Miami Hurricanes wrap up spring with no clarity in QB race

BOCA RATON — Mark Richt took a step back in time on a day when he wanted to take a step forward in his search for a quarterback.

Richt brought his University of Miami Hurricanes to his alma mater, Boca Raton High, for the final scrimmage of the spring.

Quarterback Malik Rosier (12) warms up before the Miami Hurricanes spring scrimmage in Boca Raton on April 22, 2017. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

 

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He gave Malik Rosier a good look.

He gave Evan Shirreffs a good look.

And a few others.

And despite however much Richt may have squinted, he could not spot anyone taking a stranglehold on the job. He didn’t even find anyone with a slight edge.

“I did not expect to have a clear leader when it was done but I would have been OK with it,” Richt said. “But I think we’re right about where we thought we were. If I had to say how I’d pick ‘em right now, it’s just like I’ve got them going into this spring game, kind of a co-No. 1 thing and the rest of them are kind of co-No. 3s, just fighting for that No. 3 spot.”

For what it’s worth, the White team, which included the first-team defense, won the scrimmage 24-16 over the Orange, which included the first-team offense.

Quarterback Evan Shirreffs (16) warms up as Cade Weldon (17), Augie DeBaise (20) and Malik Rosier (12) look on before the Miami Hurricanes spring scrimmage in Boca Raton on April 22, 2017. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

With so much focus and emphasis on Rosier, Shirreffs and Jack Allison, the lack of clarity is best exemplified by their combined statistics: 26-of-50 (52 percent) for 344 yards, three touchdowns and four interceptions. Or the fact that after the scrimmage, UM opted not to make any QB available to the media. They each seemed to take one step forward and one or two steps back.

Rosier, on the Orange team, hit Christopher Herndon with a 23-yard scoring pass and threw a 72-yard TD bomb to Ahmmon Richards. But he threw two interceptions, including one returned 78 yards for a touchdown by Malek Young, a defensive standout with two interceptions. Rosier was 8-of-18 for 169 yards.

Shirreffs, also on the Orange team, broke a scoring drought on the fifth series of the day, leading a 82-yard drive for a field goal, but had the fewest yards of the three (75), on 7-of-17 passing, with one interception.

Allison, on the White team, had the best completion percentage (11-of-15) for 100 yards and a 6-yard TD to one of the offensive stars, Santaluces’ Darrell Langham (eight catches, 57 yards, two TDs).

Toss in a few fumbled snaps and a few sacks and you get the picture. Maybe Richt’s successor to Brad Kaaya was on the field somewhere; maybe he was in the stands, since incoming freshman N’Kosi Perry was said to be in attendance.

“I know you’re going to ask about quarterbacks and I don’t know what to say, other than I thought everybody competed well,” Richt said. “I thought there were bright moments really for all of them and there was probably a moment or two that they would like to take back.

“That’s typical — but you don’t want typical. You want somebody who will make good decisions on a consistent basis.”

The defense showed no mercy. On one play, defensive back Amari Carter, of Palm Beach Gardens High, clotheslined Dayall Harris after a short reception over the middle. On another, running back Travis Homer’s short run abruptly ended when he was body-slammed by linebacker Shaq Quarterman.

“You’re just trying to make a statement — that we’re here,” said Young, who estimated he had five interceptions in three scrimmages, two of which were closed to the media.

The offense got that message, but whether it received all the messages from coaches is another matter.

“There’s a few things offensively as far as just getting lined up,” Richt said. “It’s young guys, but we’ve been doing this all spring, had to babysit them a little too much.”

Stacy Searels, the always-blunt offensive line coach, seemed peeved at the missed center-quarterback exchanges.

“The center’s got to get the ball to the quarterback,” Searels said. “If we can’t do that, we can’t do anything. One of our scrimmages was really, really bad and today we had a couple. Any of them’s bad. But it has improved.”

Which isn’t to say there weren’t bright spots, in addition to Young.

Running back Mark Walton, who complained last week about inactivity this spring, had 11 carries for 65 yards (a 5.9 average) and looked every bit like the offensive workhorse he’ll be. Walton was upstaged on the stat sheet by junior TJ Callan, who had eight carries for 79 yards, albeit primarily against backups.

Richards looked like Richards, with four catches for 112 yards, and Langham looked capable of taking some pressure off Richards this fall. Dayall Harris added six catches for 70 yards.

Defensively, Carter was a menace with 10 tackles, and Quarterman and Sheldrick Redwine added seven each.

Richt decided to hold the scrimmage at Boca High because the final phase of renovations at Hard Rock Stadium made it unavailable.

“It was very nice to be here at Boca Raton Community High School, home of the Fighting Bobcats,” he said. “I had some wonderful moments here as a player. I ran into about four or five teammates before the game today and we all look a little bit different but we’ve got the same smile, the same friendship, same bond, so that was a blessing to see all those guys.”

Coach Mark Richt at the Miami Hurricanes spring scrimmage in Boca Raton on April 22, 2017. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

UNOFFICIAL SCRIMMAGE STATISTICS

White 24, Orange 16

Scoring plays

Badgley 23-yard FG                                                                      Orange 3-0

Herndon 23-yard TD pass from Rosier (missed PAT)             Orange 9-0

Young 78-yard interception return (PAT good)                      Orange 9-7

Langham 6-yard TD pass from Allison (PAT good)  White 14-9

Baeza 25-yard FG                                                                         White 17-9

Langham 4-yard TD pass from Weldon (PAT good)   White 24-9

Richards 72-yard TD pass from Rosier (PAT good) White 24-16

 

Passing leaders

Allison (White): 11 for 15, 100 yards, 1 TDs, 1 INT

Rosier (Orange): 8 for 18, 169 yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs

Shirreffs (Orange): 7 for 17, 75 yards, 1 INT

 

Rushing leaders

Callan (White): 8-79, long of 24

Walton (Orange): 11-65, long of 17

Homer (Orange): 7-24, long of 12

 

Receiving leaders

Richards (Orange): 4-112, 1 TD, long of 72

Langham (White): 8-57, 2 TDs, long of 12

Harris (White): 6-70, long of 31

Herndon (Orange): 4-48, 1 TD, long of 23

 

Defensive leaders

Carter (Orange): 10 tackles

Quarterman (White): 7 tackles, 1 PBU

Redwine (White): 7 tackles

Bethel (Orange): 6 tackles, 1.5 sacks

Johnson (White): 5 tackles

Young (White): 5 tackles, 2 INTs

Norton (White): 4 tackles, 1 sack

Perry (Orange): 2 tackles, 1 INT

Miami Hurricanes’ Chad Thomas eager to stake claim to ‘my territory’

Chad Thomas (9) chases Virginia Tech's Brenden Motley. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Chad Thomas (9) chases Virginia Tech’s Brenden Motley. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

The voice at the other end of the line can be relentless, but that’s the point. Be relentless, Chad Thomas keeps hearing in those conversations. Be relentless in everything you do.

Up until this point, Chad Thomas hasn’t been relentless. He knows that, but he also knows he cannot afford to be anything but relentless now that people such as Warren Sapp are looking to him to be the rock on the University of Miami’s young and depleted defensive line.

Thomas, entering his junior season as an end, is both harsh and blunt when it comes to assessing a UM career that was launched amid five-star-recruit status.

“Ain’t made enough plays,” he said.

Thomas
Thomas

He knows the history of great defensive linemen who have worn Hurricanes jerseys and says it’s “real motivating” to aspire to possibly see his name someday mentioned in the same breath as a Warren Sapp.

What Thomas doesn’t know is his name already can be mentioned with Sapp and plenty of others.

Because at similar points in their careers, they “ain’t made enough plays,” either. They couldn’t have been expected to.

Take his longtime mentor, Sapp. You know him as a UM legend and Pro Football Hall of Famer. Long forgotten: Sapp was redshirted as a freshman in 1991. His second year began with a one-game suspension for violating a team rule, allowing a sophomore named Dwayne Johnson — yes, that Dwayne Johnson — to replace him. Best of all, Sapp stepped foot on the Coral Gables campus as a tight end, dreaming of doing end zone dances like Michael Irvin. He also was doing too much dreaming, since he fell asleep in his first team meeting.

So when Sapp tells Thomas to keep plugging away, better things will come, he’s speaking from experience.

“I’ll talk to him a lot,” Thomas said one afternoon last week. “I’ll probably talk to him today. I got his number way back in high school.”

And the impact Sapp is having?

“Just having the right mindset,” said Thomas, who is 6-foot-6 and 245 pounds. “Just talking to him, seeing how he was out here and what motivated him to play, and putting that together with what motivated me.”

Motivation doesn’t seem to be a problem for Thomas these days. He said he’s working “10 times harder” to live up to his own expectations. This week, Pro Football Focus rated him the No. 1 player in the country among former five-star recruits set to have a breakout season.

PFF pointed out that Thomas had to “deal with more double teams and run-blocking guards” last season. Under new defensive coordinator Manny Diaz, PFF theorized, he’ll assume “more of a traditional pass-rushing defensive end role and he won’t get pushed around in the running game nearly as often as he did last season.”

Thomas has played 25 games for UM, starting eight, and has just 25 tackles and one sack.

Coach Mark Richt and Diaz aren’t fans of any “breakout” labels even though they are fans of Thomas and his potential.

“Championship teams are addicted to improvement: ’I’ve got this monster inside of me that is always picking at me to try to find something in my game to improve,’ ” Diaz said. “And that’s what we want a guy like Chad to do. If he has an insatiable appetite to constantly find a way to improve his game, then he’s going to have a great season for us.”

The need for an outstanding season increased this week with news that Al-Quadin Muhammad, who was to start at the other end position, was dismissed from the team for violating NCAA rules involving a South Beach luxury car rental agency. Trent Harris was to replace Muhammad, and still might, but he broke a hand in practice Tuesday.

Package that with graduation and it adds up to freshmen playing a larger role in UM’s defense than would otherwise be the case. And that means juniors and seniors such as Thomas have to lead.

As Diaz said, they must “really understand that they are ‘that guy’ in terms of taking the microphone and leading all the other guys. We need them to lead with their play. If Chad just fires off that ball and plays 100 miles an hour, that’s the best leadership Chad can give us right now.”

In truth, what Diaz and Thomas want is to drop the mic. Thomas is an aspiring rapper, minoring in music business, who has laid down tracks and performed in numerous halls around Miami.

Music was his first love. Today, football is his only love.

“As soon as we started camp, I put my stuff away,” he said of his instruments. “It’s time for football.”

If that sounds a little like Sapp, so be it. When it’s pointed out that Sapp had what easily is classified as a dominant personality, Thomas didn’t hesitate.

“I say I’ve got a dominant personality when I’m out here on the field,” he said. “When I’m out and about, I’m kind of quiet, but on the field, that’s like my home.

“That’s my territory.”