes this decision even more impressive.
"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 be good out of the book and then it doesn't translate. But it has translated here. We've put him in very tough situations.
"We've put him under the gun, his completion percentage is good, he's protected the ball really well, he can articulate the offense, he's very poised. At the end of the day, as I told him, he's our quarterback. He's not a freshman quarterback, he's the University of Miami quarterback.''
Golden said this is the first time in his career he's starting a true freshman at quarterback.
And this will be the first time that a true freshman quarterback starts for the Hurricanes in an opener since Jacory Harris was anointed in 2008. Harris' selection was the result of former quarterback Robert Marve being arrested on a misdemeanor charge in Coconut Grove, and thus suspended for the opener.
The 2008 opener was against Division I-AA Charleston Southern, which UM throttled 52-7.
The Canes finished 7-6 in 2008, with Marve and Harris sharing reps during games.
Louisville, which embarrassed the Hurricanes 36-9 this past December, is in the "others receiving votes'' category in the Associated Press poll -- equal to a ranking of 31, while UM would be ranked 39th in the AP.
UM coach Al Golden said he will not allow Kaaya to speak to the media until after he plays his first game.
SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN