- Dave George Palm Beach Post Sports Columnist
Malik Rosier, who has won 11 of 13 career starts as Miami’s quarterback, leads the Hurricanes against Wisconsin in the Orange Bowl Saturday night. Good stuff, right?
Not good enough for many fans who were over the moon about Miami’s 10-0 start and are now seeking someone to blame for those gruesome losses to Pittsburgh and Clemson on the threshold of a possible College Football Playoff appearance.
Let’s begin by blaming Clemson for being the No. 1 team in the nation and the defending national champion. Proven power like that has a tendency to rend the sturdiest game plan.
The Pittsburgh clunker is harder to swallow, a 24-14 road loss during which Rosier was briefly benched in favor of backup Evan Shirreffs. That day would have been N’Kosi Perry’s time to shine if he weren’t in the final stages of a redshirt freshman season and, by all logic, thoroughly off limits. Next summer, coach Mark Richt will have his choice of Perry or new signee Jarren Williams or, what, more of Malik?
My advice is don’t count Rosier out so quickly. He’ll fight like a demon to keep his job in 2018, even though his comments on the matter during a Thursday Orange Bowl media session were borderline angelic.
“If N’Kosi or Jarren come in and beat me, then my cap’s off to them,” Rosier said. “I’ll support them the whole way. I’ll help them in any way I can. … You can ask N’Kosi himself. I want him to be as great as he can be because if there’s no competition, I won’t get any better. The only way I can grow is if someone pushes me to be better.”
That’s the voice of a leader, protecting against division within the team and projecting a little, too. If you want to be a starter for Miami at any position, prove that there’s no better option. If you want to suit up for Miami, period, prove that you belong.
Expect Rosier to do just that on Saturday night, taking on the No. 6 Badgers with an eye toward firming up his relationship with Richt. The coach chose him last summer based on the fullest grasp of Miami’s offense. Now, with a bruised throwing shoulder refreshed by three weeks free of continued pounding, it’s time for Rosier to demonstrate his full grasp on Miami’s future, too.
Don’t bet against it. This guy has been hurting since the North Carolina game on Oct. 28, when he briefly left a tense 24-19 road victory so that the possibility of a broken collarbone or some other disaster could be ruled out.
“They said ‘If you can throw, throw, and if you can’t, just let us know,’ ” said Rosier, who popped a couple of Aleve and returned to complete a career-best passing day of 356 yards.
He’s been letting the Miami training staff know pretty much every day since with a steady discipline of early-morning treatments on his sore shoulder, sometimes calling him out of bed at 5:20 a.m., followed by class and practice and often two more hours of treatment in the evening.
Richt surely couldn’t spare Rosier with games against Virginia Tech and Notre Dame coming on consecutive weeks in November. Already the Hurricanes had lost leading rusher Mark Walton to season-ending injury and eventually they would lose prime receiving targets Ahmmon Richards and Chris Herndon, too.
“Everyone says that the body follows what your mind says,” Rosier said. “It was one of those things where I was going to have to suck it up and play or I was going to just have to give the job up. I’m not ready to give the job up.
“That Sunday and Tuesday practice before the Virginia Tech game I could barely pick up a ball, my shoulder was so sore and, like, damaged.”
Makes sense, then, that Rosier’s passing night against the Hokies was nothing special, with three balls caught by Virginia Tech defenders and only 10 by his teammates. The answers came in different ways, however, with the quarterback rushing for 84 yards and one touchdown in Miami’s 28-10 victory. Matter of fact, Rosier caught a gadget pass from Braxton Berrios for 17 yards, too.
This guy’s not backing off. Wisconsin’s players certainly expect a strong performance from him. Badgers linebacker T.J. Edwards compares Rosier to Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett, the only quarterback to beat Wisconsin this year, with the distinction that Rosier is “a little more dynamic” as a running threat.
Encouraging, but Rosier is more excited about the zip he says has returned to his passing since the hard contact of the regular season ended.
“You can tell (in Orange Bowl practices) that my arm is feeling better,” Rosier said. “Some of the throws that I was under-throwing, now I’m hitting the guys in stride.”
So says the man with 25 touchdown passes and just 11 interceptions this season. Good stuff, but there’s always the notion that Perry’s arm, described by Berrios as “by far the strongest on the team,” would be greater.
Can’t kill all that with a win over Wisconsin, but it would keep the talk going and, fair or not, that’s probably the best Rosier can ever hope for around here.