University of Miami football coach Al Golden was in an especially upbeat mood Saturday during the Hurricanes’ first bowl practice in three years.
“Man, it felt great,’’ Golden said, laughing, his voice raw and hoarse. “The whole week felt great. I didn’t answer one question about the NCAA.
“I know they’re excited about going to the postseason and growing and learning. All the young guys came out here today. It was hot, but they gave great effort.”
The Hurricanes will learn their bowl destination and opponent Sunday night, but the coach won’t be with his team when the announcement is made.
“The new recruiting calendar has really squeezed us,” he said. “It’s unfortunate. But it sounds like I’m going to be on the road because we’re [in a] dead [period] a week from [Sunday].”
Golden said he rested 25 or 26 upperclassmen “with high play counts” and “put the pressure on some of the younger guys to step up. … These two days we’re going to take care of a lot of the vets,” he said, “and next weekend we’re going to get going. You’ll see everybody out here starting Friday night at 5. It should really ramp up another couple notches because those guys will be two weeks rested.”
UM has opened the first five bowl practices to fans at Cobb Stadium, including Sunday’s from 11 a.m. to 12:45 p.m.
“Obviously we’ve been waiting for the postseason and there’s really nothing to these,’’ Golden said. “We’re not trying anything new. We’re not hiding anything. There are no trick plays. It’s just about getting better.”
Freshman Kevin Olsen and redshirt junior Ryan Williams shared the reps at quarterback, with starter Stephen Morris and some of the other veterans lifting weights before coming out to the field to act as player-coaches.
Redshirt freshman Gray Crow did not take reps.
Olsen and Williams both threw one interception apiece — Olsen’s returned by cornerback Ladarius Gunter for a touchdown; Williams’ returned by linebacker Jermaine Grace for a touchdown.
Williams, however, was more composed and had a better day overall.
“Ryan has been here a long time,” Morris said. “He understands this program. He understands the offense very well. The biggest thing for me right now is just to help Kevin and Gray [Crow] go through the reads. I’ve been in that position freshman year. You get a little nervous and antsy back there.
“He’s a great athlete,” Morris said of Olsen, “so we’ve just got it get it to show on the field.”
Offensive coordinator James Coley said Olsen is doing well, but rushed through his progression on the interception.
“Sometimes when the bullets are flying you rush through some things, and as a quarterback you can’t rush,” Coley said. “You’ve got to go through your reads and stick to them. He learned from that one and a couple other plays today.”
Coley said Williams looked “pretty good” Saturday but was “a little rusty,” especially considering he took a lot more reps than he’s used to taking in practice.
When you take only 12 reps compared to, say, 32, Coley explained, “you can almost hide some of the stuff you’re really not comfortable with.”
Williams said it was fun to be out there without the seniors to see what the Canes have moving forward.
“It felt weird,” he said. “I’m used to sitting back. I had to sit behind Stephen. I had to redshirt behind Jacory [Harris] and see the way they worked. Now I’m the senior that has to be a vocal leader for the offense and get everybody doing what they’re supposed to be doing.
“I’m really excited for spring to see our team. I feel like we have a lot of potential to be great.”• Defensive end Anthony Chickillo did not practice. His left foot is in a boot after sustaining a toe injury. Golden said he expects him back next week.
• Receiver Phillip Dorsett (knee) also was held out, though Coley said he’s getting stronger.
• Gunter, who sustained a neck injury against Virginia, is fully healthy.
• Linebacker Denzel Perryman said he’ll wait until “after the bowl game” to make a decision on whether to declare early for the NFL Draft.