University of Miami’s most accomplished running back is on a “blocking diet,’’ and he sounds a lot like most people on a restricted regimen.
Mark Walton says he understands why he is rarely running this spring — but is clearly disheartened.
With the running back corps down to two fully healthy tailbacks on scholarship, sophomore Travis Homer and junior Walton, the Hurricanes coaching staff has been extremely vigilant about protecting Walton while concentrating on the quarterbacks vying to replace NFL-bound Brad Kaaya.
After Tuesday’s 13th of 15 spring practices, the last of which is Saturday’s spring scrimmage/game at Boca Raton High School (closed to the general public), Walton reflected on his lack of carries this spring and the final scrimmage in Boca.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Miami Herald
“I really can’t say too much,’’ Walton said, when asked about the team’s limited rushing yardage in the scrimmage last Saturday, “because I’m on a blocking diet. I’m blocking more. I don’t even run the ball in scrimmages.’’
What has that been like for you?
“When I do get them,’’ Walton said, “I try to do the best I can. I can’t really speak too much. Like I say, I’m doing more blocking. I ain’t really running the ball.
“… I wouldn’t say I’m frustrated. I’m not used to it right now, just going through that stage. It is what it is. I’ve got to move on though.’’
Are you healthy now?
“Yeah, I’m healthy,’’ he said. “I just don’t like being babied.’’
Last season, Walton led the team with 1,117 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns, with another 240 receiving yards and a touchdown. His 15 scores in 2016 ranked third in UM history for a single season.
Walton acknowledged that blocking is “part of the game,’’ and added that “as a running back, you gotta block, protect the quarterback. If you can’t protect the quarterback, I don’t think you should be out there.’’
It’s very clear that if Walton isn’t coach Mark Richt’s favorite player, he’s one of them.
“We all know Mark,’’ Richt said with a grin, when told Walton seemed upset. “It’s a given that he loves football. He wants to play. He’d carry it 50 times a game if you’d let him. … Mostly, I wanted to see the quarterbacks in the scrimmages.
“ … In live football you can block below the waist, but a lot of times guys tackle below the waist, too. You might have a guy running out in space, and a safety decides he doesn’t want to take him on and he tries to torpedo the guy’s legs out from under him, which is legal. So, we’re just trying to keep those things from happening.”
Regarding the quarterbacks, Walton said Malik Rosier and Evan Shirreffs “are “competing right now, in my perspective, for the No. 1 job.’’
Redshirt freshman quarterback Jack Allison, who injured his throwing shoulder in the first scrimmage, returned to practice Tuesday on a limited basis, and Richt said he “did better’’ than the coach expected, throwing short bubble screens. Richt said he’ll compete in the final scrimmage if “he can throw the ball with enough juice on it.’’