University of Miami

Miami ready to begin Mark Richt era Saturday against FAMU

UM coach Mark Richt talks about availability of injured players for opener

Miami coach Mark Richt discusses defensive end Trent Harris and defensive tackle Anthony Moten on Wed., Aug. 31, 2016.
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Miami coach Mark Richt discusses defensive end Trent Harris and defensive tackle Anthony Moten on Wed., Aug. 31, 2016.

The Mark Richt era couldn’t begin soon enough.

That’s what long-starved University of Miami fans undoubtedly are thinking as the Hurricanes begin the 2016 season against FAMU at 6 p.m. Saturday at Hard Rock Stadium.

Seems like eons ago that the Hurricanes were getting thumped by Clemson in their worst loss in history Oct. 24, a day before coach Al Golden was fired to clear the path for what Canes fans hope will be an era of dominance.

“I feel like our coaches and players have really done all we can do,” Richt said this week. “Now it’s time to go line up and play and see what we’ve got.”

What they’ve got is one of the elite quarterbacks in college football in Brad Kaaya and talented receivers — although they’re down in numbers and somewhat young — to catch his passes.

They also have what should be a substantially improved offensive line that took plenty of physical punishment last season but is back with experience and smarts and a strong relationship with its quarterback.

The Hurricanes have dominant tight ends, a new, physically imposing fullback who supposedly can block up a storm, and three experienced running backs who will be used to set up Kaaya’s prolific passing game.

But what they most significantly have is a head coach who grew up in South Florida, was a quarterback at Miami, knows the tradition and went on during a 15-year career at Georgia to one of the most successful coaching stints in college football history.

“He had 15 years of being a coach in the SEC,’’ said defensive coordinator Manny Diaz, who worked with Richt for three years when Richt was the offensive coordinator at Florida State. “In dog years, the experience that gives you is remarkable.’’

For the first time in several years, Richt, known as an offensive mastermind, will be calling plays.

“He’s loving life again,” said Richt’s son, Jon, UM’s quarterbacks coach. “He’s rejuvenated.’’

Kaaya, a junior whose 6,436 career passing yards are fifth-most in Miami history, should benefit in a big way. He said this week that what’s most important to him in this game is “taking care of the ball — just no turnovers. I’d say playing sound football, just getting 11 guys doing the right thing, whether it’s offense or defense.

“Not every play has to be a big superstar play. Not every play has to be a 60-yard bomb. I know the fans love seeing the deep ball and crazy interceptions and guys jumping routes, but at the same time just playing sound football has been proven to work.’’

As smoothly as the offense is expected to click, UM’s defense is another matter.

Just when Diaz’s new, speed-oriented, 4-3 attacking defense appeared to be jelling beautifully in practice, the Canes’ two most dominant defensive players were dismissed from the team because they violated NCAA rules, according to the school.

With the previous dismissal of talented linebacker Juwon Young, and last week’s dismissal of defensive end Al-Quadin Muhammad and linebacker Jermaine Grace, the Canes have lost their three top tacklers from last season and the top returning pass-rusher in Muhammad.

Add to that a broken hand sustained this week to Muhammad’s replacement, Trent Harris, who is expected to play with the hand heavily padded; a shoulder injury to tackle Anthony Moten; and the one-game suspension of former five-star defensive tackle Gerald Willis — and suddenly that defense is pretty thin.

The three starting linebackers are expected to be true freshmen, almost certainly a first for Miami.

“We’ve got one simple mission,’’ Diaz said, “that the 11 guys that take the field all play like Hurricanes.

“There are 11 guys who are going to be out there with U’s on the side of their [helmets]. And no one has to play better than their best. No one has to try to put a cape on. If everyone does their job in a very violent manner, we’re going to be pleased with the outcome.’’

Miami finished a disappointing 8-5 last season.

The Rattlers of Tallahassee finished 1-10.

Now, it’s 0-0 for both.

“We’re thrilled,’’ UM starting slot receiver Braxton Berrios said. “Honestly, I am tired of talking about it, I’m tired of practicing for it.

“I want it to be Saturday.’’

Saturday: FAMU @ Miami

Kickoff: 6:04 p.m.; Hard Rock Stadium.

TV/radio: ESPN3; WQAM 560, WURN 1020 (Spanish), WVUM 90.5 FM.

Favorite: No line.

Series: Miami leads 9-1.

Miami injuries: Questionable — LB Darrion Owens (knee). Out — RB Travone Gray (knee); WR Lawrence Cager (AC).

FAMU injuries: No reported injuries.

PROBABLE UM STARTERS

OFFENSE

DEFENSE

POS.

NO.

PLAYER

YR.

POS.

NO.

PLAYER

YR.

QB

15

Brad Kaaya

Jr.

DE

9

Chad Thomas

Jr.

RB

1

Mark Walton

So.

NT

7

Kendrick Norton

So.

FB

36

Marquez Williams

Sr.

DT

80

R.J. McIntosh

So.

WR

3

Stacy Coley

Sr.

LB

33

Trent Harris

Jr.

WR

8

Braxton Berrios

Jr.

LB

53

Zach McCloud

Fr.

TE

23

C. Herndon IV

Jr.

LB

55

Shaq Quarterman

Fr.

LT

73

Trevor Darling

Jr.

LB

56

Michael Pinckney

Fr.

LG

52

Kc McDermott

Jr.

CB

29

Corn Elder

Sr.

C

68

Nick Linder

Jr.

CB

25

Adrian Colbert

Sr.

RG

63

Daniel Isidora

Sr.

FS

26

Rayshawn Jenkins

Sr.

RT

66

Sunny Odogwu

Jr.

S

6

J. Carter, Sr.

Sr.

PK

15

Michael Badgley

Jr.

P

16

Justin Vogel

Sr.

PROBABLE FAMU STARTERS

OFFENSE

DEFENSE

POS.

NO.

PLAYER

YR.

POS.

NO.

PLAYER

YR.

QB

8

Kenneth Coleman

Sr.

LE

6

C. Alexander

Sr.

TB

25

Devin Bowers

So.

RE

57

Calvin Darville

Sr.

WR

7

Brandon Norwood

Jr.

LT

58

Emilio Gibbs

So.

WR

19

Kareem Smith

Jr.

RT

98

D. Richardson

Fr.

WR

15

M. Williams

Sr.

LB

2

E. Richardson

Jr.

TE

17

A. Palmer-Hicks

Sr.

LB

52

Luke Helms

Sr.

LT

51

T.J. Jones

Sr.

LB

27

Jakaris Wilson

Jr.

LG

62

Keonte Cash

Sr.

CB

3

Braxton Brown

Sr.

C

67

Khalil Harris

So.

CB

10

O. McKinley

So.

RG

63

Osman Aguilera

Jr.

FS

18

Jacques Bryant

Sr.

RT

61

Loubens Polinice

So.

SS

4

Rashad Guyton

Jr.

PK

19

Khalil Clark

Fr.

P

36

Colby Blanton

Sr.

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