CORAL GABLES — The defense was barred from tackling quarterbacks during Miami’s first scrimmage of the spring. For safety’s sake, good thing.
“There were quite a few sacks,” coach Mark Richt told reporters afterward, explaining that at times Saturday, his offensive tackles “got beat off the edge and it was over.” At one point, frustrated offensive line coach Stacy Searels put center Tyler Gauthier at right tackle to stop the bleeding.
“Guys that have got to learn to get off on the snap count,” Richt said. “It’s been a problem all camp.”
Miami’s spring game, held 6 p.m. next Saturday at Hard Rock Stadium, is open for public assessment of the Hurricanes’ strengths and weaknesses. Saturday’s session was closed to the public and media. As per his custom, Richt read off a sheet of “unofficial, official stats,” noting that the defense “kicked butt in the first half,” and the offense “had the best of it” in the second.
Richt noted nine sacks, 14 tackles for loss — and no injuries, at least not anything major. “Hugely blessed,” he said.
True freshman Greg Rousseau, in his college scrimmage debut, led or tied for the team lead in tackles (seven), tackles for loss (five) and sacks (four).
“We think we stole one,” Richt said of Rousseau, a 6-foot-6, 225-pound former three-star recruit from a small local school, Hialeah-Champagnat. “He’s tall, he’s got long arms, he’s athletic, he’s coachable, he’s teachable.”
Rousseau did his damage with the second unit, along with fellow defensive end Scott Patchan (three sacks), middle linebacker Bradley Jennings (seven tackles, two for loss) and cornerback Gilbert Frierson (tackle for loss, 15-yard interception return). Among first-stringers, middle linebacker Shaq Quarterman (five tackles, pass break-up) and cornerback Michael Jackson (four tackles, PBU) were busy.
Because of ongoing construction projects — UM’s indoor practice facility is scheduled to open in late July — Miami scrimmaged on a short field. Richt called plays on about “40 yards of good grass,” he said.
Quarterbacks Malik Rosier and N’Kosi Perry worked with the first and second units, Rosier getting one more first-unit drive (four) than Perry (three). Combined, Rosier went 8-for-17 for 109 yards, with two touchdowns and an interception. Perry was 6-for-13 for 33 yards and an interception. Richt said he didn’t think Perry “had many opportunities” because his “pockets weren’t very clean,” and was sacked the most of UM’s quarterbacks (he didn’t specify how many times). Perry did erase most of his sack yardage, according to Richt, with a scramble of 15-to-20 yards.
Running two series with the second string, true freshman Jarren Williams put up impressive numbers (6-for-8, 86 yards, two touchdowns). A source close to Williams said both his touchdowns were “big throws” to Jeff Thomas (three catches, 94 yards, two touchdowns), and that both Williams’ incompletions were dropped passes. He also shined in 7-on-7 work with the third unit (UM lacks enough linemen this spring to run three full units). Without a pass rush, Williams hit on 5-of-8 throws for 71 yards.
Richt’s post-scrimmage assessment of the quarterback race:
“Malik is ahead of everybody, as far as knowing what to do and how to do it, there’s no question,” he said. “If we are going to run our total system, he’s more than equipped to do it.” Perry, he said, is “much better” than last year, and “getting it. … N’Kosi’s come a long way.”
As for Williams, Richt sounded encouraged. “He doesn’t know what he doesn’t know. Sometimes he’s just back there, feeling things,” Richt said, mimicking a wide-eyed quarterback scanning the field from the pocket. “But when he does throw it at something, he hits it. … He’s learning at a very rapid pace. That’s good for him and good for us.”
Redshirt freshman Cade Weldon (conjunctivitis) did not participate.
Thomas, the sophomore from East St. Louis, Ill., was apparently UM’s most impressive receiver. He’s a pretty dynamic guy with his speed,” Richt said. “He’s having a good spring.” Another speedy second-year wideout, Mike Harley, caught two balls for 40 yards and a score.
Running backs Travis Homer (eight carries, 42 yards) and DeeJay Dallas (nine for 37) each scored a touchdown. Robert Burns (four for 13) and Lorenzo Lingard (three for zero) didn’t get going, though Lingard had “not much room to run,” Richt said. Lingard, the five-star freshman, caught three passes for 25 yards.
With ACC referees working the game, Richt said UM was “not bad” in the penalty department: two false starts on the offensive line and a defensive pass interference.