April 22 | Practice 15 | Scrimmage 3
University of Miami head football coach Mark Richt was back where it all began on Saturday afternoon.
Richt returned to his alma mater as he Miami Hurricanes wrapped up their 2017 spring season with a scrimmage at Boca Raton High School.
“It was very nice to be here at Boca Raton Community High School, home of the fighting Bobcats,” Richt said. “I had some wonderful moments out here as a player. Great team. As a matter of fact, I ran into about four or five teammates before the game today and we all looked a little bit different. But everybody has got the same smile, same friendship, same bonds, so that was a blessing to see all those guys. You know, today I mean it was a good day in that you got to learn so much. There was a lot of plays that were made, a lot of plays that could have been made offensively. Defense early on was dominant and then before you know it they are giving up some big plays here and there, which we can’t do. We have to keep our focus the whole time.”
There were highlights on both sides of the ball, as the White team came back to beat the Orange team, 24-16.
The Orange team scored first, with Michael Badgley connecting on a 27-yard field goal to cap a nine-play, 63-yard drive in the first quarter. Malik Rosier found tight end Christopher Herndon IV over the middle for a 23-yard touchdown to put Orange up, 9-0.
But the White team began its comeback when cornerback Malek Young jumped in front of a pass to the sideline and returned the interception 72 yards for a touchdown. Young added five tackles and a second interception to his pick six from the opening half, while linebacker Charles Perry and defensive back Romeo Finely each picked off a pass on Saturday.
“The one that I scored, we were in zone,” Young said. “I was reading the quarterback. He took two steps and threw it and I broke on the ball. The other one, we were in man and I was reading the quarterback also and I undercut it and broke on the ball.”
Quarterback Jack Allison connected with wide receiver Darrell Langham for a six-yard touchdown to close out the first half and send the White team into the intermission up, 14-9.
“I felt like this spring I had to really push myself to do better and actually explode this year,” Langham said. “I have to do more.”
Kicker Marco Baeza drilled a 25-yard field goal to close out a 15-play, 64-yard drive with three points for the White team.
Quarterback Cade Weldon found Langham in the end zone for his second score of the afternoon, completing a four-yard touchdown pass that put the White team ahead, 24-9.
“Langham is a bully on the field, honestly,” wide receiver Ahmmon Richards said. “Any 50-50 ball, he is going to come down with it. He made a huge jump and he is going to surprise everyone this year.”
Richards put an exclamation point on Saturday’s scrimmage, as the freshman All-American hauled in a 72-yard touchdown from Rosier to bring the Orange within one score, 24-16.
“I’m just trying to go out every day and try to be better,” Richards said. “I am not letting all that stuff go to my head like people telling me, ‘You had a great season.’ I just try to go out there and just work.”
In addition to the scoring plays, Miami had several standouts defensively on Saturday afternoon.
Freshman defensive back Amari Carter led all Hurricanes with 10 tackles, while linebacker Shaquille Quarterman and defensive back Sheldrick Redwine were co-leading tacklers for the White team with seven stops apiece.
Defensive linemen Pat Bethel had six tackles and 1.5 sacks for the Orange team, while fellow defensive lineman Kendrick Norton had a sack and four tackles for the white team.
Prior to the scrimmage the team's 2017 Spring Awards were handed out. Below is a complete list.
Most Improved Quarterback: Malik Rosier/Evan Shirreffs
Most Improved Safety: Sheldrick Redwine
Most Improved Running Back: Travis Homer
Most Improved Linebacker: Mike Smith
Most Improved Wide Receiver: Darrell Langham
Most Improved Cornerback: Michael Jackson
Most Improved Tight End: Michael Irvin II
Most Improved Defensive Lineman: Pat Bethel
Most Improved Offensive Lineman: Navaughn Donaldson
Most Improved Specialist: Sam York
Defensive Leadership Award: Shaquille Quarterman
Offensive Leadership Award: Mark Walton
April 20 | Practice 14
With the final scrimmage at Boca Raton High School on the horizon, the Hurricanes wrapped up their final spring session on the Greentree Practice Fields Thursday.
Speaking for the first time since the team’s second scrimmage, Miami’s coordinators discussed the progress the team has continued to make on both sides of the ball as the spring rapidly comes to a close.
“Yeah, [senior defensive lineman] Chad [Thomas] has been highly productive, making a lot of plays, a lot of disruptive plays in the backfield,” defensive coordinator Manny Diaz said when asked about the defensive line. “[Senior defensive lineman] Trent Harris is doing what Trent Harris does. He always seems to fill up the stat sheet with a lot of positive things for the defense. Heady guy and is always going to be where he is supposed to be.”
“Then you have [sophomore defensive lineman] Joe Jackson and [redshirt junior defensive lineman Demetrius Jackson]. Joe, you know, flashes with his potential but there is so much more to it.”
On the opposite side of the ball, offensive coordinator/running back coach Thomas Brown discussed the progress being made on the outside, as a couple guys have stood out in his eyes.
“Tight end wise, I think [sophomore] Michael Irvin [II] has probably made the biggest jump…” he said. “I think Michael Irvin has made the biggest jump, when it comes to the tight end room, of being consistent of knowing what to do, how to get lined up and executing the stuff we ask those guys to do.”
“Receiver wise, definitely by far [redshirt junior wide receiver] Darrell Langham,” Brown said. “I think, obviously last year, coming in with a new staff and seeing a guy with that type size, I mean, he is not the most dynamic from a speed stand point, but thinking he could be a bully type of receiver because he has the body to.
“So I think obviously it was more of a mental deal for him last year, just being able to believe that he can play as big as what he was and having confidence,” Brown said. “And he has been a great surprise, in my opinion, when it comes to the receiver room and it has probably stood out almost every single time we step on the football field. Of playing like he is a big man and not like he is 5’8, like he is my height trying to play receiver. Use your size, use your length, use that ability to overpower some smaller DBs and make some plays.”
While everyone on the team will look to make a positive last impression on the coaches Saturday, junior defensive back Michael Jackson is ready to take the field with his teammates and show off their talents.
“We can just show that we fly around to the ball, and we really have fun playing with each other. That if one guy makes a play, that you will see 10 other guys out there having fun with him,” Jackson said.
April 18 | Practice 13
With just one more practice remaining before the team’s final scrimmage at Boca Raton High, the Hurricanes returned to the Greentree Practice Fields Tuesday to begin their final week of spring ball.
Though the defense earned the lion’s share of praise from head coach Mark Richt after Saturday’s second scrimmage, rising junior defensive lineman R.J. McIntosh said he sees both sides benefiting from the competition.
“All of us [on defense] had a really good scrimmage,” McIntosh said. “And I think if we keep doing that every day, like next scrimmage, I think it is going to help the offensive line and the offense become better every day. If we keep putting pressure on them and making them better, I think we are going to be alright.”
Fellow defensive lineman Kendrick Norton, who teams with McIntosh in the middle to form one of the most imposing interiors of any team in the ACC, sees things similarly for an improving offense.
“[No.] 55 [offensive lineman Navaughn Donaldson] the freshman, he has been doing well, he has been holding his own,” Norton said. “He is running with I believe the ones [first string] or twos [second]. He has been holding his own out there. Also, Tyler Gauthier is stepping up at the center spot. He has been doing really well this season.
“But you know everybody has been coming out here attacking the days; everybody is trying to get better.”
McIntosh said that with the number of returners on defense, 2017 has the chance to be an exciting season for the Hurricanes – provided each player holds up his end of the bargain.
“I think the defense is a big part of it, “McIntosh said. “We have a lot of players coming back Everybody is coming back. I think we are a big part of this team, so we have to become better. There’s a lot of things we got to work on and I think we are getting better at it.”
A member of Boca Raton High’s Class of 1977, Richt said that Saturday’s scrimmage will be special for him a personal level.
“It’s my alma mater, and they do have a nice facility,” he said. “I’m excited about going over there. If Hard Rock [Stadium] was ready for us to play the game, we’d play there. We’d probably have TV there and all that kind of thing. Knowing we couldn’t do that, I didn’t want to go back to where we were. I felt like, let’s have a small venue, let’s make it kind of a homecoming of sorts for me, to tell the people in Boca I love them kind of deal. Hopefully we’ll have a good day.”
Team Orange will matchup against Team White Saturday beginning at noon in the scrimmage, which is closed to the public.
“It’s going to look like a game, but it’ll mostly be all ones [first string] versus ones and twos [second string] versus twos,” he explained. “They’ll just be having different color jerseys on them. It’ll play like a game, because if it’s a three-and-out, it’ll be a three-and-out.”
Perhaps – just perhaps – Richt will stop by an old haunt or two to celebrate the conclusion of a successful spring season.
“Now whenever I was in Boca, I would always go to Jerry’s Pizzeria and Fran’s Chicken Haven,” he said. “I don’t even know if Jerry’s is still open, but I hope Fran’s is, because I do hope to go back for some fried chicken.”
April 15 | Practice 12 |Scrimmage 2
The legendary Greentree Practice Fields were lined with Hurricane greats, as Miami welcomed back its football alumni for the second spring scrimmage on Saturday morning.
Miami football players from every decade dating back to the 1940s were in attendance, as one of their own – Hurricanes’ head coach Mark Richt – led the current crop of Hurricanes in action on the fields that they once plied their craft on.
“It’s fun,” Richt said of having the alumni back on campus. “We had dinner last night, not only with our football alumni but with our current players. It is just kind of men’s town. And we have the former players there with our current players and they get a chance to get to know each other. We spread our guys around to make sure they are sitting with some of the, I won’t say old guys, but some of the veterans of the program. And I think they had fun.”
Heisman Trophy winner Vinny Testaverde watched his son, Vincent, connect on a deep ball with freshman DeeJay Dallas for a 65-yard touchdown. Fellow quarterbacks Evan Shirreffs, Malik Rosier and Cade Weldon also got opportunities to showcase their skills in front of the Hurricane greats.
“It was a little route where we make it look like we are running a dig and then we went vertical on it and caught the corner off balance,” Richt said. “And [redshirt junior quarterback] Vincent [Testaverde] laid it in there nice. He had nice protection on that play. It was a really nice throw.”
Edgerrin James, Clinton Portis and Santana Moss are just some of the Hurricane legends from the offensive side of the ball that were on hand to watch wide receiver Dayall Harris snag a touchdown, while fellow receiver Darrell Langham reeled in five catches for 73 yards. Running backs Mark Walton and Travis Homer combined for 10 catches, as well.
Miami’s defense, which proved to be one of the most aggressive and impactful in the country in 2016, had the opportunity to shine in front of greats like Jon Beason, Jonathan Vilma, D.J. Williams and Calais Campbell and they did not disappoint.
RJ McIntosh has a trio of sacks, while Pat Bethel, Trent Harris, Demetrius Jackson and Mike Smith each added a sack of their own.
The secondary also shined on Saturday, with Ryan Mayes, Sheldrick Redwine and Tyler Murphy each tallying four tackles. Murphy also picked off a pass, but it was cornerback Malek Young’s interception in the end zone that caught the attention of legends like Burgess Owens, Phillip Buchanon and the Hurricanes’ head coach.
“Malek Young made one of the most acrobatic interceptions I have seen on a deep ball where the offensive player really had the advantage of where the ball was coming down,” Richt said. “We tried to put the ball where the offensive guy has a better shot, obviously, but Malek just went and jumped and twisted and found it and snatched. I mean, you just don’t see that very often. You might see a guy rake it out, bat it out, something like that, at best. But it looked like a sure touchdown and he found a way to not only break it up, but intercept it. It was probably the most impressive play of the day.”
April 13 | Practice 11
It’s the days like this, three weeks into spring ball under the blazing South Florida sun, that might start to get repetitive to some teams.
But it’s days like this where lessons are learned, plays are made and bonds are created. It’s days like this at Greentree that eventually pay off in the fall.
The Hurricanes held a spirited practice Thursday – their 11th session of the spring -- as they readied for the team’s second scrimmage this Saturday. Speaking for the first time since the team’s first scrimmage, Miami’s coordinators noted that there were positives and negatives to take away from last Saturday.
“Yeah, and it’s like anything else, there is always good plays and bad plays,” defensive coordinator Manny Diaz said. “But I thought overall, No. 1 the thing you evaluate in a scrimmage is tackling, because we don’t get to tackle to the ground all that often. We tackled very well, there was not a lot of yards after contact, those type things. That’s good, we don’t get a lot of chances to do that.
“And the fact that we tackled, makes you hard to score on. You try not to give up big plays and get the ball on the ground. Run defense did a good job too, so there was a lot of positive takeaways and then certainly a bunch of things that we still were not quite pleased with.”
Offensive coordinator Thomas Brown liked what he saw from his first unit up front, although there were some missed assignments.
“The first unit I thought was pretty good,” Brown said. “Again, it just comes down to one or two guys, either using bad technique, going the wrong way or having some missed assignments.
“Obviously, depth is an issue behind the first guys we had, the first five guys. There just needs to be more competition. So thankfully, we have some guys coming in during the summer time to add to it, and hopefully push those guys to be better or beat them out.”
Brown was also encouraged with how his quarterbacks performed.
“I thought it was really good,” he said. “I would say with (Evan) Shirreffs and Malik (Rosier), mostly Shirreffs to see him stand in the pocket and take some shots. And be able to take charge and be in command and be poised and not be rattled.
“Obviously, Malik did some really good things with the ball in his hands, as well. (He was) able to make some really good decisions and also move around the pocket well. But just being consistent every single day is going to be the key to that spot.”
And as Miami wrapped up another productive day at Greentree, Brown reflected on where he thinks this program is headed.
“Obviously, Miami is a very attractive place,” he said. “I am not from here. I am from Georgia. But Miami (was) my favorite school growing up, my entire life. Watching Miami play -- and I am not saying that just because I am here -- you guys can ask anybody who has known me for years. If you look on my walls from when I was a kid, it was Miami Hurricane gear just because it was the best players in America (who) came to Miami. And every single week they lined up and gave you their all.
“And if you beat them, which was rare, you didn’t want to play them a second time.”
April 11 | Practice 10
With five more practices and two scrimmages to go until spring ball concludes, head coach Mark Richt has been encouraged by the returns in his second spring at the helm of the Miami Hurricanes football program.
Having reviewed the game tape from the April 8 scrimmage, Richt said that, while the defense certainly made its fair share of plays Saturday on Greentree, the offense showed glimpses of serious potential.
“Very few times did we have a situation where the play didn’t have a good chance of success,” Richt said. “A lot of times, if you get a minus two yards on a run, you might think that’s the worst thing that has ever happened. Then you watch tape, and you see everybody did their job, but you got a little double team up to a linebacker, and both guys go to the linebacker and the let the guy go.
“Everything else blocked beautifully, and if they just stayed on the double team a half a second longer, we’re ripping through there for a good 15- or 20-yard gain. That’s promising, when you see that on tape.”
Several early enrollees took part in their first official scrimmage, and Miami’s returners were impressed by their contributions.
Rising sophomore linebacker Shaq Quarterman, expected to take on more of a leadership role in his second year as the team’s middle linebacker, said there were a number of defensive standouts among the team’s rookies.
“I think we did well as a unit,” Quarterman said. “We have some new guys out there - B.J. [linebacker Bradley Jennings, Jr.] for example, who may not know all the material right now in the playbook. We just told him to go out there and play confident and run around and make plays. And he did that. [Defensive lineman Jonathan] Garvin had a nice sack, real technical with the hands. We did well for the first scrimmage.”
Veteran offensive lineman Kc McDermott singled out two early enrollees who impressed him on the offensive side of the ball: offensive lineman Navaughn Donaldson and wide receiver Deejay Dallas.
“Navaughn Donaldson had one heck of a play during a power [run],” McDermott said. “And DeeJay Dallas, you know, if you put a ball up there he will go and grab it. So everyone did well. Obviously, like I said we have got some stuff to improve on.”
Donaldson also caught the eye of Tyler Gauthier, another veteran lineman.
“Just his size and his strength and his physicality for being a freshman,” Gauthier said. “He is not scared to go out there and hit you. There was a play where he drove him all the way to the sideline and it was pretty incredible to watch, for a freshman.”
Richt said that Dallas is willing to take on any role for the Hurricanes, but will start out at receiver. He played running back, quarterback, defensive back and wide receiver in high school.
“We’re trying to let [Deejay] learn something,” Richt said. “We felt like, if we’re going to let him learn a position, receiver is one that is going to take more to refine. The running back position, you tend to be able to teach that a little bit faster. There’s a little bit less of a learning curve. So if we absolutely had to, by the first summer session, training him as a running back, we can. We’ve talked. All along, he’s been like, ‘Whatever you ask me to do, coach, I’ll do it.’ But our goal is not to do that.”
As always, however, the returners who gained experience from the 2016 season - which culminated in a Russell Athletic Bowl victory over a ranked West Virginia team - will be relied on heavily throughout the remainder of spring, starting with Saturday’s second closed scrimmage.
“I would say everywhere,” Quarterman responded about areas of potential improvement. “Like coach [Richt] has said, he just said it right now, ‘When we are really urgent, we are really good.’ So everybody has to focus on coming out, getting the crust out of their eyes and getting ready to be better every day. Because being great is being good every day. So we can’t take any days off, because you don’t feel like getting out of bed, this and that. We have to come prepared to work.”
April 8 | Practice 9 | Scrimmage 1
As the Hurricanes hit Greentree this morning, the players had a slightly different look to them – as in game jerseys and full pads.
Yes, it’s only April but there was a buzz in the air on both sides of the ball as Miami held its first scrimmage of spring practice.
“We basically had two halves,” head coach Mark Richt said. “We didn’t play a game but we had X amount of plays and then we had a break. And then we had another X amount of plays. The first drives started at the minus-25, meaning 75-yards to go.
“Second half, you start the drives on the plus-40. And then we would do some third-down situations. Then we would do red zone, a plus-16 drive.”
As with any scrimmage this early in the campaign, there were plays that got the coaches excited, as well as plays that served as teaching moments. The defense set the tone early, swarming to the ball and forcing some takeaways. But Richt indicated the defense is oftentimes ahead of the offense at this point in the year.
“If offense dominates in the spring, I can promise you it’s usually a long season,” Richt said. “Unless you have like a boatload of guys showing up in the summer. Some of the greatest offenses I have been around have got their butts kicked by the defense, at Florida State and Georgia. So it is not that uncommon, but it is a good sign.”
But the offense made some plays in the scrimmage’s second half, which was also encouraging to Richt.
“(The) second half was much more fun for the offense,” he said. “Scored a couple touchdowns, kicked a field goal, made some plays. Got encouraged. Last play of the game, threw a little touchdown so the offense felt good on the last play. I wouldn’t say the offense dominated the second half. But the offense made plays and made it much more competitive then the first half.”
The quarterback were live (no red jerseys) so the coaching staff got to see how Miami’s signal callers reacted to pressure in the pocket.
“Yeah, they could get sacked,” Richt said. “And one guy broke a tackle, and spun out and ran; I think he still threw it away. But normally in a game, where, hey that’s a sack. And there were a couple times where I know [sophomore quarterback] Evan [Shirreffs] once or twice had guys barring on him, and he just stayed in there and threw it, and completed a ball or two and still got hit. Which is a good sign.
“[Redshirt junior quarterback] Malik [Rosier] I think was the one who spun out of a tackle when it looked like they had him. I know there was a cornerback blitz one time that we missed. He had him, just no one blocking him. But Malik spun out of it. He ended up not completing the ball, but you know, I guess just proof that a guy can move and can create, make plays.”
Three full weeks of spring practice are now complete. The Hurricanes return to the field Tuesday morning for their 10th session.
April 6 | Practice 8
Every coach in America gets excited when he has a 1,000-yard rusher at his disposal, and the Miami Hurricanes’ coaching staff is glad to have Mark Walton for another year after a breakout sophomore campaign in 2016.
Walton, who rushed for a team-high 1,117 yards and 14 touchdowns last season, is the unquestioned leader of the Miami running back group and a focal point for the Hurricanes’ offense. Offensive coordinator and running backs coach Thomas Brown loves the leadership and competitiveness Walton has shown so far this spring.
“Right now his reps have been normal,” Brown said. “I haven’t cut back at all with him. Obviously, you want to be conscious of a very talented guy like that. But honestly, he is a competitor and really if I tried to hold him back, he probably wouldn’t let me anyway. And I love that about him. But I think he can carry a workload and be an every down type tailback like he was last year for us. We had kind of a three tailback system, we rotated three guys. And it may be less than that this year. We will kind of just see how the rest of the guys do behind him from a competition standpoint. And how big the separation is between Mark and everybody else.”
Through 26 games, Walton has scored 25 touchdowns and rushed for over 1,500 yards while sharing time in the Hurricanes’ backfield. Heading into his junior season, Walton is expected to get the majority of the touches at running back and the Miami native is focused on preparing his body for the increased workload.
“Just visiting the training room more often,” Walton said. “Getting extra work in, in the weight room. Stretching out a lot and just taking care of my body more.”
Who will play behind Walton is one of the questions the Hurricanes will need to answer before they kick off their 2017 season on Sept. 2 against Bethune-Cookman. Many expect Travis Homer to battle for that role and the rising sophomore has impressed Brown with his maturity and development since he arrived on campus a year ago.
“I think it has been great,” Brown said. “I think competition is always great to have in a room. To force guys to continue to compete and to continue to get better. I think Travis has always been a very mature guy from day one, I think, compared to most guys coming out of high school. He has done a really good job just trying to continue to push himself every single day and battle with Mark.”
Walton has been impressed with Homer and thinks he can be a contributor for the Hurricanes in 2017 and beyond.
“Travis is a great running back,” Walton said. “There are little things he needs work on, like being patient a little bit. But overall I think he is going to be a heck of a player.”
Homer played primarily on special teams as a freshman, covering kicks and punts for Miami, but that game experience has helped prepare him for the potential increased role on offense. Now he and his fellow running backs are focused on pushing each other to improve with every spring practice.
“We definitely just have to keep our conditioning up as a group and just keep working each other to get better, so we can help out the team.”
April 4 | Practice 7
The Miami Hurricanes defense ended last season ranked among the nation’s best in a number of statistical categories.
In hopes of continuing that trend in 2017, defensive coordinator Manny Diaz, cornerbacks coach Mike Rumph and safeties coach Ephraim Banda have already started to realign the secondary to replace four graduates: safeties Jamal Carter and Rayshawn Jenkins and cornerbacks Adrian Colbert and Corn Elder.
“We don’t have much depth like most people but we compete every single day,” said junior Michael Jackson, one of the players expected to play a bigger role this fall. “That is one big thing [defensive coordinator] coach [Manny] Diaz teaches us, and that is what we do.”
When asked about who has impressed him this spring, Rumph is quick to respond.
“Statistically, Michael Jackson,” he said. “We just looked at all the man coverages, and who statistically is doing the best job with the amount of talent they have been thrown at. Mike is doing a pretty good job out there just being consistent and showing what he can do.”
Miami should be bolstered by the addition of newcomers Trajan Bandy and Jhavonte Dean, ranked among the top prospects at the position. Dean was the No. 1 ranked junior college cornerback in the country, while Bandy is a four-star prospect.
Other personnel moves have been made, including the shift of junior Sheldrick Redwine from corner to safety.
“He is great. He knows where to fit in because he played corner,” sophomore Malek Young said about Redwine. “Him being at safety, his stock is going to go way up, because he just knows where to be at and how to find the ball. He is doing great back there.”
For Young, who started the final four games of his rookie season opposite Elder, this spring has been spent with Rumph on improving one aspect of his game in particular: vision.
“Eyes. Keep your eyes on your man, don’t look at the quarterback,” he said. “The quarterback could lose you.”
Young expects the late-season experience from 2016 to be beneficial come fall, and he has already benefited from it through the first seven practices of the spring, with Saturday’s first scrimmage looming.
“It helped a lot. Just taking in what we learned from last year and bringing it to now,” he said. “Then being able to be coached on top of that. It gave me more knowledge of the game while studying film.
Young has been encouraged by the early returns, and expects the defense to be even better in 2017.
“We are just competing and working to the ball,” he said. “Effort. Effort is what gets us seen and that is what we are doing right now.”
April 1 | Practice 6
The calendar flipped to the first of April on Saturday morning, but there was no fooling around on the Greentree Practice Fields.
The Miami Hurricanes battled each other, and battled the heat, for two hours before wrapping up their sixth spirited practice session of the spring.
“Hot, but you know we’re having a good time, especially on the defensive side,” sophomore defensive lineman Joe Jackson said. “We’re just coming out to compete every day. We got a lot of new people, a lot of new talent, so it makes it harder to see who’s going to start, who’s not going to start.”
As expected, Miami’s defense has been flying to the ball throughout the spring, but the offense is holding its own, as well.
“It’s been going well,” senior wide receiver Braxton Berrios said. “There’s a great competition at QB right now, which makes everything a lot better, I think, but from day one to day six there’s a tremendous improvement coming from all phases of the offense.”
The Hurricanes lost four of their top six reception leaders to either graduation or the draft, which gives players like Berrios and sophomore Dionte Mullins a chance to showcase their skills in the spring. Head coach Mark Richt has been impressed with what he’s seen from Mullins thus far.
“Today in particular and it was a very hot day by the way,” Richt said. “I saw him push past the first rep of the drill, and having juice, and the second rep not so much and third rep he looked tired. I know that [wide receivers] coach [Ron] Dugans has been onto him about that. And we have all been talking to everybody about that.
“You have to be able to play the second, the third play, a fourth play if it’s a four-play rack. And I saw him really pushing and actually trying to enjoy the day. I love energy and I love enthusiasm too, and he had both today.”
Mullins is making the most of his opportunities, but also looking to improve.
“I feel like I’ve improved on my route running, but I still keep working on my eye coordination,” he said. “It’s pretty good, but I’m still working on it. I’m not trying to be average.”
The Hurricanes hosted a high school coaches clinic after practice. More than 100 attendees enjoyed lunch with the players and coaches, followed by a presentation from Practice Like Pros and chalk talk sessions with Miami’s coaching staff.
“We want the high school coaches to come and watch our practices as close as they want to get,” Richt said. “It is a good day for them and we are thankful we had a good turnout.”
Practice Like Pros, founded by former network sports producer and New Orleans Saints executive Terry O’Neil, is a group that advocates safer ways to practice high school football. For more information visit www.practicelikepros.com.
March 30 | Practice 5
Five practices in, a third of the way through spring camp, and the Hurricanes are showing no signs of letting up in any phase of the game.
“Everybody is attacking every day with enthusiasm, really excited to work,” defensive coordinator Manny Diaz said. “No one appears to be content. Everybody is really trying to push themselves to get their play to another level.”
These spring sessions place a premium on teaching, giving coaches the opportunity to work closely with their units on technique, positioning and schemes.
“Spring is where you pull it all apart,” Diaz said. “You have all the individual parts and everybody tries to get themselves better. And then in the summer, into the fall you kind of put it back together again.”
One of those individual moves comes in the secondary, where Miami has moved junior Sheldrick Redwine from cornerback to safety. Redwine started five of 12 games at cornerback last season but now finds himself next to his roommate (and former Killian High School teammate) Jaquan Johnson at the back of the defense.
“Whatever they need me to do,” Redwine said. “I’m a football player -- you want me to play there, I’m going to play there.”
Redwine said the biggest difference in switching from corner to safety is the real estate he now has to navigate.
“Probably just playing in more space,” he said. “You have to make more plays coming downhill and you have to make tackles.”
Safeties coach Ephraim Banda likes what he’s seen of Redwine in his new role thus far, both from a efficiency and effort standpoint.
“What he’s done so far, he’s really upped his urgency and he’s come out here every day and he’s had it,” Banda said. “There hasn’t been a drop off, which is really what Sheldrick’s issue was in the past. I’m very proud of him coming out here with that same urgency that [Jamal Carter] or Jaquan has brought and when he does that he’s a really good player, so I’m proud of him.”
Last spring, Mark Richt’s coaching staff and the 2016 Hurricanes were still getting to know each other. Now there’s more familiarity, which leads to more productivity in these sessions.
“There is no question that we are so much further ahead than we were a year ago,” Diaz said. “I look at the way we played in October, compared to the way we played in November, even the bowl game. And I think about what we have been able to do, especially the more experienced guys have been able to really add on to where we were in December and take that next step.”
The Hurricanes return to practice Saturday morning to wrap up the second week of spring.
March 28 | Practice 4
All gridiron success starts in the trenches, and if early returns from spring practice for the Miami Hurricanes are any indication, head football coach Mark Richt’s team looks ready to take the next step in Year 2.
“I like the group, and the group that will be here in the fall,” offensive line coach Stacy Searels said Tuesday after the third of 15 spring sessions. “I like that our numbers will be back up. There ought to be a lot of competition once we get everybody back out here.”
One of the key additions to the group has been talented freshman Navaughn Donaldson, who joined in early January as a mid-year enrollee.
“I feel like he’s doing a good job of picking up the plays,” offensive lineman Trevor Darling said of Donaldson. “Because, as a freshman, he’s getting it down pretty quick, when it comes to the plays and stuff. I think that is a good thing that he actually came in early.”
A number of veterans with plenty of playing experience will be returning this fall, including Darling, senior Kc McDermott, senior Nick Linder, redshirt junior Sunny Odogwu, junior Tyree St. Louis and junior Tyler Gauthier.
“We should have 16 kids on scholarship, once the fall gets here,” Searels said. “16 kids that compete, and a lot of the guys that played ball, and are capable of playing winning football. So I do think we will have more depth.”
No veteran has been settling, however, and all offensive linemen have been hard at work following the conclusion of practices, getting in extra sled pushes in and putting in supplemental strength and conditioning work.
“It makes us closer as a group, because we end up pushing each other and talking to each other to get through it,” Darling said of the post-practice conditioning. “So I feel like it makes us closer as a group.”
Searels said the extra work is pivotal if his unit is to be successful under the sweltering conditions of August camp on Greentree and early season games at Hard Rock Stadium.
“I don’t think it’s that hot, because it’s going to be a lot hotter in August. It really is, really, really nice compared to last spring, when it was murderously hot,” Searels said. “We need extra work – one, to make sure we are focused, we aren’t always focused the way we need to be. Two, a couple guys need some extra conditioning. Three, we need to figure out how hard we can actually push ourselves. And just being mentally tough, I think, is as important as anything.”
Searels and his offensive linemen alike have been impressed with Donaldson and George Brown, Jr., who transferred to Miami last fall from LSU but was forced to sit out the season due to NCAA transfer regulations.
“George has gotten a lot better and he’s a lot more focused on the details,” Darling said. “So he is doing a lot better than he was before.”
Though the first three practices have all been positive, Searels said there is still work to be done if his unit wants to build on last’s year Russell Athletic Bowl championship.
“This spring some guys are moving around a little bit; some new positions,” he said. “It’s a very fluid first five, I guess you would say, on where they are aligned. So, we have a lot of ways to go.”
Former All-ACC offensive lineman Danny Isidora, whose leadership, Searels said, will be tough to replace, is one of 15 Hurricanes that will be competing in Wednesday’s Pro Day on Greentree.
Head coach Mark Richt said he’s excited for the opportunity that lies ahead for the group of future professional football players.
“We’re allowing all the guys that played here at Miami, that are in their first draft-eligible year, those are the guys that are going to be here doing it,” Richt said. “As a matter of fact, I’m about to have lunch with just about every one of them, kind of a pregame meal. I’m going to tell them how much we love them and appreciate them and wish them the best.”
March 25 | Practice 3
The Miami Hurricanes took the field for their third spring practice on a sunny Saturday morning at Greentree. But it was their first practice in pads, and head coach Mark Richt liked what he saw from both an effort and technique perspective.
“I was very pleased,” Richt said after the session. “We try to take pride in how we practice as far as our energy level and our hustle and getting off the ground when we get on the ground – things like that, it was good.
“We call it ‘thud’ – thud is full speed without tackling and without blocking below the waist. I thought we did a real good job with that -- very few times were guys on the ground. It’s a good sign of knowing what you’re doing, it’s a good sign of athleticism, it’s a good sign of people just paying attention.”
Spring ball can be hectic when you’re trying to distribute reps among 100 players but that’s also why Richt feels these sessions are so essential to the growth of a football team.
“Everybody’s getting reps,” Richt said. “And it’s part of the reason why practice is a little bit sloppy because you’re trying to get that many guys reps. We’re getting a hundred guys repetitions. It’s hard to get everybody doing it just right and that’s why we do it. That’s why there’s spring ball. The few that don’t think spring ball is valuable are missing the mark because there are so many things they can learn right now.”
If the younger Hurricanes want to find a teammate to emulate on the practice field during March and April they should look no further than running back Mark Walton.
“Mark is a machine,” Richt said. “Mark loves football. He loves to compete. He loves to do things right. If you just watch him practice, either as a coach, a player or a fan, you’d love it because he’s just that way every day.”
As part of Saturday’s practice, the Hurricanes hosted a youth football coaches clinic. The coaches who participated had the opportunity to watch practice, eat lunch with the team and then attend a chalk talk session with the Miami coaching staff.
There were also a handful of former players on hand, including quarterback Brad Kaaya and tight end David Njoku, who are preparing for Miami’s Pro Day next Wednesday.
“I like it when former players come, period,” Richt said. “A lot of the guys who just finished up and are getting ready for Pro Day are hanging around here for their Pro Day on Wednesday. We always welcome former players to come, the pros who work out here in the offseason or if they’re finished with their football careers and just want to come back and check out a practice and be around family, we love it.”
The Hurricanes return to the practice field Tuesday for their second week of spring football.
March 23 | Practice 2
Spring football is about growth and development as a player and a team, and Thursday’s session illustrated just how far the Miami Hurricanes have come in just one year under the direction of head coach Mark Richt and his coaching staff.
The Canes were full of energy when they hit the Greentree Practice Fields for their second of 15 spring practice sessions and wasted little time working on individual and team fundamentals.
“It feels great to be back out here,” linebacker Shaquille Quarterman said. “We have been working since we got back from winter break. It is just exciting to be back out here bonding with the teammates and everything.”
Quarterman and fellow linebacker Zach McCloud are two rising sophomores going through their second spring with the Hurricanes and both feel like they have an opportunity to take a big step forward before their second college football season.
“We get to be more comfortable, because we are familiar with the calls and everything,” McCloud said. “We get a chance to pay attention to more of the details, the small things we couldn’t focus on as much last year.”
“It’s a really big difference,” Quarterman said. “First spring I didn’t know what to expect, I had just got here. I had to adjust to a lot. Now having the experience from last spring and the season I kind of feel like I know the guys. Especially with the freshman coming in, even though I may not be a senior, I still have to help them and give them insight on stuff and how we operate here.”
Quarterman and McCloud teamed with Michael Pinckney to form a stellar trio of freshmen starting linebackers in 2016. Defensive coordinator Manny Diaz is excited to see how much his young linebackers and the rest of the defense has progressed since last spring.
“The biggest thing that stands out is just how much further ahead we are than this time last year,” Diaz said. “Going back and looking at some of those clips, it’s almost comical where we were starting from. I think the guys have picked up from where we left off in December and have a good spirit about them. The guys are wanting to compete. But all that being said, when contact is not involved in the game, there is not a whole lot that you can evaluate other than the fact that we know how to get lined up.”
While the Hurricanes’ defense will look to build off an outstanding 2016 campaign that saw the unit record 108 tackles for loss, Miami’s offense is also looking to see what players stand out in the spring. Offensive coordinator Thomas Brown has been impressed with a pair of veterans on the offensive line, as well as 2016 team MVP Mark Walton, but he cautions that it is difficult to truly highlight players after just two practices.
“Mark Walton is a really good football player and I would say he has improved even more because he is even more detailed then he was in the past,” Brown said. “Which is pretty impressive since I think he was already a pretty detailed guy. I think [senior offensive lineman] Trevor Darling has done some really nice things so far, just from a fundamental standpoint. [Senior offensive lineman] Kc McDermott is really good up front, from a technique standpoint. But again, it is two days in shorts, with guys with great effort. Everybody is excited for football right now. [There are] A lot of guys that would like to help us win, but we will find out more moving forward with the pads going on and when adversity hits.”
Brown has also been encouraged by the competition on the offensive side of the ball, with players looking to distinguish themselves among their position group.
“Yeah, I’m really excited,” Brown said. “Obviously, people think it may be scary at times, but it is a great opportunity for a lot of guys to come in and compete. I think competition makes you better. I think it is harder sometimes to go all out and compete, when you may think you never have a chance to beat a guy out. But when it is an open competition, you will figure out who wants to play and who doesn’t want to play. I think guys will continue to go out and separate themselves. Every single position, not just the quarterback spot. It is going to be a long process to the rest of spring ball, throughout the summer and into fall camp, before we figure out who is going to be able to win football games.”
Rising sophomore Ahmmon Richards is one of several weapons Miami’s quarterbacks can look forward to throwing to this spring and the 2016 freshman All-American is looking forward to catching passes from all the Hurricane signal callers.
“They all have improved and know the system pretty well,” Richards said. “They all can throw and put the ball on the money. They all have touch. It’s going to be a good competition.”
March 21 | Practice 1
It’s football season in Coral Gables.
The Miami Hurricanes hit the Greentree Practice Fields Tuesday for their first of 15 spring practices in preparation for the 2017 season.
Now in his second year at the helm, head coach Mark Richt said that, in comparison to last year’s first spring practice, Tuesday’s morning session was a breeze - in more ways than one.
“It was a beautiful day,” Richt said. “It started out a little bit cool and then it did get warm at the end…the weather really cooperated with us.”
Richt said the difference was evident in the practice habits developed by players now in their second year in his system.
“Like I told the team after practice, you can tell who the veterans are and you can tell who knows how to practice. You can tell the guys who are in shape and you can tell the guys who know what to do,” Richt said. “It’s very obvious who the mid-year guys are, as far as knowing how to practice and knowing what to do.”
Defensive lineman Kendrick Norton agreed with Richt’s assessment, and said the comfort level was evident in returning players.
“[Freshman] have guys in front of them to show them how to do it,” Norton said. “Last year nobody had that, because everybody was a freshman last spring.”
One of those mid-year players who impressed Norton Tuesday was Jonathan Garvin, a defensive lineman from Lake Worth, Fla.
“Garvin is doing very well. He’s coming on, he’s learning. But it’s only the first day,” Norton said.
Coach Richt also complimented freshman DeeJay Dallas, one of 10 mid-year enrollees taking the field for the first time.
“Deejay showed the ability to snatch the ball well, which is a great key – to be able to catch the ball well and not cradle it,” Richt said.
Senior tight end Christopher Herndon IV, expected to take on an even bigger role in the offense with the departure of All-ACC tight end Davis Njoku, reiterated that Tuesday marked a good start for the Hurricanes.
“First day was basically just getting back in the groove of things,” Herndon said. “Everybody is kind of fresh to the offense again, so we just took our time out there today, but we were still trying to make sure we were doing everything at a full-speed pace and just focusing on our plays.”
After leading Miami to its first bowl win since 2006 last December, Richt said spring practice is about improving as a team more so than focusing on individual position battles.
“I want everyone to compete,” he said. “I want everybody to prove that they should start or they should play, or that they deserve to be on the travel squad – whatever it is - so they’re at least proving that they’re bought into what we’re doing.
“I want guys to play hard, play fast and be physical, be disciplined – those are the main things. If you do that, you’re going to be pretty good.”
Only 165 days until September 2, when the Hurricanes return to Hard Rock Stadium for their season opener against Bethune-Cookman. But who’s counting?