UM sophomore wide receiver Lawrence Cager will miss the season with a torn ACL in his right knee, further depleting a position where the Hurricanes’ depth was already shaky.
Cager, who sustained the injury in 7-on-7 workouts on Thursday, emerged from spring practice as the first-team “X” receiver and the favorite to start in three-receiver sets, along with projected starters Stacy Coley and Braxton Berrios.
Besides Coley and Berrios, UM has only five other healthy scholarship receivers enrolled: Darrell Langham (who was the second-team “X” receiver at the end of spring ball), Malcolm Lewis, Mississippi transfer Dayall Harris and freshmen Sam Bruce and Ahmmon Richards.
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Unless coach Mark Richt changes his mind, Bruce is facing a one- or two-game suspension for holding a gun in a photo taken early this year.
UM expects freshman receiver Dionte Mullins will qualify academically, but he is still awaiting a test score.
Berrios, who began his UM career as a slot receiver, has been getting a lot of work on the boundary as well this offseason. Bruce is best suited to the slot.
Another option would be giving tight end David Njoku some snaps at receiver or using more two-tight end formations (Njoku with Chris Herndon primarily, with Standish Dobard also getting work) and fewer three- or four-receiver sets.
Cager, at 6-5, was UM’s tallest receiver and an appealing red-zone target.
During the spring, Richt implored Cager and the 6-4 Langham to use their size and battle for balls in the air.
He said earlier this offseason that Richt challenged him to study Bengals Pro Bowl receiver A.J. Green, who played for Richt at Georgia.
“He wants to see me be consistent and be a dominant big receiver,” Cager said.
Cager, a four-star prospect out of Calvert Hall in Towson, Maryland, caught eight passes for 70 yards and a touchdown as a UM freshman.
The Dolphins said barring an unforeseen setback, their stadium remains on target to be ready for the Sept. 1 fourth preseason game against Tennessee and UM’s Sept. 3 opener against Florida A&M.
But the Canes are taking no chances.
Orlando’s Camping World Stadium has emerged as the clear front-runner to host UM’s opener if the Dolphins’ stadium is not ready, according to a source.
And UM officials on Friday took a tour of the Orlando facility, which was previously known as the Citrus Bowl.
The school told the Miami Herald that members of football operations and its ticket staff toured the Orlando facility so that the Hurricanes would be fully prepared if they need to move the game.
Nevertheless, UM has been assured that the Dolphins’ stadium renovations remain on track to play the opener there.
UM also has considered Marlins Park as an alternate site but ideally needs a slightly bigger facility than that to accommodate a season-ticket base that’s approaching 40,000.
Four days after lifting Mark Walton’s suspension, Richt strongly suggested that Walton will not miss any games as the result of a legal issue that ended with charges against him being dropped.
“Game one is 49 days away!” Richt said via Twitter. “Looking forward to Mark Walton joining his teammates versus Florida A&M on September 3! Be there! U Family!”
On Monday, the State Attorney’s Office dropped the two charges against Walton: driving under the influence of alcohol and driving with a suspended license.
▪ UM is in the midst of a two-day “Paradise” camp for ninth- through 12th-grade prospects, with guest instructors including former Canes standouts Antrel Rolle, Jeremy Shockey, Brett Romberg and Phillip Buchanon.