Two of Miami’s top defensive players, defensive end Al-Quadin Muhammad and linebacker Jermaine Grace, were absent from portions of practice Thursday to tend to matters related to an ongoing UM investigation into their use of luxury rental cars, sources told The Post.
Reporters did not see Muhammad during the 15-minute window they are permitted to watch practice. Grace was present, but was later excused.
They missed practice to meet with UM football officials. Both are expected to return to practice Friday.
The Post previously reported that both players — who had not missed a practice before Thursday — would meet with school officials in mid-August. Some within the UM football office have expressed hope the matter will be cleared up at that time.
Muhammad and Grace remain at risk for suspensions if UM finds they violated NCAA rules when they dealt with a Miami Beach luxury rental car agency. They could also be suspended if they were not (or are not) forthcoming with school officials in the matter. In part because he was not forthcoming with UM officials, junior linebacker Juwon Young was suspended indefinitely and is no longer a member of the team.
Asked about Muhammad’s absence after practice, coach Mark Richt said, “He had some personal things to work on today. I plan on him being at practice tomorrow.”
Richt, who has been asked about the matter since July, gently added, “Like I told you, when there’s something to report, I’ll report it to you.”
Asked if the matter was closer to a resolution, Richt said, “I think so, yeah.”
Both Muhammad and Grace participated in Wednesday’s scrimmage, the first UM has held this fall. Muhammad, a redshirt junior and a first-stringer, had two of the Hurricanes’ nine sacks. Grace, a senior and the starter at strong-side linebacker, produced three tackles.
Muhammad, 6-foot-4 and 250 pounds, was suspended all of 2014 for an off-campus altercation (he punched a then-UM student in the face). He was suspended for last year’s season-opener for what UM called a violation of team rules. Grace (6-1, 210) has not missed a game for behavioral issues.
UM has been looking into this present matter since at least January, speaking with multiple athletes and people outside the school. If UM finds any violations were committed, it would report to the NCAA the violations and corrective actions it has taken.
The Hurricanes’ three-year NCAA probation, stemming from the misdeeds of former booster Nevin Shapiro, ends in October.
Mullins update: After commenting on safety Cedrick Wright, a late qualifier who participated in his first practice, Richt was asked about his Miami-Gulliver Prep teammate, wide receiver Dionte Mullins.
“He’s still working,” Richt said. “He’s not out of it.”
That means Mullins is still attempting to qualify for UM admission. Mullins, a four-star recruit and Under Armour All-American, missed his senior season of high school for academic reasons.
“We plan on him being here,” Richt said.
Wright, who qualified, mostly watched while wearing a No. 38 jersey and no shoulder pads. He cannot fully participate in practice for another four sessions. NCAA rules call for a mandatory five-day acclimation period.
“Just got his feet wet,” Richt said of Wright’s workload. “We allowed him to be in a non-contact coverage drill. But mostly just learning. I did hear (safeties) coach (Ephraim) Banda say — which was excellent — ‘I want you to learn how to practice,’ meaning effort. (Banda) goes, ‘I’ll teach you techniques. We’ll teach you assignments. We can teach you all that. What you’ve got to learn today is the tempo.'”
Batten surgery: Senior fullback Gage Batten, who missed the spring while recovering from a broken foot, will have surgery this week to remove a plate in his foot, Richt said.
The procedure, Richt said, should not be considered a setback to Batten’s recovery — “It’s something that was planned from the very beginning,” he said — and he remains “hopefully he’ll help us before the year is over.”
A team source said if the surgery and recovery go well, Batten could be able to return to full contact in practice within two weeks. The source characterized Batten’s recovery as “surprisingly fast.” Like running back Gus Edwards, Batten sustained a Lisfranc injury.
Note: This post was updated at 3:20 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 11 to further clarify the nature of Muhammad and Grace’s meetings, and add additional information about Batten’s injury.