Mark Richt: Actually, Miami Hurricanes’ offense isn’t ‘way behind’

Malik Rosier drops back to pass during UM’s spring scrimmage. (Miami Herald)

[Rousseau, Hightower surprise standouts of the spring]
[Video: reacting to the spring game | Stats report]
[Recap: O-line takes a pounding during spring game]
[Quotes: what Richt, players said afterward]
[Basketball: Former top-50 recruit transfers to Miami]

CORAL GABLES — Upon further review, Mark Richt doesn’t think his offense is that far off-track.

“I don’t think they’re way behind,” he said Monday, sounding hopeful on WQAM after a spring game in which the only touchdowns came from the second-string offense. “When you look at the tape there were good plays made and negative plays made.”

A main reason for his cheery attitude: help is on the way.

Yes, Miami will add Ahmmon Richards, still recovering from November  knee surgery but running drills at a brisk pace at Tuesday’s practice. The junior-to-be is a dynamic receiver who makes any quarterback look better. Tight end Brevin Jordan is considered the nation’s best recruit at his position. He arrives in May, along with fellow four-star Will Mallory, and five-star receiver Mark Pope.

“When you’re going to add an Ahmmon Richards,” Richt said, “the two young tight ends we’re talking about, you’ve got Pope and [four-star wideout Marquez] Ezzard coming in, you’ve got some of these young guys like [Brian] Hightower and [Dee] Wiggins that have had a taste of it already, when you add that skillset to the offensive group and just settle on your QB, we’re going to be just fine.”

Sept. 2 in Arlington, Texas, we’ll start to learn if that’s anything more than wishful thinking. Right now, the defense is, to this eye, far ahead of UM’s offense.

UM’s front seven allowed running backs 68 yards on 25 carries, a paltry 2.72 average, and zero touchdowns. No one got loose for much of anything. Backup quarterback N’Kosi Perry was the leading rusher (45 yards on eight carries), but appeared scramble-happy. UM passers didn’t exactly light up the night sky, going 30-of-51 (58.8 percent) for 380  yards and two touchdowns, with one interception and nine sacks.

Most of the issues were up front. Richt was mostly bent on seeing if his offensive linemen could protect as a five-man unit, without the help of backs and tight ends chipping defensive ends on the way in. He abandoned that late in the scrimmage, frustrated that his quarterbacks had little time.

By Monday, that  feeling abated.

“I felt a lot better, actually, after watching the tape,” he said.

There were no apparent changes to the offensive depth chart at Tuesday’s practice, one of three during this final week of spring ball. UM will return to the field Thursday, and hold a final scrimmage Saturday on campus for the eyes of family, friends and former players.

They’ll likely see the same offensive line combination, with Tyree St. Louis at left tackle, Jahair Jones at left guard, Tyler Gauthier at center, Hayden Mahoney at right guard and Navaughn Donaldson at right tackle. If Richt had his way, that group would work out together, eat together, go fishing together — anything to develop a bond that helps them in games.

“I do think we have the right ingredients,” Richt said. “We just have to get those guys repping a lot together.”

The key to the line may be Donaldson, who on Tuesday ran through his third full-padded practice as a right tackle. Richt on Saturday bemoaned the lack of offensive tackles on his roster, and while Donaldson was an ESPN freshman All-American at right guard last season, he’ll have to be a credible edge blocker if Miami is to have success. Richt said despite Donaldson’s inexperience at the spot, he’s seen enough from the big man (6-foot-6, 350 pounds) to warrant a long look.

“He’s really only practiced twice at that position, one being Saturday and one being Tuesday. On Thursday we went in shorts. Then we played the game,” Richt said.  “The big thing for him is, he looks re-energized to play that position. That’s where he wants to be. He’s excited about it. He’s working hard toward it.”

Malik Rosier remains ahead of the other quarterbacks, after a decent scrimmage performance (9-of-14, 105 yards).  “Mostly accurate,” was Richt’s review. “Took advantage of most every chance he got.” Perry (11-of-21, 166 yards, touchdown, interception) missed several open receivers and appeared a bit untrustworthy of his pocket (not that he should be blamed for that), but hit a diving Hightower on a 52-yard post that Richt called “probably the best throw of spring ball. He laid it out there on the button,” Richt said. “And then he made some plays with his feet once or twice off the zone-read, a couple times off scrambles.”

Jarren Williams, the true freshman, went 9-of-14 for 107 yards and a touchdown, and to Richt’s eye, “did good for a guy who should be in high school. He played pretty darn good. He put the ball on the money,’ Richt said.

“He’s got some poise back there. He’s not panicking. I know you’re not going to get tackled, sacked, but I don’t care who you are, if you feel that pressure from the edge and you’ve got to move around, a lot of guys would spit the bit and throw it up for grabs. He doesn’t do that.”

Asked by WQAM hosts Joe Rose and Zach Krantz whether Perry and Williams were showing the requisite leadership traits, Richt said Perry “knows enough” of UM’s system “now that he can do that. He didn’t say Perry was doing that, however. Williams, he said, is “still learning what to do.”

After praising them on Saturday, Richt showed his defense more love on Monday. Defensive tackle Gerald Willis, he said, has given UM fits. “We’ve had trouble blocking that guy for a while around here,” Richt said. The coach stumbled for a moment when asked about linebackers Shaq Quarterman and Michael Pinckney. He came up with this: “They know what to do and they get there so fast with a nasty attitude it’s unbelievable,” Richt said. “They played that spring game like a game, like it was for the national championship. The effort was unreal.”

* At Tuesday’s practice, freshman safety Gurvan Hall (left knee) pedaled a stationary bike with vigor and jogged with a trainer. His recovery appears to be going well. … Redshirt freshman quarterback Cade Weldon (eye infection, per UM) remains absent … Redshirt freshman receiver Evidence Njoku (knee) wasn’t at practice. … Tying up a loose end: the reason Hard Rock Stadium wasn’t available for a Miami spring game next Saturday is because Jimmy Buffett and The Eagles are playing a concert.

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