UM prepares for Orange Bowl match up against Wisconsin
One day after arriving at their swanky digs on the beach in Hollywood during Capital One Orange Bowl week, the No. 10 Miami Hurricanes practiced at their home away from home on Tuesday afternoon in preparation for their OB matchup with No. 6 Wisconsin at 8 p.m. Saturday.
The players and coaches, including sophomore tight end Michael Irvin II, seemed energized as they prepared in sunshine and relatively cool, mid-70s temperatures at Nova Southeastern University in Davie — a world of difference from the Badgers’ home conditions of 3 degrees back in Madison.
“Yeah! That’s good! That’s really good!’’ fired-up tight ends coach Todd Hartley screamed at Irvin as he plowed into the sled, sending it down field.
The young Irvin, son of UM legend and Pro Football Hall of Fame receiver Michael Irvin, will be especially needed in light of senior Christopher Herndon being sidelined after knee surgery. Herndon’s absence surely hurt UM in its most recent 38-3 loss to No. 1 Clemson on Dec. 2 in the Atlantic Coast Conference Championship Game. Herndon has 40 catches for 477 yards and four touchdowns this season, and was considered a strong blocker.
Irvin (11 games, two starts, eight catches for 74 yards) started against Clemson, the first game Herndon missed, and caught two passes for 18 yards. On Tuesday, the St. Thomas Aquinas High graduate was working hard on the blocking sleds with Hartley.
“I thought we practiced very well,’’ Irvin said, through quotes provided by the Orange Bowl, as the Hurricanes (10-2) are off-limits to the media until Wednesday. “A little bit of a slow start and we have to fix that. Coach always tells us to start fast in the beginning.”
Irvin said the idea of showcasing his talents at the Orange Bowl is “extremely exciting.’’
“But it’s also a lot more responsibility on my end losing Chris,’’ he said. “But having him here to help me is great. We watch film together, we study. He’ll see something that I do and he’ll help me out and tell me, ‘You need to do this better.’ Also, my coach has been real good with it, always staying in my head and...telling me, ‘I’m the man, act like the man and be the man.’ I love it, it’s work but I love it.”
The Badgers (12-1), who practice at Barry University, were likely not missing the freezing conditions in Madison.
“Certainly, as you get closer to the game,’’ Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst said through the Orange Bowl, “you have to make sure you are hydrating. It’s different.’’
UM coach Mark Richt said his players, who are staying at the Diplomat Resort & Spa, “competed very hard’’ on Tuesday. “They had a lot of juice. ...We got a lot done.’’
Added defensive tackle Kendrick Norton: “Just good vibes...’’
▪ Sophomore linebacker Zach McCloud said Tuesday that the game plan has already been installed, “so it was just going over and perfecting everything. I felt good energy and everybody’s mind was in the right place.’’
Last week, McCloud told reporters that since the Canes “all committed’’ to UM “and wanted to win in Miami,’’ that “this is the place to be for us, really. Me, personally, I think a lot about the seniors and how they’re feeling. I know if I were a senior and this was my last time putting the ‘U’ on the side of my helmet, it would be a great honor to be able to finish off this way – in the Orange Bowl in front of all our fans. It’s a big deal for me.’’
▪ UM freshman quarterback Cade Weldon, who is being redshirted this season, was not at practice Tuesday for what is believed to be a disciplinary issue.
▪ One Hurricane who will be playing in his first bowl game, despite being a senior, is cornerback Dee Delaney, who transferred to UM as a two-time Walter Camp All-American and Associated Press All-American out of The Citadel.
Delaney, who missed three games with a knee injury, summarized his first season in the Football Bowl Subdivision as “a roller coaster, but pretty good… Things got tough early and often,’’ said Delaney, who explained that injuries and challenges “adapting to the system’’ made it difficult. “But I just kept my faith [and] trust in the process. I accomplished what I came here to do.’’
Delaney, 6-1 and 193 pounds, has progressively seen more playing time since returning against Virginia Tech with just a handful of snaps. He has five 34 tackles, one pass breakup and got to wear the turnover chain once for an interception.