University of Miami

Another UM starting surprise and the ‘big dude’ who impressed Richt

adiaz@miamiherald.com

Game week.

How did we get here so fast?

Mark Richt just went on his weekly 560 WQAM radio show with Joe Rose and Zach Krantz, and was especially optimistic about his Hurricanes.

Some news: Richt said his first three-wide-receiver-set would be freshman Mike Harley at flanker, senior Braxton Berrios in the slot and Lawrence Cager at split end, known as the X receiver. “Normally, if Ahmmon [Richards] is healthy he’s X and Cager would be flanker,’’ Richt said. “Harley and [Dionte] Mullins both of those kids will play a good bit if Ahmmon is out.’’

Actually, Richt said he wants to play every one of his receivers.

Offensively, if that group pans out to be as good as expected, it should be one of the nation’s best. Note that All-American Richards is nursing a pulled hamstring and will likely not play against Bethune-Cookman in the opener at 12:30 p.m. Saturday at Hard Rock Stadium.

Richt said new starting quarterback Malik Rosier “wasn’t quite as sharp’’ the first couple days after being named the starter, but that he wasn’t “horrible by an means, because he’s practicing at such a high level.’’

The Canes practiced Sunday night under the lights.

“First night practice, beautiful night, under the lights and we were throwing and catching like all those guys were in high school. It was fun to watch,’’ Richt said.

More Richt:

▪ On Berrios’ groin pain: “Berrios is fine. His groin was bothering him a little bit one day and we just held him. He has nothing to prove. He’s fine. He looked wonderful last night.”

▪ On some players nobody considered as possible starters, such as recently-named Michael Jackson for one of the top cornerback spots: “It’s amazing,’’ the coach said, citing players such as Rosier and punter Jack Spicer and Jackson as playing “a lot better’’ when they knew they were in for quite a battle. “Even Malik Rosier,’’ Richt said. “Everybody was talking about N’Kosi, N’Kosi, N’Kosi.’’

“Everybody’s game rose to another level, and that’s competition.”

▪ On Mike Smith starting at weak-side linebacker: “Mike got in shape..” Richt said Smith got his body fat down and was grinding on every play. (Please note, however, that is doubtful Smith would have started if usual starter Michael Pinckney hadn’t missed a lot of fall camp with a pulled hamstring and also if Pinckney hadn’t been called for targeting in the bowl game against West Virginia, automatically resulting in a first-half suspension in the opener.

▪ On defensive tackle Jon Ford, who arrived in fall camp recently because of academic-related delay: “One of the happiest days was when we knew he was coming in and he was qualified and he was accepted in school.” Richt called Ford “such a big dude’’ and said he is now up to 318 pounds, substantially larger than when UM offered him a scholarship.

▪ On middle linebacker Shaq Quarterman: “I would say, and I don’t know if I should use this word, he’s possessed to be great and to help Miami be great. He is so locked in about not just being good or being the starter. He just wants to be great as a human being and football player.. He’s not going to rest until we’re champions.”

▪ On recruits in South Florida: “There are a bunch of great ones. I think what we’ve got to do is to prove to everybody that we are serious contenders to be great and they want to be a part of that. If they feel they can get that at home they may not travel to here, there or everywhere.. We need to get the ones who are the best, not only the best players but the best people...”

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