It seems like only yesterday that true freshman Brad Kaaya wrestled away the starting quarterback position from a handful of Miami Hurricanes hopefuls. Now, less than a year later, the sophomore is on everyone’s watch list.
Earlier this month, Kaaya was one of 32 players named to the 2015 College Football Performance Awards (CFPA) National Performer of the Year Trophy Watch List. It’s the latest in a string of preseason recognition for the reigning ACC Rookie of the Year.
Your prototypical NFL quarterback, at 6-4 and 210 pounds, Kaaya already has – in one season – made an impression, writing his name in the record book of the storied program. Twice he set the school’s true freshman single-game passing yardage record. On back-to-back weeks he threw for 342 yards against Arkansas State and followed that with a 359-yard performance at Nebraska. His 26 touchdown passes tied Heisman Trophy winner Vinny Testaverde for third all-time in a season at The U.
Those were two of eight games in which the California native threw for more than 200 yards, setting himself apart from the rest of his class. Kaaya was the only true freshman in the country to throw for more than 3,000 yards and 26-or-more touchdowns and 12-or-fewer interceptions.
In his first year at the helm of the Canes’ offense, he threw for a total of 3,198 yards, ranking third-most all-time by a freshman in ACC history behind Florida State’s Jameis Winston (4,057 in 2013) and Drew Weatherford (3,208 in 2005). He also threw a league-leading 26 touchdown passes and led the ACC in passing efficiency (145.9).
Not bad for someone just learning his way around the campus.
At the 2015 ACC Football Kickoff, held July 19-21 at the Pinehurst Resort in the Village of Pinehurst, N.C., Kaaya reflected on his first season at The U and what that means for 2015.
“I recognize it was a good freshman year,” he said. “It’s just about having that same momentum for this coming season, just getting the young guys around me, all the guys who redshirted, getting all those guys to play around me. It isn’t just my show; it’s not just the Brad Kaaya show. It’s going to take the offense, defense, special teams, all that… Just inspiring those guys to play hard and knowing that everyone is a factor.”
In addition to his latest recognition, Kaaya is on the watch list for three major awards. One is the 79th annual Maxwell Award, which goes to the top college player each year. He is among 20 sophomores on the watch list, and one of only eight sophomore quarterbacks recognized.
Among a select group of 24 of the nation’s top college quarterbacks, Kaaya has also been named to the 2015 Davey O’Brien National Quarterback Award Watch List. The group was selected based on 2014 player performance as well as on expectations heading into the 2015 season.
Also recognized among a group of 30, Kaaya was selected to the Manning Award Watch list as well. The annual award goes to the top college quarterback in the nation as voted on by a panel that includes national media and each of the Mannings.
That’s high praise for a kid fresh out of high school who a year ago wasn’t even on the radar not to mention whose elevation to the starting role at quarterback wasn’t met without controversy among Canes’ faithful. But that’s to be expected given his true freshman status.
It also serves as proof that coaches, who work with these athletes on a daily basis, just might know a little more about them than the average fan.