The University of Miami football players had their final opportunity to compete and impress in the 2011 spring game on a cloudy and humid Saturday afternoon at Lockhart Stadium.
The green team defeated the orange team 30-17 in the intra-squad scrimmage, but the final score was not what the Miami faithful took away from the game.
For fans, it was a chance to get a lasting impression to carry into the fall after an offseason that completely remodeled the coaching staff following the Canes’ forgettable 2010 season.
Several position battles, highlighted by the duel for the starting quarterback position between junior Jacory Harris and freshman Stephen Morris, were highly contested Saturday.
“I’m just going to keep working,” Harris said. “It’s like anything else in life. You have to compete for everything.”
Morris, who started in four games last season, is embracing the competition as well.
“It makes you go hard, makes you work hard in the weight room,” he said. “Competition only brings good.”
Offensively, Miami was most effective in the running game. Sophomore Lamar Miller utilized his 10 carries to total 166 yards and three touchdowns. In the passing game, Jedd Fisch drew up plenty of check-down passes to get his quarterbacks comfortable, and he mixed in the occasional deep ball.
The two quarterbacks, who were without wide receivers LaRon Byrd, Aldarius Johnson and Travis Benjamin, threw for decent completion percentages but turned the ball over on several plays that were reminiscent of last season’s struggles.
Harris was 18 of 30 for 149 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions, while Morris completed 14 of his 22 passes, threw a touchdown pass to Kendal Thompkins and also tossed two picks.
“I thought the quarterbacks struggled,” said Brad Kenin, a first-year graduate student and Hurricane fan. “They didn’t display good pocket presence.”
Head coach Al Golden attributed the turnovers more to the solid defense than to mistakes by the quarterbacks, with whom the defenders could not make contact. He did not name a starter for the fall.
“That’s too far in advance. I just want to see them compete,” Golden said. “We’ll let them compete for the next 140 days and see who’s going to start.”
The team’s defensive ends were strong, with Sean Spence and Ray Ray Armstrong highlighting the day’s action behind them. Spence returned an interception for a touchdown that resulted in a bench-clearing celebration at the goal post that he deemed similar to the notorious celebration in the Florida-Georgia game in 2007.
Questions still remain on what the Canes will do at cornerback after losing seniors Demarcus Van Dyke and Ryan Hill and junior Brandon Harris, who decided to forgo his senior year to enter the NFL draft.
“You can’t replace those guys,” Spence said. “But I think guys are doing a great job of stepping up, taking ownership and playing their role.”
More than 100 football alumni filed onto the sidelines to watch their alma mater’s scrimmage.
“It’s a special group,” Golden said. “That’s a family.”
Thirty-three members of the 2001 Hurricane team, who brought Miami its fifth national championship in football, were honored at halftime.
“It kind of makes me feel old,” said former Cane great and All-Pro Minnesota Vikings left tackle Bryant McKinnie.
For fans looking forward, the Canes’ next game is their regular season debut at Maryland, a Labor Day showdown that will air on ESPN Sept. 5.
David Furones may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.