That dangerous University of Miami defense that dominated last season?
Still dominating — the first-string defense, that is.
With the Hurricanes’ nationally televised season opener Sept. 2 against LSU three weeks from Sunday night, a scrimmage Saturday night at Hard Rock Stadium proved to be another important matchup: UM first-teamers vs. second-teamers (and No. 3s vs. No. 3s) to help determine who might be on the field at AT&T Stadium.
The scrimmage was closed to the public and media, and coach Mark Richt declined to give many real specifics — including statistics. “I really don’t want to give anybody a clue to who’s doing what.’’
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Nonetheless, here are some post-scrimmage takeaways provided by Richt to reporters at the stadium:
▪ The first-team defense beat the second-team offense handily.
▪ The first-team offense, led by quarterback Malik Rosier, “got the best’’ of the second-team defense, Richt said, “but it was a closer battle.’’ Note that Rosier “threw a couple touchdowns’’ and had no interceptions.
▪ Offensively, Richt said receiver Ahmmon Richards, who has returned this season from knee surgery and previous hamstring injuries, had “about four or five catches, and Lawrence Cager had “a couple touchdown catches.’’
▪ ”Our No. 1 unit protected, I thought, very well,’’ said Richt, who was pleased with the starting O-line. The No. 2 offensive line? Not so much. The coach said starting right tackle Navaughn Donaldson was doing “much better.
“I really feel good about him at right tackle now.’’
Richt also praised right guard Hayden Mahoney, and said that freshman guard DJ Scaife “is probably the sixth guy’’ now among linemen.
▪ Defensively, Richt said middle linebacker Shaq Quarterman “played big. He had probably about six tackles.’’
▪ The lone pick was by safety Sheldrick Redwine. Richt didn’t say who threw it, but Redwine is a starter so it had to be either second-string quarterback N’Kosi Perry, or possibly Cade Weldon.
▪ Regarding redshirt freshmen backup quarterbacks Perry and Weldon, Richt said they “are getting there’’ and that “sometimes, if you’re at quarterback with the No. 2 unit going against the No. 1 defense, there’s not much you can do but try not to fumble the ball when they hit you.
“I will say I think N’Kosi is coming along well,’’ Richt added, noting that freshman Jarren [Williams], ‘’he just still kind of sometimes gets his head on a swivel and finds somebody and zings it to them. He doesn’t always know exactly where he’s going and why, but he’s got ability.
“Weldon’s really had a great camp. Really, he only had one day where he was off. The first five [days] in a row he was on fire, had probably the highest passing percentage of all the QBs. .Tonight, he didn’t get on track that much.’’
Richt said the scrimmage was “probably the longest scrimmage I’ve ever been involved in, and it’s mainly because we have enough people now to allow our No. 3 units to get just as many reps as everybody else.’’ He said each unit averaged 40 to 45 plays apiece.
▪ When asked if there were any injuries Saturday night, Richt said, “We had no one have anything that I would be really concerned about. You get guys dinged up a little bit and some guys go out for a minute and come back. We had a couple guys that were kind of nursing a hammy, thought they were ready but weren’t quite ready but didn’t pull it.’’
The coach said linebacker Michael Pinckney, who tweaked his ankle this past week, played in the scrimmage.
▪ Richt said no one “really had a big day running the ball,’’ but that starter Travis Homer and backup DeeJay Dallas had some nice, “tough, physical runs.’’
▪ The vaunted freshmen came down to earth a bit because they were likely a bit over anxious in wanting to impress their coaches. By next weekend’s scrimmage, the youngsters might make “a big jump’ in progress as installations start winding down. “We were installing something new every day...and after a while it gets cloudy for them.
“,,,We had kids dropping balls that normally don’t drop a ball,’’ Richt said. “Plays are so close to being a great play and then we don’t hang on to the ball. There were more dropped passes this day than any day in camp.’’
Richt did note that freshmen tight ends Brevin Jordan and Will Mallory have “overall, for brand new guys, looked great.’’
▪ Freshman defensive tackle Nesta Silvera “is one of them flashers,’’ Richt said. “He’ll flash real good and [then] he’ll do something like he can’t get lined up right. But he’s tough, he’s physical and we need him to get ready. He’s going to play, I can tell you that.’’
▪ Freshman kicker Bubba Baxa’s “eyes got big, too,’’ Richt said, “learning how to kick in a half-billion-dollar stadium. I think it might have got to him a little bit. He struggled today, to be honest with you. In the other practices, though, he’s done very well. ...He’s got a big strong leg and he’s just got to get his reps in and get over the fact that he’s a No. 1 kicker at the University of Miami.
“He’s got to realize there’s a lot of people counting on him.’’
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