With the second preseason scrimmage announced for Saturday night and the Sept.5 season opener against Bethune-Cookman closing in, University of Miami coach Al Golden’s job of choosing a two-deep lineup is getting more complicated.
More depth, more decisions.
Golden and offensive coordinator James Coley spoke Saturday for the first time since viewing tape from the Hurricanes’ preseason scrimmage Thursday night, with Golden indicating “it took the coaches a lot longer than it ever has’’ to evaluate each position and find the separation between players.
“There are so many guys,’’ Golden said, indicating there are few “incumbents’’ and that except for players such as quarterback Brad Kaaya and middle linebacker Raphael Kirby, “everybody is competing’’ for starting roles.
“We’ve used 13 offensive linemen with the first and second team, the defensive line is as tight as it’s ever been in terms of competition, secondary, wideouts, tight ends, running backs — we had four running backs, and they all did something good.”
Coley said Kaaya and receiver Braxton Berrios had strong scrimmages.
Berrios was the only offensive player to wear a yellow, limited-contact jersey during practice Saturday morning after sustaining a hamstring injury.
The defense had two players in yellow and one who did not practice because of an injury. Safeties Deon Bush and Ryan Mayes also have hamstring injuries and wore yellow. Middle linebacker Juwon Young sprained the bottom of his foot and is being treated with caution.
“We’re going to have to be careful here for a little while until it really calms down,’’ Golden said of Young.
Coley was asked about the offensive line in light of three starters — the left tackle, left guard and center — leaving after last season for the NFL. Several players on offense and defense said the line struggled at the beginning of the scrimmage but became stronger with each snap.
Trevor Darling is battling Kc McDermott for the left tackle spot, Coley said, but Darling started in the scrimmage. Alex Gall is at left guard, with Nick Linder at center, Danny Isidora at right guard and Sunny Odogwu at right tackle — though McDermott was asked to start at right tackle for Saturday’s first of two practices.
Coley said early in the scrimmage the line put the pressure on itself with cadence-related penalties.
“We gave up some sacks and credit to our defense,” Coley said. “They’ve got some good guys on the defensive line.”
Coley said he hopes to have the line’s two-deep lineup more cemented after the next scrimmage “and kind of have a clear mind.
“But it never stops, right? No one here could tell me Trevor, who was working with the third team last year at this time, was going to be our starting right tackle against Florida State.”
McDermott said Saturday that “nothing is set.’’
“We’re still focused on our team and our team goals,’’ he said. “Sunny is helping me, I’m helping Sunny, I’m helping Trevor, Trevor’s helping me, and the same goes for all the young guys. This is how we work — we work as a team. It’s not going to down anybody, it’s not going to put anybody up. … We’re going to take care of each other first.’’
The 6-6, 315-pound McDermott, who hasn’t played since he tore the medial collateral ligament in his left knee against Duke on Sept.27, said the linemen “got off to a little bit of a slow start’’ Thursday but came together, talked and “got on a roll.’’
After that, he said, “everyone was making the right calls, everyone was doing the right assignments, everyone was using really good technique.’’
Other Coley assessments:
▪ With receivers Herb Waters, Rashawn Scott and Berrios — “one of the fastest guys on the team’’ — the Canes have enough “long speed’’ to be a downfield threat.
▪ The running backs all excelled Thursday, but each is battling to start. “Sometimes you get a situation where you have four guys and no one wants to be the guy.’’
▪ The difference between sophomore tailback Trayone Gray, who had a long run Thursday called back because of a penalty and turned a fourth-and-1 into a 30-yard gain, is “night and day’’ since last season. “He was a quarterback in high school and … all of a sudden he’s getting hit.”
▪ Redshirt freshman tight end David Njoku, who caught a touchdown pass from Kaaya on a fade route, needs to be more aggressive. “He’s a great leaper, he’s explosive, he’s fast, he’s got great hands,’’ Coley said. “I just want to see him in the course of a scrimmage take over, because he has the ability to be that type of force.’’