University of Miami

Troubled WR Jeff Thomas’ situation still pending at Miami, and possible kicking change

University of Miami’s naturally gifted and sometimes troubled wide receiver Jeff Thomas, who wears jersey No. 4, has the following quote on his Twitter profile: “Everything will work out in the end. You don’t need to know how. You just have to trust that it will.”

Whether everything will work out this season for Thomas, however, has yet to be determined.

Miami coach Manny Diaz indicated Monday during his weekly radio interview on WQAM that Thomas’ suspension situation for an unspecified violation of team rules was still pending.

Thomas, who was dismissed by former Canes coach Mark Richt from the UM football program last November before the regular-season finale, left Miami afterward to supposedly enroll at Illinois, where he’s from, but ultimately returned to the Hurricanes after Diaz became coach.

“Is this something to be worried about for the rest of the season, or is this a one-game thing?” WQAM’s Zach Krantz asked Diaz, whose 3-4 team has enough problems at this point not to have Thomas apparently going astray in some aspect.

“It’s something we’ll find more about today,’’ Diaz responded. “I don’t have the answer on that, but I should know more in the next day or two in terms of his status for this Saturday.’’

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The Hurricanes, who lost at Hard Rock Stadium to 18-point underdog Georgia Tech on Saturday, travel to Pittsburgh to face the surging Atlantic Coast Conference Coastal Division Panthers in a noon kickoff.

In six games played this season, Thomas has 24 catches (second behind K.J. Osborn) for 270 yards and two touchdowns. He was the Canes’ leading receiver in 2018 before he was dismissed. The former Under-Armour All-American led the nation in yards-per-catch at one point last season and was No. 6 nationally in all-purpose yards and No. 10 in combined kick returns.

Kicking horrors

Miami’s failure at converting three field-goal attempts Saturday, the last of which was a Turner Davidson attempt from 25 yards with less than 30 seconds left against Georgia Tech, has left Diaz with the decision of whether to go with walk-on backup Camden Price.

The 6-1, 175-pound Price, from Severn, Maryland, missed at least two games recently for reasons unspecified. He is 2-for-2 in extra points this season.

Davidson, a walk-on, was actually the third-string kicker behind Price and scholarship kicker Bubba Baxa. Baxa, who has a strong leg and still is used for kickoffs, has missed five of his 10 attempts this season, three of them from the 20- to 29-yard range. Baxa also has missed two extra points.

“You’ve got to go with what you see in practice,’’ Diaz said. “We’ve got Camden Price back in the mix, and we’ll get some of the rust off him from the time that he missed. But you gotta count on your guys to make kicks when we’ve got the ball on the 20-yard line or in. I mean, that’s gotta be worth three.

“We’re not asking them to kick very difficult kicks. The thing is, they are kicks that they make at an almost 100 percent rate in practice so they’ve got to be able to turn that over to the game obviously to win these types of games.”

UM’s other two missed field goals Saturday were from 34 and 27 yards. The 34-yard miss was by Davidson and the 27-yarder by Baxa.

Diaz said again Monday that the Hurricanes kickers have worked with a sports psychologist “the whole year.’’

“That’s all been a part of it and every other way imaginable to work their minds and to get them to believe.’’

Injury update

When asked about Miami’s injury situation, Diaz said, “All the guys will get examined further today and hopefully we’ll know more about it later today.’’

Three top starters left the game with injuries Saturday: running back DeeJay Dallas (apparent knee) cornerback Trajan Bandy (unspecified) and linebacker Michael Pinckney (unspecified).

Quarterback N’Kosi Perry also hurt his left shoulder when he was hit on a scramble, but after being replaced for the remainder of the series by former starter Jarren Williams (also recuperating from a right throwing-shoulder injury), Perry returned to the game.

Starting QB for Pitt

Diaz wouldn’t commit on a starting quarterback for Pittsburgh, saying he’d watch how Williams and Perry did in practice this week and would likely make the decision on Wednesday. He did say he was pleased with Perry’s performance against Georgia Tech — 16 of 28 for 188 yards and two touchdowns; and sacked twice, once resulting in a fumble that the Yellow Jackets recovered for a touchdown.

‘Rebuild’ definition

Diaz, when asked what he meant by saying the word ‘rebuild’ in terms of the Hurricanes after the Georgia Tech game: “The rebuild was probably taken out of context. The rebuild is a rebuild of our confidence. That’s what we’re rebuilding...

“Like I said, there’s no concept of this year not being important because if you look at the evidence on hand, like I mentioned, we’re four plays away from being 7-0… same kids, same everything, all the same plays, all the same mistakes, whatever.

“So, it’s too close and it’s too there and our guys understand. However, there’s no doubt there’s a confidence thing...’’

Diaz said he has to do a better job of getting the players “to do what it takes to win week in and week out, because we can see how close we are.’’

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Miami Herald sports writer Susan Miller Degnan has been the Miami Hurricanes football beat writer since 2000, the season before the Canes won it all. She has won several APSE national writing awards and has covered everything from Canes baseball to the College Football Playoff to major marathons to the Olympics.
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