University of Miami football coach Mark Richt spoke about former Hurricanes receiver/return specialist Jeff Thomas publicly for the first time on Monday during his weekly time slot on WQAM radio.
Thomas was dismissed from the Hurricanes (7-5, 4-4 Atlantic Coast Conference) last Wednesday heading into the Pittsburgh game, which Miami won 24-3 on Saturday to end the regular season. Sources said Thomas, widely recognized as the Canes’ most gifted player on offense, clashed with coaches, and had off-field struggles.
“If you read the quote, everybody has got to do thing a certain way and work within the system,’’ Richt told WQAM host Joe Rose, who wanted to know what happened and if the parting was mutual. “That’s all. It just didn’t work out is the best way to say it. I’m a Jeff fan and I want Jeff to have success in the future but it just wasn’t going to happen here.”
Rose tried again, saying that “some people thought he was frustrated, he wasn’t getting the ball enough. Some said he wasn’t following rules.”
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Richt wouldn’t bite.
“Well, it’s over,’’ Richt responded. “I’m not going to get into the details. It’s just not what I do.”
Richt’s original statement after Thomas was dismissed: “We have high standards for excellence, for conduct and for the commitment to team for all of the young men who wear our uniform, and we will not waver from those standards. We wish Jeff the very best as h moves forward in his journey.’’
Richt said to WQAM co-host Zach Krantz, when discussing UM’s outstanding defensive performance, that starting middle linebacker Shaq Quarterman “was struggling with a pulled muscle and battling to stay in the game’’ on Saturday. “So our linebacker corps kind of gutted it out.’’
UM backup linebacker Mike Smith already was out Saturday with a knee injury.
The coach did not elaborate on Quarterman’s injury status for the bowl.
Richt also was asked if he’d consider using a spread offense down the road more. With UM’s only two formerly healthy scholarship tight ends now injured (Brevin Jordan, ankle; Will Mallory, knee), the Canes have been forced to go with four wideouts more.
“We do run that set,’’ Richt said. “A lot of times the tight end is split out on that set. We’ve got some high quality tight ends and we’re going to use them for sure. The bottom line is first downs, touchdowns, is what you want. It doesn’t matter how you do it. The bottom line is if you’re moving the ball, getting first downs, controlling the ball when you need to, you’re scoring touchdowns in the red zone, I think that’s what people want to see – period. …
“They want to see more offensive production – period.
“The style of it, obviously, it gets into the conversation if you’re not having as much success as you want. I like spreading it out. I like the fact that when we do run just a simple zone play everybody is accounted for except for a safety and the guy in charge of the quarterback on the zone read.
“If they play the quarterback and we hand the ball off and block it well like we did a few times and make the one safety miss, then we’re scoring points or getting long runs. So, you can run the ball to that spread as well as throw it. We’ll definitely be in the spread again a bit.”
▪ Projections have been all over the map for where the Canes might land next month for their bowl game. Richt indicated to WQAM that the answer won’t be cemented until the official announcement on Sunday.
“I wish I could tell you,’’ Richt said. We don’t know yet. There are a lot of things that happen that I don’t even understand sometimes. [Athletic director] Blake [James] is going to get this thing figured out. We did have a conversation. There were a few that looked like are on the table but by no means was there any one bowl that we’re settled on. No one knows right now.”
▪ Richt, on the play of quarterback N’Kosi Perry, who struggled Saturday against Pitt (6 of 24 for 52 yards, with no touchdowns or interceptions), but was hampered by at least six dropped passes: “Well, if you saw every bit of the game it was very frustrating that we had a lot of balls that were put on the money and dropped. A lot of third down catches that were going to be first downs. There was a little bit of that and there were some moments we had guys open and we didn’t hit them as well...
“...Kosi is like any other quarterback. Rule No. 1: Hit your target and be able to handle all the assignments and all the pressure of the job. He’s learning and growing and we’ll see what happens in the bowl game. He’ll still be the starter going into that and we’ll see how he plays.
“The bottom line is everybody has got to do their job and do it well. If he does that, he’ll be the guy.”
▪ Richt, to Rose on the frustration of a 7-5 season: “It is frustrating. There’s no doubt. Frustrating for everybody. I understand that. We want to finish out this bowl season strong and recruit our tails off and make sure we do a better in the future. And that’s just all there is to it.”