Unlike their professional counterparts, there are no joint practices or preseason games in college football to help the team get better before game one in Jerryworld against LSU on September 2nd. As you’ve probably heard by now, your University of Miami Hurricanes are holding their first team scrimmage on Saturday. The format for Saturday night was revealed by Coach Mark Richt to feature the first-team units duking it out with the second-team squads. The third-team unit will battle amongst one another.
So with the first practice where the team will be in full pads and the action will be live, what are some of the key storylines entering the scrimmages that we should keep our eyes and ears tuned into? State of the U is here to help you narrow the focus.
Offensive Line Play
The topic throughout the offseason has circled around whether the changes to the starting five on the offensive line would allow Miami’s offense to prosper. So far in training camp, the reviews have been mixed regarding the play along the offensive front.
Saturday is the first step in seeing whether this starting group is solidified as a unit or will need a few parts tweaked to find the best five to protect and open holes for the skill players. With the exception of senior C Tyler Gauthier, the pressure will be on the first-team unit to impress. For the second-teamers, this is their opportunity to prove their case to be elevated to first-team.
Defensive Secondary Play
With veterans such as S Jaquan Johnson, S Sheldrick Redwine and CBs Michael Jackson as well as Trajan Bandy, the Canes have more than enough talent in the back half of the defense. With so many freshmen joining both the safety and cornerback room, you should expect the young pups to be chomping at the bit to make a favorable impression.
The scrimmage should mark the return of S Gurvan Hall, who went down with a hand injury in the spring after stringing together what was described as excellent practices. Combine that with the battle to win the remaining starting cornerback spot, be it nickel or outside to the boundary. Saturdays intersquad battle is a massive piece in determining the winner for the job.
Is This Really a New Malik?
Barring a highlight video from the Canes’ media department, we’re not going to see if the 2018 version of Malik Rosier has made strides, or is the same version of himself that fans became disenchanted with towards the end of last year. Everyone, including the QB1 himself, knows what’s expected of him entering September. Starting with this scrimmage, each player needs to execute well to silence the grumblings and concerns about them. Even then, there will be a sizeable contingent that won’t believe it until they see it against LSU.
You have to win the team over. It’s hard to find anyone on the roster who does not endorse Malik as the guy at the position or one of the leaders on offense.
Who Will Win the Backup QB Competition?
Until Mark Richt says otherwise, Malik Rosier is the quarterback. For those pessimists out there, the gunslinging showdown in the pocket to see who wins the backup job becomes the headliner at the position. N’Kosi Perry and Cade Weldon return for their second year in the program as redshirt freshmen. Weldon missed a significant portion of spring practices with an eye infection, so this will be his chance to launch himself back into the conversation. True freshman Jarren Williams has drawn some praise from the coaching staff since his arrival to the team in spring. It could be a tough ask to leap ahead of a couple guys with more experience. Yet, considering Williams’ resolve and choice to attend Miami over other schools, competing for the job does not appear to have dissuaded the young man.
Welcome to College Freshman
If recruiting is the lifeblood of any program, then it’s time to get strapped in for a blood check. There’s plenty of excitement regarding most, if not all the freshman on the roster, and Saturday brings them one step closer to suiting up on gameday in those incredible new Adidas threads. For the freshmen who weren’t on campus for spring ball, Saturday serves as an orientation — which could turn into a baptism quickly if they aren’t up to the task.
It will be a first look for the UM staff on a lot of guys, including WR Mark Pope, Al Blades Jr., Gurvan Hall, Camron Davis and Bubba Baxa. Welcome to the U newbies!
Notes Before the Scrimmage
LB Michael Pinckney worked out on the sideline in full pads during the portion of practice Thursday open to the media. He’s dealing with a tweaked ankle and was seen wearing an ankle boot on Wednesday. There is optimism he should be a full go on Saturday.
The scrimmage will be taking place at Hard Rock Stadium to help the team simulate a normal game day. The practice will be closed to the general public and media.
After undergoing surgery on Wednesday, there’s hope that TE Michael Irvin II will return before the end of the season. In media scrum after Thursday practice, CMR revealed the plan for Irvin II in 2018 to Anthony Chiang of the Palm Beach Post. “ He’s going to be able to redshirt, I would think, no matter what. We would never play him if he’s not ready. But you never know how good a guy feels by the end of the season. It’s possible, I’m not saying it’s probable. But what’s certain is he’s going to be back 100 percent from that injury.”
With Irvin on the mend, Miami’s third-string offense is pressed to find someone to work at the position in the meantime.
IT’S ALWAYS ABOUT THE U!