Mark Richt: 2018 Miami Hurricanes will have ‘dudes’ ready to ‘ball out’

Miami Hurricanes head coach Mark Richt yells during a team drill before the Orange Bowl at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla., on Saturday, December 30, 2017. (Andres Leiva / The Palm Beach Post)

[What could Miami’s 2019 NFL draft class look like?]

His assistant coaches are on the road recruiting this month, and since head coaches cannot visit schools, Mark Richt has a little time to daydream.

He recently found himself in his staff meeting room, looking at his 2018 depth chart. The names he saw on the dry-erase board, grouped together by position, made him visualize heated position battles that will begin when Miami returns for fall practice in August.

“I’ve just got a big grin on my face,” Richt said, recalling the moment in a Tuesday interview on WQAM.

What gets him juiced, aside from the indoor practice facility that opens in late July, is an impending infusion of talent and depth. This summer, UM’s lines get a boost with graduate transfers Tennessee guard Venzell Boulware and Illinois defensive tackle Tito Odenigbo. The tight end room adds four-star recruits Brevin Jordan — ranked No. 1 at his position — and Will Mallory. Receiver Mark Pope is a tantalizing prospect. The Hurricanes, trying to rebuild their roster after an attrition-heavy few seasons, will field close to a full team.

“The numbers will be up for sure, and the skill level and the competition level’s going to be tremendous,” Richt said. “I’m very excited about it. That’s what made Miami great in the past. A bunch of great players competing every day against each other. I think we’re going to have enough dudes to make plays and really compete well.”

After going 10-3 and winning the ACC Coastal, Miami could keep rising.

Especially if its quarterback play is solid.

Richt has demanded more from incumbent starter Malik Rosier, who enters his redshirt senior year trying to strengthen his grip on the No. 1 job. If Miami opened the season against LSU on Tuesday, and not Sept. 2, the starter “would be Malik,” Richt said. “And it ought to be Malik. We’ll see if he can continue this summer and knock it out in camp.”

Richt is hopeful redshirt freshmen N’Kosi Perry and Cade Weldon and true freshman Jarren Williams will compete hard enough to make Rosier better, and the coach’s decision difficult.

Richt has made positive comments about Rosier’s ability to run the offense ( He can “go from a bad play to a good play, and a good play to a great play,” Richt said Tuesday), but the coach would be overjoyed if Rosier was a more accurate passer. In the spring, Rosier “threw the ball pretty well,” Richt said. “It wasn’t unbelievable but no one’s perfect. … He really had a good spring.

“The other guys, the good news is, N’Kosi is learning a lot more, getting better at what he’s doing. He’s a very talented passer [and] runner. Weldon missed a couple of practices with an eye infection but when he came back he put back-to-back practices together [and] practiced extremely well. And Jarren Williams is a guy that has come in and quite frankly he’s a better passer than I thought he was. He’s throwing some dimes out there. He’s not quite sure who to throw it to half the time, but when he throws it at something, he tends to hit it.”

Richt said the backup job is “open.” He remains encouraged by Rosier, but he isn’t handing him the starting spot yet.

“I’d love to say this guy’s No. 1, this guy’s a solid No. 2, and these other guys are battling for playing time or they may redshirt and all that kind of thing. We’re not there right now. I’d love to go through the whole summer and know 100 percent who the guy is. Really, Malik is the guy, and he’s got to act that way throughout the summer with the leadership role that the quarterbacks take in the summer (when coaches have limited time with players), and he will. He did last summer. He’ll do it again.

“I have all the faith and confidence that we’re going to have a great summer with his leadership and the other guys can start growing up a little bit more and take more ownership of it.”

A depth chart full of “dudes” hopes that happens.

“If you come to Miami, you’d better come to compete and earn your playing time,” he said, “because we’re going to have some boys that can ball out.”

Heading west: Richt’s assistants are trying to add to a class presently ranked 10th in the nation by 247Sports. “We’ll be all over the state,” he said. “We’ll be all over the country really. If we have kids that are interested in us, we’ll go as far as Oregon if we need to.” That was a reference to four-star quarterback Michael Johnson Jr., from Eugene, Ore. Johnson, rated No. 4 among dual-threat QBs, is Miami’s top choice this cycle. Other top West Coast players UM wants, per 247, include four-star cornerback Chris Steele (Bellflower, Calif.) and five-star defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux, the top-ranked player in the country.

“We know it’s not over until it’s over, until signing day,” Richt said. “Everyone continues to work a kid. And a lot happens between now and signing day. Seasons go great, seasons go bad. Guys turn pro at their position, all of a sudden they’re more interested. Coaches leave and go to another job. You have to keep banging away at the guys you want, fight until the very last minute. The good news is, the battles we are having are against some of the greatest schools in America, which is who we should be battling with.”

Richt on Norton: WQAM host Joe Rose asked Richt if the NFL Draft decision of defensive tackle Kendrick Norton, who expected to be selected in the early rounds but fell to the seventh (242nd overall), was “agent-driven, family-driven.” Richt declined to say.

 

“There’s a lot of reasons why guys decide to go,” Richt said. “The long and short of it is he felt it was time to become a pro. He felt like he was going to get drafted, and no one knows for sure when they’ll get drafted. Kendrick, like everybody else, we try to get them as much information from the NFL as we can. as far as what scouts say, what GMs might say, what a coach might say, and put it in front of them, let them look at it, and see what’s real.

“The good news is he got drafted. He has a chance to make a living doing it and hopefully he does well.”