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Highsmith likely to be backup

CORAL GABLES, Fla. -- Miami backup quarterbacks Taylor Cook and Cannon Smith both announced plans to transfer Tuesday, a surprising pair of moves that suddenly leaves the Hurricanes lacking depth at the marquee position.

Miami will list freshman A.J. Highsmith as the backup to starter Jacory Harris for the Sept. 7 season-opener at Florida State. Besides Harris, the only other player on Miami's roster with any college quarterback experience is holder Matt Perrelli, who saw time in one game during the 2006 season.

Miami coach Randy Shannon said he was surprised by both decisions.

"It was kind of strange, to me," Shannon said. "Both guys came in and they felt like, given the situation and what we had, it was better for them to go pursue other options."

Fall semester classes start Wednesday at Miami. By leaving Tuesday, Cook and Smith likely will not lose a year of NCAA eligibility. Both will try to enroll elsewhere closer to their homes -- Cook is from Texas, Smith from Tennessee.

Each approached Shannon separately with transfer requests. Miami gave both players their release, and Shannon indicated that both were frustrated with the prospects of spending possibly three more seasons behind Harris on the depth chart.

"They need to go do what's best for them," Shannon said.

Shannon said months ago that Cook held the No. 2 spot on the depth chart after spring practice behind Harris, who played in all 13 games last year but started only two, splitting time with Robert Marve -- who left last December, saying he couldn't continue in the two-quarterback system. Marve transferred to Purdue.

But on Monday, Shannon revealed competition for the backup spot was again open. One day later, Cook and Smith were both gone.

"It was a hard decision for me to leave the program," Cook said in a statement released through the school. "I enjoyed my time at Miami and I'm going to miss it. I feel bad leaving my teammates, but it's a move I had to make. I have the utmost respect for Coach Shannon and [offensive coordinator Mark] Whipple and I wish them the best of the luck."

Smith completed his only pass last season, for 2 yards. Cook didn't have any passing stats in his lone Miami season.

"Everything here was handled with a lot of class," Smith said. "I got to compete and that's what I wanted. ... After evaluating everything, I felt I had to do what was in my best interest."

Miami's next move is to give Highsmith more of a crash course in running the offense. The son of former Miami standout Alonzo Highsmith -- a member of the Hurricanes' 1983 national championship team -- threw for 2,192 yards, 28 touchdowns and only four interceptions last year while leading Fort Bend Hightower to the Texas Class 5A championship game.

"You've got to improvise and overcome," Shannon said. "He's been learning and doing well. He can execute a lot of our offense right now. He's a very smart young man and comes from a football family."