Al Golden said he was “jacked up” Saturday.
His players were pretty pumped, too.
For the first time since he took over as the University of Miami coach, Golden said every player on the Hurricanes roster — more than 100 of them — passed the conditioning test Friday that preceded the opening of fall camp.
“They demolished it. I mean, literally, just absolutely crushed it,” said Golden, who noted that “half the team” didn’t pass the test going into his first camp in 2011. “They killed it.”
Besides junior receiver Phillip Dorsett, who dazzled coaches and teammates with his blazing, 4.29-second 40-yard dash, two other receivers were particularly gratified. Sophomore Malcolm Lewis and senior Allen Hurns sat under their own interview tents at Greentree Field, surrounded by reporters and cameramen, heartened that they were ready to take on fall practice injury-free.
Lewis was the freshman who sustained a gruesome, season-ending ankle break/dislocation Sept. 22 at Georgia Tech while “fighting for extra yardage” after a reception. Some wondered if he would ever play again, let alone be cleared for preseason camp.
“A marvel of medicine,” Golden said Saturday of Lewis. “We’ll just be careful with his reps initially.”
Golden inserted Lewis into the spring game in the second series, allowing quarterback Stephen Morris to hit him with a pass as he ran 75 yards down the Sun Life Stadium sideline for a scripted touchdown — the defense jogging lightly behind him as the benches cleared to celebrate in the end zone.
“It shows how much Golden respects me,” Lewis said Saturday. “He shows respect for each and every player out here, and shows everyone love.
“Play every down like it’s your last,” he said he learned. “You never know when it can be taken away from you.”
Hurns, the veteran senior described by Morris as his “go-to guy,” is also full-go, despite his formerly broken left thumb protected by bandages. His concussion problems are in the past, he said, as are previous shoulder woes.
The three are part of a gifted wide receivers corps that could help catapult Morris in the 2014 draft — and the Hurricanes in their quest for their first Atlantic Coast Conference title, and beyond.
“This is the best I’ve felt in a long time,” said the 6-3, 195-pound Hurns, whom Golden and new offensive coordinator James Coley admire for not only his talent, but his ability to teach others. “I’ve had a lot of adversity, battled some injuries. But that always humbles and motivates you. I know how to keep pushing. It’s much more serious now because you know it’s your last go-around.”
Hurns, who finished last season with 28 catches for 314 yards and four touchdowns, has a new look: closely cropped hair after sporting dreadlocks since sixth grade. “I just felt like it was time for a change,” he said. “I woke up one day and said, ‘Let’s do it.’ ”
Coley praised Hurns for his intelligence and toughness — “a real good football player,” he said recently. “He has great instincts and great balance. You can put him anywhere — in the slot, as an outside receiver to a three-man side, as a single-side receiver, because he understands football.
“He’s a guy that not only works to get himself better, he work others to get them better. What you see is the spirit of that young man. He’s one of those players you learn from as a coach.”
With returning leading receiver Dorsett (842 yards and four TDs on 58 catches in 12 games) and others such as junior Rashawn Scott (512 yards and three touchdowns on 35 catches in nine games) and physically gifted sophomore Herb Waters (130 yards and two touchdowns on four catches in the next-to-last game against USF), the Canes should be well stocked. And that doesn’t even include incoming freshman standout Stacy Coley, whom Hurns said was “very mature in his route-running.”
Golden said that having an abundance of talented wideouts is “a good problem.
“I don’t know who the starters are right now at wide receiver, and I certainly don’t know who No. 2, No.3, No. 4 coming into the game are going to be — or who the six or seven are that are going to travel. There is excellent competition at that spot, and I’m as anxious as you guys to see where they’re at.”