University of Miami

Mark Richt says ‘physically tough’ Canes need to be more mentally tough

After a long preseason of mostly upbeat, congenial mentions of his Miami Hurricanes, coach Mark Richt didn’t seem especially enthused about the players on Friday — a week and a day before the season opener at home against FAMU.

“I think we’re physically tough,’’ Richt said. “I don’t know if we’re 100 percent mentally tough enough, through every bit of adversity,’’ including the first-teamers “being behind’’ to the scout-teamers in the practice game Thursday, “or the smokin’-hot heat or guys that maybe have been a little bit under the weather.

“We’re like, ‘Hey, if it’s game day, would you play?’ 

Richt said the players answered, ‘Yeah.’

“Well, then you practice.’’

He said guys are “fighting through a little bit of stomach issues’’ — or “whatever’’ — and “they just don’t feel great.

“You have to learn to fight through that mentally.

“For the most part, we’re light years from where we were, but we still have a ways to go.’’

Richt told the Hurricanes on Friday that they aren’t game-ready yet.

“If we were game ready, we wouldn’t have had four turnovers,’’ he said. “If we were game ready, we wouldn’t have had a targeting foul. If we were game ready, we wouldn’t have a personal foul — hands to the face of the quarterback. We wouldn’t have given up a bomb to the scout team if we were game ready.

“We have to understand that we’re not in a holding pattern. We’re trying to get better.”

Richt said he still hasn’t decided who will be quarterback Brad Kaaya’s backup. Malik Rosier and Vincent Testaverde didn’t play in the scrimmage. “I’m just observing,’’ he said. “There’s no rush to decide. As we get close enough, we’ll let them know.’’

The coach also made it clear that he will never assume a backup might play against a lesser-regarded opponent. FAMU finished 1-10 last year in the Football Championship Subdivision.

“I have total respect for our opponent,” Richt said, “and our goal is to try and win it. If anybody on the whole team, the second-teamer at any position, earns it, he’ll play. Whether or not he goes in will be decided upon how the game goes.”

▪ Defensive coordinator Manny Diaz said Friday that freshman Michael Pinckney is still competing with redshirt freshman Jamie Gordinier for the starting weak-side linebacker spot. Freshman Shaquille Quarterman will start in the middle, with senior Jermaine Grace’s status in question because he might be suspended for the opener. If Grace should miss the game, then freshman Zach McCloud could be his replacement. “He might be as hard a hitter as anyone we have maybe on the whole defense,” Diaz said Friday.

▪ Richt revealed that walk-on kicker Marco Baeza “was the mystery man who kicked the 42-yarder that hit the crossbar and went in’’ during Thursday’s scrimmage. “It was glorious. It was just amazing. I think that’s the longest kick he has ever made on Greentree Practice Field. It put Florida A&M [UM scout-teamers] up by 10.’’

UM punter Justin Vogel said the field goal was actually 49 yards, even more impressive.

▪ When asked if more players would be suspended leading up to the game — defensive tackle Gerald Willis is suspended for the opener — Richt said: “I’ll tell you all if I want to tell you all about that. I’m not going to give any information about that.”

▪ The Hurricanes have closed practices Saturday and Sunday.