Defense ‘wins,’ quarterbacks uneven in Miami Hurricanes’ first scrimmage of spring 2017

In this image from a UM-produced video, Mark Richt talks to quarterback Malik Rosier at a March, 2017 practice. (YouTube/CanesAllAccess)
In this image from a UM-produced video, Mark Richt talks to quarterback Malik Rosier at a March, 2017 practice. (YouTube/CanesAllAccess)

CORAL GABLES — The weather was beautiful, and Miami’s offense has some work to do.

That’s Mark Richt‘s general impression of his team’s first scrimmage of the spring, which was closed to the media and, according to Richt, won by the defense.

UM did not release stats, but Richt said there were “a good many sacks, at least four to eight, there might have been more.”

“If you went only second-half, it would be debatable” who who,” he said. “You probably would say offense. First half, it was no question whatsoever. It was a combination of self-inflicted wounds on offense and defense smothering them up once they started smelling the blood.”

That result isn’t unexpected, especially since UM is replacing a three-year starter at quarterback (Brad Kaaya) and some of its top offensive weapons won’t arrive until the summer. In general, it’s not uncommon for a defense to be ahead in March and April.

“If offense dominates in the spring, I can promise you, it’s usually a long season,” Richt said. “Unless you have a boatload of guys showing up in the summer. Some of the greatest offenses I’ve ever been around got their butts kicked by the defense [in the spring], Florida State and Georgia.”

Richt has repeatedly said he won’t pick a starting quarterback until the fall, after a full evaluation of all his players — including top incoming recruit N’Kosi Perry, who arrives on campus May 22.

On Saturday, redshirt junior-to-be Malik Rosier and redshirt sophomore Evan Shirreffs “probably had the best of it,” Richt said. Redshirt sophomore Vincent Testaverde, a walk-on, “had a couple good moments as well,” he said.

He didn’t mention redshirt freshman Jack Allison (update: The Post later reported he injured his shoulder), though he noted that there was “probably a moment that everybody did something pretty good.” That’s excluding early enrollee freshman Cade Weldon. Richt said he “didn’t give him any reps” because he “wasn’t ready for the moment yet. … Next scrimmage, he’ll get reps.”

Offensively, Richt said the offensive line “had a decent day” and he emphasized the passing game more than the running game.

“I know [Mark] Walton can run,” Richt said. “I didn’t need to prove that Walton could maybe take over a scrimmage, because I know he can do that in a ballgame. I was more concerned about, can our backs pass-protect and can the quarterbacks function in the passing game.”

More QB talk

* Richt said during third-down work — UM went third-and-3, third-and-4, all the way up to third-and-10 — Shirreffs “did a good job of standing in there and ripping the ball a few times.” Richt said Rosier had one of the touchdown passes.

Richt said Rosier “spun out of a tackle that looked like they had him” and extended the play. “He ended up not completing the ball, but just proof that a guy can move and create and make plays.” Shirreffs “once or twice had guys bearing down on him, stayed in there and threw it, completed a ball or two and got hit, which was a good sign.”

The most important question

Was everybody healthy? Richt was hopeful, but said he didn’t have complete information. “I didn’t see anybody get carted off, which was nice,” he said.

The scrimmage setup

The Hurricanes played two “halves” with a break in between. In the first half, plays began on the 25-yard line. Richt said UM’s offense struggled in that setup — in fact, he said it “got ugly.”

“There were a couple times where if we just put the ball on a guy we’d have made a big play and got some excitement for the offense,” he said. “We missed some guys that I thought were open — barely, but just still missed them — when there was protection, and when there wasn’t protection, obviously a couple sacks, we threw the ball out of bounds, then it became bad snaps, fumbles, picks. The first half got ugly, to be honest with you.”

In the second half, UM’s offense was “much more competitive,” Richt said. It began drives on the defense’s 40-yard line, worked third-down situations, and did red-zone work beginning at the 16-yard line. “The second half was much more fun for the offense,” he said. “Scored a couple touchdowns, kicked a field goal, made some plays. Got encouraged. Last play of the game, threw a little touchdown, so the offense felt good on the last play of the game.”

Recruits on campus

Dozens of recruits attended, including (per 247Sports) Plantation-American Heritage cornerback Tyson Campbell, a four-star recruit and a top UM target, and teammate Andrew Chatfield, a four-star defensive end. Top 2018 commit Mark Pope was reportedly there. Signees Trajan Bandy, Mike Harley, Corey Gaynor were spotted afterward.


[Diaz wants to see what D can do in scrimmage]

[Joe Jackson still has growing to do]

[UM set to break ground on indoor facility]

[How Richt helped Beason realize a dream]

[Walton, Homer trying to stay healthy]

[UM parts ways with recruit | Thurs. practice notes]

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