The Miami Hurricanes are approaching an intense four-man battle for the starting quarterback position during the 2014 season.
Boasting a veteran in Ryan Williams, a pair of 4-star freshmen in Kevin Olsen and Brad Kaaya and a former 5-star in Jake Heaps, Miami is loaded with talent.
Whether Al Golden chooses Williams, Heaps or one of the young guns matters not, because the 'Canes offense will be in capable hands no matter where they turn.
Except for not really: The Miami quarterback situation is simply a mess. Being capable is not necessarily a sufficient quality of, well, quality.
But ultimately, it just doesn't matter what problems the Hurricanes face: They have to find the best option to guide the 2014 team, and each player brings advantages and disadvantages of his own.
Looking back to late March, it was relatively clear Williams would not be beaten out by anyone, even an unforeseen mid-summer transfer.
But then, the one-time transfer suffered a knee injury that nearly derailed his hopes for the upcoming season. One surgery and three months later, Williams' return is now a matter of when rather than if it will.
Williams is not extremely mobile and does not have an overly powerful arm, but he makes sharp decisions, gets the ball out quickly and throws accurate passes.
According to Christopher Stock of 247Sports (subscription required), Williams said pre-spring:
I've been working on my hands in the pocket and getting the ball ready to throw faster so there's less time between thinking I want to throw this and actually getting the ball out and it gives the DBs less time to react to the ball.
And with receivers like Stacy Coley and Malcolm Lewis cutting across the middle, the potential for yards after catch is high. Williams is the type of quarterback who won't light up a box score, but he would be the most consistent under center.
If his knee allows it, that is.
Though he may start practicing shortly before the season-opener, Williams' football readiness will be an issue. The best-case scenario for the senior is to be available for Arkansas State on Sept. 13 and shake off any rust before Miami heads to Nebraska the following week.
Williams is the safest option for the Hurricanes, but Golden and offensive coordinator James Coley need him to be healthy. Otherwise, Plans B, C and D really start to gain traction.
Following Williams' injury, the heavily recruited, now-redshirt freshman Olsen was the best choice to replace the anticipated starter. Then the spring game happened, and he looked exactly like what a young second-string quarterback usually does: not very good.
The glorified scrimmage raised two major questions. First, what is Olsen missing in his development? Second, is it his fault, is it on the coaches or does he just need more time?
In fairness, not every prospect should be pushed to take over as the full-time starter during their second year of college. As it pertains to Olsen, so much hype has been brought on the brother of a former Miami star, which might have generated unfair expectations.
But Heaps' transfer consequently brought a third query: if the coaching staff is comfortable relying on Olsen.
The freshman's arm talent has been lauded, and the spring game certainly backed it up.
However, the accuracy and decision-making was not present, save for his connection with Lewis. Again, Olsen's limited reps as the backup for the majority of spring factor in here.
Anyway, barring a major letdown in the fall, I'm still on board with Olsen making a few spot-starts until Williams is full-go.
Plus, if he shows significant improvement, it's better to continue starting a younger talent over a veteran and give him more early game experience.
But if the coaches cannot trust Olsen, the quarterback situation gets even trickier.
A top-three quarterback in his class according to 247Sports, Heaps initially headed to BYU for two seasons before transferring to Kansas. But after his fall from grace late in 2013, the journeyman searched for a greener pasture and believes he has found one in South Florida.
Bleacher Report's Ben Kercheval asks if Heaps, who will be surrounded by a plethora of playmakers, can make the Hurricanes an ACC contender.
Let's answer the question this way: Any quarterback who avoids being the principal reason Miami loses will do just that.
The trouble, of course, is deciding whether or not Heaps is a game manager. Over three collegiate seasons at BYU and Kansas, Heaps has completed 54.8 percent of his passes, tossing 32 touchdowns to 27 interceptions.
Per Matt Porter of The Palm Beach Post: "[Heaps] has a sense of humor about his past struggles. When I started a question by telling him I had watched tape of his Kansas games, he cut in with, 'Mixed reviews, I'm sure.'"
While a Jayhawk, including his transfer 2012 season, Kansas wide receivers caught three touchdowns. That's it. Three, during two years—24 games of football.
Quite obviously, Heaps wasn't getting much help on the outside, but he now has Coley, Lewis, Phillip Dorsett, Rashawn Scott and Herb Waters as the targets. Those receivers are definitely upgrades over Andrew Turzilli, Rodriguez Coleman and Justin McCay.
Starting Kaaya as a true freshman is an appealing prospect, with visions of an immediate four-year starter and sugar plums dancing in our heads.
But that's not necessarily what is best for the program. Unless Kaaya proves himself worthy of the starting job and retains the position over the entire campaign, the 4-star quarterback should take a redshirt season.
Yes, if Kaaya deserves the No. 1 role, by all means, give it to the prospective star. But Miami cannot misuse or rush the development of who many consider the quarterback of the future—including themselves.
For example, take the University of Michigan in 2013. The Wolverines fought through a frustrating season with Devin Gardner at the helm, yet only sparingly used highly touted Shane Morris and burnt his redshirt.
Where Michigan could be visualizing at least three years of the left-hander under center after Gardner graduates, it instead wasted an entire year of Morris' eligibility for essentially one game.
Look, the Hurricanes are not winning a national championship in the 2014 season. They are not making the inaugural College Football Playoff. They will probably not earn the ACC crown.
Rely on the veterans, let Kaaya immerse himself in the Miami playbook and build for the future. Because it certainly can be brighter, for longer.