Barry Jackson

Richt offers a caution and dishes insight as UM-LSU nears

Hurricanes chatter on a Tuesday, as we approach UM-LSU on Sunday night from Arlington, Tx. (7:30 p.m., ABC):

UM is a 3.5 point favorite over LSU, a byproduct of Miami standing 8th in the preseason AP poll, compared with 25th for LSU.

But do not overlook LSU’s talent; the Tigers are loaded with four- and five-star prospects, especially in their defensive front seven. As perspective, here’s where the two teams finished in the recruiting rankings in recent years:

2014: LSU 2nd in the nation, UM 12th

2015: LSU 8th, UM 26th

2016: LSU 5th, UM 23rd

2017: LSU 8th, UM 11th

2018: UM 6th, LSU 14th

“They have recruited as good or better than anyone in America for the last four or five years,” UM coach Mark Richt said on the season debut of WQAM’s Hurricane Hotline on Tuesday night. “They do it every year. Big, strong, fast athletic guys usually with bad intentions toward you. I don’t care what anybody says about rankings or who’s favored, you can throw all that stuff out the window.”

And Richt offered this caution: “I am hearing rumors of people think we’re going to kick their butt. Come on. This is LSU. [Expect] a war.”

Two LSU defenders to keep in mind Sunday: middle linebacker Devin White and cornerback Greedy Williams. Both are preseason All-Americans.

“White is so fast and so active; you can’t block him,” Richt said. “Greedy and Ahmmon [Richards] will get to know each other pretty good. They play a lot of man coverage. They trust their skilled athletes to match up with anybody else’s [receivers and] tight ends and running backs. When we do throw the ball, it will be highly contested throws. I’ve talked to my quarterbacks about that. There’s a difference between highly contested throws and dangerous throws. That ball has to be on the money. If you are waiting for a guy to get wide open, it’s not going to happen very often.”

Richt offered a bunch more insight in his chat with WQAM’s Joe Zagacki and Don Bailey Jr.:

On his first-year players: “We are so thrilled with the freshman class and the talent base and what they will become. If they stay and behave they will be really good. They will leave with a degree in their hand and a chance to play NFL football. Bunch of good ones. Every freshman will probably end up on the field [this season] before it’s over.”

On Malik Rosier: “Malik, for most part, is throwing the ball well, throwing the deep ball better. And we have more receivers period in the program. We have 9, 10, 11 guys that can function well.”

On defensive tackle Gerald Willis: “He’s such a great story. Learning how to grow up and be the right kind of man. He owned up to some things and got some things straight. He’s a happy human being and loving it. He has come so far as a human being. Great player, but great person too and I’m really happy and proud of him.”

Richt said in his meetings with players earlier this year, he asked them to write down who are the leaders on the team. The top four vote getters – Jaquan Johnson, Shaq Quarterman, Tyler Gauthier and Rosier – will be captains for the opener.

Richt said he recently told this to freshman quarterback Jarren Williams: “You just stick around and keep learning and get better and you’ll be a pretty special player before it’s over.”

UM last season had 25 touchdowns and 14 field goals in 43 trips to the red zone. That wasn’t good enough for Richt’s standards.

“Touchdown ratio isn’t what we hoped it would be a year ago,” Richt said. “It wasn’t that great. We wanted to start camp in the red zone. We did third down in red zone day one.”

Richt said Trayone Gray “is the number one fullback and Realus George is the backup. It’s good to have a fullback in your system especially talking about short yardage and goal line. A year ago, we didn’t have it, first time in my coaching career we didn’t have a true fullback ready to go. Tried [guard] Corey Gaynor last year and it wasn’t a good experiment. We lost the physical nature you need in some of those short-yardage situations.”

▪ Richt on starting running back Travis Homer: “High energy guy. You talk about creating good habits, that’s what he is. He is Mr. good habit. His ball security is excellent, he is a great fundamental pass protector, great route runner, great ball catcher. He’s a great running back period. He’s a three-down guy you do not have to take out of the ball game. He’s a special player.”

▪ Richt said of Illinois transfer and backup defensive tackle Tito Odenigbo: “From the first day he got on campus to a month or two later, it’s amazing in the difference in his ability to handle the heat and trim some fat and start practicing at the tempo we need to practice at. He put the work in. Credit goes to him.”

▪ Zagacki had an interesting stat, noting Miami’s 31 takeaways last year were third-most in the country while LSU’s eight turnovers on offense last year set a record for the fewest.

“We have found a way to get the turnovers all last season and every scrimmage, and 11 on 11, balls are getting picked and ball getting stripped,” Richt said. “Our defense are ball hawks and understand how to get the ball out.”

Former UM and NFL standouts Michael Irvin and Russell Maryland will be honorary captains at Sunday’s game, athletic director Blake James told Zagacki and Bailey.

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