During a radio appearance Monday morning, Mark Richt stated his belief that the Hurricanes were as talented as rival Florida State, but he wondered how much depth they had to withstand injuries.
He’s about to find out.
Sources told The Post that five high-profile starters and one key backup are dealing with significant injuries stemming from Miami’s 20-19 loss to FSU on Saturday.
In addition to starting quarterback Brad Kaaya (shoulder) and right tackle Sunny Odogwu (lower leg/ankle) — injuries Richt confirmed Sunday night — a source said wide receiver Stacy Coley (knee), defensive end Chad Thomas (hand), linebacker Shaq Quarterman (shoulder) and defensive tackle Gerald Willis (knee) are ailing this week.
Miami, which practiced Sunday, is off Monday and returns to practice Tuesday.
The Hurricanes (4-1, 1-1 ACC), who fell six spots to 16th in the Associated Press top 25 after their first loss of the season, host North Carolina (4-2, 2-1) on Saturday (3:30 p.m., ABC/ESPN2).
Of the six named above, Odogwu is most likely to miss the game. A source said he has a fractured lower leg, near the ankle. Richt said Monday on WQAM that Odogwu will be “out indefinitely … I don’t know if he’ll make it to the game this week or not.”
Sophomore Tyree St. Louis will get the first chance to replace him. In UM’s first five games, St. Louis saw regular action behind Odogwu, who missed spring practices after tearing an MCL last Nov. 27 at Pittsburgh.
“We haven’t had Sunny go every play, since he’s had some knee issues in the past,” Richt said. “We were trying to get a little bit of a rotation going all season long to take some of the pressure off of Sunny. … [St. Louis] got a lot of reps there.”
Richt said Kaaya did not throw at practice Sunday, and Richt said he’s “not sure when he’ll throw again.” He injured his shoulder when FSU’s Jacob Pugh sacked him on the first play of the night. “He was trying to keep it warm the whole game,” Richt said.
Kaaya, who absorbed several hard, high hits — including an illegal shot which knocked out a molar — finished 19-of-32 for 214 yards, with two touchdowns and an interception. He threw a touchdown pass with 1:38 left that brought Miami to within one, before FSU’s Demarcus Walker blocked the would-be tying extra point.
If Kaaya cannot play against the Tar Heels, redshirt sophomore Malik Rosier would take the reins. Rosier has one career start (a win last Oct. 31 at Duke) and has appeared late in two blowout wins this year.
As for other injuries:
Coley and Willis have MCL sprains. Miami considers both day-to-day. How they are able to move in practice this week will determine whether they can play against UNC.
Coley leads UM in receptions (22, for 291 yards) and touchdown catches (six, tied for the ACC lead). He was named ACC receiver of the week after catching seven passes for 80 yards and two touchdowns against FSU. Willis, a part of UM’s rotation at defensive tackle, has 5.0 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks in four games.
Thomas and Quarterman will likely play, though it will be painful.
Thomas, UM’s leader in tackles for loss (7.0, with 3.0 sacks), returned with a wrap on his broken hand and made some of the game’s most important plays. With Miami down 7 points and needing a stop, he tackled FSU quarterback Deondre Francois for 14 yards in losses, stuffed a Dalvin Cook rush and forced an intentional grounding call on Francois.
Thomas is the second UM defensive end known to play this year with a broken hand. Trent Harris, played the first month of the season wearing a pillow-like cast.
Quarterman, the starting middle linebacker, has a torn labrum. Starting center Nick Linder played some of last year with the same injury. Linder had surgery after the season and missed spring practice. Quarterman, the first true freshman to start at middle linebacker for UM since Dan Morgan in 1997, is UM’s third-leading tackler (24, 4.5 for loss).
Attrition has hit the Hurricanes hard in Richt’s first year as coach. Because of dismissals (most recently freshman wide receiver Sam Bruce), season-ending injuries and lingering NCAA sanctions, UM’s roster has 70 available scholarship players. That’s well short of the NCAA limit of 85.
That doesn’t include the six players discussed above.
“I think we’ve got a lot of good players,” Richt said on WQAM, when asked how his team’s talent matched up with Florida State’s. “We played well. I don’t think it was a physical mismatch in this game. The question right now for us is, how much depth do we have? How much can we sustain as far as injuries as the season rolls on? That’s the biggest issue.”