Bring on “the chaos’’ — the spring chaos, that is.
The fun begins Saturday at Greentree Field — at least that’s what the Miami Hurricanes are hoping.
After three weeks of grinding during spring practice, the University of Miami football players will attempt to prove they’re worthy of moving up the yet-to-be-revealed depth chart (or staying on top) during the first spring scrimmage, closed to the public and media.
When asked earlier this week about Saturday’s scrimmage, Canes defensive coordinator Manny Diaz flashed forward to the 2018 season opener against LSU at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, the night before Labor Day on Sunday, Sept. 2.
“We start this season in chaos, right?” Diaz said. “LSU, in that environment, and there’s no way we can practice for it other than in these scrimmages. So, it’s a big part of our evaluation.”
A pertinent question going into Saturday: Will the defense be allowed to tackle the quarterbacks?
Last year, coach Mark Richt allowed his ferocious defense to tackle the quarterbacks battling to replace departing Brad Kaaya. In the process, former UM redshirt freshman quarterback Jack Allison sustained a shoulder injury to his throwing shoulder when he was hit by a defensive end.
Allison ultimately transferred to West Virginia University.
After Allison’s injury, the Hurricanes defense did not tackle the quarterback during subsequent scrimmages.
Richt said earlier this spring that he was undecided about quarterbacks getting hit in scrimmages.
On Thursday, when asked whether the quarterbacks would be “live for tackling,” Diaz said, “Not my call. We haven’t figured that out yet.”
Our guess is that tackling quarterbacks battling for the starting spot — soon-to-be-senior Malik Rosier, redshirt freshman N’Kosi Perry, redshirt freshman Cade Weldon, freshman Jarren Williams and redshirt freshman Augie DeBiase, will be off limits. But everyone else will be fair game.
“Scrimmages are big deals for the defense because we tackle,” Diaz said. “We have some limited tackling opportunities in these practices, but as a defensive football player you’re defined by your ability to get a guy on the ground. So, that will be the whole day where we’ll have to do that.
“College football is the only sport where you don’t play an exhibition game against somebody else — at any level. So this is a preseason game for us. The accountability is real. If you don’t hold your gap in practice and the run spits, well, we set the ball down and just go play again. On Saturday, it’s going to be a touchdown or a first down.”
Although the offense won the first two practice sessions in which some live plays were integrated toward the end of practice and a point system was used, the defense came back to win the next two, evidenced by plenty of offensive pushups.
“Everybody is antsy,” said redshirt junior receiver Lawrence Cager of Saturday’s scrimmage. “They’re ready to go and ready to hit something.”
Offensive lineman Hayden Mahoney said this week that coaches “analyze everything” every day during practice, but that “definitely [with] the scrimmage coming up, it’s going to create a lot of good competition and it’s going to be good for the whole team. I’m looking forward to it.”
Added soon-to-be sophomore safety Amari Carter: “You have to go attack it like it’s a game we’re playing [against] Clemson or anyone else.”
Offensive coordinator Thomas Brown said he’s looking for his quarterbacks to be consistent Saturday, to take command of the huddle and “be more accurate.”
Diaz will be watching closely how his younger players react to negative plays.
“What you get to see for a young guy, for example, is can [he] rebound from making a negative play?” Diaz said. “All of a sudden, if your man catches the ball for a touchdown, are you in the tank?”
The only scrimmage open to fans and media is designated the spring game and will be played at 6 p.m. April 14 at Hard Rock Stadium.