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
"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
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."