The once-storied University of Miami football program hasn't had a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate in several years. But the Hurricanes might in 2016 with QB Brad Kaaya, who is +3300 to win it on Sports Interaction college football odds.
Kaaya The Next No. 1 Pick In NFL?
The last time the Hurricanes were a contender to potentially win the ACC, it was behind a quarterback recruited from California who wasn't a mega-hyped five-star guy. His name was Ken Dorsey. The Canes won their last national title under Dorsey and should have won a second one if not for a very questionable pass interference call that went against Miami vs. Ohio State in the Jan. 3, 2003, Fiesta Bowl.
Kaaya also is from California and wasn't considered a can't-miss recruit, either, but he has turned himself into a future NFL player. In fact, some early mock drafts have Kaaya as the first quarterback to be drafted in 2017, even ahead of Clemson superstar Deshaun Watson, the Heisman Trophy betting favorite on college football odds. That's assuming Kaaya will leave after his junior season. Watson already has said he's going to barring injury.
While Watson is a dual-threat QB, Kaaya is a prototypical pocket passer and has NFL size at 6-foot-4, 210 pounds. Kaaya was thrust into a starting role as a true freshman in 2014 and set several school records in throwing for 3,198 yards and 26 touchdowns. Kaaya did that with some iffy talent around him and, frankly, some really questionable coaching. Miami finished 6-7 with a bowl loss to South Carolina.
Last year, Kaaya upped his completion percentage to 61.2 and passed for 3,238 yards (second in ACC to Watson and sixth-most in school history) and 16 touchdowns with only five interceptions. However, the Canes were rather mediocre again. They fired head coach Al Golden following an embarrassing 58-0 home loss to No. 6 Clemson on Oct. 24, 2015. Kaaya left that game in the second quarter with a possible concussion and would miss the next week's game against Duke.
Kaaya is already ninth in Miami history in touchdown passes (42) and fifth in passing yards (6,436). This is a school with a pretty good quarterback history, from Jim Kelly to Bernie Kosar to Steve Walsh to Heisman Trophy winners Vinny Testaverde and Gino Torretta. Dorsey holds the school record with 9,565 yards passing so Kaaya could break that with a big season. He won't break Dorsey's mark of 86 TD passes unless Kaaya returns as a senior.
Coaching Change Could Do Wonders
So is Kaaya worth a longer-shot bet for the Heisman on college football picks? If Golden were still the coach, I'd say no. But the Hurricanes vastly upgraded in that department this offseason in hiring former Georgia coach Mark Richt.
While at Georgia, Richt got away from his roots: calling plays and personally tutoring quarterbacks. He will do that at Miami. Richt was once a rising star in college football because of his offensive mind while at Florida State, where he began his career as an offensive coordinator under Bobby Bowden.
You don't want to read too much into a spring game obviously because QBs aren't hit, but Kaaya sure looked comfortable in Richt's offense. Kaaya led the first-string offense and Green team to a 24-7 win over the Orange team (led by the first-team defense). Kaaya completed 29-for-49 for 345 yards and three touchdowns. In three scrimmages overall this spring, he was 57-for-89 for 763 yards, with 10 touchdowns and one interception.
Kaaya will only have a shot at the Heisman if Miami is a very good team in 2016. The Hurricanes have a win totals of 8 on college football picks, but the 'under' is favored. I could see the Canes possibly going 10-2 and winning the ACC Coastal Division. They don't play Clemson or Louisville in the regular season and get Florida State in south Florida. Ditto North Carolina. The toughest road tests should be at Virginia Tech and at Notre Dame (technically non-conference). Believe it or not, the Hurricanes have never played in the ACC title game, so if Kaaya can get them there and win it (especially if he beats Watson and Clemson in the game) following a big regular season, he has a shot at the Heisman.