Barry Jackson

UM’s issues at running back continue; Hurricanes notes

A six-pack of UM football notes as the Canes enter the final two weeks of spring practice:

• UM remains dangerously think at running back, with Robert Burns (shoulder) and Trayone Gray (knee surgery last year) both out. But Mark Richt said today that he expects both to be ready by the start of the season.

“We believe Robert will be back in plenty of time for the season,” Richt said.

At the moment, and perhaps for the remainder of spring, UM has only two scholarship backs available - Mark Walton and Travis Homer.

I asked Richt if he had considered moving DeeJay Dallas to running back or whether that wasn’t his preference because Dallas has impressed at receiver.

“If we didn’t think [Gray] was coming back and we didn’t think Bruns was coming back and if we didn’t think there was any hope of anybody else joining us, he would probably be the first guy on the roster to do that,” Richt said. “But at this point, we didn’t want to jack him around and learn all this. We are trying to let him learn something. We felt like if you are going to learn a position, receiver is one that is going to take more to refine.

“Running back position, you tend to be able to teach that faster. There’s a little bit less of a learning curve. If we absolutely have to, by the start of the first summer session, start training him as a running back, we can. And we’ve talked. He’s been all along, ‘Whatever you ask me to do, I’ll do.’ But our goal is not to do that.”

Clemson’s Tyshon Dye remains a grad transfer possibility for UM.

UM running back Mark Walton addresses the media for the first time this spring on April 6, 2017.

• How has Homer done as Walton’s new backup?

Richt said there was a lot of work for the backs in pass protection in Saturday’s scrimmage and “that’s the thing we have to make sure he does well. He knows how to do it. But you’ve got to be physical in pass protection. People are still kind of bull rushing him a little bit. He has to learn when to cut block in a scrimmage and when to man up and strike a guy and slow down his charge in running past the quarterback.”

• Richt called quarterback Jack Allison’s shoulder injury a bruise, but he remains sidelined.

Richt calls him day to day. “He’s already getting his range of motion back,” he said.

By the way, Cade Weldon got his first work with the second team today, Richt said.

• Navaughn Donaldson continues to impress everybody. “He’s advanced for his age” at run blocking, offensive lineman Kc McDermott said. “It helps when you are 350 pounds.”

UM has been working Donaldson at guard recently, and he could follow the career curve of the Dolphins’ Laremy Tunsil in terms of possibly playing his first season at guard and then moving to tackle. But that decision doesn’t need to be made until August. The difference is that Tunsil did that with the Dolphins after being a left tackle at Mississippi.

• Linebacker Darion Owens, two years removed from knee surgery, continues to impress. “A year ago, it looked like he was dragging the leg along with him. Now he’s much more in sync,” Richt said.

Owens said he is no longer wearing a knee brace while playing. “I felt better with out it,” he said. “I feel a lot better, lot stronger. I trust [my knee].”

Canes offensive coordinator Thomas Brown praises running back Mark Walton and how he has handled himself considering his mother passed away recently.