The biggest, most important news so far for the No. 13 Miami Hurricanes going into the Florida State game is that running back Mark Walton practiced Tuesday morning in the Dolphins’ bubble and is expected to play in Tallahassee, according to UM coach Mark Richt and offensive coordinator Thomas Brown.
“He did alright,’’ Richt said. “He’s going to play. Like last week, unless there’s a setback, we believe he’ll play.’’
On Ahmmon Richards, who had a severe hamstring pull during fall camp and didn’t play until last game at Duke, Richt also said “he practiced’’ and “looked good.’’ But the status of Richards, who said he was fine after the Duke game (three catches for 106 yards and a touchdown) was not really in question.
Walton? That’s another story.
After injuring his left ankle midway through the second quarter of the Toledo game on Sept. 23, Walton came back for Duke last Saturday and injured it again in the fourth quarter. He seemed OK walking away after the game, but was on the ground for a while during the lastest injury and again, seemed as if he were in great pain.
Richt said after the Duke game that Walton would be “living in the training room” this week.
“I think Mark will be fine,’’ Brown said Tuesday. “I think he just kind of tweaked it toward the end of last game, which wasn’t as bad as the first time he hurt it. He could have gone back into the game if we needed him to. Obviously [backup] Travis [Homer] is a very effective ball carrier as well as catching the ball out of the backfield. I’ve got to do a better job of getting him involved in the game earlier.’’
Brown said Walton “lives in the training room regardless of whether he has a quote-unquote injury or not.’’
“But he looked good today,’’ Brown said of Walton. “Moved around well. A little soreness, but he’ll be fine.’’
After three three games, Walton leads the team with 403 yards rushing, his 9.2-yards-per-carry average second in the nation behind Stanford’s Bryce Love, with 11.1 yards per carry.
Walton, who finished 2016 with 1,117 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns on the ground, is now fifth nationally with his 134.3 yards-per-game average.
In the opener against Bethune-Cookman, Walton rushed 16 times for 148 yards and two touchdowns.
In the next game against Toledo he gained a career-high 204 yards rushing on 11 carries, including an 82-yard rush and 44-yard touchdown. And that was the game in which he hurt his ankle midway through the second quarter.
On Saturday against Duke, Walton was held by the nation’s No. 2 rushing defense to 51 yards on eight carries, but he added 79 yards receiving on four catches.
As for Homer, a sophomore who also excels on special teams, he has 178 yards and three touchdowns on 22 carries for an 8.1-yards-per carry average. He also has five catches for 71 yards.
The Hurricanes opened the week as a three-point favorite against FSU (1-2, 1-1 Atlantic Coast Conference), which has won seven consecutive games against the Canes (3-0, 1-0).