Hurricanes battle in first scrimmage of spring training

Coach Mark Richt addresses the media during the football signing day press conference Wednesday afternoon in Mann Auditorium. Josh White // Staff Photographer

As always, Mark Richt was thrilled with the weather in sunny Coral Gables. But, today’s practice was different than most.

The University of Miami donned its game uniforms, and the coaches put on their headsets for their first scrimmage of the spring.

Although the Hurricanes did not release stats, Richt thought the defense won today’s scrimmage.

“If you went only second half, it would be debatable,” Richt said. “First half, it was no question whatsoever. It was a combination of self-inflicted wounds on offense, and the defense smothering them up once they started smelling the blood.”

While offense may put fans in seats come game time at Hard Rock Stadium, the result wasn’t displeasing to Richt.

“If offense dominates in the spring, I can promise you, it’s usually a long season,” Richt said. “Unless you have a boatload of guys showing up in the summer. Some of the greatest offenses I’ve ever been around got their butts kicked by the defense in the spring – Florida State and Georgia.”

Miami played two “halves” with a break in between. In the first frame, drives began on the 25-yard line, which led to offensive struggles.

“There were a couple times where if we just put the ball on a guy, we’d have made a big play and got some excitement for the offense,” Richt said. “We missed some guys that I thought were open—barely, but just still missed them—when there was protection, and when there wasn’t protection, obviously a couple sacks and we threw the ball out of bounds. Then, it became bad snaps, fumbles, picks – the first half got ugly to be honest with you.”

After the break, the Canes set up play on the defense’s 40-yard line, working third-down situations and red-zone work.

“The second half was much more fun for the offense,” Richt said. “Scored a couple touchdowns, kicked a field goal and made some plays. [They] got encouraged. Last play of the game, threw a little touchdown, so the offense felt good.”

Just as Richt had mentioned earlier in the week, the UM quarterbacks were “live” and not wearing the red protective jerseys. This was to give the coaching staff a better understanding about who might be able to handle the position of replacing Brad Kaaya under center.

Although it sounded like the defense had the upper hand in the scrimmage, Richt was most impressed with the play of sophomore quarterback Evan Shirreffs and redshirt junior quarterback Malik Rosier.

“They could get sacked,” Richt said. “There were a couple times where I know Evan once or twice had guys barring on him, and he just stayed in there and threw it and completed a ball or two and still got hit. This is a good sign. Malik I think was the one who spun out of a tackle when it looked like they had him. I know there was cornerback blitz one time that we missed. He had him, just no one blocking, but Malik spun out of it. He ended up not completing the ball, but you know, I guess just proof that a guy can move and can create and make plays.”

Most notably in the QB battle, early enrollee Cade Weldon did not take any snaps under center.

“I didn’t think Cade was ready, so I didn’t give him any reps today,” Richt said. “But next scrimmage, he’ll get reps. I didn’t think he was ready for the moment yet.”

Although Richt didn’t see any injuries, Palm Beach Post’s Matt Porter reported that there was one. According to a story by Porter, redshirt freshman quarterback Jack Allison sustained a shoulder injury and was seen wearing a sling afterward. He will be monitored by UM doctors.

With the first scrimmage in the books, Richt hopes his team can improve going forward with a few weeks left in spring camp.

“Just for these guys to understand that when we practice in the week, we’re trying to simulate a game – we’re trying to simulate football the best we can and keep everyone healthy,” Richt said. “[We are] not tackling and not blocking below the waste. We had to be really fundamentally good at tackling and just function offensively.”