University of Miami

Canes leader surrounded by anxious talent: ‘There’s only one ball,’ so best not to pout

Miami coach Mark Richt gives instruction to wide receiver Ahmmon Richards as the Hurricanes practice at Greentree Practice field on Aug. 23. Richards was sidelined on a conditioning bike during practice on Tuesday.
Miami coach Mark Richt gives instruction to wide receiver Ahmmon Richards as the Hurricanes practice at Greentree Practice field on Aug. 23. Richards was sidelined on a conditioning bike during practice on Tuesday. MIAMI HERALD

The LSU opener on Sept. 2 is close enough to taste, but the Miami Hurricanes continue to work on themselves.

That includes the veterans such as junior Ahmmon Richards, who has been steadily getting himself physically ready to withstand the pounding his body took last year, which included knee, ankle and a severe hamstring injury — the left-knee meniscus tear requiring surgery on Nov. 29 before the Atlantic Coast Conference title game against Clemson.

Richards, who was a freshman All-American in 2016 (934 receiving yards) by breaking Michael Irvin’s 31-year-old single-season freshman record, knows that this year the cupboard is full of enticing pass-catchers of all shapes and sizes.

So does redshirt junior receiver Lawrence Cager, who last season continued to work on overcoming a torn ACL in 2016 and finished with 16 catches for 237 yards and three touchdowns.

Both Hurricanes are getting the ball plenty these days, which sometimes might make the younger talent antsy to get their turns. No one knows that more than Hurricanes receivers coach Ron Dugans, who makes it clear to his young charges that being unselfish will lead to good things.

“There’s only one ball,’’ Dugans said Thursday after practice. “When they get on campus, I make sure they know that. When you play wide receiver, everybody wants the ball on every play. I try to get that [across], that’s one of our goals — be selfless, and not be a selfish football player, always wanting the ball.

“You come out of high school as a four- or five-star guy, you’re used to getting the ball every time. These guys are unselfish. When they see another guy making a play, they want to make a play also, but they’re excited for their teammates. I just try to get it [across] early— if you pout, that’s not the best way to get the ball. You won’t even be on the field.”

Dugans noted that Brian Hightower, Mark Pope and Dee Wiggins have a shot at playing in the LSU opener, as well as Marquez Ezzard, if he becomes more consistent.

Cager said Thursday that the offense has been “making strides from the start of camp. We’re getting better each day and being more consistent as a whole unit.

Richards said Cager has grown “a lot’’ this summer. “We were doing seven-on-seven stuff and he was making plays. He looked like his normal self. I feel happy for him. He’s being more like a leader of the receiver group. He’s talking more and just doing all the little things and trying to help us be great.’’

How has Richards grown?

“I would say just mentally,’’ he said. “I’ve learned a lot more about the game than I thought I knew. I mean, I thought I knew a lot, but I learned so much more this offseason. When I was hurt, being able to sit back and reflect and think about things that I could do better or that I did bad [was helpful].”

On reviewing the final fall scrimmage this week, Dugans mentioned slot receiver Mike Harley, a sophomore, making “a few plays’’ and catching a touchdown. He also lauded Richards, Cager and 6-4, 235-pound redshirt senior Darrell Langham, the last-second hero against Florida State and Georgia Tech last season.

The Hurricanes were given the day off Friday.

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