A six-pack of Canes notes on a Tuesday, as we approach Saturday’s game at Virginia (7 p.m., ESPN2):
▪ There was no mincing of words about the disappointing offensive line play against FSU, not even from among the players themselves.
“That’s not acceptable on our part at all,” center Tyler Gauthier said Tuesday.
Nor was there any tolerance of the false-start penalties at the start of Tuesday’s practice.
“Horrible,” a fired-up Gauthier said about that.
Changes continued Tuesday, with freshman D.J. Scaife inserted at right tackle and Navaughn Donaldson playing right guard at least during the brief portion of practice open to the media. That was a continuation of an experiment that UM used for a significant portion of the FSU game.
Gauthier said the fact that LSU and FSU have highly skilled defensive lines isn’t an excuse for UM’s subpar offensive line play against both of those teams.
“We shouldn’t be handled by anybody,” he said. “We should beat everybody. We should be able to rush the football. And for most of the game, we weren’t able to.
“We have to figure out a way to get mentally tough around here. It’s not going to get better until it happens. We got our tails kicked most of the game against FSU. We came back because the defense helped us. We came out here [for Tuesday practice] and played like we were going to get our tails kicked again. I don’t want that to happen. That ain’t going to happen around here.”
Offensive line coach Stacy Searels put the team through sled drills after Tuesday’s practice, and running back DeeJay Dallas volunteered to join them.
What angered UM coaches Tuesday were mostly false-start penalties, “flinching, self-inflicted [things where players jumped on the cadence], “ Mark Richt said. “When that happens, a guy takes a lap around the field. That was a little bit of an issue [Tuesday].”
Asked how far UM is from having a championship caliber offensive line, Mark Richt said: “We are getting closer. A lot farther along than a year ago, two years ago. We’ve been making progress. I have to do a better job of understanding there are guys nobody in America can block and do a better job of getting them help, like [FSU star defensive end Brian] Burns.
“Couple blitzes we practiced over and over and they did exactly what we did on the film, total breakdown of our assignments. I think we are blocking pretty good at the point in run game. Our perimeter blocking is improving.”
On injecting Scaife in the lineup, Richt said: “Scaife is a real talented kid. For him to function pretty well is impressive for a true freshman lineman to do it. He has a great skill set as a pass protector. That’s where it starts at tackle. He made a few plays where he looked like a freshman.”
The film session with Searels in the wake of the FSU game was tough “for sure,” Gauthier said. “It wasn’t even mental mistakes. It was getting beat sometimes. You can’t let that happen. When you are one on one, you’ve got to win your [battle]. I tell the guys if they mess up that’s fine. But don’t let it happen twice. You only mess up if you don’t learn from it. There were a couple times we didn’t learn from it. “
▪ Has the staff concluded that Donaldson is simply a better guard than a tackle?
“He’s got to get better period,” offense coordinator Thomas Brown said. “I don’t care where we put him, guard or tackle. He can be really productive at either spot. He’s inconsistent at times, not just him, but a couple guys not playing up to their ability level every time.
“A couple times in that game, he did a great job of being physical, putting guys on the ground. A couple times lazy and kind of got beat by some guys”
Brown said of the offensive line: “We definitely got to play better. We’ve got to play less guys. A lot of guys have had the opportunity to play and prove if they were who we thought they were. Some of them were. Some of them weren’t.”
▪ N’Kosi Perry, after reviewing the tape of the FSU game, in which he completed only 13 of 32 passes but threw four touchdowns and no interceptions and rallied his team from a 20-point deficit: “A lot I need to work on. I don’t feel I was rushing throws. [But] they didn’t come right [all the time] and it shows.”
Canes greats Edgerrin James and Clinton Portis greeted him in the locker room afterward. “They said good game, good comeback.”
Brown’s take on Perry: “He’s just scratching the surface. The sky is the limit for him. One thing I love about N’Kosi is he is normally pretty poised, confident guy. Got great energy, encourages guys. Super accurate. Throws a really good ball and can escape out of the pocket as well.”
▪ Richt couldn’t stop raving about Jeff Thomas and justifiably so.
“Wouldn’t it be nice to have Jeff and Ahmmon?” Richt said of Richards, who won’t play again because of a neck injury. “All those sweet dreams I had in the summer didn’t come to fruition. His skill set, obviously his speed, extreme quickness, very good route runner.
“You’ve seen him leap and make these catches. The catch at LSU, the one on the sideline was spectacular. He had two spectacular catches vs. LSU. The ball he caught down the middle before Brevin Jordan’s touchdown was so impressive. Very willing blocker, too. Wish we had about three of him.”
▪ Richt said he expects five-star receiver Mark Pope will begin to play more.
▪ Trayone Gray has become one of the pleasant stories on this team, becoming a useful part of the offense after being largely a non-factor for three years.
“I never thought about transferring,” Gray said Tuesday. “I sat down with coach Brown [after last season] and asked him the best role for me to play and he said we have an open spot at fullback. I can learn it and be big role on the team. I took it.”
Please come back later for three more UM stories today from myself and colleagues, including the four-game suspension for Cade Weldon.