A day after speaking with us at a park in Miami and five days after chatting with us in Charlotte, Mark Richt was off to Bristol, Connecticut for another round of media questions — this time at ESPN.
Richt spent Tuesday there as part of the network’s annual “car wash,” in which coaches from the major conferences run the friendly gauntlet of ESPN shows. His day began before 9 a.m. on the Mike & Mike radio show, included a stint on SportsCenter and was scheduled to end at 2:55 p.m., after six hours and more than 10 interviews for broadcast (not including one-on-ones with ESPN’s writers). Long day.
No kickoffs, rugby-style tackling. Asked about the possibility of eliminating that play, which is thought to produce a high amount of injuries compared to other plays, Richt surprised by saying he was fine without. “I’ll be honest with you,” he told Mike & Mike. “I’m OK without a kickoff.”
His reasoning: his time on the sidelines as a head coach, he saw its effects up-close. “It’s a violent play and guys are running full speed and you’ve got a bunch of guys that are young and strong and brave and no one is backing down,” he said. “So, yeah, I think that’s a play I could live without. A lot of people probably are going crazy right now about it, but when you see it up close it makes sense to me.”
He also mentioned UM has “bought into taking the helmet out of the tackle,” and that defensive coordinator Manny Diaz has taught rugby-style tackling for several years. What that means is, Miami players will be taught to tackle with their shoulders. “We think that’s a smart way to play football and we think it’s an effective way to play football,” Richt said.
The first two minutes of this video, narrated by Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, provide a good overview of rugby tackling.
He told a good QB story. From his time on Mike & Mike:
“When Jim [Kelly] and I were seniors [we had] that first scrimmage of year. You get your ones and twos to scrimmage and then you get your three unit in there. You let your freshman quarterbacks take a drive, right? Vinny [Testaverde] might have been first, and he was like bang-bang-bang — like 6-for-6, touchdown. Then Bernie [Kosar] goes in there. Bang-bang-bang-bang, 6-for-6, touchdown. Jim and I looked at each other, like, ‘It’s a good thing we’re getting out of here because those guys are going to take over.’
“Jim Kelly was one of the most fierce competitors, and I hate it because he’s the guy who beat me out and lived my life so to speak when I had my dreams of playing at Miami. But he was phenomenal.”
Slim and trim. When a SportsCenter anchor commented that he was tan and appeared to have lost a couple pounds of late, Richt said: “You live in South Florida, you can’t be walking around chubby. You’ve got to be slim.”
‘Take care of business.’ Richt on how to get Miami back to a championship level:
“The big thing is recruiting. We’ve got very fertile recruiting ground in the Miami area, the tri-county area of Dade, Broward and Palm Beach County. Miami also traditionally has gotten great players from all over the nation and we’ll continue to do that. Do that, just put in a good, solid fundamental scheme and get after people, just don’t self destruct. Let’s see how great Miami can be if we just take care of business.”
Miami should be “right there fighting for the championship, period. That’s where we need to be.”
No limits. What would be a successful debut year at UM?
“I’m not going to put any limits on what we can do,” Richt said. “I believe we can win the Coastal and play for the championship and get to that game and anything can happen. Obviously if you win that one, hopefully we’re in the four-team playoff. I’m not going to put a lid on what can happen this year.
“We’ve got a chance to be pretty good, but there’s a lot of other pretty good teams that we’ll play. We’ll see what happens. I just want to see us play Miami football and get after people’s rear ends, and bring the excitement back.”