University of Miami

UM players in healing process before resuming practice for Independence Bowl

UM quarterback Brad Kaaya throws a pass against Duke at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla., Saturday, Sept. 27, 2014.
UM quarterback Brad Kaaya throws a pass against Duke at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla., Saturday, Sept. 27, 2014. Miami Herald Staff

The Miami Hurricanes, off from practice since ending the regular season a week ago Saturday with a loss to Pittsburgh, say the several days to heal their minds and bodies from the rough season are vital.

This week, the Canes (6-6, 3-5 Atlantic Coast Conference) are studying and taking final exams. They resume practice Friday to prepare for South Carolina (6-6, 3-5 Southeastern Conference) in the Duck Commander Independence Bowl in Shreveport, Louisiana, at 3:30 p.m. on Dec.27.

Several players made available on teleconferences the past two days seemed happy to be playing an SEC school and ready to grind again.

“Your body is going to take some bumps and bruises, so rest is crucial in this violent game that we love to play,’’ senior safety Nantambu Fentress said Tuesday.

Fentress said “having these past couple weeks to get back in the weight room and sort of step back from the season and look back and reflect … and say, ‘What can I do to the best of my ability for this upcoming game?’ was important. We’re obviously trying to get better as individuals and players.

“It’s just a fun matchup,’’ he said of the Gamecocks. “We’ve got a great opponent and it’s going to be a good one.’’

Linebacker Raphael Kirby said the break, during which players are still lifting and conditioning, is “crucial.’’

“We had a long season and some of our guys had a lot of reps on them, a lot of strain. I’ve sort of watched a few [South Carolina] games and am just trying to move forward and prepare.”

Defensive tackle Calvin Heurtelou said he was “a little fired up’’ when he learned of his bowl opponent.

“We’ve got to put everything that happened this past season behind us and look forward to who we have right now. We have to come out with the mentality to dominate.’’

True freshman quarterback Brad Kaaya said he is “grateful’’ for the rest.

“There were a whole lot of tough games we played in,’’ Kaaya said. “This whole season was a grind for us. A couple weeks off isn’t too bad … just to rest and recover, get finals done and have a clear mind for the bowl game.’’

ROOKIE OF YEAR

Regardless of how much he appreciated the rest, Kaaya, the ACC’s Rookie of the Year indicated what he really wanted to do last weekend in Charlotte, North Carolina, was to be dressed in a football uniform, not a suit and tie to receive his award.

“It was a huge honor, but at the same time it was bittersweet,’’ Kaaya said. “I would much rather have been playing the ACC championship game.’’

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