Don't look now but it is football season in Coral Gables.
The Miami Hurricanes hit the Greentree Practice Fields Tuesday for their first of 15 spring practices in preparation for the 2017 season.
Now in his second year at the helm, head coach Mark Richt said that, in comparison to last year’s first spring practice, Tuesday’s morning session was a breeze - in more ways than one.
“It was a beautiful day,” Richt said. “It started out a little bit cool and then it did get warm at the end…the weather really cooperated with us.”
Richt said the difference was evident in the practice habits developed by players now in their second year in his system.
“Like I told the team after practice, you can tell who the veterans are and you can tell who knows how to practice. You can tell the guys who are in shape and you can tell the guys who know what to do,” Richt said. “It’s very obvious who the mid-year guys are, as far as knowing how to practice and knowing what to do.”
Defensive lineman Kendrick Norton agreed with Richt’s assessment, and said the comfort level was evident in returning players.
“[Freshman] have guys in front of them to show them how to do it,” Norton said. “Last year nobody had that, because everybody was a freshman last spring.”
One of those mid-year players who impressed Norton Tuesday was Jonathan Garvin, a defensive lineman from Lake Worth, Fla.
“Garvin is doing very well. He’s coming on, he’s learning. But it’s only the first day,” Norton said.
Coach Richt also complimented freshman DeeJay Dallas, one of 10 mid-year enrollees taking the field for the first time.
“Deejay showed the ability to snatch the ball well, which is a great key – to be able to catch the ball well and not cradle it,” Richt said.
Senior tight end Christopher Herndon IV, expected to take on an even bigger role in the offense with the departure of All-ACC tight end Davis Njoku, reiterated that Tuesday marked a good start for the Hurricanes.
“First day was basically just getting back in the groove of things,” Herndon said. “Everybody is kind of fresh to the offense again, so we just took our time out there today, but we were still trying to make sure we were doing everything at a full-speed pace and just focusing on our plays.”
After leading Miami to its first bowl win since 2006 last December, Richt said spring practice is about improving as a team more so than focusing on individual position battles.
“I want everyone to compete,” he said. “I want everybody to prove that they should start or they should play, or that they deserve to be on the travel squad – whatever it is - so they’re at least proving that they’re bought into what we’re doing.
“I want guys to play hard, play fast and be physical, be disciplined – those are the main things. If you do that, you’re going to be pretty good.”