The Miami Hurricanes were back in action today on the Greentree Practice Fields Saturday morning, opening fall camp ahead of the 2018 season.
"It was really a great day in that you could feel the humidity, feel the heat," Miami head coach Mark Richt said. "A lot of guys that had great summers came through really well."
The Canes held their first official practice on Greentree since April. Miami returns 14 starters and 44 letter-winners from a team that won 10 games for the first time since 2003 and advanced to the ACC Championship Game for the first time in program history in 2017.
"Pretty typical Day One," Richt said. "It was very evident who has been around this program a while and who is just showing up for the first time – just in knowing how to practice and knowing how to push, knowing how to do things right, knowing how to finish a drill, knowing the things that we teach on a daily basis that [are] very, very normal to the guys who have been around and new to the guys who are new. They have a long way to go, just to understand how we practice around here. It's not because they're not trying. They're just learning."
As expected, Preseason All-ACC selections Jaquan Johnson and Shaquille Quarterman were among the leaders on the defensive side of the ball and they were impressed with how the team handled the first day of practice.
"It's great to see that your summer really paid off and I really see it for a whole bunch of guys on our team," Quarterman said. "Guys took the time and put in the work this summer. Everybody is looking better. As a team where we were last year with conditioning, we're way levels past that now so that's always good to see on the first day."
The Canes had several players back in action for the first time since the 2017 season, as veterans like Ahmmon Richards, Demetrius Jackson and Charles Perry participated in a practice for the first time since suffering season-ending injuries last season.
"Just finally being able to practice again and doing all the little things with all my teammates again, it just felt good to be out here," Richards said. "I haven't really practiced since December of last year. I'm kind of getting back into football condition. I'll be alright."
While the veterans led the way for the Canes on Saturday, several newcomers made a quick impression on Richt and his staff on the opening day of camp.
"Some of the young guys [were] making a few plays here and there," Richt said. "I know Dee Wiggins had a really great contested catch in the end zone one time. [Marquez] Ezzard - once he learns what to do - I think is going to be a pretty good ballplayer. I really like the young [defensive backs] – you have [Al] Blades doing a good job. Cam [Davis], the tailback out of Carol City, did a nice job today. You can see his quickness and those types of things."
The Canes took a major step forward as a program in 2017, finishing with a perfect 7-0 record at home during the regular season in 2017 and marking the first undefeated home campaign during the regular season since 2002. But Miami stumbled down the stretch, dropping its final three games to finish 10-3 on the season.
With a deep group of proven veterans and an influx of talented newcomers joining the roster, the Canes feel like they will have the depth to avoid a late-season slide and finish the year strong.
"We want to finish," Johnson said. "We preach that all the time. There are four quarters to football. We started off the season with a great half of the season and then on the back end we let things go. We're preaching that we have to finish. That's what's most important."