CORAL GABLES — Sometimes, Mark Richt anticipates what reporters might ask, and tries to save them the trouble of asking.
“I’m not going to tell you if the [quarterbacks] are live or not, because I’m not sure yet,” he said after Friday’s practice. “I’ll decide tonight. I may have a dream, I don’t know.”
Richt was getting out ahead of questions about Saturday’s scrimmage, the first of fall camp. Richt doesn’t know, he said, whether he will allow the contenders for the starting job to be “live,” as in, the defense is allowed to hit them and tackle them to the ground.
“Sometimes you’ve just got to see what they’re about,” Richt said. “I’ve got a good feeling about these guys, as far as their bravery and their physical and mental toughness. I’m leaning toward not, but we’ll see what happens.”
When asked how he will make his decision — dreams aside — Richt said, “I don’t know. Sometimes it’s a gut thing.”
If Richt’s wakes up Saturday, and his gut tells him to let true freshmen N’Kosi Perry and Cade Weldon face the rush along with redshirt junior Malik Rosier and redshirt sophomore Evan Shirreffs, the defense will be happy. Defensive players, typically, love physical contact.
Linebacker Shaq Quarterman seems to anticipate a fun day.
“[Saturday], we’re going to get after it,” he said. “That’s my favorite thing about scrimmages. You really get to get after each other. You can’t take [tackles] to the ground in practices. Coach Richt is really doing a good job of protecting us. But on a day like tomorrow, we can really get after each other.”
Defensive tackle RJ McIntosh wants to see Miami’s defense “be dominant, play like we played in games last year, make big plays, to basically bully the offense,” he said. “That’s what I want to see.”
When Quarterman was informed Richt told reporters he planned to sleep on it, the linebacker raised a quizzical eyebrow and said, “Yeah?”
“It’s still competition day,” he said. “Whether they’re not live or live, when they pull that ball, we’re going to try to step on their toes. the objective is to get them on the ground. Even if we can’t, we want to show our coaches we there there to get them on the ground. If they’re not live or live, we’re going to do what we’re supposed to do.”
UM believes its defense, on the strength of its terrific front seven, will be among the best in the nation. Letting an inexperienced group of quarterbacks go against a defensive line featuring McIntosh, Chad Thomas, Joe Jackson and Kendrick Norton, and a Quarterman-led linebacker unit, could help Richt determine who is best equipped to face Florida State in Week 3. It might help him decide who’s the man for the Sept. 2 opener against Bethune-Cookman.
Because football is a collision sport, it could also sideline one of the contenders to replace Brad Kaaya under center. One recent, unfortunate example: UM went “live” in its first scrimmage of the spring, and redshirt freshman Jack Allison injured his shoulder and was concussed. He later transferred to West Virginia.
Saturday’s scrimmage will be held at Hard Rock Stadium before CanesFest (12-4 p.m.). It will be closed to the public and media.
Richt said the first-string offense will face the second-string defense, and vice versa. The third-stringers will face each other at some point. UM will start drives at the offense’s 25- and 35-yard lines, at midfield, then at the defense’s 40. After that, it’s red-zone and third-down work from the 16. “It’ll be 1s and 2s doing that,” Richt said.
Richt said he wants to “try to win the day,” meaning it’s more of a game situation than a controlled practice. So, more or less, he’ll be coaching against Manny Diaz. “I might throw a lot if they try to pack the box,” Richt said. “I may run more if they go split-safety on us.”
This is the only scrimmage he would consider making quarterbacks live.
“If I won’t do it here,” Richt said, “I won’t do it at all.”
Asked what he wants to see from his quarterbacks Saturday, Richt offered a window into how he might dole out playing time going forward.
“Just executing the way we teach it,” he said. “Don’t just start making up new stuff because it’s more like a game. I want to see you even more in-tune to your right reads and progressions and accuracy and decision-making on whether things go bad, throw it away, take a sack, scramble, do whatever you’ve got to do. Don’t put the ball in harm’s way.
“And then if things go bad, can you recover and not just — I always tell them, ‘There is such a thing as a bad play, but there’s never such a thing as a bad day.’ You might have a bad play, but you’ve got to shake it off, keep going. If you turn a bad play into a bad day, that’s not a good sign. If you’re the starter that day, you probably wouldn’t play the next one, or be gone at halftime.”
* Richt said with a possible exception — he declined to be specific — players who were conditioning or otherwise not with the team today won’t play Saturday. Spotted away from team drills during media viewing: Linebackers Michael Pinckney (hamstring), Jamie Gordinier (unknown), Charles Perry (shoulder/arm) and Waynmon Steed (knee); wide receiver Evidence Njoku (hyperextended knee) and offensive lineman Zalon’tae Hillery (lower leg/foot). True freshman running back Robert Burns, who has a shoulder issue, remains in a no-contact jersey.
“Most of the guys you saw out of it today probably won’t be going tomorrow,” he said.
Freshman wide receiver Jeff Thomas returned to team drills. Thomas was conditioning during Wednesday’s practice.
CANES CAMP 2017
Day 10 [no practice]
Miami’s new green, black alt jerseys are out
Day 6 [no practice]
Walton weighs in on QBs, RBs, coaches
Perry ‘a passer, not just a thrower’
Injury updates: Burns could miss opener
Video: Perry runs through first drills
Porter’s video recap, live chat
Day 1 practice notes: Perry batting third
Photos, videos: Practice footage, field under construction
10 big storylines, how to follow camp
Other fun stuff
CanesFest set for Aug. 12
Analyzing the 2017 schedule
The Guide to Watching Miami Football
A visual history of Miami football stadiums
UM jersey numbers have meaning
The Glossary of Canes player nicknames
Thomas produces music for DJ Khaled
Fun facts from the 2017 media guide
Projecting Miami’s 2018 draft class
Miami’s over-under: 9 wins
UM picked to win the Coastal
Porter’s preseason All-ACC ballot, predictions