CORAL GABLES (CBSMiami) – The Miami Hurricanes are battling through numerous injuries after their thrilling 24-20 win over Florida State.
Most notably, Miami must play the remainder of their season without featured running back Mark Walton. Walton suffered a season-ending injury to his right ankle. He will be missed, but the show must go on.
Backup tailback Travis Homer will take over in the starting role. He played a big part in Miami’s game-winning drive against FSU with two clutch carries for 24 yards to help set up the final touchdown.
So far in 2017, Homer has rushed for 212 yards, registering an impressive 8.5 yards per carry average. He doesn’t quite have Walton’s size and strength, but can make up for it with speed and explosion.
On Tuesday, Hurricanes’ head coach Mark Richt praised Homer’s work ethic and intelligence.
“Travis is a very serious young man,” Richt said. “He takes practices very serious. He takes his assignments very serious. He’s very business-like. He knows what to do, he knows how to do it. He’s in unbelievable condition. He loves playing the game.”
He loves the game so much, in fact, that Richt has a hard time convincing Homer to sit a few plays out.
“He loves playing special teams” noted Richt. “Even this last game, we’re trying to give him a break and [said], ‘Hey, you don’t need to cover this kick.’ He [said], ‘No, I’m covering this kick.’”
Homer, a sophomore, is one of Miami’s most valuable special teams players. While he won’t be taken off special teams completely, his role there will have to be reduced now that his role on offense is set to increase.
“Yeah. Every time you take out a guy who is a starter, whether it’s through injury or because of injury, like in this case with Homer, another guy has to step up,” said Richt. “Homer was the special teams player of the game this past game. Last year, at the end of the season, he was the special teams player of the year. He starts on all four specials and he does them great. Does them very, very well. He can run, he’s agile, he’s tough, he can tackle, he’s smart and he tends to have a lot of stamina. When he becomes the number one back, we have to be careful about watching him out there. Now we’re thinner at spots.”
With Homer now the starting running back, junior Trayone Gray will be elevated to the second team. He has just four carries on the season. Walk-on Crispian Atkins and true freshmen Deejay Dallas and Robert Burns will be in the mix for the third, fourth and fifth spots.
Meanwhile, Miami is battling injuries at numerous other spots. Guard Navaughn Donaldson had a boot on his right foot Tuesday. Wide receiver Ahmmon Richards and defensive backs Sheldrick Redwine and Dee Delaney were all relegated to conditioning work during practice. All of their statuses for this Saturday remain day to day.
The 11th Ranked Hurricanes will host the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets in an ACC Coastal Division clash.
Under head coach Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech runs a triple-option offense that requires meticulous preparation and sharp assignment-football.
Mark Richt spoke about the challenges for this week.
“[Coach Paul Johnson’s] offense is one that is one of the more difficult to prepare for and to try to slow down, quite frankly. He understands his system so well that he doesn’t even need a call sheet. He just watches the game and knows exactly what to call. If he sees something, he knows how to counterpunch. There’s probably nothing you could put in front of him that he hasn’t seen before and that he won’t react to properly, and his guys tend to execute extremely well.”
So far, Tech quarterback TaQuon Marshall has done a brilliant job running Johnson’s offense. He leads the team in rushing with 523 yards to go along with 9 rushing touchdowns. Through the air, he’s thrown for 333 yards with 4 touchdowns and no interceptions.
“He averages 10 yards per attempt when throwing the football,” added Richt. “He’s playing extremely well.”
Miami gave up 361 total yards in last season’s matchup, but were able to limit the big plays en route to a 35-21 win on the road. They’ll hope for a repeat performance this weekend at home.
Kickoff for Miami – Georgia Tech is set for 3:30 PM on Saturday, October 14th from Hard Rock Stadium. You can listen to the game on 560 WQAM.