Like every day except one in preseason camp, Miami’s defense beat the offense Thursday, even with a particularly intense defensive end conspicuously missing and the most productive and experienced linebacker leaving practice early.
Defensive end Al-Quadin Muhammad, the 2015 UM sack leader (5) who had two of the defense’s nine sacks Wednesday in the first fall scrimmage and is being investigated for his alleged involvement in a case that focuses on players using discounted luxury rental cars, did not practice.
Starting strong-side linebacker Jermaine Grace, also being investigated in the rental car case, left practice early.
“He had some personal things to work on,” coach Mark Richt said of Muhammad. “I plan on him being in practice [Friday].
“Like I told you,” he added politely, “when there’s something to report I’ll report it to you.”
Richt was asked if a resolution was at least getting closer.
“I think so, yeah,” he said.
After practice, the Miami Herald asked athletic director Blake James if Muhammad and/or Grace was at a disciplinary hearing Thursday, or if a university-related disciplinary hearing was pending regarding the rental-car case.
“No,” James said. “There was no disciplinary hearing and there is no disciplinary hearing pending.”
Muhammad and Grace met Wednesday night with compliance and are expected to do so again in the near future.
Another player involved in the matter, linebacker Juwon Young, was suspended indefinitely in late June. His name was removed from the roster and he will not be back.
In other news out of camp, Richt said Miami Gulliver Prep receiver Dionte Mullins, who has yet to report to camp, is “still working” toward getting to Miami. “He’s not out of it,” Richt said. “We plan on him being here.”
A source said Miami had hoped for Mullins to arrive by Aug. 15, but that he still was finishing with the processing of his summer academic work. Mullins would need to be cleared by the NCAA Eligibility Center, formerly known as the NCAA Clearinghouse, to join the team.
The good news for UM on Thursday was the arrival of Mullins’ Gulliver Prep teammate, freshman safety Cedrick Wright.
“We allowed him to be in a non-contact coverage drill,” Richt said. “But mostly just learning.”
Defensive coordinator Manny Diaz, a stickler for doing things right, said it will “be a crash course” for Wright. “We need him because of our lack of depth in the secondary.”
Diaz was pleased with the production from his defense during the scrimmage—at least relative to what he saw in the spring. The Canes had the nine sacks, two forced fumbles and an interception.
“Compared to scrimmage one in the spring it was night and day,” Diaz said. “So the guys are buying into the authenticity of the defense. Now, the issue is that it’s the consistency. It’s the ability to maintain it over the course of an entire game. As time went on [Wednesday] in the scrimmage, our level of play deteriorated in the second half.”
UM’s first-team ends are Muhammad and Chad Thomas, with Trent Harris behind Muhmmad and Demetrius Jackson behind Thomas. Kendrick Norton and R.J. McIntosh are dominating at tackle.
“It’s more physical, it’s more downhill,” third-team strong-side linebacker Charles Perry said of Diaz’s aggressive 4-3 scheme. “The last defense we played in was more read and react. Nothing wrong with that. This defense is different. We go downhill, we spike gaps.
“Going downhill, hitting somebody in the mouth. That’s all we love. We love to hit.”
Regarding the offense, Richt said right tackle Sunny Odogwu, who missed spring after knee surgery, looks “energized” and “very good.”
Injury wise, Richt said fullback Gage Batten will “probably need surgery to take out whatever plate” was in his foot. “We have him on the 105 [roster] so he can be learning and getting ready.”
▪ Single-game tickets to FSU at UM are sold out.