The Miami Hurricanes took to Greentree Field on Tuesday for the first time in full pads since their 38-3 loss to Clemson in the Atlantic Coast Conference Championship Game.
They appeared to start a bit rusty and sleepy, eliciting an earful about the Big Ten and Orange Bowl opponent Wisconsin (12-1) from coach Mark Richt after the brief early stretch period that is open to the media.
Richt told the Canes (10-2) they had to “earn the right to win this game,’’ among a few other choice tidbits.
The Hurricanes, taking academic final exams through Wednesday, must have gotten the message, apparently perking up as the practice proceeded.
“I mean, it’s the first day back,’’ explained senior cornerback Dee Delaney, when asked about Richt’s early practice feistiness. “We’re just getting back in the gist of things. He just reminded us who he is and what kind of defense we stand for, so I think we’re all right.
“We’ve just got to fix the minor things, but as far as energy, we brought it toward the end of practice.’’
Richt said he liked what he saw.
“This practice reminds me of the first day two years ago when I came out here to watch bowl practice,’’ the coach said. “Had my blue jeans on and my dress shirt. Thought I was going to be in good shape, and I was just sweating like a pig out there. Nice and hot and warm, and we have those kind of days. First time we’ve had a Tuesday-type practice in a long time. I thought they held up good.
The No. 10 (College Football Playoff) Canes face the No. 6 Badgers at 8 p.m. on Dec. 30 at UM’s home field, Hard Rock Stadium, and will be designated the home team by virtue of their Atlantic Coast Conference affiliation.
“It means a lot,’’ said defensive tackle Kendrick Norton, who deflected a question about whether he would be turning pro by saying he was only worried about the bowl game. “The Orange Bowl is going to be kind of like a home game for us. We’re going to be down here where we’re comfortable. Miami hasn’t been there in awhile so we have a lot of pride about going to that game.”
Center Tyler Gauthier was asked if he felt the Orange Bowl would actually feel like a bowl, given that the Canes play in the stadium.
“Of course,’’ Gauthier said. “Not every school right now is playing. Not every school is practicing. We have an amazing opportunity to come out here and get a little more work in, have a good time and play in front of a home crowd. So yeah, it feels good to be in a bowl game.”
How tough was it to get over the Clemson loss?
“We try to see what happened and move on,’’ Gauthier said. “You don’t want to dwell on something like that. I mean, Clemson is a really good team and they proved it that night. We have to learn what we did wrong and move on from it.”
Said Norton: “I haven’t really watched it too much myself because obviously it hurts to watch because we had a lot of high expectations for that game and we didn’t go out and perform.”
Offensive coordinator Thomas Brown said the extra practice time was “huge’’ for the younger players.
“It’s almost like having extra spring practice,’’ said Brown, who noted the Canes were at first a bit “rusty’’ Tuesday. “Those guys get some reps against good-on-good competition. We do a really good job of trying to rep our scout team up, but there’s nothing like going against a Manny Diaz-coached defense every day in practice.”
▪ The Hurricanes will practice again Wednesday morning, smack in the middle of the NCAA’s inaugural early three-day signing period, when high school recruits can begin signing their letters of intent at 7 a.m.
“It will be an exciting day,’’ said Richt, whose Storm18 class is rated among the top four nationally by three major recruiting sites. “But it’ll be a little awkward in that we’ll be practicing during the time when a lot of information will come in.”
Out of the 20 players committed for the Hurricanes, at least 13 are expected to sign Wednesday.