Barry Jackson

ESPN analysts and UM’s player personnel director assess the state of Miami’s program

Miami Hurricanes Ahmmon Richards (82) catches a second quarter pass against Syracuse in October. Richards dealt with injuries much of the season and missed the ACC Championship game, which was one factor in Clemson drubbing UM, 38-3.
Miami Hurricanes Ahmmon Richards (82) catches a second quarter pass against Syracuse in October. Richards dealt with injuries much of the season and missed the ACC Championship game, which was one factor in Clemson drubbing UM, 38-3. ctrainor@miamiherald.com

A six-pack of Hurricanes notes on a Wednesday:

▪ On an ESPN conference call on Wednesday morning, I asked the network’s lead college football announcing team, Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit, a simple question: How big is the gap between UM and the Clemsons and Alabamas and what positions, in particular, is the gap widest?

“The depth is a big thing that I recognize,” Herbstreit said. “When you lose a Mark Walton, Ahmmon Richards, Christopher Herndon [against Clemson]. When those guys went down, you will notice in the next two or three years, the next couple of years, the way Mark Richt is going to recruit, when you lose a caliber athlete like that, I don’t think you will see as big a drop-off. Toward the end of the year … you take three of their best weapons off of that lineup, if that happens to Clemson, there’s other guys there that … maybe do not have the same experience but have a similar skill set. That’s what they’re building towards as far as skill is concerned.

“The other thing is you have to take baby steps. If you look back at Miami specifically, I remember in the last part of the ’90s, the way Butch Davis built that, it took some time to build a defense and do it the right way. Of course, Miami wants it instantly. They want to be able to win a national championship. Butch Davis laid out a perfect blueprint for taking a few steps … and 2000 they came up just a little bit short.

“The Washington game, they beat Florida State, and … [said], ‘Man, we got shortchanged.’ They came back in ’01 with an attitude. It was a process of building it back up. When I look at Mark Richt, I think he is doing the exact same thing in his second year. Great recruiting class coming in.

“They’ve got to get better at quarterback. You’ve got to get more consistent throwing the football than the way Malik Rosier played this year. We’ll see if he gets another chance next year or if somebody else takes him out.”

Fowler, a South Florida resident, said because UM was missing three key pieces on offense, “I don’t think the gap was representative of the score of” Clemson’s 38-3 drubbing of UM in the ACC Championship game.

“Clearly the Canes are not in a [totally ideal] place in their roster,” Fowler said. “They have barely gotten back to getting the number of scholarships that other people have to sustain injuries like that. You look at the attrition. You have to get better quarterback play for sure, but they’ve got to get a deeper, more talented roster. The recruiting makes you think they are headed in that direction. The gap is still there. I look forward to seeing where they’re going in the future. It’s good for the sport. It’s good for the ACC for Miami to be a factor and be reckoned with every season.”

Miami Hurricanes head coach Mark Richt addresses the media after UM lost to the Wisconsin Badgers 34-24 in the Capital One Orange Bowl at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens on Saturday, December 30, 2017.

▪ Richt has said UM will end up with between 24 and 27 players in this class.

And though UM lost four players this week (Jamie Gordinier, Ryan Fines, Darrion Owens and DJ Johnson), UM player personnel director Matt Doherty said in a WQAM appearance: “You have a finite amount of initial scholarships you can offer each year. Any comings or goings [the past few days] don’t affect the final number. I don’t want to divulge our final number, but whatever attrition has been coming to light doesn’t affect that.”

▪ Off a 10-3 season, Doherty believes some recruits are thinking: “Miami’s a 10-win team without me, add me into the mix and see what we can do. Our classes down the line legitimize us in their eyes. They see us as a heavyweight going forward in their recruitment, too.”

▪ Doherty said “this place will not be where everyone wants it to be until there is savage competition on the field. We’re getting there but we’re not quite there at all positions. … The cream will rise to the top. The best players beat out the best players. That’s the way it has to be.”

▪ Doherty also told WQAM: “The sense I get is we’re ahead of schedule. I don’t think a lot of us saw this coming. It was a good year that ended poorly. Plenty to build on. What it taught me is we have great players, just not enough of them. My job is to help the coaching staff infuse the roster with elite talent.”

Miami Hurricanes quarterback Malik Rosier discusses UM's 34-24 loss to the Wisconsin Badgers in the Capital One Orange Bowl at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens on Saturday, December 30, 2017.​

UM already has signed 19 players in this 2019 class. “2018 is going to be the class that gets us on the podium,” Doherty said, noting that defensive coordinator Diaz made that point. “We have the caliber of player 1 through 19 that will see to it that we get ourselves there. There are a couple on the market that will allow us” to do that.

▪ Couple quick notes on the 12-1 UM men’s basketball team, which plays at 6-7 Georgia Tech at 9 p.m. Wednesday: UM’s defense is limiting its opponents to 58.5 points per game and 36.8 percent shooting, each of which ranks second in the ACC. UM ranks third nationally behind only Virginia (52.8) and Texas Tech (58.2) in scoring defense.

The Canes also are limiting opponents to 27.6 percent shooting from 3-point range, which is lowest in the ACC and fifth-lowest nationally.

“Bruce Brown is our leading rebounder, leader in assists, can guard multiple positions,” Jim Larranaga told WQAM. “He has to guard so many different kinds of players and does it almost effortlessly.”

Larranaga, always teaching, said during Tuesday night’s team dinner in Atlanta that he planned to show his team “a clip of any player on our team when they’re at their best pressuring their man. … The key is to get all of them doing it throughout the game at the same time.”

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