Hurricanes coach Mark Richt talks about the status of the team
The other day, University of Miami All-American senior safety Jaquan Johnson pulled over senior quarterback Malik Rosier to discuss some serious business.
“We had like a five-minute talk just about, ‘Are we ready? Is the offense ready? Is the defense ready?’’’ Rosier said.
“For me and him being the two captains, we feel like we are ready.’’
The main concern? Those fresh faces about to play for the first time in a college game against a traditional Southeastern Conference power when the No. 8 Hurricanes take on No. 25 LSU in the AdvoCare Classic at 7:30 p.m. Sunday at AT&T Stadium.
Will they be ready for the moment?
“There’s going to be a lot of young guys playing and we’re in Dallas,’’ Rosier said, “so the big thing is to get them calmed down... Let them know, ‘You’re great and you’re going to make big plays for us.’’’
With ultimately as high as the sixth-ranked recruiting class in 2018, the Canes have several players expected to see the field Sunday, and definitely this season with the new NCAA redshirt rule that allows true freshmen to play up to four games without using one of their four years of eligibility.
“Ain’t no redshirting me,’’ said defensive tackle Nesta Jade Silvera, a 6-2, 305-pound Plantation American Heritage alum who could be part of the defensive line rotation. “Don’t plan on it.”
Silvera said on media day, the only day that freshmen can talk to reporters until they get in a game, that he was “definitely’’ excited to go against LSU. “It’s an opportunity to show everyone how good this team is,’’ he said, noting that when he gets on a football field, he is so focused that he blacks everything else out.
Some of the other defensive players expected to make their college debuts include 6-6, 250-pound defensive end Greg Rousseau, a Hialeah Champagnat Catholic alum who has been exceptional since he arrived in Coral Gables as an early enrollee; and 6-1, 194-pound cornerback DJ Ivey, out of Homestead South Dade.
“It feels like he’s been here two years, but he’s a true freshman,’’ UM coach Mark Richt said of Rousseau on Monday during his weekly WQAM interview. “You can’t deny what he’s done since camp began.’’
On offense, 6-3, 245-pound Brevin Jordan and 6-5, 230-pound Will Mallory will definitely play Sunday, Richt has said, especially given that junior tight end Michael Irvin II is recuperating from knee surgery.
“They’ve done a very good job, but they’ve got a lot to learn,’’ Richt said of Jordan and Mallory. “They’re not quite physically where they’re gong to be one day, but they’ve prepared for this moment, and they’re going to play a bunch.’’
Among the plentiful gifted receivers hoping to make their debuts are 6-3, 210-pound flanker Brian Hightower of Bradenton IMG Academy, five-star Miami Southridge alum Mark Pope and 6-3, 195-pound fellow Miami Southridge star Dee Wiggins.
On the offensive line, 6-3, 300-pound backup left tackle DJ Scaife might get some snaps, with 6-0, 205-pound true freshman kicker Bubba Baxa starting.
“We know they’re all talented,’’ defensive coordinator Manny Diaz said. “They can flash, but you don’t win all your games with guys flashing. You win all your games with guys doing their job on every play. We’re happy they’re all here. We’d recruit them all again. But now comes the hard part.’’
Starting senior safety Sheldrick Redwine is helping fellow starter Johnson keep the youngest Canes, such as 6-0, 200-pound safety Gurvan Hall, centered and relatively calm. Redwine, like many of the other freshmen and redshirt freshmen who will take the field for the first time Sunday, got his initial experience on special teams.
“You’ve just got to get the jitters out early,’’ Redwine said. “For the freshmen, first game, it’s a big difference going from high school into Dallas Cowboys’ Stadium [AT&T]. You’re going to look up and it’s a crowd full of people. You’re not used to that in high school.
“I went through it. People here who have played every snap since they got here have been through it.”
“Seeing the crowd gave me a little anxiety,’’ Redwine said of his first game. “But going down on kickoff, the first hit, that’s what really settled me in.’’
Safeties coach Ephraim Banda said he tells all the freshmen that he knows their desire “is to run out there and play... but your number one job as a freshman here is to prove your toughness to the locker room. And you do that by playing great for coach [Todd] Hartley on special teams.
“Amari Carter did it, Jaquan Johnson did it, Rob Knowles did it, Romeo [Finley] did it. If you aren’t winning ‘freak of the week’ in special teams, or whatever our award is, you’re not going to play for us on defense.’’