With all their sprains and bruises and broken bones, the Miami Hurricanes seemed destined to take the practice field Tuesday without several of their top players.
But the most important one, the one many believed might not even make it out to Greentree Field, got back up, brushed himself off and delivered.
Quarterback Brad Kaaya apparently does not have a concussion. That was the first good news for No. 16 Miami (4-1, 1-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) as its standout quarterback practiced — although held back a bit — to prepare for a home game against Coastal Division rival North Carolina (4-2, 2-1) at 3:30 p.m. Saturday.
The next good news was that Kaaya threw some nice spirals, at least a few of them in the 15 minutes that the media was allowed to watch during non-contact drills.
“He threw a lot better than I thought he’d throw,” said UM coach Mark Richt, who revealed Sunday that Kaaya had a shoulder injury. “I wouldn’t have known that his arm was bothering him — and I don’t know if it was. I didn’t even ask him. I was just watching him throw it and he zipped the ball well.
“So I didn’t really think there’s an issue. He practiced the whole day. He did a good job.”
So, will Kaaya play against the Tar Heels?
“I think he’s playing,” running back Mark Walton said. “He’s playing. … He was shut down a little bit today in practice, but throwing the ball I think he was very accurate at times. He’s just coming on slowly but surely on getting his shoulder back together.”
Added right guard Danny Isidora, when asked if he was confident that Kaaya would play: “Yeah, for sure.”
Isidora and other players blamed themselves for the vicious sack on UM’s first play from scrimmage, when 6-4, 229-pound FSU linebacker Jacob Pugh grabbed Kaaya and slammed him to the ground.
“It [stinks], obviously,” Isidora said. “We’re all working to get better so he doesn’t get hit. …He was on point with everything [Tuesday].
“He’s a tough kid and I respect him for that.”
Also tough: defensive end Chad Thomas, who became the newest Hurricane to injure his hand and have it wrapped heavily in soft padding — called a “club” in football.
Thomas, a junior, has 20 tackles, a team-leading seven tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks and two pass breakups. But despite his right hand being padded, he practiced fully and will compete Saturday.
“He’ll play just like everybody else,” Richt said. “Sometimes you wrap up a boo-boo and you go. You pad it up and you go play. Sometimes hands get busted up, bruised up, those kinds of things. Anybody who played the sport and you look at their hands, especially guys in the trenches, it’s usually not a pretty sight.”
Fellow end Trent Harris broke his left hand in late August and played with a club until the Georgia Tech game Oct. 1.
His advice for Thomas?
“Just fight, and Chad is already a fighter so he’s going to do well with it. Chad’s a tough guy.”
One player the Hurricanes will miss is defensive tackle Gerald Willis (five tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks), who sustained a knee injury Saturday and will not play against UNC.
On offense, senior wideout Stacy Coley wore an elasticized brace over his left knee Tuesday. He went through drills, but did a lot of left-leg bending, as if to test it out while waiting his turn.
The most unfortunate Hurricane, it seems, is right offensive tackle Sunny Odogwu, a 6-8, 325-pound Nigerian with a giant wingspan and even larger personality —probably the most upbeat, loveable Hurricane.
Odogwu badly injured his lower left leg when FSU’s Derrick Nnadi fell on the back of it. He is scheduled for surgery Wednesday.
“There’s a chance he’s back before the season is over,” Richt said.
Odogwu’s backup is sophomore Tyree Louis. When asked who backs up Louis, Richt said only half jokingly, “You can’t ask that question because we don’t want to think about that. We’re probably more in an experimental stage.”
Guard Kc McDermott, a former UM tackle, is likely an option.
“If they need to put me out there, I’ll go out there without a problem,” McDermott said.