MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The Miami Hurricanes returned to the practice field on Wednesday, with just 17 days left until their season opener against Bethune-Cookman.

The clock is ticking on the quarterback competition. Head coach Mark Richt considers junior Malik Rosier and sophomore Evan Shirreffs to be in the lead, but true freshmen N’Kosi Perry and Cade Weldon are still in the mix.

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On Wednesday, offensive coordinator Thomas Brown offered his thoughts on the quarterback battle.

“I think the competition is still going on strong,” said Brown. “Guys are competing well, competing hard. I think it’s a different position to evaluate because so much goes into it, as far as managing the offense, limiting the turnovers and making sure we get the right calls. But I think so far, it has been pretty good.”

‘Managing the offense’ could be the biggest factor as to why the veterans lead the freshmen so far. On Monday, Richt pointed to the vets having a better grasp of the playbook.

Practices are mostly closed to the media (with viewing limited to stretching and individual drills) and the weekend scrimmages are closed completely. Limited viewing can lead to an over-analysis of the stats.

In Miami’s first scrimmage last Saturday, the stats didn’t look good for the freshmen. Perry went 6 for 15 for 68 yards with an interception. Weldon completed just 2 of 10 passes for 40 yards and an INT. Meanwhile, sophomore Evan Shirreffs went 10 for 13 for 132 yards and a touchdown while junior Rosier went 8 for 14 for 181 yards and three touchdowns.

Those scrimmage stats only represent one day out of two weeks of fall camp, and they capture none of the nuances of the QB position, but the picture they paint is hard to overlook. The freshmen, especially Perry, pack plenty of promise but both have work to do.

As the starting quarterback spot remains undecided, there’s little mystery among the running backs.

Junior Mark Walton, who rushed for 1,117 yards last season at an impressive 5.3 yards per carry, is the unquestioned starter. Sophomore Travis Homer is almost certainly the backup, but the depth behind both is shaky. Junior Trayone Gray and true freshman Robert Burns both have injury histories and lack experience.

Brown was asked if he’d prefer not to play Walton in upcoming scrimmages to keep him healthy.

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“He’ll definitely get reps,” assured Brown. “I’m sure we’ll kind of manage some of his reps, depending on how many plays we go.”

On how much the experienced Walton needs these extra reps, Brown said, “Obviously there’s always room to get better and have improvement. I think I feel pretty confident as far as what Mark can do, but he’ll still get reps.”

Brown also opened up on Travis Homer and how much he’s improving heading into his sophomore season.

“Understanding of the offense,” Brown said, when asked where Homer is improving most. “I think being able to understand how to use his body better, and protecting [himself] from hits.”

Homer is also showing strides in pass-blocking.

“I think his knowledge of pass protection has grown, which is probably the hardest part of playing tailback.”

Even with Walton entrenched as the starter, there will be plenty of carries to go around. As the starter last season, Walton carried 209 times, with backups Joseph Yearby getting 102 carries and third-stringer Gus Edwards (who did earn second team reps over the final 2 games) carrying 59 times. Homer could easily surpass 100 carries this season, and perhaps even 150, if a reliable third stringer does not emerge.

Plus, the uncertainty at quarterback could lead to a more run-heavy attack than the Canes employed with Brad Kaaya last season.

The Miami Hurricanes open their season Saturday, September 2nd at Hard Rock Stadium.

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