The Hurricanes are back on Greentree on Saturday for the start of camp. This week, we will take a look at the biggest questions surrounding the Hurricanes entering the first day of practice. Today we begin our series with this question: Are any of the underclassman quarterbacks ready to push Malik Rosier for the starting job?
The Hurricanes’ starting quarterback for the season opener looks to be set — Malik Rosier. But it’s what’s behind him on the quarterback depth chart that has created excitement surrounding the position entering fall camp.
Mark Richt can’t stop the notifications from popping up on his phone.
“Seven more days,” pings one message.
“Five more days,” comes the next, a couple days later.
They’re not reminders from his offseason calendar, but text messages from his freshmen. They’re telling him they can’t wait for this weekend, when, according to a UM spokesman, the remainder of Miami’s yet-to-enroll freshmen are expected to report to campus.
Expected to arrive on campus: running back Camron Davis, fullback Realus George, wide receivers Mark Pope and Marquez Ezzard, tight ends Brevin Jordan and Will Mallory, offensive guard Cleveland Reed, defensive tackles Nesta Silvera and Jordan Miller, linebacker Patrick Joyner, cornerbacks Nigel Bethel and Al Blades Jr. and kicker Bubba Baxa.
Miami’s coach has never been the giddy sort. But Richt, speaking by phone on Wednesday, was more than a little eager about the potential of Pope, a five-star prospect according to Rivals, of Jordan, the No. 1-ranked prep tight end in the country, and of others.
“We’re going to look a lot different,” said Richt, who is 19-7 in two seasons at UM. “We’re going to have a lot more depth than we had a year ago. We had some good ballplayers offensively, but there wasn’t a lot of depth in some spots. By the end of the year we were kind of limping a little bit.”
A surprise November setback at Pittsburgh spoiled Miami’s 10-0 start. Losses in the ACC title game – 38-3 to Clemson – and the Orange Bowl – 34-24 to Wisconsin – further exposed the Hurricanes’ issues on offense, the area in which Richt specializes. By the end of the year, he was calling plays without his top receiver (Ahmmon Richards), tight end (Chris Herndon) and running back (Mark Walton), all felled by leg injuries. Miami also lacked a fullback, which left Richt unable to call some of the power plays he ran effectively during his Georgia days.
“If Realus George is who I think he is – that’s a big-time, legit fullback – that changes your ability to run a two-back offense and short-yardage and goal-line looks a lot different,” Richt said. “You’ve got these two tight ends coming in (Brevin Jordan and Will Mallory). If they’re who we think they are, all of a sudden we can run possibly a little bit of 12 personnel like we did with (David) Njoku and (Chris) Herndon (in 2016).
“I’m excited about it for sure. We’re going to have a little bit more diversity in our personnel groupings, and have enough guys that can make plays. You can play a bunch of guys and keep them fresh. It’s going to make a difference on how hard you can play on any given down. You can tell them, play hard. If you get tired a little bit, we’ll throw another guy in there for a little while and he’ll go hard. You’ll get back in there in a minute, so be ready. I’m all for playing a bunch of guys – more than we did in the past, I can tell you that.”
Richt has a vision for the 2018 team, more than four months before the Canes open the year Sept. 2 in Arlington, Texas, against LSU.
“I think we’ll have a bunch of guys that will embrace that we have multiple guys that can get it done,” he said, “and just be excited about everybody’s success — together, instead of ‘I’m trying to guard my playing time.’ I think we’ll have a good morale that way.”
“He’s been an inspiration to me in how he’s handled everything,” Richt, the University of Miami football coach, said of Kelly, 58. “He doesn’t ask for pity, but he does ask for prayers, because he knows (the power of faith). That’s what’s most important right now.”
Richt discussed Kelly’s health to reporters following his keynote speech for the YMCA of South Palm Beach County’s 16th annual Inspiration Breakfast at the Office Depot Global Headquarters.
During his speech, Richt said that in his younger days, he referred to Kelly as “Lucky Jim” for having won the starting job at UM. The nickname became a joke, of course, because Kelly went on to become a Hall of Fame quarterback for the Buffalo Bills.
“In my story, he’s Lucky Jim, but he hasn’t had a lot of luck with what’s happening with his cancer and even the things that happened with his young child, Hunter,” Richt said, referring to Kelly’s son, who died of Krabbe disease, a degenerative disorder, at age 8 in 2005. “But part of my talk was about faith and Jim’s faith is very strong. (Wife) Jill’s faith is very strong and they truly trust God with this thing.”
Richt added, “When you know where you’re going and you know who you belong to, you can have peace in the toughest times and I don’t think Jim would mind me mentioning that.”