‘Canes shake off rust in first practices since Hurricane Irma

Photo credit: Hunter Crenian

After 10 days off because of Hurricane Irma, the Miami Hurricanes finally have some practices under their belts in preparation for their matchup against Toledo Sept. 23.

For Head Coach Mark Richt and his players, it was refreshing to resume their routine over the weekend but difficult for players to get back into game shape.

“The first couple of days when we got back into running, my legs were a bit dead,” junior defensive back Jaquan Johnson said. “I felt a little bit fatigued, but as we kept practicing and getting into deeper days, I could feel my body getting back and readjusting to it. I think the whole team was feeling this way, but we looked good during sprints and the whole practice today.”

The team traveled to Orlando, Fla., Sept. 14 for better living and practicing conditions. As the University of Miami prepared campus for normal operations, it announced last week that the team would practice at Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando Sept. 17–22 to prepare for Toledo.

“When the university said, ‘Hey, we’re all going to move out of there,’ that’s when we said, for the kids that don’t have a good place to be, we have to find a place to be,” Richt said. “That’s where this trip to Orlando originally started. When that option became open, I knew a lot of our players were going to be going.”

For the ‘Canes, assuring the safety of everyone and their families during the storm came first and foremost. Football came second.

“Our number one goal was safety of everybody,” Richt said. “It’s dangerous, to me, to play football if your mind is somewhere else. If your mind is somewhere else, and you’re playing football, somebody is going to get hurt.”

Thankfully, no one got hurt – from the storm or from football.

Miami players, many of whom chose to stay in South Florida during the storm, took their own precautions with their families as they awaited Irma.

“I was with my family; we rode out the storm,” said senior offensive lineman Kc McDermott, a native of Wellington, Fla. “We lost power at about five on Saturday and didn’t get it back until Wednesday when I left. I left, and 30 minutes later my dad called me and was like, ‘Hey, we’ve got power.’ We prepared for the storm. Growing up, I went through Jean, Frances and Wilma. We’ve been prepared for it. We knew what was going to happen.”

“I went to Palm Beach and stayed with my family,” sophomore linebacker Zach McCloud said. “Not a whole lot to do. The power was down, and there was no service. We just enjoyed each other.”

Fellow sophomore linebacker Shaq Quarterman went up north to his home in Jacksonville, Fla., to see his family during the process.

“The day we got the notice that we could go home, I left as soon as the meeting was over to go be with my family,” Quarterman said. “It usually takes about five hours to get home, and it took me about six and a half. When I made it home, everybody was already prepared for the storm. We had everybody come to my mom’s house.”

Johnson, who stayed in his home in Miami during Irma, said his family was “blessed” to have sustained only minor damages. His house was spared but some trees that were knocked over.

Before coming to Orlando, most of the Hurricanes didn’t have many opportunities to work out. They were limited to running, push-ups and lifting fallen tree branches.

Quarterman said that keeping the focus on football was one of the more difficult things to do during the storm process.

“Coach Richt, he wanted us to be with our families, and I am really thankful for that decision, but football never stops,” Quarterman said. “The aspect of trying to watch film while the power is going in and out or you don’t have the best things to eat like some of our teammates did – it was really tough. Just getting back to the grind, it feels good, but we know that we have a lot of stuff that we have to catch up on.”

Now, with the storm over, the Hurricanes focus on adjusting to the schedule and overcoming the challenges missing practice, so that they’re ready come game day.

“I think we will be ready to play – we are going to explode,” Johnson said. “We just look at it like we got an early bye week, and now we have to prepare for 10 games straight. That is how we are approaching it, and we are attacking it every day like that.”