The Miami Hurricanes might be rising in the rankings, but they just hope their players aren’t falling to injuries.
The No. 11 Canes (4-0, 2-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) and their fans have experienced the gamut of emotions since Saturday — from a draining but exhilarating victory at Florida State with six seconds remaining, to the loss of nationally heralded running back Mark Walton because of season-ending ankle surgery, to now hoping that three other key starters are healthy enough for Saturday’s huge Coastal Division matchup against Georgia Tech (3-1, 2-0).
During his weekly radio stint Monday with WQAM, UM coach Mark Richt again didn’t specify the condition of freshman right guard Navaughn Donaldson, who seemed to injure his right leg on the same, fourth-quarter play that ended the season for Walton.
Richt also wasn’t specific about All-American receiver Ahmmon Richards, who didn’t finish the game because, according to Richt just minutes after the victory, he “was struggling with his hammy.”
Richt was not asked about safety Sheldrick Redwine, who was hurt late in the third quarter but walked off the field.
The coach said the team would “know more” Tuesday. “We did a lot of rehab [Sunday],” he said, noting that Monday is the players’ day off “and we won’t see them at all.
“They’ll see them in the training room,” he said. “We’ll get a better feel by Tuesday what they’ll be able to do.”
Richt said freshman receiver DeeJay Dallas will be used now at running back to “create some depth” there, and that new starting tailback Travis Homer, a star on special teams, will be cut back to competing on two special teams units instead of four.
When asked by WQAM host Joe Rose what he could say to a player such as Walton, who has been “such a big part of this thing,” the coach stayed positive.
“That you love him and that you know he’ll be back healthy 100 percent,” Richt said. “It is a type of procedure that has 100-percent success. So we’re excited about that for him and his future. But short term he can’t play anymore this season.
“I told the team we’re going to miss his productivity on the field as a running back, as a pass protector, as a special teamer. But he also has got a lot of the spirit on the team every day in practice. Who’s going to pick up the slack there?”
Perhaps Braxton Berrios, that’s who.
▪ Berrios was named ACC Receiver of the Week on Monday for his eight catches for 90 yards and two touchdowns against FSU. He became the first Hurricane since Reggie Wayne in 2000 to catch a touchdown pass in each of the first four games of the season. He now leads UM with 282 yards and five touchdowns on 18 catches.
“He was amazing,” Richt said. “He practices that way every day. He leads that way. He’s been awesome. I’m just happy for the guy.”
▪ You might see more four-receiver sets and formations from the spread with Walton out. Richt said he utilized that in the second half. “At the very end of the game we were running the ball out of a spread set on that one-minute drill when Homer had a couple long runs,” he said. “Sometimes that defines things a little bit better for the quarterback and for the line and for everybody else, when you spread them out and they gotta kind of have to show their hand. You can’t disguise when things are spread.”
As for that wild and crazy victory, the coach said “it was way up there,” when asked how Saturday’s game ranks for him as a coach.
“I told the guys after the game, ‘That’s as much fun as I’ve had in 33 years,’” he said. “One thing I’ve learned to do is take time to celebrate because it’s too much fun not to. If you move too fast to the next thing, it’s just not right. As much work as you put in, you’ve got to jump up and down with the boys and have a good time.”
▪ The ACC announced that the Oct. 21 Syracuse at Miami game will be aired at 3:30 p.m. on ABC, ESPN or ESPN2.