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Canes Excited to Represent Miami on Saturday

Canes Excited to Represent Miami on Saturday

By David Villavicencio
ORLANDO, Fla. – Hurricane Irma has come and gone, but the powerful storm left lasting effects across the state of Florida.
In South Florida, thousands were without power and many sustained damage to their homes, neighborhoods and surrounding areas.
The No. 14 Miami Hurricanes were affected, as well, canceling one game and rescheduling another while missing out on several days of practice due to the destruction caused by Irma.
But the Hurricanes (1-0) are a resilient bunch, just like the city and fans they represent. Much like the residents of Miami have banded together to help one another rise up after the impact of Irma, the Canes have done the same with each other since they came together on the Friday after the storm. Now they hope to uplift their city in a big way when they welcome Toledo (3-0) to Hard Rock Stadium at 3:30 p.m., Saturday.
“We’re the Miami Hurricanes,” senior wide receiver Braxton Berrios said. “We wear that on our chest and we wear that U on the side of our helmet. It means a lot to have Miami behind us and we want to be behind Miami, as well.”
Miami defensive coordinator Manny Diaz is very familiar with how the people of Miami respond to the adversity of a hurricane. A Miami native and son of former Miami mayor Manny Diaz,
“For South Florida, you always see the community come together and people come out of their homes and help each other with cleanup and things like that,” Diaz said. “That’s what you want to see on Saturday. We want Saturday to be an opportunity where everybody in the community can get together and have a great tailgate and get in the stadium and create a great atmosphere and help our guys along.
“I’ll be honest with you I think we are probably going to need it. We’re probably going to need a great atmosphere to help our guys through and to get us going until we kind of get our sea legs back and get our season kind of kicked off.”
Miami will face a challenging opponent in Toledo, who is undefeated through three games this season and is entering Saturday’s contest fresh off a thrilling 54-51 victory over Tulsa.
“They’re a confident team right now,” Berrios said. “They’re 3-0 and they just won a barnburner at the last second. They’re a very, very confident team right now. Their defense is going to do what they need to do. They do a lot of different things, they’re very versatile, they hit and they’re a physical team. We’ve got to do what we do as well.”
The Hurricanes have faced several challenges since being evacuated from their Coral Gables campus and they are thrilled to be back preparing for a football game again. Miami has practiced in Orlando all week at the ESPN Wide World of Sports in advance of Saturday’s 3:30 p.m., matchup against Toledo at Hard Rock Stadium.
“It’s been huge for all of us,” Miami offensive coordinator Thomas Brown said. “I think we obviously all missed a bunch. Once we calmed down from what the storm had done and kind of assessed the damage, and were thankful that nobody’s homes were decimated and no life was lost on our staff or our players and their families, was huge to see. Coming back and not knowing what type of shape we’d be in, where the guys would be mentally…it’s been great so far to see those guys come back and be focused and work their butts off.”

Quarterback Malik Rosier was in Orlando since the team evacuated on Sept. 7. The redshirt junior and his teammates did their best to stay in shape and in sync throughout the extended layoff.
“It’s been kind of hard, cooped up in a hotel for the last two weeks now,” Rosier said. “I’ve been around the coaches, even when we were off, me and Coach Jon [Richt], we had some of the receivers with us. We were throwing; We were working out, watching a lot of film. Unfortunately we weren’t able to play FSU last week. Once I found out, I started watching Toledo [film]. I’ve been watching Toledo for about a week and a half now.
“From what I can tell, they’re a really good football team. They’re going to challenge us one-on-ones. They’re going to try to get free hitters in the box. You just have to win your one-on-one battles. That’s what it comes down to, at the end of this game. I think they’re a really good football team. As you’ve noticed, their offense is very explosive. At any moment, they can go down the field and score. It’ll be a really good test for our defense and really good for us, too, from an adversity standpoint, with being in the hotel and being away from each other for the last week or so.”
Miami’s coaches have been studying Toledo since the Florida State game was rescheduled to Oct. 7, and each coordinator has focused on preparing their players for the Rockets.
“I think the biggest challenge for us is trying to figure out who they’re going to be,” Brown said. “They’ve played three games, and in the three games they’ve been somebody different. I think they’re more of a ‘flavor of the week’-type team. They kind of base what they do blitz-wise and some stuff coverage-wise based on who they’re playing. We kind of have to prepare for everything they showed last year, everything they’ve shown this year, which kind of makes it tough when you’re getting a certain amount reps in versus all your looks, run-game and protection-wise. I think they’re well-coached and they play hard. They’ve given up some points, but obviously we’ll see what happens on Saturday.”

Diaz has spent time emphasizing the importance of fundamental tackling, especially against an explosive Toledo offense that has scored over 35 points in each of its three games this season.
“We go through our drills and we went through our circuits on Saturday and Sunday and we are doing it again today and tomorrow,” Diaz said on Tuesday. “Leveraging, you know, we have to preach all the things we can preach in practice and have the guys trust all the techniques they trust in practice. But getting yourself, on both sides of the ball, to run through contact, that’s something that usually you get better with as the year goes on. We’ll all be watching that together.”
Conditioning has been a common theme since the Hurricanes reunited in Orlando on Sept. 15. While players tried to stay in shape over the layoff, Miami’s coaches have ensured that their team’s conditioning was a focus in each day of practice as they prepare to face a fast-paced Toledo offense.
“We have to be ready for the tempo of the game,” sophomore cornerback Malek Young said. “They move pretty quick. They have good receivers; We just have to match up with them and their scheme. It’s more than athleticism. It’s the scheme and the routes that they run and motions that they do to throw off the plays. We just have to come prepared and mentally focused.”