Al Golden addressed the media in his first pregame news conference of the season Thursday as the Hurricanes prepared to leave for Louisville on Sunday for the 8 p.m. Monday kickoff at Papa John’s Stadium.
He said he liked his team’s “depth in a lot of positions” but noted that it was “still too early to call” for some positions.
“Obviously, some of them are settled,” he said, such as Denzel Perryman’s middle linebacker spot and Anthony Chickillo’s defensive end spot. He said the defensive backs are still fighting for their starting spots, as well as the right tackle position among freshmen Kc McDermott and Trevor Darling and sophomore Taylor Gadbois.
With tight end Beau Sandland receiving clearance to transfer this week, Golden said fans should expect to see more of sophomore Jake O’Donnell and freshman Chris Herndon and senior walk-on Ronnie Regula “as a third or fourth tight end.”
The coach said he expects to play “six or seven wide receivers, as well.”
Golden said junior Tyriq McCord had a good day of practice Thursday and that McCord, along with freshman Trent Harris and sophomore Al-Quadin Muhammad, will all get playing time at rush end Monday night. He added that freshman Demetrius Jackson out of Miami Booker T. Washington High has really come on as of late and could be in the mix.
Finally, in his fourth season at UM, Golden has a bigger cast of veterans on whom he can depend instead of immediately thrusting the youngest Canes into major roles.
“The last two years, we were counting on so many young guys really before they had an opportunity to learn the systems or be ready to go. We’re counting on a lot of young guys this week, but they’re not in the starter’s role and they’re not really in the significant roles. They’re significant roles in terms of our locker room and in terms of executing, but they don’t have to shoulder the burden.
“Obviously, [quarterback] Brad [Kaaya] is the one outlier in this instance. The good news with Brad, as I’ve been saying all along, is he has a veteran line in front of him and he has got a nice complement of veteran guys around him at wideout, tight end and running back. He knows he doesn’t have to do it all.”
Golden said he has no pre-scripted plays for fifth-year senior backup quarterback Jake Heaps specifically for Louisville.
“We don’t really have to change much,” Golden said, noting that “if Jake enters the game for starter Kaaya, there won’t be a change in how we are structured” in terms of the game plan.
UM will work Friday on red zone and third down.