HOLLYWOOD — Notes from a Tuesday chat with Mark Richt at a community event in Hollywood:
Miami is widely considered a top-25 team, despite its open concern about the quarterback position. Is it fair to say this could be a top-10 team if it gets good quarterback play?
“Oh, I don’t know,” Richt said. “We all know preseason rankings don’t mean a whole lot. If you go six games into the season and then start ranking people, you might have a better feel for where everybody is and a lot better feel for where we’ll be at the quarterback position.
“I think we’ve got a lot of guys that understand what we’re doing and why were doing it and how we’re doing it. We’re getting a lot of leadership this summer, which is a great sign. More player involvement, self-policing things on and off the field. That’s where you want to be. I think we’ve got a chance to be a very good team.”
Last summer, speed at receiver, tackling in the defensive backfield, the offensive line and NCAA-related trouble with several starters were among Richt’s concerns. What worries him about this roster?
“I will say this, we are a lot faster now than we were a little while ago,” Richt said. “I think we have some great speed at receiver. If you look at our depth chart right now we’re a little concerned with the running back position. We have inexperience in the defensive backfield but I think we’ve got the right guys, not only the guys that we have but some of the guys were coming in new, whether it’s a freshman [Trajan Bandy] or a junior college player [Jhavonte Dean] or a graduate transfer [Dee Delaney]. we’ve got to figure out who is going to punt. We had one of the greatest punters in America, in my opinion [Justin Vogel].”
Freshman Zach Feagles, who arrives next month with the last of Miami’s signing class [Jon Ford, D.J. Johnson, Evidence Njoku, De’Andre Wilder], must prove he is ready to handle that job. Open spots include quarterback, receivers behind sophomore standout Ahmmon Richards, backup tight end, offensive line and cornerback. The front seven, Richt and many who watched this team last year believe, should be a strength.
“We certainly have enough D-linemen, interior and on the edge,” he said. “Not only talented guys but a good many of them. … We’ve got some pretty good depth at the linebacker position as well.”
* Among receivers, Richt spotlighted senior Braxton Berrios as “the best route-runner we’ve got, bar none,” both outside and in the slot. “You can just video him in every route we have, and that’s how you do it, and he’s got great leadership,” Richt said. “Ahmmon had the numbers a year ago and probably get most of the national attention, but Berrios is a great leader for us and a guy who runs great routes, has good speed. [Lawrence] Cager we had high hopes for last year. He had a good spring and was having a great summer and unfortunately he got hurt [torn ACL]. Now he’s going to be freed up to do what he can do.” Richt said he was encouraged by the spring work from Dayall Harris, Darrell Langham and Dionte Mullins, and said the “kids who are coming in” — January enrollee DeeJay Dallas and post-spring arrivals Mike Harley, Jeff Thomas and Njoku — “can really run and make plays for us.”
* At tight end, Richt noted “there’s a pretty big drop-off” from senior Chris Herndon to sophomore Michael Irvin II, redshirt freshman Jovani Haskins and freshman Brian Polendey. “They’ve got a long way to go,” he said.
UM announced several hours later that Haskins was no longer on the team, leaving depth less than ideal at tight end.
* At cornerback, Dean and Delaney “are still figuring out what to do and how to do it,” but he expects them to improve a lot in camp.
* A major benefit of having other experienced coaches visit — former Oregon coach Mark Helfrich and Dolphins offensive line coach Chris Foerster dropped by in recent months — is the sharing of ideas. “When you get them in the room, it’s just great to talk ball,” he said. “We are a lot more alike even if we don’t do the same things schematically. Everybody has a way of saying it or teaching it … maybe this term will click with my guys. I can get better coach a better teacher by just changing my verbiage a little bit.”
* Richt said he is in no rush to identify a 10th assistant coach, which is now permitted by the NCAA. He wants to see the season play out first. “I feel very comfortable with what we have in our staff right now,” he said. “The gentleman is going to be a bonus for us.”
* Richt on grad transfers, beyond his previously stated need for a running back: “If there was a great one at just about any position, we’d look into it,” he said. He acknowledged
* Richt: “Right now, we think everybody will” be cleared for contact when fall practice opens Aug. 1. Those who were not cleared during the spring include Cager, running backs Robert Burns, and Trayone Gray, defensive linemen Gerald Willis, and Scott Patchan and center Nick Linder.
* Richt would not share details of Miami’s upcoming Paradise Camp, such as a date or former players expected to attend. He simply confirmed it will be happening, and said the program would announce “probably a week to five days” before the event. As far as a date, the third weekend in July — after Richt and two Hurricanes players return from the ACC Kickoff and before the Aug. 1 start of fall practices — makes a lot of sense.