CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Apparently, true freshman DeeJay Dallas is back to being a receiver, at least for now, according to what Mark Richt told reporters Friday at a news conference at Bank of America Stadium heading into Saturday’s Atlantic Coast Conference Championship Game.
Asked about how players have “stepped up and responded’’ to this week’s season-ending injuries to tight end Chris Herndon and receiver Ahmmon Richards, the University of Miami coach noted that “DeeJay Dallas mid-season gets moved [from receiver] to running back, just to try to create some depth there. He's played a lot more receiver now considering what's going on with the tight end and receiver position as far as injuries.”
Dallas came to the Miami Hurricanes from Brunswick, Georgia, as a consensus four-star prospect who played quarterback, receiver, running back, defensive back and return specialist at Glynn Academy. He excelled at it all, earning a No. 15 national ranking for “athletes’’ by rivals.com.
When star tailback Mark Walton went down with a season-ending ankle injury on Oct. 7, sophomore backup Travis Homer took the lead role in an impressive fashion, and now has 861 yards and seven touchdowns on 137 carries (6.3-yards-per-carry average). Dallas, listed as 5-10 and 200 pounds, slowly got integrated as a reserve running back.
He has rushed for 104 yards on 27 carries (3.9-yard average), with two touchdowns in 10 games. He also has three catches for 70 yards, attempted a pass and returned two kickoffs for a 20-yard average.
Richt said all the receivers other than the regulars “know in their heart they’re going to get more opportunities’’ with Herndon and Richards out. “I mean, that’s just the way it is.
“You look at losing Mark Walton...Herndon, Richards,’’ Richt said. “Those three guys really were the most dynamic players at their position on our team... The guys know it's just a matter of not reinventing the system or anything like that. It's just making the plays we ordinarily practice — sometimes at an extraordinary time, but you're basically doing what we always do.”
When Clemson Coach Dabo Swinney was asked about the loss of Herndon and Richards and if that were an advantage for his defense, Swinney said this:
“No, they got plenty of weapons. It's kind of like us, we got Tre Lamar out; Mark Fields is out. We have had other people step up. We've had different things like that all year long. I think that's the key to being good, is you got to have other players.
“When you look at their roster, you see 18 [Lawrence Cager], he's 6'4", 220-something pounds. You see 81 [Darrell Langham], 80 [Dayall Harris], 3 [Mike Harley] and 4 [Jeff Thomas] can fly. Other guys get more opportunities. [Braxton Berrios] leads them. He's the guy. He has been all year. He's been their best playmaker.
“...They'll have guys ready to go. It's unfortunate. I hate it for those two young men really, to be honest with you, because they've worked really hard. They were a big part of their success. But it's just kind of part of it.
“Both these teams have so much to be proud of. No matter what happens tomorrow night, whether we win or whether we lose, I am incredibly proud of our team and our season and what they've accomplished. I'm sure Mark feels the same way.
“But they got some guys, there's no doubt about it. They're going to do what they do. They're not going to all of a sudden change and run some different offense just because one guy's out. They're going to put the next guy in there. He was recruited to the University of Miami for a reason, I can assure you.”