This spring, head coach Mark Richt decided to change things a bit. Rather than have a spring game, Richt decided to hold three different scrimmages, none of which were open to the public, although the final scrimmage was open to media members. Even with a tight seal around the program, there has been much news coming out of Miami this spring.
University of Miami Spring Football Concludes
The Hurricanes have a lot of key pieces returning in core positions. Arguably the most important position is still a work in progress though. After junior quarterback Brad Kayaa declared for the NFL, there will be a new guy at the helm. The contenders for the position have little or no game experience and only Malik Rosier has started a game before. Highly touted quarterback Jack Allison redshirted last season, and possesses the best arm out of the bunch that are already on campus. The surprise from the group this spring was Evan Shirreffs, who split reps with the first unit for all of the spring. Newcomer Cade Weldon is an early enrollee that should still be in high school, he flashed at times but ultimately still has not adapted to the speed of the college game. Things could change for him in the summer, and in fact already has after Allison recently announced he will transfer out of the program. Richt has publicly stated that he will not name a starting quarterback until he sees what incoming freshman N’Kosi Perry can do in fall training camp.
So the quarterback position hasn’t been settled yet but the running back position has. Mark Walton returns again as the main tailback after rushing for over 1100 yards his sophomore season. Who will back him up has yet to be determined, Miami went through spring football with only two healthy scholarship running backs. Sophomore Travis Homer didn’t receive much carries last season after having three older backs in front of him, he will be called upon this season. The running back situation affected the entire offense this spring, as play calling was more cautious with the current depth issues. Junior Trayone Gray, participated in drills only and was withheld from contact this spring after tearing his ACL last season. Coaches are confident he will be ready for fall camp. Miami is still looking to find a graduate transfer that can come in and get carries behind Walton.
Offensive line received some well needed reinforcements after Sunny Odogwu and Nick Linder both were lost last season to season ending injuries. Freshman Navaughn Donaldson opened up spring as the starter at right guard and has impressed Richt. He has lost 25 pounds since his arrival to Miami after just being in high school a semester earlier. The wide receivers looked good despite inconsistent quarterback play. On the defensive side, the continuity of the group was evident this spring. Defensive coordinator Manny Diaz even said “it was almost comical where we were starting from [last year].” This spring Miami returned the entire front seven that played last year. From the secondary cornerback Malek Young stood out, recording four interceptions in three scrimmages including two in the last scrimmage in which he returned one for a touchdown.
The Future is Now
Since Richt has gotten to Miami, he’s made it clear that he is not afraid to play freshmen and if they are the best man for the job than they will play. The proof of that last season was televised as Miami started three linebackers and wide receiver Ahmon Richards, all of which made freshman all-american teams last year. Just this spring alone, there were ten guys that still should have been in high school but graduated early to try to get a jump on their college careers.
As stated before, Donaldson is already running with the first team offensive line and other newbies are standing out with him as well. Safety Amari Carter in the final scrimmage led the defense with ten tackles, wideout DeeJay Dallas has already been dubbed a “playmaker” and had a 65 yard touchdown in the second scrimmage. Defensive end Jonathan Garvin has received high praise from coaches as well and Weldon threw for a touchdown in the last scrimmage.
The rest of the incoming class will enroll within the next two months, adding more depth. Fans are already anticipating the 2018 recruiting class, which aren’t even seniors in high school yet. Miami has the number one class across every recruiting website and are still adding more prospects. The staff is doing a masterful job of being able to sell the excitement around the program, especially with the construction of their new indoor practice facility set to take place fairly soon.
The biggest improvements of a team normally shows during the second season of a coach, after growing accustomed to how the staff wants things executed. Miami is in a great position to succeed not just in the future but immediately with a favorable schedule. A leader must emerge from the quarterback position within the first two weeks of the season or Florida State’s win streak could extend. Even with the transfer of Jack Allison, there is a more clear picture as to who will be running the offense. The defense should be one of the best in college football next season, and if that holds true, Miami is in great position to make a run next season.