The Hurricanes played their annual spring game at Lockhart Stadium on Saturday afternoon. The Hurricanes split themselves up into two sides: the green team with the first string offense and second and third string defenses against the orange team with the first string defense and second and third string offenses. The green team was victorious 24-7 in the team’s third scrimmage under new Head Coach Mark Richt.
Richt was impressed with how his players dealt with all the recent changes to the football program.
“When you just look at a group of young men who just had a brand-new staff and a brand-new system and all the things going on, I think they did a really good job,” Richt said.
Starting quarterback Brad Kaaya was steady throughout the game, showing poise in the pocket and precision with his passes. Kaaya finished the day throwing for 345 yards on 29-of-47 passing with three touchdowns and one interception.
“I did my extra work off the field and [was]just studying my plays and getting involved with stuff,” Kaaya said on handling the new offense. “I think I’ve mastered it pretty well.”
Kaaya targeted quite a few of his passes at his talented tight ends: Christopher Herndon IV and David Njoku. Herndon pulled in six receptions for 76 yards and a touchdown. Even when Njoku wasn’t looking for the ball, he was blocking at a high level. He created some running room for Herndon on multiple plays.
“It was just basically falling back on my training,” Herndon said about his big day. “We all worked hard this spring and I was just trying to do my best and show the fans what we’ve been working on so far.”
Wide receiver Braxton Berrios consistently created space throughout the game, capitalizing on the many throws he received from Kaaya. Berrios caught eight balls for 127 yards and a touchdown.
“We were connecting like we’ve been working on all spring,” Berrios said.
Defensive back Corn Elder picked up right where he left off last season. Elder showed off his tackling and cover ability, even picking off Kaaya for the star quarterback’s only interception in the three scrimmages this spring.
Both the defensive and offensive lines showed some bright spots in the game. Defensive lineman Gerald Willis III led all players with two sacks on the day to go with six tackles. Linebacker Shaquille Quarterman had seven tackles and a sack.
“I think it is the speed of the game,” Quarterman said about his takeaway from spring football. “Before I even got to college, I was concerned with the level of speed from high school ball to college ball, but I think I got a really good grasp on it, so I’m really just excited for the fall.”
The offensive linemen were able to showcase their ability as well, giving Kaaya time and creating running room for running back Mark Walton, who finished the day with 56 yards on 10 carries.
“The O-line has gotten a lot better,” Kaaya said. “I’m just getting a more consistent pocket and just some good leisure from the guys up front.”
Richt and his coaching staff were able to see what the Canes are doing well along with what they need to improve, which is what spring football is all about.
“When I look at it in totality, I really enjoyed working with these young men, just a really, really fantastic group,” Richt said. “Worked hard, didn’t bow their neck at anything, they took the coaching, they took the guidance.”
The Canes will open the 2016 season against Florida A&M at home on Sept. 3.