Canes football defense shines in final scrimmage of spring training

Linemen warm up before Tuesday's Spring football practice on Greentree Practice Fields. Josh White // Staff Photographer

The University of Miami donned its game uniforms for the first time since defeating West Virginia in the Russell Athletic Bowl Dec. 28.

However, the Hurricanes weren’t facing a conference foe at Hard Rock Stadium. They were playing their final scrimmage of spring training at Boca Raton High School in front of select fans and media April 22.

Coach Mark Richt and his staff left their final session with multiple questions unanswered.

“I know that we still have a lot more competition to go,” Richt said. “I did not expect to have a clear leader when it was done. I would have been okay with it, but I think we are right about where we thought we were. And if I had to say how I peck them right now, it would be just like I got them going into this spring game – kind of a co-No. 1 thing and the rest of them are like co-No. 3s. But that is what summer is all about, and that is what bringing in more guys and competing is all about.”


Although redshirt junior Malik Rosier and sophomore Evan Shirreffs cemented themselves as co-leaders throughout the spring, neither did enough to win the job as the Hurricanes’ starting quarterback.

“I think there were bright moments really for all of them and probably a moment or two they probably like to take back,” Richt said about the quarterbacks’ performance in the scrimmage. “That’s typical, but you don’t want typical. You want somebody who will make good decisions on a consistent basis and not turn a bad play into a catastrophe.”

While the offense is in transition, the defense, which is expected to be dominant in 2017, flexed its muscles as the first-team defense in white bested the offensive starters in orange 24-16.

Against the first-team defense, Rosier completed eight of his 18 passes for 169 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions, while Shirreffs went 7-17 for 75 yards and an interception.

Incoming freshman N’Kosi Perry will also be in the quarterback mix when he arrives in Coral Gables in less than a month.

Redshirt freshman quarterback Jack Allison, who has battled shoulder and head injuries as of late, worked with and against the second unit, finishing 11-15 for 100 yards with one touchdown and an interception.

The defense dominated like it has throughout the spring sessions. The group totaled four interceptions – sophomore cornerback Malek Young picked up two – one of which was a 75-yard return to the house off an error by Rosier.


Defensive Coordinator Manny Diaz’s unit racked up five sacks, two coming from RJ McIntosh and one each from Pat Bethel, Anthony Moten and Kendrick Norton.

The defense wanted to win the day while also challenging an inexperienced group of quarterbacks to prepare them for what lies ahead.

“Iron sharpens iron,” said sophomore linebacker Shaq Quarterman, who had seven tackles in the final scrimmage. “We were being the best we could and doing what we do, competing the way Miami should always [compete]. That prepares [the offense], and they prepare us by getting us better, beating our coverages sometimes. We just sharpen each other every day, and I have a great confidence we’ll be the best defense they face if we keep doing what we do.”


Although most eyes were on the quarterbacks, other offensive players impressed those in attendance. All-American Ahmmon Richards pulled in an 80-yard touchdown pass from Rosier. Redshirt junior Darrell Langham recorded eight catches for 57 yards and a touchdown.


“He’s done a really good job,” wide receivers coach Ron Dugans said about Langham. “The thing with him I want to make sure we work on all offseason is positioning defenders when I have a bigger body. He did a really good job of going up, high-pointing the ball where only he can get it. I’m excited about what Langham brings to the table.”

Sophomore Dionte Mullins and early enrollee Navaughn Donaldson both put forth solid performances, enhancing their spots on the depth charts at wide receiver and offensive line, respectively.

The scrimmage was a homecoming for Richt, who attended Boca Raton High School.

With final exams coming up, the players will have exit meetings with the staff on workouts over the summer.

UM will open up its 2017-2018 season against Bethune-Cookman Sept. 2 at Hard Rock Stadium.