Wright beats out Freeman for UM starting QB job

Updated: April 26, 2005, 5:20 PM ET
Associated Press

CORAL GABLES, Fla. -- Kyle Wright has his first win at Miami.

Wright, long touted as a player who'd add to Miami's legacy as 'Quarterback U,' will open the season as the Hurricanes' starter.

Coach Larry Coker announced Tuesday that the 6-foot-5, 208-pound sophomore beat out talented freshman Kirby Freeman for the job vacated by Brock Berlin. Barring some surprise, Wright will lead Miami into its Sept. 5 opener at rival Florida State.

"It's something I've been waiting for three years now," said Wright, who enrolled at Miami in January 2003. "It's definitely a good feeling to know my hard work is starting to pay off. But there's a lot more hard work ahead, to get to where I want to be personally and where we need to be as a team."

Freeman, who earned praise from teammates and coaches during the spring for how he and Wright handled the quarterback battle, said he'll continue to do all he can to support his team -- and its new starter.

"This needed to be done," said Freeman, who threw for 2,941 yards and 24 touchdowns, plus ran for 2,091 yards and 32 scores in his last two seasons at Brownwood High School in Texas. "We needed to come out and we needed to name a leader for this team. That's what we've done. Kyle knows I've got his back, 100 percent."

By all accounts, Wright and Freeman each had strong spring practice seasons. They have different styles; Wright is the strong-armed, comfortable-in-the-pocket type, while the 6-foot-3, 195-pound Freeman is more mobile and equally effective running and throwing.

Wright had better numbers in the Hurricanes' spring game earlier this month, completing 10 of 13 passes for 159 yards and two touchdowns. Freeman was 7-for-18 for 109 yards, and had two interceptions.

"Kyle's probably a little further ahead, having been here an additional year," said Coker, who's 44-6 in his four seasons leading the Hurricanes. "His knowledge of the offense gives him a little edge. ... Kyle knows he can't relax, and Kirby knows now he's going to pour the heat on."

Wright has thrown only nine college passes, yet already has quite a reputation to live up to.

He was widely considered the nation's top high school quarterback when he came to Miami from Danville Monte Vista High in California, where he completed 350 of 584 passes for 5,925 yards and 66 touchdowns in his final two seasons. He was a Parade All-American and earned national player of the year honors.

And he's anxious to follow the path set by his Miami predecessors, including Hall of Famer Jim Kelly, national championship winners Bernie Kosar, Steve Walsh, Craig Erickson and Ken Dorsey, and Heisman Trophy winners Vinny Testaverde and Gino Torretta -- who also won a national title in Miami.

"There's definitely been a long line of tradition here," said Wright, who was 5-for-9 for 30 yards last season; he missed nine games, including the Peach Bowl win over Florida, with injuries. "You've got some big shoes to fill. The fans of Miami have been spoiled. ... It's going to be great to try to live up to that."

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press