The Miami Hurricanes have one of the nation’s top quarterbacks in Brad Kaaya. But his receiving options are getting scarcer.
On Tuesday, Miami coach Mark Richt said split end Ahmmon Richards, a bright, speedy freshman talent out of Wellington High who was battling Dayall Harris to start at that spot, has been hampered by turf toe.
With sophomore Lawrence Cager (ACL tear) already out for the season and signee Dionte Mullins still waiting to be academically cleared so he can enroll and join his future teammates, the already thin receiving corps is down to six healthy scholarship players: Stacy Coley, Braxton Berrios, Harris, Malcolm Lewis, Darrell Langham and Sam Bruce.
Coley, the flanker who has 1,464 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns receiving in three seasons, is the one so-called star of this bunch. And the recent progress of Richards has given the UM staff another prospective weapon.
“Something has been bothering him,” Richt said of Richards on Tuesday after practice, when Richards was present but limited. “He hasn’t been full-speed. He looked really, really good, and then I think it was a turf-toe-type deal that he was kind of fighting through. He’s really not what he was.”
Added Richt: “Dayall is ahead of everybody. Langham and Ahmmon, I would say, are probably battling for the next spot right now. If Ahmmon gets healthy, that may change. But we were teaching [Malcom] Lewis a little bit of ‘X’ just in case.
“You just never know what can happen with an injury.”
Berrios said that Richards’ injury “is a pain to deal with. It’s a nagging injury. We’re praying for him. … He can stretch the field. He’s long, has good hands [and] is a smart football player.”
Berrios, now fully healthy and the clear leader at slot, has freshman Sam Bruce, who arrived at camp in June, still learning the position behind him.
“That’s part of his issue, just not being certain of what to do,” Richt said of Bruce. “Like the last play of red zone, he ran the wrong route. True to form, we tend to throw it to the guy who runs the wrong route, for some reason around here. The worst part of it was he scored.
“Maybe we invented penicillin right there.”
Richt lauded Bruce’s “ball-catching” skills and said he has “great quickness and speed … not unbelievable speed,” Richt quickly added, “but very good game speed. He competes. That’s something I like about him. He’s a little like Berrios, in that at the end of the practice, he still has got a lot of juice.”
Harris called Bruce “amazing. He’s very quick, and he’s very physical for his size. I don’t know, I couldn’t imagine being his height and playing with all these big guys. But he manages a way to continue to make plays, always getting open, always getting into the secondary using speed, his hands. He’s a great player.”
One receiver Richt repeatedly has lauded is senior Malcolm Lewis, who had only 47 receiving yards last season but is healthy and eager to make his biggest contribution since his 248 yards and one touchdown in 2014.
“He’s going to play a good bit for us,” the coach said.
Lewis, who has been waiting for a breakout year since a season-ending ankle injury as a freshman, said he’s “ready to finish strong and show everyone what I have.”
Harris, a 6-3, 207-pound redshirt sophomore transfer out of Copiah-Lincoln Junior College via Ole Miss, said junior college “really humbled him.”
“It showed me that you can have everything one day and the next day everything can be taken away. … It’s a blessing to be here, it really is.”
Harris is down to 7 percent body fat and estimates that he runs about a 4.5-second 40-yard dash. He said Miami across the board is the most talented team for which he has ever played, including the SEC’s Rebels. “Right now, we just need to build depth at the receiver position,” Harris said. “The few we’ve got, they all make plays…”
▪ Reserve running back Trayone Gray, a 6-2, 225-pound junior out of Carol City High, has sustained a serious knee injury and will miss the 2016 season, a source said Tuesday night.
Gray, who was the third tailback last year but was practicing behind at least four others in preseason camp, played in five games last season, gaining 145 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries. He had six rushes for 24 yards as a freshman.
“Thanks for all the prayers. I appreciate it everyone. God bless,” Gray posted on Twitter on Tuesday night.
▪ UM will have its second closed scrimmage of camp on Wednesday morning. Richt said his biggest need is for a backup quarterback to emerge. “That’s the biggest question for me right now.”
▪ The offense won the day for the second consecutive practice — “the best day of the camp, as far as the point system we have,” Richt said.