University of Miami

UM football gets key players back in preparation for spring game

Offensive lineman Kc McDermott, who missed most of last season with a torn medial collateral ligament in his left knee, was a full participant for the first time this spring on Tuesday, March 17, 2015.
Offensive lineman Kc McDermott, who missed most of last season with a torn medial collateral ligament in his left knee, was a full participant for the first time this spring on Tuesday, March 17, 2015. MIAMI HERALD STAFF

After enjoying a stretch of more than 11 days off for spring break, the Miami Hurricanes resumed spring football practice Tuesday with a couple players fully healed from injuries (offensive tackle Kc McDermott and cornerback Tracy Howard), a new face in a red noncontact jersey (linebacker Tyriq McCord) and a new depth chart.

Here’s what was noteworthy from the first of five remaining practices before the March 28 spring game at Fort Lauderdale’s Lockhart Stadium:

▪ No one on the team, it appears, got themselves into trouble over the break. “Did you hear anything,” coach Al Golden responded when asked if the break ended without any surprises. “It was awesome.”

Golden said he was pleased with the team’s attitude and communication during the break. He said players were really mature in Monday’s meetings and there was good tempo in Tuesday’s practice. “Sometimes you have this transition and it’s a little slow,” Golden said. “It wasn’t that. It was a good, tough practice.”

▪ Golden said the injury to McCord, listed as the second-team strong-side linebacker behind sophomore Darrion Owens, isn’t “anything significant, but it’s something we’re being careful with.”

▪ McDermott, who will compete for the starting left-tackle job after missing all but the first four games of the 2014 season with a torn medial collateral ligament in his left knee, was a full participant for the first time this spring as expected.

“It was great — definitely, a high adrenalin pump,” the 6-6, 315-pound sophomore-to-be said. “It wasn’t the best day I’ve ever had, but it was something to build off. I just want to keep it going, get back in the rhythm of things. No problems with my knee at all.”

He ran with the second team at right tackle behind Sunny Odogwu, who had been on the left side before the break. UM has been rotating lineman at different positions all spring. Sophomore Trevor Darling is the first team left tackle and newcomer Jahair Jones, who had been working at guard, is now backing him up.

McDermott said his goal is to be a starter by the spring game.

▪ Freshman defensive lineman Scott Patchan went through practice in a yellow limited-contact jersey — an upgrade. He had been in a red non-contact jersey for the first part of the spring.

▪ Golden said Odogwu, a liability all of last season, has to stop thinking and play fast. “His punch is better over the course of the spring, but we’ve got to get him to stop shutting down his feet,” Golden said. “Sometimes he shuts down his feet on his pass protection. If we can get that figured out in the next five [practices], we’re going to be very happy.”

▪ Senior Deon Bush was passed on the depth chart at safety by Dallas Crawford, but Golden said part of that had to do with the hamstring injuries that caused Bush to miss some practices. Golden said the latest depth chart was based on “everything, but weighted” toward what happened in the first scrimmage.

▪ Golden said he’s pleased with the way junior Gus Edwards, listed as the first-teamer at running back, is asserting himself. But he wouldn’t say he’s the main back ahead of sophomore Joe Yearby just yet.

“There’s no question he’s not shying away from trying to be the guy, which is great,” Golden said. “Because Gus is big sometimes people think he’s slow. He’s not slow. He might be a little bit longer strider down the field and not as agile, but he is fast. He can catch a screen and go, catch it out of the backfield and go. We’ve got to work on that part of his game.”

▪ Sophomore Trayone Gray, who played mostly quarterback and receiver at Carol City High, fumbled Tuesday and admitted making the adjustment to running back hasn’t been easy.

“I never had to run through the hole, try to break tackles because in high school I was an open-field release, ran a read offense,” he said. “It’s been tough trying to keep my pad level down, getting my footwork down at running back.”

Gray said he’s been studying Steelers Pro Bowl running back Le’Veon Bell. “We’re the same size, same weight,” Gray said. “I like to see how he runs, try to run similar to him.”

▪ Part of the changes the Hurricanes are implementing offensively (aside from more plays picked up from the Dallas Cowboys) is playing with a different pace at times to throw opponents off.

“We change up our pace a lot more now,” said sophomore Alex Gall, listed as a co-starter at left guard. “We’ll go from a fast pace to a slow pace. We’re getting in the huddle more, just trying to move from the huddle to the ball real quick, just changing the pace is a real big thing for us right now.”

Gray said the offense is “speeding it up a little bit, trying to catch the defense off guard, get more [explosive] plays.”

“It’s a little more tiring,” Gray said. “But you catch the defense off guard you have less to worry about.”

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