Miami Football: Quarterback Play in Spring Game Cause for Concern for Al Golden

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistApril 12, 2014

USA Today

The Miami Hurricanes spring game was the first chance for both Kevin Olsen and Gray Crow to show fans of "The U" what he brings to the offense.

Olsen, a top prospect in the 2013 class, was handed the reins as the starter after Ryan Williams tore his ACL during a scrimmage. Crow served as the third-stringer last year, and he is now the only healthy quarterback with collegiate in-game experience.

After further review, however, it's clear that many—including myself—have either underestimated the importance of Ryan Williams or had an unrealistic expectation of what Olsen can actually contribute right now.

The redshirt freshman was simply erratic throughout the day, badly overthrowing his receivers multiple times—one of which Dallas Crawford intercepted during the nine-on-nine drill. Later, Olsen floated a deep pass to Stacy Coley, and Tracy Howard came down with the very poorly thrown ball.

Olsen was under center for the lone touchdown drive of the 11-on-11 section, but that possession was dominated by the running of Walter Tucker and blocking by the offensive line.

Quite clearly, Malcolm Lewis was the only receiver with whom Olsen had a connection, which is the first step in building rapport with the wideouts. But really, Lewis was the only target Olsen could consistently hit, and that's not a fantastic sign.

"Malc runs those kind of routes, those over-the-middle routes real good," Olsen said on a postgame video recorded by Manny Navarro of The Miami Herald. "We found a pretty good connection all spring on that same play."

Olsen's best pass of the day, unsurprisingly, found Lewis. He threw a perfectly placed ball over one linebacker, short of a defensive back and connected with the Miramar High School product in stride.

"I feel like I ran the offense good," Olsen said. "I left a couple throws out there, but that happens sometimes."

And he definitely left more than a couple. According to Dieter Kurtenbach of the South Florida Sun Sentinel, Olsen finished the day completing seven of 21 passes for 65 yards, one interception and zero touchdowns.

Gray Crow actually outplayed Olsen, but that really isn't saying much.

During the first half, Crow telegraphed a pass that should have been picked off by sophomore linebacker Jermaine Grace. In the second frame, defensive tackle Jelani Hamilton tipped a ball at the line of scrimmage, and linebacker Juwon Young intercepted the deflection.

Crow looked decent on the move, especially after a play-action, roll-left call—a favorite of offensive coordinator James Coley. He also launched a pair of well-placed deep passes, but D'Mauri Jones and Garrett Kidd dropped one each.

His final stat line read nine of 20 for 63 yards and one interception.

Though Olsen, Crow and the 'Canes looked brutal offensively during the spring game, the limited amount of practice time is an important concession.

Olsen spent 85 percent of practice as the backup, and Crow was taking somewhere between five to 10 snaps per workout, per Christy Cabrera Chirinos of the South Florida Sun Sentinel. The pressure on the two quarterbacks was undoubtedly immense, and the scrimmage was their first time being watched under a national microscope.

Plus, the defense has certainly improved and, in turn, tested both quarterbacks. With that being said, recognizing the less-than-mediocre quarterback play is essential in assessing how well Denzel Perryman and Co. performed.

However, even when factoring in limited reps and heightened pressure, the two quarterbacks still had shaky 2014 debuts. There is a long time before Monday, Sept. 1 and a date with the Louisville Cardinals, but Saturday was still a cause for concern.

As seen on CanesAllAccess, Golden wanted to see if Olsen and Crow could stay poised and call the right protections. He didn't dismiss the biggest takeaway of the night, though.

"We gotta execute a little bit better," the fourth-year coach said, "There's no question about it."