Veterans Set Tone Ahead of Bethune-Cookman Game
By David Villavicencio
CORAL GABLES, Fla. – Veteran leadership is essential to the success of any athletic team.
While newcomers can often provide a boost to a team, it’s the veterans that have been there before and established themselves that can set the tone for the season.
The Miami Hurricanes feature a deep group of established leaders in 2017, including seniors Michael Badgley, Braxton Berrios, Kc McDermott and Chad Thomas. The quartet will serve as team captains this Saturday as the Hurricanes open the season against Bethune-Cookman at 12:30 p.m., at Hard Rock Stadium.
Saturday’s game will be the final home opener for Miami’s senior class. For McDermott, the thought of his final home opener has made him a bit nostalgic about his career.
“It gives me chills just thinking about it,” McDermott said. “It’s going to be the last time that I run through the smoke for the first time and it’s absolutely something that I look forward to. I am going to miss it when this year’s over, but I am going to take it one game at a time and one practice at a time.”
In addition to the captains, veterans like senior tight end Christopher Herndon IV have had Sept. 2 circled on their calendars for months.
“We’ve been working hard during camp and are excited to finally go against someone else,” Herndon said. “Going into this game, I just want to execute my duties. We worked on a lot of plays in the spring, in the summer and in fall camp, so I just want to go in and show my coaches that I am still able to perform at a high level and to also lead the other boys as well.”
Herndon is one of several veterans that is making sure the Hurricanes are ready when the season kicks off on Saturday afternoon. While fans may overlook an FCS opponent, Herndon and the veterans on the 2017 roster are assuring the team has the right mindset against the Wildcats.
“Watching their film, they play with a lot of energy,” Herndon said. “We just have to go in with our ‘A’ game and not take them lightly.”
Preparing for the Wildcats can be a bit of a challenge. As an FCS opponent, it can be a bit difficult to find a lot of game film on Bethune-Cookman, so Miami head coach Mark Richt has taken the approach of focusing on the Hurricanes’ ability to execute.
“We just look at tape, we look at what our opponent does,” Richt said. “We put our game plan in. We run the plays we run against these looks and just try to execute. That’s the main thing for us.”
Miami defensive coordinator Manny Diaz may have the biggest challenge of all from a gameplan standpoint, as Bethune-Cookman offensive coordinator Allen Suber is in his first year at the helm of the Wildcats’ attack.
“It’s impossible to know what they’re going to do,” Diaz said. “We’ve studied all of their games from a year ago and we’ve studied where the coordinator came from a year ago. Really what we try to work on is our rules. There are only so many ways you can line up and only so many plays you can run, so what are our rules for our defense in terms of how we react to all of those things. We spend a lot of time practicing against what we did not see from our offense because we practiced against these set of plays for four weeks, so what are some things that we have not seen that our offense did not ask us so we can answer those questions. The bottom line is we made a billion mistakes last year in that opener, but what we made no mistake on is that we ran to the ball and we bruised whoever we found with it. We have to reestablish that from Day 1 and that will make up for our errors in execution which we know we will have.”
While the Hurricanes may not know exactly what to expect from Bethune-Cookman, sophomores Shaquille Quarterman and Zach McCloud are ensuring that the Miami lives up to the standards they set on defense.
“As far as the team goes, we want to be great so badly,” Quarterman said. “We understand that we have to be really dominant. It’s not about winning by nine points. It’s about shutouts; that’s all we want to do, no matter who we are facing.”
McCloud echoed his fellow linebacker’s sentiments, stating that one of the Canes’ main goals against Bethune-Cookman is showing they are still an aggressive defense.
“Proving and putting on film for other teams we play in the future that we are still tough and still physical,” McCloud said. “No matter who we lost on the back end or whatever part of the team we lost people, that we are still the same group that gets after it.”
Miami opens the season at home on Saturday against Bethune-Cookman. Kickoff is set for 12:30 p.m., ET. Click here for ticket information.