Notebook: Miami confident backup QBs can lead offense until Williams recovers

Miami quarterback Kevin Olsen completed 7 of 21 passes for 65 yards with one interception during the spring game.

Steve Mitchell

Spring football has ended for the University of Miami, which means a break for players before preparations begin for the 2014 opener in Louisville.

Head coach Al Golden took part in Wednesday’s Atlantic Coast Conference coaches spring football teleconference and expressed his contentment with his players’ progress.

”I just think this was a team that was really focused and improved,” Golden said. ”There was a lot of improvement, which resulted in team improvement in a lot of respects. It was a team that took care of business off the field — hopefully we’ll continue that trend — avoid distractions and just continue to improve. Overall there were certain aspects of the game we needed to improve both positionally and by unit, and we had a very productive spring relative to that.”

The biggest development occurred in early April when presumed starting quarterback Ryan Williams tore his ACL. As Stephen Morris’ backup last season, he went 22 for 32 with 369 yards, three touchdowns and one interception over four games.

Of the two players that competed during the spring — redshirt freshman Kevin Olsen and redshirt sophomore Gray Crow — only the latter has experience in collegiate football. Crow was 6 for 8 with 55 yards, one touchdown and one interception last year.

Olsen completed 7 of 21 passes for 65 yards with one interception during the spring game. Crow went 9 of 20 passes for 63 yards and a pick.

Still, Golden said it would not alter how the Hurricanes function on offense.

”We’re not going to change what we do,” Golden said. ”We need to do a really good job of establishing the running game and keep it simple with the things that we do best. Getting into more third-and-manageable. We were in way too many third-and-longs last year to possess the ball and convert (just 32 percent). Clearly the two young men we have on campus right now can do it and the ones coming in will also have an opportunity to compete.

”Kevin finished ahead of Gray Crow coming out of the spring and whoever is at the helm for us on Labor Day night we’ll have confidence in and we’ve got to rally around.”

WILLIAMS TIMETABLE?

His vantage point

Williams, who sustained a torn ACL on April 4 during a scrimmage and underwent surgery five days later, does not have a timetable for his recovery.

”They’re telling me everything’s going really well,” Golden said. ”He hasn’t had any setbacks yet, which is great. It’s clearly going to be the doctor’s call, but his rehabilitation is going really well right now and knock on wood it will continue to do that.”

ROSIER, KAAYA UPDATES

Olsen and Crow are the only two scholarship quarterbacks on campus, but a pair will be arriving over the summer.

Signees Brad Kaaya (Chaminade of West Hills, Calif.) and Malik Rosier (Faith Academy of Mobila, Ala.) still need to finish high school before making Coral Gables, Fla., home.

”They’re busy right now completing all the things they have to do to graduate and then really to make the transition, which is never easy for anybody,” Golden said. ”I think their focus is on that. Our focus is right now assisting them in doing that and the transition is as seamless as possible. Once they get here then we’ll start talking about football.

”Both of those young men are bright, they take care of business off the field, which allows them to really have complete focus on what they need to do. We’re excited for them to get here. It’s going to help move our program forward and create the type of competition we need at that spot. We don’t really have a lot of interaction at this point.”

WIDEOUT CORPS

During the Russell Athletic Bowl in December, the Hurricanes lacked depth at the wide receiver position because of a combination of injuries and suspensions.

Phillip Dorsett saw his first action since partially tearing his MCL on Oct. 17, but wasn’t at full health. Malcolm Lewis is still trying to regain his form from a dislocated ankle and fractured fibula he sustained September 2012. Rashawn Scott didn’t make the trip and had previously been suspended multiple times.

Only two wideouts — Allen Hurns and Stacy Coley — caught passes (five total) in the 36-9 bowl rout. Hurns graduated. Coley is a sophomore.

”We’re making progress,” Golden said. ”We don’t have the total numbers that we would like. Most programs have 10 or 11 guys. We’re not there yet as a result of what we’ve had to go through the last couple of years, but certainly there’s five or six guys emerging that really could be a starter at any given point. I’m anxious to see how that plays out over the summer and training camp.”

MOST IMPROVED

Duke Johnson recovering from a broken ankle and missing spring ball allowed other tailbacks to get more reps during practice and the spring game.

Gus Edwards, who ran 66 times for 338 yards and five touchdowns in 2013, finished first on the depth chart. Walter Tucker and De’Andre Johnson follow on the list. They combined for just five carries and 22 yards last season.

From hoops to gridiron

”I don’t think there’s any question the running-back and the tight-end position made a great deal of progress,” Golden said.

At tight end, rising sophomore Standish Dobard is in front of seniors Beau Sandland and Clive Walford. Dobard caught one pass for 15 yards as a reserve in three 2013 games. Sandland recorded nine catches for 94 yards and a touchdown. Walford ranked second on the team with 34 catches last year with two scores.

”On the defensive side we probably made the most progress in the secondary and then our depth at linebacker made a dramatic improvement with the development of Juwand Blue and the arrival of Juwon Young and Darrion Owens,” Golden said.

”Improved a lot on our tackling on defense. I thought our tackling was good even in the spring game. I think we developed the depth that we needed at certain positions. Positions that jump out to me — safety, linebacker (and) wide receiver. All of those guys improved from a depth standpoints.”

Young and Owens, both early enrollees, are third on the depth chart at the middle- and outside-linebacker positions, respectively.

CONFERENCE SCHEDULE

The ACC will meet next month in Amelia Island, Fla., to discuss a range of topics that includes the debate over whether to go to a nine-game conference schedule.

With Louisville replacing Maryland this season and Notre Dame facing ACC opponents, there will be 15 programs in the mix.

”Whatever we do we need uniformity in terms of crossover opponents, out-of-conference opponents,” Golden said. ”Whatever the decision is I’ve been in favor of going to nine. I think it would help balance our schedules. I like the way the league has grown and the new membership clearly is going to make us better.”

POSSIBLE TRANSFERS?

When asked about players who might transfer to the Hurricanes, Golden would not comment on rumors or specific guys. One particular area of need is punter. As of Wednesday there were no changes to the roster.

”This time of year we always have our eyes open and looking for guys that can help improve our team,” Golden said. ”We’re clearly not in the situation that we were in a year ago when we were just looking for enough guys to get us going. I think clearly at this point we’re hoping for guys that can improve our team and evaluate them.”

You can follow Christina De Nicola on Twitter @CDeNicola13 or email her at cdenicola13@gmail.com.