University of Miami

UM football players go from seeming sickly on Thursday to a ‘huge’ improvement Friday

Miami Hurricanes head coach Mark Richt speaks with quarterback Brad Kaaya (15) on the sidelines in the third quarter as the University of Miami hosts Pittsburgh at Hard Rock Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 5, 2016.
Miami Hurricanes head coach Mark Richt speaks with quarterback Brad Kaaya (15) on the sidelines in the third quarter as the University of Miami hosts Pittsburgh at Hard Rock Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 5, 2016. adiaz@miamiherald.com

It’s said to be the most wonderful time of the year — except when college football players are taking academic final exams and opt to skip lifting or running or partaking in workouts that keep their bodies in tune.

Coach Mark Richt wasn’t exactly in an amiable mood after the University of Miami’s first open bowl practice on Thursday, so he opted to wait until Friday to talk to the media.

Things were much better at that point.

From Thursday to Friday, Richt explained, the improvement was “huge.’’

“I didn’t talk to you after practice because I wasn’t in a great mood after that one. The practice was decent. Then we ran a little bit of conditioning, and everyone acted like they were dead. It was a bad image.’’

On Friday, the coach said, “they got their mind right and they got it done. They looked like a team.’’

Hurricanes coach Mark Richt says the Canes went from lethargic on Thursday to looking like a team on Friday, Dec. 16, 2016.

When asked if players being out of sorts around exam time is typical, Richt said: “Here’s the deal. All their lifting and running was not mandatory during exams. We wanted them to have the freedom to do that. I told them, ‘No one studies 24/7 through exams. There’s probably a day in there, or two days maybe, that you’ve just got to get after it. But on a five- or six-day period, you might have three exams. You can probably take an hour or two to get your blood pumping a little bit.’

“I think a lot of them didn’t.’’

The coach said from now until the Dec. 28 Russell Athletic Bowl against West Virginia (10-2) that the Canes (8-4) will be practicing every day except one, when they bus to Orlando on Dec. 23.

“We’ll be in good shape by the time we get to this game,’’ Richt said.

Later in the interview, Richt was told that there were some reports about possible transfers. Running back Gus Edwards and defensive tackle Courtel Jenkins were mentioned, and Richt was asked if anyone had reached out to him.

“No, they haven’t,’’ Richt said. “That’s this time of year. Those kinds of things happen. I’m not talking about them specifically, but guys that want to stay and be great, that’s wonderful.

“Guys that choose to go, for whatever reason, God bless them. I’m OK. Again, I’m not saying I’d be excited with either one of those guys leaving. I don’t want them to. But we’re not going to beg anybody to stay at the U. It’s too great of a place.’’

Of Joe Yearby, a junior with 592 yards and seven touchdowns on 99 touches (6 yards per carry) in 12 games this season, the coach said: “Joe has done a really good job. He’s worked hard. So has [starter] Mark Walton. So has Gus. Those three guys are all very good players and have been productive.’’

Edwards, who sat out last season with a foot injury, has 271 yards and one touchdown in 10 games.

Walton has 1,065 yards and 14 touchdowns on 192 carries (5.5 yards per carry).

▪ Richt said defensive tackle Gerald Willis “had his knee cleaned up’’ in a surgical procedure “and is not ready to be outside yet.’’ He is not expected back for the bowl.

▪ UM announced in a written release that redshirt freshman offensive lineman Brendan Loftus has left the team to pursue other college football options. “We thank Brendan for his time here at Miami, and we wish him the very best in his future endeavors,’’ Richt said.

▪ LSU transfer George Brown met the Miami media for the first time Friday after practicing all season on the scout team with the Hurricanes, per NCAA transfer rules. Brown, a redshirt freshman, is now practicing as the backup left tackle to starter Kc McDermott, though he won’t be able to play until next season.

“It’s definitely a great feeling,’’ said the 6-7, 283-pound Brown, who is from Cincinnati. “I really like the team and where we are headed.’’

Brown said after he got his release from LSU, he chose Miami over offers from Oregon, Oklahoma, Michigan State and Penn State.

Said Richt: “He’s been getting in the mix the whole time. We’ve been getting him [second-team] reps a lot, even though he’s ineligible to play. We’ve been trying to develop him the entire season.’’

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