Wright, Freeman enter training camp, resume race for Miami QB job
For now, they're equals. Over the next month, as they vie to become Miami's starting quarterback, that will change.
At the place long known as 'Quarterback U,' that letter stands these days for 'uncertainty.' Wright and Freeman will enter Hurricanes' training camp Saturday knotted in the race for the starting spot -- which both believe they've earned. New Miami coach Randy Shannon says they'll stay tied until he announces the first-stringers Aug. 28, just days before the Sept. 1 opener against Marshall.
"Obviously, people see a quarterback controversy or whatnot. There's not one," Freeman said Friday. "There's not a controversy at all because we're doing whatever it takes to win."
There's been a lot of change around the Miami camp: Shannon is entering his first season as coach, there's a fresh staff, a reworked offense and even new furniture throughout the university's football complex.
But the most ballyhooed question is one repeated often over the past year: Kyle or Kirby?
"Whomever's going to give us the best chance to win is going to give us the best chance to win," Shannon said. "This summer, those guys did a great job of being with their teammates as teammates, not quarterbacks. And those players got a better perspective of who they are."
Shannon said most players believe Miami has two starting-caliber quarterbacks. Offensive lineman Derrick Morse said Wright and Freeman are 1A and 1B, with no differentiation between the two.
"We feel like we could start with either quarterback right now," wide receiver Lance Leggett said.
Wright, the nation's top-rated quarterback when he signed with Miami, took over as the starter in 2005. He's 14-7 in the role, with 4,058 yards and a 60 percent completion rate for his career, but only 26 touchdown passes in those starts -- a bit of a low ratio for someone once expected to be the next great star at a school that produced Vinny Testaverde, Steve Walsh, Jim Kelly, Bernie Kosar, Craig Erickson and Ken Dorsey.
"You've got to prove you're the best player every day," Wright said. "And that shouldn't matter whether you're a guy who's a three- or four-year starter or a new guy coming in as first-year starter. You've got to go out every day and prove to your teammates that you're the best guy for the job. Kirby's always pushed me and vice versa and I don't think that's going to change."
Freeman got his chance to start with four games left last season, after Wright broke his thumb. He went 2-2, getting an upset win over Boston College in the regular-season finale -- not long after the Hurricanes were rocked by the shooting death of defensive lineman Bryan Pata -- and a victory in the MPC Computers Bowl over Nevada in what ended Larry Coker's six-year stint as Miami coach.
Wright threw eight touchdowns in 250 attempts, none longer than 41 yards; Freeman threw seven in 108 attempts, including 52- and 78-yarders in the bowl game. But that's all irrelevant to Shannon, who says neither quarterback will be judged on history.
"I don't worry about what happened last year," Shannon said. "Not at all."
That's a mantra Shannon has preached to the Hurricanes since he got the job. All that matters, he often says, is "team" -- and his players are buying into that concept. That's why Wright and Freeman made sure to spend time with each other during the offseason, golfing and driving together to team functions.
Only one of them will take the first snap against Marshall. But both say it's their mission to help Miami bounce back from last year's 7-6 campaign and contend again for the Atlantic Coast Conference title and perhaps even a national championship.
"It's all about 'The U' and it really is this time," Freeman said. "It's not about me. It's not about a quarterback controversy. It's about team. And for the first time, I actually feel really good about that. We're trying to go win football games and that's the only thing we're out to do."
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press