That instant-classic victory at Florida State came with a steep price for the Miami Hurricanes, as five starters were missing from practice Tuesday, and another wore a green, no-contact jersey because he was sore from the intensely physical game.
No. 11 Miami, (4-0, 2-0 Atlantic Coast Conference), preparing for Coastal Division nemesis Georgia Tech (3-1, 2-0) and its high-powered offense at 3:30 p.m. Saturday at Hard Rock Stadium, already announced that nationally elite running back Mark Walton is out for the season after sustaining a season-ending ankle injury. And on Tuesday, lined up side-by-side on conditioning bikes were freshman guard Navaughn Donaldson, his right foot in a large boot with what coach Mark Richt said was a sprained ankle; All-American receiver Ahmmon Richards, “struggling’’ with that sensitive hamstring; All-American Citadel cornerback transfer Dee Delaney (brace around his right knee and using only his left leg to pedal) and safety Sheldrick Redwine, about whose injuries Richt declined to comment.
On the field practicing with the green jersey: receiver Braxton Berrios, one of last game’s heroes named Atlantic Coast Conference Receiver of the Week on Monday.
“He’s just banged up,’’ Richt said. “We didn’t need him to get banged up any more. You play the kind of game he played, special teams and catching as many balls as he did (eight for 90 yards and two touchdowns). ... He’ll be fine.’’
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Said Richt about Richards: “Ahmmon Richards is struggling right now. He’s not 100 percent. He may play, but can he go the whole game? If he was 100 percent healthy, he probably would have been in the game on that last play. But Ahmmon was not able to do that.
“Did he get set back? We’ve got to find out.’’
The only player whose starting role is solidified and announced: sophomore tailback Travis Homer, backed up in practice by Trayone Gray, walk-on Crispian Atkins and freshman DeeJay Dallas, who had been a receiver until now.
“We all need to step up and keep working hard,’’ said Homer, a soft-spoken player who runs tough, has 207 ground yards and three touchdowns and is averaging 8.3 yards a carry. “I haven’t really been too vocal in the past but I‘m going to try.’’
Homer said he was “heartbroken’’ when Walton went down. “I thought it was just another little stinger like the last game. It was very sad to see.’’
Senior left tackle Kc McDermott conceded that it was hard being a freshman, as is his roommate Donaldson, and getting hurt. “It’s not something you’re excited about,’’ McDermott said. “I talked to him this weekend. He’s in high spirits. However long it takes him to come back, he’s going to come back and he’s going to be strong.’’
McDermott said the team would compensate by “having more mental toughness.’’
“I’m banged up,’’ he said. “We have guys that are banged up. That’s exactly the way football is. It’s a tough, physical sport. ... We have depth this year. We have guys that are ready to step up and take places of other guys if need be.
“It’s something that we talked about all offseason to get everybody to understand: next-man up mentality, because it could happen at any time throughout the season.”
Freshman Corey Gaynor, who doubles as a backup center, will likely fill in for Donaldson.
When asked if Redwine, who has started all four games along with Walton, Delaney, Donaldson and Berrios, had a concussion, Richt said, “I don’t talk about all that. You guys can snoop around and figure it out.’’
Delaney’s backup is freshman Trajan Bandy or junior transfer Jhavonte Dean — and Robert Knowles and Romeo Finley are the backup safeties, should Redwine not play. How will starting safety Jaquan Johnson help prepare the young players who have never dealt extensively with the Yellow Jackets’ triple-option offense?
“We just gotta watch as much film as possible,’’ he said. “For the most part you’re not going to really be prepared for it until you actually play in it.
“I’m telling ... Rob Knowles ... that he has to really be discipline. He has to communicate. He can’t be out there quiet.’’