Mark Richt began the first game week of the year with his regular appearance on WQAM. Here’s most of the things he said:
* Richt seemed to confirm rising star wideout Ahmmon Richards (hamstring) will miss Saturday’s season-opener against Bethune-Cookman (12:30 p.m., ACC regional networks). The first three wideouts on the field against Bethune-Cookman: Mike Harley replacing Richards at flanker, Braxton Berrios in the slot, Lawrence Cager the X. Richt said Cager would be the flanker, and Richards the X, if Richards was healthy.
* Berrios (groin) is “fine.” He was held out of practice one day as a precaution.
* Quarterback Malik Rosier “wasn’t quite as sharp” the first couple days after learning he would be the starter. But in Sunday’s practice, UM’s first “under the lights,” players were “throwing and catching like all those guys were in high school. It was fun to watch.”
* “Every scholarship guy should play a good bit” in UM’s FCS opener. Playing a lot of guys is “great for morale, great for the health of your team.”
* Running back Mark Walton practiced the day after he was held out of UM’s scrimmage with a bruised hip. “Not a problem,” Richt said. “That’s long been gone.”
* Part of cornerback Michael Jackson‘s rise to starter level was young players pushing him. “That definitely was a factor,” Richt said. “Everybody’s game rose to another level” with Dee Delaney, Jhavonte Dean and Trajan Bandy coming in. Such competition has helped “across the board.”
* Linebacker Mike Smith‘s rise to starter level? “Mike got in shape,” Richt said. “He’s like, OK, I’m going to get my body fat down, I’m going to get strong … he’s a different player. It’s amazing how he looks now and how he’s been performing.”
* Punter Jack Spicer “punted so much better than he did in the spring” with freshman Zach Feagles on board. Feagles is the expected starter, but UM hasn’t named one.
* Freshman defensive tackle Jon Ford gave Richt “one of the happiest days” of camp when he qualified. “You couldn’t tell he didn’t have his pads on” when he arrived late and went through the five-day acclimation period. “He’s like 318 pounds,” Richt said. “Maybe a tad heavy, but he looks good.” Ford is listed at 6-5, 275. He was 245 when Richt offered him last year.
* Richt said defensive linemen Jon Garvin, DJ Johnson and Ford could be “high draft picks” eventually. They were on UM’s scout team in the last scrimmage.
* High expectations for Miami? “I’m used to that,” Richt said. “Everywhere I’ve been, every one of those places had high expectations. I want a fanbase that’s excited for the season. … We need people in the stands cheering these guys on.”
* Linebacker Shaq Quarterman over the last month: “I don’t know if I want to use this word, but he’s possessed to be great and to help Miami be great. He is so locked in about not just being good or being the starter. He just wants to be great as a human being and a football player. He wants this team to be great. He’s not going to rest until we’re champions. He’s the kind of guy that you dream about.”
* On South Florida recruiting: “We’ve got to prove to everybody we’re a serious contender to be great. … If they feel like they can get that at home, they might not travel here there or wherever.”
* Richt spotlighted Mike Harley (“This guy loves football, man”) and Trajan Bandy as undersized, speedy local recruits Miami is happy to keep home. “Those are the kind of kids we’ve got to get here, that have a passion for this place, that have a passion for football, and want to be a champion.”
* On freshman redshirting: “Most every single guy” will play, except for “some guys who are coming off injuries” — freshman offensive lineman Zalon’tae Hillery is one. Richt said most players don’t stay five years nowadays anyway, so why not play them.
* One area of improvement: “I’m very optimistic about our offensive line play compared to a year ago,” Richt said. “I know we’re better. I hope we play better because we’ve been practicing better. If we get that going, it helps everything else go.”