Virginia Cavaliers 2016 season preview
Virginia Cavaliers 2016 season preview
During spring practice, Hurricanes offensive line coach Stacy Searels had a clear message.
“Tell every tackle in America if he wants to play, come to Miami,” he said. “We need him.”
Searels comments came when the Hurricanes were without offensive linemen Nick Linder and Sunny Odogwu, who are both…
Larry Fedora’s decision to bring in Tim Beckman warrants scrutiny
Larry Fedora's decision to bring in Tim Beckman warrants scrutiny
Each day after practice, we’ll give a quick, easy-to-digest look (err, read?) at what happened on Greentree with the Hurricanes. There’ll obviously be plenty more as we move forward, and throughout the day, but for now, five quick highlights from Tuesday’s session, Miami’s second since moving into…
Aug, 24 : Miami DT Gerald Willis suspended for opener and LB Michael Pinckney back in "full'' action
***When coach Mark Richt was asked after Tuesday’s practice why Gerald Willis, who had a great scrimmage last week, was wearing a scout-team jersey, Richt said, “One of our issues is just numbers. We don’t have any D-linemen. So we have to rotate guys around to make it work.’’
Another issue that Richt didn’t discuss was that Willis is suspended for the opener, as reported by Palm Beach Post and confirmed by the Herald through a source.
That’s obviously not the end of the world, as UM should be fine in the opener against FAMU. But it’s obviously not good, either. Defensive end Al-Quadin Muhammad is one of the players, in addition to linebacker Jermaine Grace and receiver Stacy Coley, who might receive a suspension to begin the season, in an alleged connection to the luxury car-rental case.
Willis, a 6-4, 285-pound redshirt sophomore who sat out last season after transferring from Florida following various altercations and disciplinary problems, was a 2013 First-Team All-USA by USA Today out of Edna Karr High in New Orleans.
***The Canes were finally in scout-team mode Tuesday, with players preparing for Wednesday’s third scrimmage since practice began Aug. 4.
“I thought it was very well organized,’’ Richt said. “I have to give credit to the graduate assistant coaches and even the guys who were on the scout team. They did a really good job of getting lined up quickly and they gave us a good look.
“For Day 1, it was excellent, and that’s not easy to do. That’s important, because tomorrow those same guys are going to be Florida A&M when we have our little practice game.’’
***Back in “full’’ action for the second straight day, according to Richt, was weak-side freshman linebacker Michael Pinckney, who has been working to mend an injured hamstring.
Pinckney was the first-team weak-side backer, but redshirt freshman Jamie Gordinier, who had been moved to weak-side in Pinckney’s absence, is battling the freshman for the starting spot.
Richt said Darrion Owens, back this camp after sitting out almost all of last season with a torn ACL, “is not likely right now to be a starter, but we just want him to be healthy before he really goes full speed. I’m not saying Owens won’t get a crack at it before it’s over, but right now, that’s what it looks like – [a competition between Gordinier and Pinckney].
***Cornerback Ryan Mayes (shoulder) was limited Tuesday.
*** Freshman receiver Ahmmon Richards is still splitting first-team reps at the X – or split end – position, with Dayall Harris, Harris said. Richards has turf toe, which is a lingering, painful injury, and “missed some practices,’’ Richt said. He’s still limited. “He’s not full speed yet, in my opinion. …It’s still bothering him some. Overall, I see him better than he was four or five days ago, so hopefully it keeps moving in the right direction.’’
***Harris praised senior wideout Stacy Coley, calling him “a total package. He’s a first-rounder for sure.’’
***Freshman receiver Sam Bruce had an allergic reaction and was not at practice Tuesday, Mark Richt confirmed, as he was checked by a doctor. “I just saw him – I think he’s fine. He had an allergic reaction to something and was just kind of getting swelled up in the mouth and throat areas, so we wanted to be sure he’s OK. He’s fine. It was not a medical emergency, but anytime a guy starts swelling up from some kind of allergic reaction, you have to be careful.’’
***Freshman receiver Dionte Mullins wore pads Tuesday. Harris said he looked sharp out there on Greentree Field. “He looks really good,’’ Harris said. “I can tell he’s a big-time playmaker. They’ve been working him in easy. He’s been getting reps with the threes, and coach put him in with the twos today. He’s playing at Z (flanker). He definitely will be a slot guy, but right now they’re trying to teach him the plays, trying to make him learn a little more of the offense before they just plug him in.’’
***Quarterback Brad Kaaya said he’s “real excited’’ about the opener. “These guys have been ready to play for a while now. Coach Richt was even telling me last week, saying how he wished he played this weekend, because he just can’t wait to get out there. At this point it’s a lot of review, not much about adding new plays.
“We might add a few wrinkles here and there. The guys are just ready to get after and I’m looking forward to it.’’
*** Safeties Jamal Carter and Rayshawn Jenkins, offensive guard Danny Isidora and receiver Coley are on the Senior Bowl preseason watch list.
***Quote of the Day by Richt, talking about the backup QB competition between Vincent Testaverde and Malik Rosier: “If somebody spits the bit or is not a guy who we can trust, we may roll somebody else into that spot.”
SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN
Already once this month, a group of pollsters have seen potential in the Miami Hurricanes.
Now, another group – the voters of the AP Top 25 – seems to see the same.
While the Hurricanes didn’t crack the preseason college football top 25, they led the pack among schools also receiving votes, with…
The Hurricanes wrapped up camp on Saturday and will move into game-planning mode next week. But before closing the books on that, Hurricanes coach Mark Richt shared some of the details about the format for next week’s final scrimmage – and the stats from scrimmage No. 2 held this past week.
Aug, 21 : Per Miami Herald's Barry Jackson: star Miami WR Stacy Coley investigated in car-rental case
Following is what our Barry Jackson just reported on Miami football star receiver Stacy Coley, who has not been made available to talk to us all fall camp:
“2 pm Saturday: UM’s investigation into players who might have used cars from a South Beach luxury car rental agency, in exchange for future promises, has expanded and now includes UM receiver Stacy Coley, according to a source with direct knowledge. As we have previously reported, Al-Quadin Muhammad and Jermaine Grace also are being investigated by UM for using cars from South Beach Exotic Rentals. UM, not the NCAA, is handling the investigation. UM has declined to say if any of the players will be suspended. Some UM players are expecting short suspensions for the players, but it remains unclear if that will happen. UM is still in the process of determing what, if any, discipline will be doled out.”
As Canes fans know, Stacy Coley is without question one of the major talents on this offense, and without him the offense will be diminished. That’s not to say he’s getting suspended. I don’t know right now. But it doesn’t seem promising if indeed he is involved in this situation.
Coley, who has had an excellent fall camp, according to UM coach Mark Richt, chose to return to Miami for his senior season instead of entering the NFL Draft, giving the Hurricanes a major boost. The 6-1, 195-pound senior from Pompano Beach (Northeast High) played in 11 games last season. He had 47 catches for 689 yards and four touchdowns. He has 1,464 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns in his career.
In this past Wednesday night’s scrimmage, Coley had five catches for 125 yards and two touchdowns. Hard to replace that type of talent.
SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN
Each day during camp and practice, we’ll give a quick, easy-to-digest look (err, read?) at what happened on Greentree with the Hurricanes. There’ll obviously be plenty more as we move forward, and throughout the day, but for now, a few quick highlights from Friday’s session, one of the last before…
Aug, 20 : Canes backup QB battle down to Rosier, Testaverde; notes on the OL, freshman Dionte 'Jingle Joints' Mullins
And then there were two.
Miami Hurricanes coach Mark Richt announced Friday the backup quarterback job will be won either by redshirt sophomore Malik Rosier, Brad Kaaya’s backup last season, or redshirt sophomore Vincent Testaverde, a walk-on and transfer from Texas Tech.
Redshirt freshman Evan Shirreffs, who had been taking second team snaps for most of camp, did not make the cut. Kaaya later revealed Shirreffs has been dealing with an injury on his throwing hand since the start of camp. Meanwhile, several players said it’s expected highly-touted freshman Jack Allison will redshirt this coming season.
Richt plans to spend the final two weeks leading up to the team’s Sept. 3 season opener letting Rosier and Testaverde split all of the second team reps. He said the battle to get into the final two was “a very tight race.”
“The rest of the guys, I want them to keep competing,” Richt said of his quarterbacks. “They’re still in a lot of drill work…if somebody struggles in that two unit match, it might be someone [else] bumps in there. It’s not 100-percent solid that one of those two will be the No. 2, but they’re in the driver’s seat right now. They’ll get all the reps with the number twos.
“There were times when I would have said Evan [Shirreffs] is in that bunch. There were times where I would have said Jack [Allison] is in that two-man deal. It took a long time to get to this point. No one really was so consistent that I was like, ‘This is a slam dunk.’ All these guys, even the top two, they’ve not done everything like we want it done on a consistent basis. But they’ve shown flashes, and they’re a little more solid, maybe, in their accuracy or the decision-making process. But, even today, a bad decision here and there that we just can’t have. Now you’re in that position, what are you going to do with it? You’re getting the reps, what are you going to do with it? That’s part of the exercise. Once a guy feels like it’s down to two, what happens to him? Does he continue to focus and get better, or does he spit the bit?”
Richt remained consistent in saying Rosier has to do a better job of making the smart play and not trying to be a hero.
“I think Malik has a tendency to want to do something heroic,” Richt said. “I keep telling him I don’t need a hero, I need someone to run the system. I need someone to do what they’re supposed to do on a down-by-down basis. There’s two things that I’m teaching them – if there’s a bad play, don’t turn it into a catastrophe. In other words, sometimes we call a route and it’s a one-high beater route, and we guess wrong. It ends up being two deep – well don’t throw it into coverage. Throw the ball away. Or it’s perfect coverage, but the guard gets beat by the three-technique [defensive tackle] and he’s up in your face. Well, you might have to throw it away if you have time, or take a sack and protect the ball. Don’t throw it under duress up in the air and let the ball get batted around and picked. Don’t turn a bad play into a catastrophe. The other thing is, like I said before, most great plays are just a normal play that they do at an extraordinary time. Just be consistent in your reads, be consistent in your accuracy, be consistent in getting us in the right place, be consistent in declaring who the mike linebacker is and our run and passing game schemes to let everyone know who to block. Those are the things they have to do.”
> Meanwhile, freshman receiver Dionte Mullins, cleared by the NCAA and UM on Thursday, practiced with his new teammates for the first time. Kaaya intimated Richt is a big fan of Mullins saying his coach refers to the freshman as “jingle joints.”
“One play. He ran a little stop route. The ball was a little high, he snatched it, tucked it and turned up field, nice and smooth,” Richt said of Mullins. “Looks like a really smooth athlete.”
> Richt said he feels comfortable with about “six to seven” of team’s offensive linemen being able to handle all assignments.
Who is in that group? We believe left tackle Trevor Darling, left guard Kc McDermott, center Nick Linder, right guard Danny Isidora, right tackle Sunny Odogwu and backup interior linemen Alex Gall and tackle Tyree St. Louis.
“I’d say [there are] six or seven that are ready in all areas,” Richt said. “[That’s] assignment and just the skill set to get the job done, and being able to do it on a consistent enough basis to have some peace.
“The linemen are like quarterbacks — certain guys will show flashes of doing it right, but if you do it right three times in a row and on the fourth time you whiff a guy, you’re going to get somebody hurt – a back or a quarterback. I think guys are a lot closer to being ready than we were when we started in the spring, for sure. I’d say about six or seven. There’s other guys that at least know what to do, and you can function like that. If a linemen knows what to do, and puts his hat in the right spot, and he fights like mad, even if he’s not dominating, you can function and play.”
St. Louis has been taking first team reps at right tackle and some at left tackle throughout at camp and Gall, a senior, can play all three interior spots.
“It’s a little bit different,” St. Louis said of playing left tackle. “I haven’t even really touched that position since my senior year of high school, especially going against some of the competition out here. But it’s the best thing for me to be able to play both, especially in college.”
> Redshirt freshman Bar Milo, a four-star recruit from the same high school as Kaaya out in California, said he’s been moved from tackle to left guard in the last week. He admitted Friday he’s struggled in camp, but feels like the move might be for the best.
“Earlier in training camp, I was having a rough time,” Milo said. “I was having mental issues. I went to Coach [Richt] and told him, and I can’t thank him enough for how patient he has been with me. I haven’t been playing how I wanted to this training camp, but I’m starting to get back into that fun, festive mood that I’m usually in when I get on the field, taking pride in the protection. If I’m one of those seven people, I’m glad he can trust me. I think I have a long way to go to where he can actually rely on me to put me in a game if someone goes down, but I’m excited to see what happens.”
Finally, all the members of the Hurricanes 2016 recruiting class are available to play.
Wide receiver Dionte Mullins, a four-star prospect out of Miami’s Gulliver Prep, has been cleared academically by the NCAA’s Eligibility Center to join the Hurricanes roster, Miami confirmed Thursday.
Mark Richt and a few players after Thursday’s practice (plus a little video of Malcolm Lewis)
Head Coach Mark Richt
“Very short and sweet practice today, day after the scrimmage. Tomorrow we’re going to have a full fundamental day again, so we wanted to give them a little bit of a break. We basically did most everything we normally do, we just kind of condensed the time of it. We also had some orientation meetings with a lot of our freshmen today, so that’s why we’re doing it in this certain window. We had Dr. [Julio] Frenk address us and Blake James, our Athletics Director, address us – the entire athletic community, I think that was at nine o’clock this morning. We started a little later because of that. It worked out – this is just what we needed.”
On the message from President Frenk…
“Just how much he appreciates athletics as it relates to a university setting, and our responsibility to do things right – do things within the NCAA, ACC and university policy. Let’s work together. We are a community, we are the U Family. That was mainly the message. He thanked everybody for our hard work, but also, ‘help keep us accountable to doing things right.'”
On any takeaways from the team’s second scrimmage…
“I think we got our money’s worth as coaches. It was a pretty long scrimmage. I thought the players just gave it up – you go back and watch the tape, there’s very little…I just don’t see much loafing around. Usually somebody is dogging it out there and you have to get on them, but that part has been probably the most pleasing thing of camp, is the effort of these guys every day. A lot of it is coaching and being on the same page, and sending the same message every day. Don’t one day say this is okay and the next day you decide that you’re going to get mad at it. Just be consistent. But as far as the scrimmage overall, I would say by tomorrow we’ll give you the stats as our staff put them together. It’s late news, but it might be interesting for the fans.”
On which players he has seen take on leadership roles defensively…
“[Rayshawn] Jenkins definitely. I like what Corn [Elder] is doing. I’m watching guys practice hard and take coaching. Sometimes, when everybody is going hard and everybody is doing their thing, there’s not a whole lot of work to lead. Like I’m saying, I don’t have to get everybody to go. I don’t see anybody feel like he has to grab his teammate and get them to go. They’re all doing it, and I think they enjoy that. I think they respect each other enough to do that. It’s early, it’s the first year, I don’t know how many games we’ll win, but we’re working hard and I’m proud of it, in that area.”
On the improvement of the defense from a tackling perspective…
“There’s no question. Tackling in the box, most everybody can tackle in the box. It’s when people get out in space when you miss tackles. That’s mostly defensive backs – safeties, corners – offensively, the goal is to block everybody but a safety or a backside corner on a stretch play…if you do break it out, somebody has to defeat a block and go close that space and corral that guy and get him on the ground. Usually you can’t do that by yourself. You do that because of team hustle and taking proper angles. Just the approach of the open-field tackles have made a huge difference.”
On if he gained any clarity on the back-up quarterback role
“Yeah, but I haven’t told those guys yet. By tomorrow, we’ll know who’s at least battling or still in the battle. I won’t name a No. 2, but I’ll narrow it down.”
On if he sees Darrion Owens playing in the season opener, and Michael Pinckney’s injury…
“I hope so. I don’t know what [Darrion] used to look like. But he looks, still, he doesn’t look like he’s flying around, 100 percent full speed every snap. Maybe just kind of getting to trust it again. I don’t know. Pinckney, I would hope yes. He’s just had a hamstring issue that’s been bothering him.”
Some Of Defensive Coordinator Manny Diaz’s impressions after scrimmage
***On DT Gerald Willis: “That evaluation is ongoing. He knows the things he has to continue to work on. Part of it is the ability to make a play, and there’s also the issue of not being where you’re supposed to be and giving up plays. Sometimes your playing time in a way is not dependent on how much good you can do, it’s dependent on how little bad you can do. He’s one of those guys that is certainly trying to focus in on, first, not burning the house down before we worry about how we attack the other people.’’
***On scrimmage sacks: “I think it was five.”
***On what it was like for his first-team D-line to go after backup quarterbacks who had shed their no-contact jerseys and were allowed to be hit: “I think they thought there would be [more sacks], but fear is a great motivating factor, so that ball came out sometimes differently than it did before.’’
***On Jamie Gordinier, who is playing first-team weak-side linebacker in place of the injured Michael Pinckney (hamstring): “The biggest thing with Jamie…is his confidence in himself. When you’re a young guy and you’re trying to learn everything and be perfect, that’s really hard. So, what we’re trying to talk to him about is, ‘Trust yourself. Let the game come to you. And just let it go.’ I think he’s got a really bright future. I think he’s physically gifted but it’s just at-bats, that’s all it is, and persistence will turn him into a good player.’’
***On freshman cornerback Malek Young: “He’s fast, and fast players know they’re fast, so that affects their confidence in terms of how they cover; and…he’s tough. He’s a willing tackler, so the arrow is pointing up on Malek Young.’’
Head coach Mark Richt said he’ll name the top two contenders for the backup quarterback job on Friday…The Canes practiced for about an hour Thursday on the heels of the scrimmage…UM President Julio Frenk addressed the team and athletics personnel in the morning…Richt praised Elder and safety Rayshawn Jenkins for their leadership roles on defense…Weak-side linebacker Darrion Owens has not played in either of the scrimmages. “I don’t know what [Darrion] used to look like,’’ Richt said, “but he doesn’t look like he’s flying around, 100-percent full speed every snap.’’…Richt said he is hoping Pinckney will be well enough to play in the opener.
Linebacker Darrion Owens
On missing time due to knee injury…
“I love the game. I want to be out there. I wish I could be out there with them, playing along with them. I’ve been playing this since I’ve been young. It is hard, just watching them going out there. But it’s better than sitting in the training room, wondering what they’re doing. It’s still a good feeling to be out here with them.”
On what he gains from watching from the sideline…
“When you’re watching, I think I can see how certain people deal with certain situations, and how some younger guys grow up and step up to adversity.”
On the team’s trio of freshmen linebackers – Shaq Quarterman, Michael Pinckney and Zach McCloud…
“They don’t act like freshmen. All the freshmen linebackers, I have a good relationship with them and all of them carry themselves not like usual freshmen would. They work hard, they have a good head on their shoulders…they’re going to have a great future. I’m excited to see them play this year and from now on. They’re all going to be great.”
Defensive Back Rayshawn Jenkins (above picture by SMD: Rayshawn with Jaquan Johnson)
On how the defense played in the second scrimmage…
“There were definitely some good plays, but then again, there were definitely bad plays. We still have room for improvement, but that’s what practice is for. We have jut about two weeks before the game, and we have to get some things fixed.”
On how the defense stands compared to this point in camps of the past few years…
“In my opinion, it’s definitely better than in recent years we’ve been here, but it’s still not where we want it to be. There’s some stuff, like I said, that we still need to clean up, and we’ll move from there.”
On if he has seen the defense get beat on big plays…
“Not at all. It’s just little stuff – techniques, guys are getting accustomed to this new defense. Just a lot of technique errors, footwork…we’ll get it down.”
On where he sees the strengths and weaknesses of the defense…
“Definitely tackling. We tackle really well. And competing, just as an overall group. Like I said, technique – there’s not very much we need to improve on, in my opinion. Just bringing those younger guys along, because we’re going to need them at some point down the road.”
Linebacker Jamie Gordinier
On the aggressiveness of the defense…
“We just put in that new third down ‘prowler’ package. It’s exciting to get to the quarterback. It’s a lot of fun. We have guys lining up in all different sorts of places and once the ball is snapped, it’s just kind of letting loose and playing backyard football.”
On the challenges of camp…
“The coaches are setting a really high standard for us. We were doing some extra stuff after practice for things we didn’t do right in the scrimmage. Everyone is kind of sore and tired, but that shouldn’t stop us right now.”
On learning the new defensive scheme…
“It wasn’t very difficult picking this defense up. He made it simple for that reason, so we could pick it up a lot easier.”
On his mentality as he’s worked with the first team…
“My mentality is to give it my all. If I mess up on one play, I need to know that I need to attack the next rep and not think about what I just did wrong.”
SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN
Virginia looks to turn last year’s close losses into big wins this season
Virginia looks to turn last year's close losses into big wins this season
Aug, 18 : Scrimmage report: Mark Richt has backup QBs shed no-contact jerseys to see how they perform under duress
The University of Miami had its second scrimmage of fall camp Wednesday night, but this time coach Mark Richt didn’t share the statistics that would have perhaps provided a hint as to who, for instance, might be the backup quarterback to Brad Kaaya come the Sept. 3 opener against FAMU.
The backup quarterback field will be narrowed to two contenders in the next couple of days, the coach said.
This time around Richt left those backups for the ravenous first-team defensive linemen, exchanging the no-contact black jerseys the quarterbacks normally wear for the regular, full-contact orange ones that the rest of the offense wears.
The coach did not say if, or how many times, the backups got sacked.
“They were live,’’ Richt said of the backups, who include redshirt sophomore Malik Rosier, redshirt freshman Evan Shirreffs, true freshman Jack Allison and redshirt sophomore Vincent Testaverde. “Just wanted to see if they could make a play with their feet, or if they got hit, can they get back up and go play another snap? I got to see a little bit of that.
“I will have within a day or two either a No. 2 or a Co-No. 2. I’m narrowing it down to two. I want to watch the tape and be sure. But I’m pretty sure I’ve got it narrowed down to two. Whether one is ahead of the other right now I don’t know. I may just split time with the twos for the rest of the way until we make a decision probably a week from now.
“We’re getting closer.’’
The scrimmage was delayed more than nine hours after lightning delays caused the Hurricanes to exit Greentree Field and head back into their building.
“A lot of guys were laying it on the line today and tonight,’’ Richt said. “We had to wait all day for it. Thankfully we had no school so we could get the work in.’’
Richt said starting quarterback Brad Kaaya, whose No. 1 offense played against the No. 2 defense, “played great” despite throwing an interception. He got sacked once, the coach said.
“He had one play he turned into a catastrophe, which is not excusable,’’ Richt said. “Other than that, he played great…. I’m guessing Kaaya hit 80-percent of his passes. That’s my best guess.’’
Others whom Richt lauded were receivers Braxton Berrios and Stacy Coley and running backs Mark Walton and Gus Edwards. He said the latter two “made some really outstanding runs’’ and Coley “played great.’’
“He’s been practicing very well,’’ Richt said of Coley. “He’s in better shape than he was in the spring, like most of them, and he’s had very little issues with injury…
“The No. 1 unit for both sides really had their way, I would say. Offensive ones did great. Defensive ones did great. So that’s what you hope this time of year.’’
Others praised by the coach: receiver Dayall Harris and tight end Chris Herndon. “Herndon made a nice catch and physically caught a ball short of the first down and kind of manhandled a defender to get [it],’’ Richt said, adding that receiver Darrell Langham also “made a nice play on the goal line with really tight coverage.’’
Among the freshmen who played well, Richt said, were running back Travis Homer. “Travis has shown me that he is tough and smart – I think he’ll be a really good special teamer… We have three [tailbacks] ahead of him right now, but he has proven to be a guy that I think we’ll be able to count on this year. …We’re not going to be afraid to put him into a game.’’
Fellow freshman standouts included cornerback Malek Young and linebacker Shaq Quarterman. Freshman linebacker Michael Pinckney (hamstring) did not participate.
UM’s next scrimmage will be Aug. 24, when the format will have the No. 1 offense and defense playing “on the same team,’’ Richt said, in preparation for FAMU.
SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN
Small successes key to Bronco Mendenhall’s overhaul at Virginia
Small successes key to Bronco Mendenhall's overhaul at Virginia
Each day during camp and practice, we’ll give a quick, easy-to-digest look (err, read?) at what happened on Greentree with the Hurricanes. There’ll obviously be plenty more as we move forward, and throughout the day, but for now, a few quick highlights from Tuesday. Miami will have a second practice…
Trayone Gray, a popular 6-2, 225-pound Hurricanes reserve running back who goes by the nickname “Choc,” has sustained a serious knee injury and is out for the season, a source confirmed on Tuesday night.
Gray’s injury, first reported by the Palm Beach Post, will result in his redshirting in 2016 and returning next season as a redshirt junior.
Gray, who was a quarterback at Carol City High, ran for 145 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries last year as the No. 3 back behind Joseph Yearby and Mark Walton. He had 24 yards and a touchdown on six carries his freshman season in 2014.
Last year, Gus Edwards, now the No. 3 tailback, missed the season with a foot injury. With Edwards back and freshman Travis Homer in the mix, Gray had moved down the depth chart recently.
In 2015 I asked Gray where he got his nickname.
“Choc came from my mama,” he said. “When I was a baby I didn’t really want no bottle or nothing. I just ate a lot of chocolate. No bottle. So she just named me chocolate. I just ate chocolate candy. I [didn’t] like milk.”
Fans showed Gray plenty of love on Twitter after the news came out, and he clearly appreciated it.
“Thanks for all the prayers I appreciate it everyone God bless,” Gray posted on Twitter.
Thanks for all the prayers I appreciate it everyone God bless
— Choc Gray (@Godschild__choc) August 17, 2016
His running backs coach, Thomas Brown, tweeted, “Praying for a speedy recovery for my man @Godschild_choc.”
Praying for a speedy recovery for my man @Godschild__choc
— Thomas Brown (@iamthomasbrown) August 17, 2016
Gray wrote this back: “I’ll b back soon coach thanks for making me realize it’s bigger then just a ball n a field love u coach TB”
I’ll b back soon coach thanks for making me realize it’s bigger then just a ball n a field love u coach TB https://t.co/3ohzjtScSY
— Choc Gray (@Godschild__choc) August 17, 2016
Coach Mark Richt, who will address reporters Wednesday after UM’s second scrimmage of preseason camp, commented Saturday after practice how well the Hurricanes had been doing injury-wise.
“I don’t want to be bragging about anything because then things happen sometimes, but it’s been good overall, I think. There’s been nothing catastrophic, nothing season-ending.”
Receiver Lawrence Cager tore his ACL just before camp began.
Trayone is a good man and we all hope he comes back stronger than ever.
SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN
Why the ACC’s future schedule hinges on the decisions of two schools
Why the ACC's future schedule hinges on the decisions of two schools
Here is Monday’s report from Miami Hurricanes’ camp:
Offense wins practice Monday
The Hurricanes offense won practice on Monday, including a win for the second-team offense over the first string defense that Miami coach Mark Richt called “huge for them.” After the top defensive unit started camp…
Through the first week-plus worth of camp it’s often felt like the defense has been ahead of the offense.
That finally changed Monday.
“The offense actually won the day today, which was great,” said coach Mark Richt, who said the team went through a a lot fundamental work Monday after getting their first day off Sunday since camp began on Aug. 4.
“It took the two [second string] offense to get three out of four on the very last drive against the No. 1 defense. That was huge for them. They haven’t had a lot of success against the No. 1 defense. Much more competitive, really every day – the first couple of the days, the margin was pretty bad. But even when the defense has won the last day or two, it’s been a tight, tight race. That’s a good sign.”
Still, Richt said, there were too many drops for Miami’s receivers. He’s also not getting the day-to-day consistency he wants.
“We’re getting better,” Richt said. “Even when you watch film, offensively, when you start out, you might have seven out of 11 [players] doing it right, and you get beat. When you get eight, nine, 10 out of 11 getting it right, you’re getting closer but you still might end up losing that rep. When everybody starts doing it, that’s when you start really clicking. I will say this, today, if we caught the ball when the ball was right in our hands – I’m talking about the tight end and wide receiver position – it would have been, not a landslide, but there would have been no drama at the end. We dropped too many balls today.”
> No one has separated themselves yet in the kick or punt return game according to Richt. And that’s apparently a good thing.
“I do think we have a good many guys that can be returners, we just have to decide,” Richt said. “A lot of people want the most prolific return man, but I want the most dependable return man first. If he happens to be the most prolific, as a runner or a guy who can stick it in the end zone, great. But if he’s great at that and doesn’t field the ball well, or doesn’t secure the ball well, he won’t be the guy. I want the most dependable guy. We’re working so many guys, I don’t even know what to tell you on that. The good news is, we have more than one or two or three guys that can do kick and punt return.
“Braxton [Berrios], Stacy [Coley], Malcolm [Lewis]…we’re teaching Sam Bruce. Corn [Elder]. Then Mark Walton on kickoff return and Gus [Edwards] on kickoff return. I think Coley on kickoff return. Braxton and Corn…most of them double it up.”
Richt said Edwards, a 6-1, 230-pound redshirt junior, is to serve as the “off-return man.”
“But if the ball goes his way, he’ll be returning it,” Richt said.
> Richt continued to praise the play of the defense and the improved tackling he’s seen since the spring.
“I just like the way the defense is playing, period,” Richt said when asked about his defensive line. “I like how hard they’re playing. I like the energy they’re playing with. I definitely like what the front four is doing, but I like what all of them are doing. They’ve really impressed me. It’s night and day on the effort level and the execution, especially open-field tackling – it’s changed dramatically from the spring to the fall.”
> Richt said redshirt sophomore cornerback Ryan Mayes is dealing with a left shoulder ailment. Mayes, competing for the No. 4 cornerback job, was on the stationary bike during the media portion of practice.
“Dinged it,” Richt said. “I don’t think it’s any type of surgical deal. Just hurts right now.”
Richt also said redshirt freshman safety Robert Knowles, who has been playing through a hand injury, will practice with a club on his hand.
> Richt said Wednesday’s scrimmage — the second of camp — will continue to feature the first team offense and defense taking on the backups.
“In the spring we’ll go ones versus ones,” Richt said. “Part of it is, say you’re in the season, and you’re mostly scout-team work but will still do stuff against each other. Let’s say we need Cover 2. We might ask Manny, ‘With the twos, can you run some Cover 2 for the one offense?’ Defense might need to see zone read. The scout team could do it okay, but you’re No. 2 offense is going to give you a lot better look. The two offense and two defense tend to give a really good look. If there’s something we do in our system, we’ll call it that way, if that makes sense. That’s a big part of it.”
Isaiah Ford: Virginia Tech’s offense ‘can line up with anyone’
Isaiah Ford: Virginia Tech's offense 'can line up with anyone'
Each day during camp and practice, we’ll give a quick, easy-to-digest look (err, read?) at what happened on Greentree with the Hurricanes. There’ll obviously be plenty more as we move forward, and throughout the day, but for now, a few quick highlights from Saturday.
GETTING SOME BREATHERS IN:…