CORAL GABLES, Fla. (AP) — New Miami Hurricanes coach Mark Richt wore a Panama hat and long sleeves during his team’s first fall practice Thursday, assuring max protection from the sweltering sun.
No novice in South Florida, Richt is familiar with the demanding climate. The sun’s hard on the skin, and Hurricanes fans are hard on their coach.
Richt’s ready for both.
The former Hurricanes quarterback is back in Coral Gables and has less than a month to get Miami ready for its season opener Sept. 3 against Florida A&M.
“Day one. Everybody is fired up,” Richt said. “I wake up every morning thinking how can we do everything excellent as a coaching staff. That’s kind of where I am right now.”
Richt led the Hurricanes through a taxing 2 1/2-hour workout on a humid afternoon with a high temperature of 92.
“Everybody held up pretty good,” he said. “There were a few guys who cramped up a little bit, but here we are in South Florida in the middle of the day. It’s pretty typical. It’s a grueling practice in this type of temperature, but that’s what we need to get in condition to finish games.”
Inability to finish has been one of Miami’s many problems in recent years. Hurricanes fans were spoiled by five national championships from 1983 to 2001, but now they’re restless because their team hasn’t won a bowl game since 2006 and hasn’t had a 10-win season since 2003.
Last year Miami went 8-5 and fired coach Al Golden at midseason after a 58-0 loss to Clemson. Richt, who lettered with the Hurricanes in 1978-82, rejoined them after being fired at Georgia, where he won two Southeastern Conference titles in 15 years but none since 2005.
He inherits a roster led by junior quarterback Brad Kaaya, who has thrown for more than 3,000 yards each of the past two years. But the Hurricanes must be much better defensively and up front to become a contender in the Atlantic Coast Conference’s Coastal Division, which they’ve never won.
“It’s not all on me,” Kaaya said. “Of course I have a big impact in a lot of what happens around here, but at the same time it takes a lot more than just me and coach Richt. It takes help from everyone, even the young guys, even the freshmen. A lot of guys have to grow up now. It can’t just be the scholarship guys. Everyone has to contribute.”
Richt pushed so hard at the first practice that even the star quarterback’s jersey was soaked afterward.
“I had to run after practice, actually,” Kaaya said, “because I threw a pick in a seven-on-seven. I know Twitter is going to go crazy.”
Richt didn’t specifically mention turnovers when asked about his message to fans, but pledged the Hurricanes will play hard, physical, disciplined football.
As for the fresh start that Thursday represented, he said he didn’t think of it that way.
“I’ve been here eight months,” he said. “I’ve been through a lot of practices already. I worked with them all summer. This is the third time we installed the offense. So it didn’t feel brand new.
“But I love being here, I can tell you that.”
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