Gage Batten started growing his hair before he transferred to Miami from Auburn in 2015. By this spring, he began to have a “Sons of Anarchy, Duck Dynasty look,” that of a pirate or a viking.
He did it for a reason. Batten chopped off 18 inches of hair to donate to Wigs for Kids, an Ohio-based nonprofit that makes custom hair prosthetics for 125-150 children annually, according to its website.
“I’m sure a child in need will appreciate my hair as much as I did,” Batten tweeted.
Batten, a former Post All-Area player of the year at Dwyer High, missed the spring with a foot injury but feels he’s close to a return. He performed conditioning drills instead of practicing at the start of camp, but was in full pads on Tuesday.
Monday on media day, he said he’s “pretty confident I’ll be playing in the first game.”
Batten has something in common with his new coach, Mark Richt: both have been members of an SEC championship team. Batten, who played in six games for SEC champion Auburn in 2013, also experienced a coaching change when Gene Chizik was fired during his freshman year in 2012. Batten said he’s excited to play for Richt, whom he praised as “a great man.”
What’s the biggest change from Miami’s old staff to the new staff?
“The energy,” Batten said. “Any time you bring in a new staff, the energy’s different. There’s definitely more of a focus on player discipline and accountability. That’s been the biggest thing I’ve noticed, more player-to-player accountability.
The discipline, Batten said, is “definitely more consistent. To define it — last year, I thought we were as talented as the team that won the SEC championship at Auburn. But talent can mean so many things, and last year we led the country in penalties. I think we set the record for penalties at Duke,” he said, accurately referring to Miami’s program-high 23 penalty calls in an Oct. 31 win in Durham, N.C.
“That type of stuff gets you beat,” he said. “The mistakes we made got us beat. There’s more accountability for those mistakes.
Sitting next to fellow fullback Marquez Williams, Batten said he’s also excited that Richt plans to make use of a fullback.
With James Coley coordinating the offense, Batten said fullbacks were used in “12-20 percent of the game plan week-to-week. Now we could be up to 65 percent of the run game, all the pass and play-action game off that.”