As the Hurricanes put an end to their first week of spring practice, they had a lot more eyes watching from the sidelines than usual.
A contingent of top recruits on campus for a junior day event took in practice and caught a glimpse at what could be their future if they decide to commit to the University of Miami.
“I think when there’s a crowd, people tend to want to do better with the more people that watch,” Miami coach Mark Richt said. “It’s just like at a normal game. When there are people in the stands, it makes it more fun and exciting.”
That “normal game” feeling will come soon enough. But first, the Hurricanes have the next month of spring practice to worry about.
Miami practiced in pads for the first time Saturday and will start to dive more into the game-type setting and preparation as spring continues.
“I think they really enjoy the ability to turn it loose,” Richt said. “When you’re in just shorts and helmets, you’re kind of just playing with hands more than striking people.”
One piece of practice Richt is uncertain about: whether the quarterbacks will go through live tackling at any point during the spring.
“We may tackle a little bit here and there,” Richt said. “Maybe pull out eight plays a day when we’re in full pads and allowed to tackle. I might tackle just a little bit instead of some of the traditional Oklahoma drills. Just play ball for about eight plays is what I might end up doing.”
Even without live tackling, though, Richt said the coaching staff is incorporating plays into practice to see how well the quarterbacks can evade the rush.
“If [defensive coordinator] Manny [Diaz] thinks it’s a sack, we might blow the whistle at that point,” Richt said, “but even if it is, we still need to keep playing, break contain, let everybody learn to cover out longer or do our scramble rules as receivers. That’s valuable.”
Other news and notes from Saturday’s practice:
▪ Richt said the team will scrimmage on the final three Saturdays of spring camp: April 7, April 14 and April 21. The middle of the three scrimmages, of course, is the team’s spring game at Hard Rock Stadium, which is open to the public and will be treated as a “game format.” Richt said the team will rep “every situation you can dream of” in the third scrimmage to close out spring practice.
▪ Deejay Dallas and Jeff Thomas are the top two candidates to take over punt return duties this season. “[They’re doing] mostly really good,” Richt said, “but it’s not really real until it’s real. … Until you get in the game and there’s a lot of people in the stands and here comes the ball and all these guys are ready to knock you around a little bit, that’s when you’ll really realize how well they can make decisions and make catches under pressure.” Richt also said special teams periods during practice throughout the spring will mostly be limited to “drill work” until the rest of the freshman class enrolls this summer.
▪ At least a handful of former Hurricanes were on campus and watched practice. Among them: offensive lineman Kc McDermott, tight end Chris Herndon, safety Deon Bush, wide receiver Malcolm Lewis and safety Jamal Carter.