The Hurricanes are two weeks away from their season opener, but coach Al Golden said he is still waiting for players to stake their claim to a number of starting spots. Those depth chart decisions will be riding upon the performances of his players in Saturday’s scrimmage, he said.
“It’s time for the guys to step up,” he said.
Specifically, Golden mentioned young linebackers Thurston Armbrister, Gionni Paul and Eddie Johnson as players who have the potential to gain experience this year but who still need to prove themselves.
Armbrister, a sophomore, is listed as first-string outside linebacker, but neither Paul nor Johnson is currently on the first- or second-team depth chart.
“We need more from Gionni,” Golden said. “ It seems like Eddie Johnson is starting to make progress.”
Although having a stiff competition for each starting spot could benefit the team, Golden said he had warned his players to focus on themselves rather than their teammates.
Referring to comments he made Thursday about the “selfishness” that some players have been exhibiting in camp, Golden said the problem was hardly unique to his team. Still, he reiterated it was something the players have to deal with better.
“I always tell the guys Tiger Woods can’t beat Phil Mickelson if he’s always looking at Phil Mickelson’s ball,” Golden said. “You’ve got to play your own ball. You can’t worry about [the other] guy.”
In addition to smoothing out the depth chart, Golden hopes to see the players become more familiarized with the experience of playing in a game.
Whereas last week’s scrimmage was more like a long series of drills with the ball placed at predetermined spots on the field, Golden explained that Saturday’s scrimmage would be more like a real game and that the players would be focusing on substituting in real time.
“[The scrimmage] is really for sideline control and obviously to get the game tempo,” he said.
Offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch tried to get the best effort out of his players at practice by reminding them of the history of their team.
“Let’s bring back Miami football to where it was!” Fisch yelled while players were running a drill. “Let’s go!”
The Hurricanes have not won a conference championship since they won the Big East title four years in a row, from 2000-03.
• The two-a-day summer practices have been hot and hard for the players, but Golden praised them for their commitment to playing safely in the heat.
“The guys have done a good job with their health and staying hydrated and not sitting out practices because of dehydration or needing IVs, which is a credit to the kids,” Golden said.
• The UM coaches have been making sacrifices to focus on their jobs. On Thursday, Golden mentioned that the coaches hadn’t seen their families in weeks, and Friday he said he was not able to watch any of the London Olympics.
“I haven’t watched TV in three weeks,” Golden said. “I heard there was an Olympics, but I don’t know any of the results.
“I don’t know the medal count or anything. I hope we did well.”
• BankUnited CanesFest will be held from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday at BankUnited Center.
The free festivities include an autograph session with players and a Q&A session with coaches.