Check that: Miami uncertain about starting quarterback

Head coach Chuck Martin of the Miami RedHawks looks on during the fourth quarter of the game last season at Minnesota. Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images
Head coach Chuck Martin of the Miami RedHawks looks on during the fourth quarter of the game last season at Minnesota. Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Anybody hoping that Miami’s first depth chart of the 2019 football season would provide some clarity for the quarterback picture was sorely disappointed on Monday.

Listed as the starter for Saturday’s opener at Iowa was third-year sophomore Jackson Williamson OR redshirt-freshman A.J. Mayer OR true freshman Brett Gabbert.

The only thing that was clear about the RedHawks quarterback situation was that nobody had separated himself from the other candidates. Nobody had won the job. Nobody had lost the job.

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Also clear was whichever one of the three trots onto the field with the other offensive starters at 69,250-seat Niles Kinnick Stadium on Saturday night will face an imposing challenge. The Big Ten Hawkeyes are coming off a 9-4 season that ended with a 27-22 win over Mississippi State in the Outback Bowl and are ranked 20th in the Associated Press preseason top 25 poll. Iowa rolled to a 45-21 win over the RedHawks in Iowa City in 2016.

Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. and the game is set to be televised on FS1.

The next pass each quarterback throws will be his first in a college football game, and to do it against a tough opponent on its home field makes it even more daunting. Miami coach Chuck Martin wouldn’t have it any other way.

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“You have to go through it,” he said during Monday’s weekly media session. “Would you like it to be easier? Maybe, but you have to find out who you are. What we really could do to help him is run the ball for 300 yards, but that’s not going to happen.”

The 6-foot-2, 201-pound Williamson, 6-3, 226-pound Mayer and 6-foot, 207-pound Gabbert all have taken turns with the first-team offense during fall camp while vying to become the heir to Gus Ragland.

“No one separated himself,” said Martin, who’s opening his sixth season as Miami’s coach, the longest stretch since Terry Hoeppner served six seasons from 1999 through 2004. “We like all three guys. They’re all talented. They all can do the job. They’re all inexperienced. They remind me of Gus when he was a freshman. You could see the promise.

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“Somebody make take the job this week,” he added. “That would be great.”

Senior Maurice Thomas, the Oxford Talawanda High School product who is listed as a starting wide receiver going into the Iowa game, believes the RedHawks will be comfortable with whomever is taking snaps.

“They’ve all been good at getting guys into the offense and making checks,” Thomas said. “It’ll be interesting to see them do it when the lights are on.”

The RedHawks were looking forward to facing somebody other than their teammates after their 15 sessions of fall camp.

“We’re very excited to be facing another team after 3-1/2 weeks of going against each other,” senior linebacker Myles Reid said.

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Martin was most happy with how Miami’s younger players progressed during practice. Several true freshmen developed quickly and well enough to earn spots on the two-deep chart – well, three-deep at quarterback. They include Gabbert, 6-5, 311-pound Caleb Shaffer at offensive right guard, 6-2, 284-pound Austin Ertl at defensive tackle and 6-2, 230-pound Luke Bolden at middle linebacker. None of them are listed as starters – well, except Gabbert, conditionally – but they could see special teams duty and scrimmage action as backups.

“The kids love to compete,” Martin said. “There are a lot of bodies flying around during practice, but it never carries over off the field. The biggest surprise is how many freshmen will be on the bus going to Iowa and will contribute. There were a ton of backup jobs available.”