Canes Spring Notebook: April 15

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The Miami Hurricanes held their second closed scrimmage of the spring Saturday at the Greentree Practice Fields in Coral Gables.

As all practices and scrimmages have been this spring, Saturday’s session was closed to the media.

However, Canes head coach Mark Richt spoke to the media afterward and offered his thoughts.

Richt began by reading statistics:

Click here to see transcribed stats

>>> Based on the stats, Miami’s defense definitely “won” the scrimmage. At least seven sacks were recorded – three from defensive tackle R.J. McIntosh – and the defense totaled two interceptions.

Richt praised the defense for its performance Saturday, but he inserted an interesting and truthful caveat.

“I don’t know what kind of challenge they are getting right now, to be honest with you,” Richt said. “I hope they’re going to be that dominant against everybody else. If they are dominant against our offense because we’re struggling offensively, then it is hard to gauge how good they are. If our offense is pretty good and they are having these kinds of outings, then I’d say that the defense is pretty good, too.”

“There is a lot of juice on [the defensive] sideline…they are playing hard and making plays,” Richt added.

>>> Richt made a point to single out a pair of defensive backs for their performance. Sophomore Malek Young and junior Tyler Murphy.

Murphy had four tackles, an interception and four pass break-ups during the scrimmage and Richt said that the offense “was trying to pick on him and he held up really [well].”

Young, who also received complimentary remarks from defensive coordinator Manny Diaz after Thursday’s practice, is said to have made the play of the day Saturday.

“Malek made one of the most acrobatic interceptions I’ve seen on a deep ball…he just jumped and twisted and found it and snatched it – you just don’t see that very often. It was probably the most impressive play of the day,” Richt said.

Young also had five tackles and a pass break-up to go along with the impressive pick.

>>> Defenses typically perform better than their offensive counterparts in the spring. Offensive units may still be installing portions of their playbook or there may have been a large turnover at one or more position groups – like the Canes’ search for a new starting quarterback.

>>> The quarterback battle has been the hot topic this spring. Based on the stats, none of the quarterbacks truly did much to stand out from the rest.

According to Richt, Evan Shirreffs completed 16 of 36 passes for 139 yards. Malik Rosier completed 13 of 26 passes for 142 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Vincent Testaverde went 6-of-9 for 98 yards with a 65-yard touchdown to early enrollee freshman DeeJay Dallas.

Cade Weldon, who didn’t participate in last Saturday’s scrimmage, did compete this time around and completed 5 of his 9 passes for 30 yards and threw an interception. Jack Allison did not participate in the scrimmage, as he is still nursing the shoulder injury he sustained in last Saturday’s scrimmage.

>>> Richt confirmed that the quarterbacks were not “live” during Saturday’s scrimmage – meaning that they were not able to be tackled and likely wore red “non-contact” jerseys.

>>> Based on Richt’s comments and after speaking with personal sources, it is safe to conclude that there still is not a clear favorite in Miami’s quarterback battle.

Rosier and Shirreffs have separated themselves from the rest of the group, but neither has a stranglehold on the No. 1 position.

Even before his injury, redshirt freshman Jack Allison wasn’t setting the practice field on fire with his play and was considered “No. 3”.

As personal sources have confirmed in previous days, Rosier’s experience and athleticism definitely work in his favor, but he hasn’t been consistent enough. Conversely, Shirreffs’ intelligence and attention to detail impress coaches, but he too needs to be more consistent in his play.

>>> Richt has been quite tight-lipped about the status of the quarterback battle, but he did say Saturday that he would have some sort of order or depth chart amongst the QBs at the conclusion of spring.

“I don’t know. After today, I don’t know if my thought process is changing…I just don’t know. But I will have some sort of pecking order when this thing is over and going into the summer.”

>>> Looking at the numbers, Miami’s offense as a whole did not have a productive day. There were a few bright spots – Dallas’ long touchdown grab and Darrell Langham’s 73 receiving yards – but on the whole, it wasn’t a great day.

“It just wasn’t great execution by the offense as a whole. There were some plays that were made here and there. But nothing that you could consistently try to drive the ball. At best we averaged one yard per rush. Still have a lot to learn about these guys, but I have the tape to see.

“I know we missed some open targets at times,” Richt added.

>>> Richt said Dayall Harris made a big play to end the scrimmage.

“He had a touchdown in the red zone. It was the last play of the game. We had a one-minute offense going where the offense had to score to win and he made a big grab from Malik.”

>>> Richt said that he threw the ball more than he would have liked Saturday. But even when they did try to run the ball, there wasn’t much running room.

Mark Walton carried the ball twice for four yards. Junior T.J. Callan carried the ball once for a yard. Crispian Atkins finished with a game-high 12 yards on seven touches while Travis Homer got a game-high 10 carries but only yielded – as Coach Richt put it – “a whopping five yards.”

>>> Because the focus has been on what will happen at the quarterback position, Miami’s questions about its offensive line have moved towards the backburner.

However, no matter who is named UM’s starting signal caller, a large portion of their success will hinge on the O-Line’s ability to protect and open running lanes.

Richt said he’d have to watch the tape of the scrimmage to truly evaluate the offensive line because he typically watches the quarterbacks, but did offer a few words about what he’s seen from the group as a whole.

“Tyree [St. Louis] is getting to where I’m getting more confidence in him…I’m getting more confidence in Navaughn [Donaldson]. And I think in time, when [Navaughn] really knows what he’s doing, he’ll do well,” Richt said.

>>> From what coaches and players have been saying about Donaldson this spring, it would appear that he has earned a spot on UM’s starting O-Line – likely at right tackle.

>>> Richt essentially laid out who the starting O-Line would be.

“Tyler [Gauthier], I feel good. [KC] McDermott, I feel good at left tackle. Trevor [Darling] still has to show me something, show if he’s going to be the guy…those four are game ready, and the rest are going to try to get game ready.”

“Certainly we’ll get some guys back from injuries that’ll help us and we’ll have three freshmen coming in that’ll compete as well,” Richt added.

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