David M. Hale 319d

Mark Richt expects step forward for Miami's offense

Miami kicks off its season against Bethune-Cookman this weekend, and the Hurricanes have plenty of buzz. We caught up with head coach Mark Richt in advance of what could be the season when Miami is finally back.

Q: You've had some rebuilding to do on offense this offseason. Is the unit where you hoped it would be at this point?

A: We'll be better than a year ago, I can say that. We're blocking better. I just think we're executing better as a group. Everybody has a better understanding of what to do. I'll probably be a better playcaller than I was a year ago. Will that translate into more victories? I don't know.

Q: Malik Rosier will be the starting quarterback, but I think a lot of fans fell in love with the idea of freshman N'Kosi Perry because he could allow you to open up the offense more, run a lot of run-pass options. Do you feel like you can still do that to the same degree with Rosier?

A: Run-pass options don't necessarily take any extra athleticism, and we ran RPOs just fine with Brad [Kaaya]. The question is, plays like the zone read, where a defensive end has to check that quarterback, because if you check that play and the QB pulls the ball out of the belly of the running back and takes off running, a play like that comes alive with guys with more mobility. But to answer the question, Malik has plenty of mobility to do that. He may scramble for a first down here and there. He may buy time in the pocket and find somebody open. He has very good mobility.

Q: You'd compared this QB battle to 2006, when you went with the veteran to start at Georgia but still played Matthew Stafford in Week 1 as a true freshman. Has Perry shown you enough that he'll see action this week?

A: It's more of a wait-and-see. N'Kosi has a very high ceiling. There's no doubt. His skill set is outstanding as a passer, outstanding as a runner, he's very smart, he's going to be really good when his day comes. When the day is? I don't know. I'm not in a mad rush to get him in there before he's ready. I want him to be ready when he plays.

Q: Depth at running back behind Mark Walton was a worry for you this offseason. Is it still?

A: Travis Homer did a great job of proving that he's very capable as a running back. He might have been the best guy we had on specials [last year] and we think he's a pretty darn good running back. So the top two guys are solid, and Trayone Gray and Robert Burns -- Burns is coming off an injury and Gray is ahead of him right now, Burns has a ways to go to prove he's healthy. We have at least two guys we have confidence in and Gray has enough reps for us to where we feel like he can come in and give us some quality plays as well.

Q: Chris Herndon hasn't gotten a ton of love nationally, in part because he played behind a first-round talent a year ago in David Njoku. But watching him play, it feels like Herndon could be a first-rounder, too. How big of an impact do you expect from him?

A: He's definitely going to play on Sundays. He's very good at run-blocking as an in-line tight end, he can block as a fullback, pass protect as a tight end or a back, run all the routes that tight ends run from in-line or we can flex him out and he can do things in space. He's a very solid player in all areas of the game, and that's going to make him real valuable.

Q: A lack of depth really hurt you during that four-game losing streak in the middle of 2016. Do you feel like you're better prepared to handle the rigors of a full season this year?

A: Some positions are deeper than others, but I'd also say we lost games because we weren't disciplined enough. The three close games we played, we lost. We have to do a better job of doing the little things right. Even if we won just one of those games, you have a 10-win season, maybe top 15 or top 10. I think we're creating good habits as a team to where we'll be able to play big in those moments.

Q: You recently tweeted good-luck wishes to your former team at Georgia. What went into that? Do you still follow what they're doing?

A: I don't look at it daily, but the biggest motivation was just thinking about a lot of the players I'd recruited and gotten to know and also the Georgia people were pretty awesome to me and my family during the time I was there. I have no ill will toward the program, and I hope they do have a lot of success. And Kirby Smart is an excellent coach. I'd hired him years back at Georgia. I've known Kirby and his family, and they're just great people.

Q: So you're rooting for a Miami-Georgia national championship game?

A: That'd be awesome. My wife -- I'm not sure how much fun that'd be for her, but it'd be great.

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