How Miami Hurricanes plan to fix Ahmmon Richards’ drops; is Jeff Thomas elite?

Jeff Thomas returns a kick against Syracuse. (Getty Images)

[Pinckney: ‘Everybody is doubting us’]

[Irvin suspended; Richt’s day-after comments]

[North Carolina a chance for UM to find consistency]

What is Miami going to do if Ahmmon Richards keeps dropping passes?

“Keep throwing it to him,” Mark Richt said, drawing laughs from WQAM hosts Joe Rose and Zach Krantz. “He’s elite.”

Richards, Miami’s star sophomore receiver, has been in and out of practice — and missed three of the Hurricanes’ first five games — because of a hamstring injury dating to mid-August. He was rusty in his return last week against Syracuse, after a one-game layoff, and dropped four passes (one of which didn’t count because of a penalty). One of the drops was in the end zone, and given Richards’ immense gifts, the other two could have been touchdowns.

They might have turned a 27-19 win over the Orange into a blowout. As it stood, Richards finished with 99 yards on six catches, though he was targeted 11 times.

Not only that, Richt said on the radio Monday morning, Richards was open for a would-be touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter. “He ran by his man,” Richt said, “but the snap wasn’t clean. It would have been an 82-yard touchdown” if quarterback Malik Rosier handled the snap and found his target.

In relaying that story, Richt added that Richards “tweaked his ankle a little bit” on that play. It’s probably for the better that he didn’t catch the pass and run the distance, Richt said, because he might have reinjured his hamstring.

(A bit of humor from the coach Monday morning.)

Richards’ ankle shouldn’t keep him out of Saturday’s game at North Carolina (noon, ESPN2), and according to Richt, the hamstring wasn’t a major issue against Syracuse. “You don’t try to hurdle a guy,” as Richards did, without confidence in the hammy.

After saying Richards Richt added Jeff Thomas could become that guy, because of “his speed and athleticism.” Thomas, the former high school All-American, showed off his wheels as he caught a 48-yard rainbow for the first touchdown of his career. Richt added that UM wants to get Darrell Langham more action. He noted on his Sunday evening conference call that Langham and Richards play the same receiver spot.

More comments from Richt, via WQAM:

* On the frenzied finishes to Miami games: “We’re working on the TV ratings. All part of the plan.”

* Is he more frustrated with the offense or the defense? “I’m more frustrated with not scoring touchdowns when you have the play to get it done.” He said UM had “the right coverage” on Richards’ dropped touchdown pass, and thought the pass was too high: “It should be 21-0 to start the game.” Defensively, “we did an awesome job” overall against Syracuse, Richt said, but he wasn’t happy about giving up big runs on second and third downs.

* Forcing field goals is “how you win games,” Richt said, and Miami is doing that. “The defense, overall, they’re doing great. … One touchdown and a bunch of field goals” against Syracuse, he said, “is a great day.”

Malik Rosier threw “catchable balls, but there’s a target for perfection. … Even if he hits a guy in the face, it’s too high for me. I want it in his body.” Rosier closed 26-of-43 for 344 yards and two touchdowns.

* UM is unbeaten via some close wins. Bigger tests are coming, with 13th-ranked Virginia Tech and ninth-ranked Notre Dame visiting in the next three weeks. “We’ve got a lot of meat on the bone before we can say we’re going to Charlotte,” Richt said.

* Did Richt watch Notre Dame’s blowout win over USC? “Oh yeah. Very impressive.” Aside from the skill positions, the Irish’s offensive and defensive lines are “dominant.” Richt said he wants UM to be able to “impose our will” like that. “That’s where we want to get.” He added that Miami’s offensive line is “so much better than a year ago,” and his defensive line is “as good as there is.”

* On Michael Jackson‘s development: “He’s improved so much. … He’s always been a good cover guy when he gets his hands on you,” but struggled with tackling. “Out of nowhere he decided to be a baller.” Jackson, Richt said, “was knocking the lights out of the guy” trying to block him against Georgia Tech.

* Miami fans, who have been loud at the end of games, are “doing great. They’re having fun. I’m glad they’re there.” Richt said he’s noticed how “every inch of grass” is covered in the parking-lot tailgate sections.

* Anyone coming back this week, injury-wise? Richt, as usual, was coy: “I think we’re sitting right about where we were going into last game.”

More Canes over here

[Longest UM win streak in 15 years | 8th in polls]

[5 thoughts on Miami-Syracuse | Video reaction]

[Richt bent out of shape over inconsistency]

[Live commentary | Pregame photos, videos, notes]

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