After the Hurricanes chanted, “Head crack, the U is back!” and “Coastal!” as they gathered en masse at the end of their final spring practice session Thursday before the spring game Saturday, they did some heavy lifting — as in 320-something-pounders reverently carrying other 320-something-pounders off the field.
“I know that was tough,” said linebacker Jermaine Grace of 6-8, 322-pound redshirt sophomore offensive tackle Sunny Odogwu hoisting 6-4, 325-pound senior defensive tackle Mike Wyche. “Nobody wanted to carry him.”
Grace, who will be a junior next season, has some time to go before he gets carried off the field by underclassmen — a tradition during the final spring and fall practices. Until then, he said he’ll be doing his best to ensure that the Hurricanes get their swagger back — beginning with the spring game.
“Basically, this spring game we’ve got to show everybody that the U is back, that we’re smart, fast and physical and we’re ready to play this season,” Grace said. “We’re going to come out hard, fast and just be able to put the U back on the map.”
The spring game kicks off at noon at Lockhart Stadium in Fort Lauderdale, with pregame festivities — including team autographs and interactive stations — beginning at 10 a.m. The event is free and open to the public.
UM coach Al Golden indicated the spring game does have a bearing on the offseason.
“More than anything,” Golden said, “you leave a very strong impression in the coaches’ minds in terms of what you can do. For anybody that says, ‘Oh, I’ll get it in the fall,’ or ‘I’ll do it when we get back to training camp,’ that’s all fine and everything, but that doesn’t mean the coaches aren’t going to think about the game every day and devise their plans on offense, defense and special teams and decide who’s catching what route and who’s best at running this play and who’s the best at nickel and all those things.
“From that standpoint, there’s a lot at stake in this game.”
This will be quarterback Brad Kaaya’s first spring game, and he called it “a relieving feeling” to be able to “go out there and score touchdowns instead of it being a controlled setting.”
Kaaya assured that the Canes won’t be “throwing everything out there because you don’t know who’s watching, so we’re probably going to dumb it down a little bit.
“But we’ll still run our base scheme.”
Tailback Joe Yearby, a soon-to-be sophomore, said he’s “very excited” about Saturday “because everybody is really going to be paying attention to me because I didn’t do as much as I was supposed to do last year. I’ve got a point to prove this year.”
Fellow running back Gus Edwards, who had 19 carries for 70 yards in last year’s spring game at Sun Life Stadium, said he foresees plenty of running and possibly more passes incorporated Saturday, because coaches want “to get the offense going and the receivers and everybody communicating well together.
“That’s the one thing about this team this year. We’re trying to have each other’s back. …We’ve just been trying to play together and get better each day.”