Miami Hurricanes 2016 media day: Blake James, Mark Richt’s thoughts

CORAL GABLES — Keep it here for live updates from Miami’s media day. Athletics Director Blake James and coach Mark Richt will speak at noon. Offensive players and defensive players to follow.

Today is the only day most UM freshmen will be allowed to speak this year.

— Blake James speaking now. “As a program, we’re real excited about where we’re at and where we’re going.” He said Miami’s athletics programs have a cumulative 3.0 GPA and a 90 percent graduation rate.

— Athletically, UM finished 17th in all-sports success. Highest finish since 2002-03, James said, and the second time UM’s had a top-40 finish. James noted UM is the only school to have a bowl football team, men’s and women’s basketball tournament teams, and a College World Series baseball team. “Collectively, we have as great a group of coaches as we’ve ever had,” James said. He mentioned first-round draft picks Artie Burns (football) and Zack Collins (baseball), golfer Dani Weber and UM’s seven Olympians.

— James noted UM’s renovated swimming pool and said the front of the Hecht Center will be renovated. He also said men’s and women’s basketball renovations are coming.

— James on new Dolphins Stadium: “Like all of you, I’ll be excited to see the final product on Sept. 3.”

— James: “An announcement will be coming soon” on indoor practice facility. Wishes he could say something today, but still needs to secure “naming gift,” or, a lead donor (note: sources told the Post a donor has already been identified, though details on their gift haven’t been settled). James said 2018 is the target opening date for the facility.

James later clarified (via the Herald’s Manny Navarro) he hopes the project will be completed by Aug. 2018. 

— In football, James said UM has sold more than 36,000 season tickets today, and “I’m confident we’ll have 40,000.” Fewer than 1,000 seats remain in the lower level, he said.

— James on the new Dolphins stadium, images of which are being circulated by the Dolphins: “We feel confident we’ll be there Sept. 3.” Said UM still has a backup plan in place, but said the Dolphins have done an admirable job. Asked to elaborate on backup plan for Sept. 3, he doesn’t. Asked for drop-dead date to put it in place, he said a “two-week window,” but reiterated that he expects to not have to put the backup plan in place at all — they expect to play at the Dolphins’ stadium.

— Any new goals for facilities we haven’t heard about? “I don’t think there’s anything you all haven’t heard of. … With that said, I know coaches will come up with new needs.”

— James said he’s a fan of a nine-game conference schedule because it will enhance rivalries. “We’re going to be together for a long while,” he said. The ACC’s athletics directors will have a conference call Friday and it’s expected they will discuss a move from eight conference games to nine. James: “My vote will be for nine.”

— James told a small group of reporters after his press conference ended that there is no resolution on the luxury car rental situation involving several players, including Al-Quadin Muhammad and Jermaine Grace. Neither has been available to reporters this camp. James said UM is still monitoring and gathering information.

— He also said that Miami was at 29,000 season tickets last year (as noted above, UM is at 36,000 now and hoping to be at 40,000 by opening night). When we were asking him about the spike, Mark Richt entered the room and stood nearby. A reporter (me) joked “I wonder why that is,” referring to the head coach hire James made in December. Richt smiled and said, “Shade. A canopy roof. Big TVs” in the stadium. (A little of both, I’m sure.)

MARK RICHT 

— “We are so much farther ahead than we were in the spring,” Richt said, sounding like he’s very pleased by the jump.

— Asked if he will pass-to-run instead of run-to-pass, he said Miami still wants to run the ball, then demonstrated the goal of play-action passing like a quarterback would. He stepped out from behind the lectern. Lot of energy from Richt today.

— Giving an example Brad Kaaya’s good attitude, Richt said Kaaya “bragged” about the improvement a student manager has made in snapping the ball to him in drills. “He loved him up.”

— Richt on his son, quarterbacks coach Jon: “I think he would do it better than I would,” speaking about the run game. Noted he worked with tight ends with the Buffalo Bills.

— One of the reasons Miami needs an indoor facility: Once school starts Aug. 22 and Miami is practicing in the morning, “If we get one lightning strike in the morning,” during practice, “we’re done. It’s over.”

— A Georgia writer asked Richt to compare the program he inherited to what he took over at UGA: We think we’re going to win every game, but he said he focuses on getting better. “When you do that well, you get the results you want, or you’re right in the heat of the battle.”

— Richt said defensive back play has been much improved. “I’m seeing really good effort and angles and physical [strikes]. They’ve made some nice interceptions, pass-breakups too.”

— “That’s the thing that they’ve got to understand. We love them and we want them to be great.”

— Richt on how to improve run-stopping: “Everybody has a gap responsibility.” Said defensive line will penetrate, the linebackers and safeties will fill gaps and cornerbacks will cover. That’s the basics, anyway.

— On QB runs, with a mobile, creative, elusive quarterback like Deshaun Watson: “You can’t hardly stop that.”

MANNY DIAZ 

Click here for lots of thoughts from Miami’s defensive coordinator.

RECRUITING

Miami landed two commitments on Monday. Click here to read about Trajan Bandy, the four-star cornerback from Miami-Columbus, and click here to read about Lake Worth defensive end Jonathan Garvin.

FRESHMEN TALK 

Monday’s media day was the first time most Hurricanes freshmen were available to speak to reporters. Click here for thoughts from Shaq Quarterman, Joe Jackson and Malek Young.

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A sit-down with Michael Irvin II

 

 

 

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