The quarterback position has been a revolving door for Miami this offseason, but coach Al Golden ended the carousel by naming true freshman Brad Kaaya the starter for the Week 1 matchup against Louisville.
While Golden’s decision to name Kaaya the starter was made easier due an injury to Ryan Williams (torn ACL), and a suspension for Kevin Olsen, this is the right move for Miami in 2014 and beyond.
Kaaya was competing with Jake Heaps for the starting job this fall, as both quarterbacks enrolled this summer to push for the starting job. Having a veteran like Heaps is beneficial, but he’s struggled in two previous stops (BYU and Kansas).
After throwing 15 touchdowns and nine interceptions as a true freshman at BYU in 2010, Heaps lost the starting job to Riley Nelson in 2011 and transferred to Kansas to start in 2012. However, Heaps was benched after a slow start, completing only 49 percent of his throws and tossing 10 picks on 261 attempts.
There’s no doubt Kaaya is going to make mistakes – he’s a true freshman after all. Starting a true freshman quarterback on the road in a hostile environment (Louisville) is tough, but the upside is worth the risk over Heaps. The senior is a known commodity, and he’s been limited some in fall camp due to an elbow injury. Maybe Heaps is a better quarterback than he showed at BYU or Kansas, but it's tough to envision the Washington native being the answer for Miami in 2014.
On the other side, Kaaya is a quarterback with enormous upside. The California native ranked as the No. 141 national recruit by 247Sports in the 2014 signing class and was considered a four-star prospect.
The bar has been set high by freshman quarterbacks in recent years (Jameis Winston and Johnny Manziel), and it’s unfair to pin those expectations on Kaaya. However, the gamble and upside of starting Kaaya outweighs the risk.
Could Kaaya be the next star quarterback in Coral Gables? Perhaps. And knowing what Miami has in Heaps, it only makes sense to go with upside and Kaaya’s potential.
2014 isn’t a make or break year for Golden, but the Hurricanes need to take a step in the right direction. Step one is finding a quarterback. Maybe Kaaya is that guy. It’s better to find out now than next season.