The reinvention of University of Miami football continued its evolution Thursday at Greentree Field, as Mark Richt — a former UM quarterback who roamed that field in the late 70s and early 80s — commenced his first preseason camp as coach.
“We’re just trying to get better every day,” Richt said. “We’re trying to get to the point where we’ll play hard, we’ll play physical, we’ll play disciplined, we’ll play with unity. … We’ve been here eight months. Been to a lot of practices already. We worked them all summer.
“It didn’t feel brand new, but certainly … I love being here.”
It was hot. That much didn’t change — 94-degrees hot.
Except for signees Dionte Mullins, a receiver who attended practice as a bystander in street clothes, and safety Cedric Wright, both of whom have yet to report to school, the freshmen were out there. The transfers were out there.
The veterans all showed, too. But the pace was far faster and more intense than under the Al Golden regime, as players raced before plays, during plays and off the field between drills.
“Our strength staff did a very good job,” Richt said. “Now you’re starting to go through a full two-and-a-half-hour practice, so it puts pressure on these young men. A few guys cramped up a little bit, but here we are in South Florida in the middle of the day, so that’s pretty typical.”
Richt said his staff is making the Hurricanes “sprint everywhere they go. We’re making them finish at the end of every rack of plays to the hoop, to the sideline. We condition during practice.”
Defensive end Al-Quadin Muhammad and linebacker Jermaine Grace, two of the most talented players on defense, were in shorts and shells practicing with the others. The status of both is in question related to an internal investigation surrounding the use of rental cars at a local agency.
“I’ll tell you if there’s anything worth talking about with them, other than they’re just on the team and practicing right now,” Richt said.
Junior linebacker Juwon Young, who would have been behind freshman Michael Pinckney at weakside, was removed from the roster and not expected to return to the team. A source said he was back in his home state of Georgia. He, too, was involved in the rental car situation.
Some notables from practice included junior quarterback Brad Kaaya, the unmistakable leader of the Hurricanes, saying, “We still don’t know who the backup is. … I’ve seen them put the effort in. I think it’s just time for someone to take that next step and step up. … This is a group that really needs to step their game up. I’m not calling them out or anything, but someone needs to be real assertive.”
Kaaya spent much of the time during the media viewing working with freshman quarterback Jack Allison, a 6-5, 200-pound, four-star prospect, while redshirt freshman Evan Shirreffs, redshirt sophomore Vincent Testaverde and redshirt sophomore Malik Rosier threw during one-on-one drills.
“We don’t have any plans of redshirting him at this point,” Richt said of Allison.
“No one has that backup job,” Shirreffs said. “Certainly, I’m competing for that job as well as all the other quarterbacks. Everyone was working with the twos and threes. We have a rotation every day. Obviously, you want to be as high as you can on the depth chart.”
Shirreffs said coaches are looking for “consistency, who makes the best decisions, who knows the offense, who knows what to do every play, who makes the least mistakes. Every practice they’re charting every throw, every handoff, after our handoff they’re making sure we carry out every fake. They’re watching every aspect of our game to decide.”
Among the sights and sounds:
▪ New scholarship fullback Marquez Williams elicited plenty of sideline attention. Williams, 6-1 and 280 pounds, is a redshirt sophomore transfer from Mars Hill University, a Division II school in North Carolina. He took one pass from Shirreffs and motored down the sideline like a locomotive run wild.
▪ Freshman tight end Michael Irvin II made a spectacular, one-handed grab — as a UM assistant coach yelled that the route he ran was [expletive].
▪ Freshman receiver Ahmmon Richards worked with the first team and got positive reviews by the coaches and players. “He had a streak on the outside, and he just blew past the corner and Jack hit him right in the hands,” Shirreffs said of Richards, adding that freshman “Sam Bruce is obviously one of the quickest guys we’ve got. I think both of them can play a part for us this season.”