Mark Richt finding it hard to land a graduate transfer running back

Tyshon Dye warms up before Clemson's 2015 game at Miami. (Getty Images)

Tyshon Dye warms up before Clemson’s 2015 game at Miami. Dye, a graduate transfer, considered Miami before committing to East Carolina. (Getty Images)

AMELIA ISLAND — Though he’s fast enough, and certainly strong enough, UM defensive end signee Deonte “D.J.” Johnson will not take practice reps at running back.

­­Mark Richt chuckled when the idea was brought up Tuesday at the ACC spring meetings.

“No,” Richt said, brushing off a report that said Miami may try Johnson in the backfield to assuage its depth woes. Johnson, a 6-foot-5, 240-pound four-star defensive end from Sacramento, is an impressively fast sprinter for his size.

“I think he ran in the 100 meters and I hit him up and said ‘Hey man, we ought to put you at tailback,’” Richt said. “He probably took it a little more seriously than I [intended].

“He’s got to learn how to play defensive end.”

The Hurricanes need a running back to ease the burden on returning starter Mark Walton and expected backup Travis Homer, with no guarantee either junior Trayone Gray or freshman Robert Burns, both coming off surgeries, will be able to contribute. Richt’s search continues. In an unusual move, he tweeted last week that UM remains on the hunt.

The college football blogosphere had fun with that. Rival fan sites framed it as a sign of UM’s desperation. Someone created a Craigslist ad attributed to Richt.

The coach believed his tweet was proactive.

“If you do it, you never know,” he said. “Somebody might go, ‘Hey, I’d like to come.’ I don’t know if anything will come of it.”

Graduate transfers have blossomed over the last half-decade and have become a major factor in basketball, where approximately 700 players declare their intentions to change schools every year. It’s become a key strategy for many hoops programs – including Miami, which has found mainly underclassmen transfer gems (Shane Larkin, Angel Rodriguez, Sheldon McClellan among them) and is looking for two transfers this offseason. Many programs keep extensive lists of players they believe could transfer now and in the future.

 

Richt’s staff does not. UM had a pair of grad transfer success stories in 2016 (defensive back Adrian Colbert and fullback Marquez Williams, both of whom were drafted by NFL teams) and attracted one of the top defensive transfers of this cycle (The Citadel cornerback Dee Delaney, an NFL prospect), but Richt said he’s generally unsure what to expect from the transfer market.

“That’s why I did what I did,” he said. “I wasn’t targeting a specific kid. I don’t even know if a kid is in position to want to do that. Then maybe you find out a guy maybe is interested in that. Then you check him out and say we think this guy will work, or we don’t think this guy will work. You don’t want to bring in a guy and not play [him]. If I knew everyone would stay healthy, we wouldn’t even be worried about it.”

It’s a tricky spot for a coach to be in, Richt acknowledged. There’s little downside for the program like Miami to take an experienced running back like Clemson transfer Tyshon Dye, who recently picked East Carolina over the Hurricanes. He wouldn’t have affected UM’s recruiting for 2018, since he would have been on scholarship for one year.

“It costs you nothing,” Richt said. “But I don’t want a guy who’s miserable because we told him you’re going to play all these plays and now he’s an insurance policy. I don’t want to do that. The kid gets one shot. I want him to have his best shot.”

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