A Miami injury report was emailed to media members Monday as Hurricanes coach Al Golden was delivering his weekly news conference at the Schwartz Center for Athletic Excellence.
It wasn’t uplifting news.
Cornerbacks Corn Elder and Nate Dortch will undergo surgery and not be back this season. Cornerback Ladarius Gunter, who has a neck strain, was already ruled out for the Pittsburgh road game on Friday.
“Disappointed for both of them because both were starting to come on and would have benefited greatly from the [final game and bowl] preparations moving forward,” UM coach Al Golden said.
“I also feel badly for Corn because I know he was anxious to play basketball. It’ll be a couple of months for both of them.”
Elder, a freshman guard who expected to play UM basketball this season, was seen Monday with crutches and a brace on his right knee.
He will have surgery for what he posted on Twitter as a “small tear in my meniscus.”
Dortch, who limped off the field Saturday, has a “lower-extremity” injury.
The other UM cornerbacks vow to compensate for their absence — that includes Atlantic Coast Conference Co-Defensive Back of the Week Tracy Howard, who returned an interception for a touchdown on Virginia’s first play from scrimmage on Saturday; and safety Kacy Rodgers, who is making the switch to cornerback.
Freshman corner Artie Burns will add some manpower and talent as he returns this week from an ankle injury.
The Hurricanes rank ninth nationally in interceptions with 17, something that could particularly come in handy against a Pittsburgh offense that has two of the most prolific receivers in the ACC — 6-4, 195-pound senior Devin Street, who has 854 yards and seven touchdowns; and 6-2, 185-pound freshman Tyler Boyd, with 903 yards and six touchdowns.
“It will be a great matchup,” said Howard, who leads UM with four interceptions.
Gunter has three picks, one he returned for a touchdown.
Rodgers, a senior who hasn’t played cornerback since high school at Southlake Carroll in Texas, had one of the Hurricanes’ three interceptions in UM’s victory against Virginia on Saturday.
“Just getting out there on an island is a little different,” he said Monday. “You’ve got to talk to the D-end a little bit more and sometimes the linebacker. It’s a little different, but I’m excited to do the best I can.”
Howard, a sophomore, said to see his teammates injured and unable to play “is kind of messed up,” and that he was trying his best to keep their spirits high.
As for the game against Pittsburgh (6-5, 3-4), he said he sees “no pressure.
“I know I have to be a leader for the team and felt like that my freshman year. It just comes with the territory.”
Though Howard admitted the Canes are “very limited now” with cornerbacks, he said the others, such as Rodgers and inexperienced redshirt freshman Larry Hope, will “be solid for the program. I know … they have to be acclimated, but I think they’ll do fine.”
Rodgers stood behind a lectern with mixed emotions Saturday. He was worried about his “brother” Gunter, who had been airlifted to Ryder Trauma Center with what turned out to be the strained neck, necessitating a brace that he wore Monday.
And he was proud that the Canes (8-3, 4-3) pulled off the victory against Virginia, thanks to four takeaways from the defense — three of them interceptions by defensive backs, including one by Rodgers.
“We’ve been through a lot,” Rodgers said. “But playing with these guys and going to where we’re going now, it’s exciting that this senior class is responsible and going to be known for leaving a legacy — that we’re going to finish what we started, [that] we’re men of our word, that we’re tough.”
Said Howard: “If I have to play every [minute of the] game, I’ll play every snap.”