Miami will try to win the ACC Championship with another one of its best players on the sideline.
Senior tight end Chris Herndon will have season-ending surgery on his left knee, UM announced Sunday. Herndon injured his MCL in Friday’s 24-14 loss at Pittsburgh, limping off late in the third quarter after catching a pass.
Herndon, 6-foot-4 and 252 pounds, caught 40 passes for 477 yards and four touchdowns, setting career highs in all three categories.
“He’s been a warrior for us,” Mark Richt said on a Sunday conference call to kick off game week (8 p.m. Saturday, ABC). “He’s the kind of person you love to coach. I know he’s going to have a really wonderful NFL career. It’s a shame he can’t finish with us, because he’s very important to us. He’s been a mainstay.”
He will be replaced by sophomore Michael Irvin II, who has five catches for 56 yards this year. UM’s only other scholarship tight ends are true freshman Brian Polendey and redshirt sophomore Scott Patchan, a converted defensive end. Neither has a reception in college.
Irvin “has earned the right to play over this season, and he has gotten better as the season has gone along,” Richt said, adding that he will continue to play on special teams. He expressed confidence in Irvin, who has been suspended multiple times in his short UM career, saying he believes the sophomore will rise to the challenge of being a starter.
“I think it’s typical when a guy becomes a starter, their level of play tends to go up,” Richt said. “I think he knows when everybody is relying on him even more than they did in the past, it’ll help him play even better.”
Miami (10-1, 7-1 ACC), which dropped to No. 7 in the Associated Press poll after losing at Pitt, has dealt with a similar injury situation at running back. UM lost star junior Mark Walton on Oct. 7 at Florida State to a right ankle injury. Travis Homer, a sophomore like Irvin, has 861 and seven touchdowns on 137 carries. He ranks fifth in the ACC in yards per carry (6.26).
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney was unaware of Herndon’s injury when he spoke on the conference call. He called Herndon “an excellent player” when asked to give his initial thoughts on the Hurricanes.
UM tight ends coach Todd Hartley shared an emotional message:
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