University of Miami linebacker Denzel Perryman remembers the blood trickling down his face from a cut on the bridge of his nose last year at Bishop Verot Catholic High in Fort Myers.
After contributing two interceptions and a sack in a dominant display of defense that night, Perryman stood in the middle of the football field answering questions about UM’s second spring scrimmage.
“It felt like I was back in high school again — Friday night, a packed crowd,” Perryman said Thursday after practice. “I love the road trips.”
Back then, more than 6,500 exuberant fans packed Fort Myers for the first UM scrimmage on the west coast of Florida. At 7 p.m. Friday, the Hurricanes will revisit Florida’s Gulf Coast, this time at Naples High School’s Staver Field.
And if UM fans thought last year’s crowd was impressive, Friday’s is expected to be even larger. Naples High athletic director Ernie Modugno said the stadium seats 4,000, but temporary bleachers will bring capacity to about 5,000 with several thousand fans expected to stand.
“Naples has very strong support,” Modugno said by phone. “We have a lot of UM fans and graduates in the area.”
Naples High football coach Bill Kramer coached at Hialeah American High for 11 years, the last three (1995-97) as head coach before he took over at perennial high school power Naples. The Golden Eagles, who were host to and got beaten by Miami Central in a 2012 Class 6A state semifinal, have averaged more than 10 wins per season for the past 14 years.
They’ll be watching the Hurricanes.
“Heck yes, we’re excited,” Kramer said. “I’m confident it will be standing-room only. This is big-time Division I football. We sell out our high school games. Folks want to see UM. How often do you get to be this close to an elite program?”
The Hurricanes didn’t exactly look elite during their first scrimmage, acknowledged UM coach Al Golden, who had his team in helmets and shorts Thursday morning. Golden said he “had too many guys who didn’t perform at a high level in the first scrimmage” at Traz Powell Stadium on March 23.
In that scrimmage, starting quarterback Stephen Morris threw for 171 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. And outside of goal-line reps, the UM offense scored one touchdown, a 3-yard pass from Morris to Herb Waters.
“Last scrimmage we fell short on offense and short yardage and goal-line and didn’t move the chains as well on third down,” Golden said. “And on defense our tackling wasn’t as good and we had a few breakdowns in terms of rotation. Those are the things we have to get fixed.”
Kramer said that last year he “took a busload of players” to watch UM in Fort Myers. “It really was great,” he said. “We want our kids to get a sense of possibility and a realistic snapshot of what college football looks like and sounds like.
“I know it’s a controlled scrimmage, but the size and speed of those guys, you really have to be there.
“And it’s good for the parents, too. When they’re trying to find out why their 5-10, 190-pound lineman son doesn’t have offers from BCS schools, they’ll start to get an idea why — kind of a reality check.”
Admission is free to the scrimmage. Park across the street at the Coastland Center Mall.