Miami’s Cristobal comments on Tyler Van Dyke opening-game status after weekend report

UPDATED AUGUST 28, 2023 10:37 AM
Four days before the Miami Hurricanes season opener against Miami of Ohio, UM coach Mario Cristobal spoke about his team early Monday, saying starting quarterback Tyler Van Dyke was “ready to roll,’’ but not commenting on reports that Van Dyke was questionable after hitting his throwing hand on a teammate’s helmet during practice.
WQAM radio host Joe Rose went through various position outlooks and asked Cristobal about the quarterback position without mentioning Van Dyke’s reported hand/thumb injury in relation to the 7 p.m. Friday opener at Hard Rock Stadium.
“Tyler has had a great spring, he’s had a great summer and great fall camp,’’ Cristobal said. “He’s ready to roll. Both Jacurri [Brown] and Emory [Williams] have had really, really good fall camps,’’ the coach added of the backups. “Them learning the system in the springtime carried over well to the summer and they both have proven they can win football games in this system.
“Overall, we feel they have a great grasp and command of the offense and they’re ready to roll.”
CaneSport of the network reported through a source Sunday that Van Dyke was questionable for Miami of Ohio after “banging the thumb side of his hand on a helmet during last Tuesday’s practice’’ and “hasn’t thrown since as the team works to get the pain/grip issue resolved before Game 1.’’
The report said there were no fractures or breaks involved.
Van Dyke, a fourth-year junior, was the 2021 Atlantic Coast Conference Rookie of the Year, but missed much of the second half of 2022 after he sustained a third-degree AC joint sprain in his throwing shoulder during the Oct. 22 Duke game. He was injured the rest of the season, despite trying unsuccessfully to play against Florida State and in the season finale against Pittsburgh. He was pulled early in both of those games.
Van Dyke finished last season 160 of 253 (63.2 percent) for 1,835 yards and 10 touchdowns in nine games (eight starts), with five interceptions. He was sacked 13 times.
In 2021, Van Dyke played in 10 games and started the final nine, completing 202 of 324 passes (62.3 percent) for 2,931 yards and 25 touchdowns, with six interceptions. He finished eighth nationally in passing yards per completion (14.5), 11th in passing efficiency (160.1) and 14th in passing yards per game (293.1) as part of the nation’s No. 10 passing offense.
If Van Dyke doesn’t start Friday, sophomore backup Jacurri Brown would likely start. Brown played in five games last season, completing 27 of 45 passes (60 percent) for 230 yards and three touchdowns, with three interceptions. He was sacked six times. His two starts were in a win against Georgia Tech, when he was 14-of-19 (73.7) for 136 yards and three touchdowns (and 87 yards rushing); and in a loss at Clemson, when he was 6-of-13 for 53 yards, with an interception.
UM’s No. 3 quarterback has been freshman Emory Williams, who had a strong fall camp.
Regarding the other positions, Cristobal told WQAM that the running back and defensive back (notably, cornerbacks) positions are the ones most likely to continue playing out until game time.
Returning starter Henry Parrish, Nebraska transfer Ajay Allen and true freshman Mark Fletcher have all had strong camps, with Don Chaney Jr. (injured most of the past two seasons) also performing well. True freshman Chris Johnson, a track state champion out of Fort Lauderdale Dillard High, was nicked up for several practices and returned last week.
“We feel great about it to the point we’re letting them compete to see who actually gets the nod on Friday,’’ Cristobal told WQAM. “From there you got to see and get a feel for who gets hot. All those guys have proven that they deserve an opportunity this week. It’s a matter of who runs the hardest, the best, who protects the football the best, who protects the quarterback the best and who does his assignments as it relates to the passing game and whatnot. We really like where that position is trending.
“When you have a position like that where they’ve all proven they can do it and the separation has been more of a daily thing as opposed to an overall camp thing, you have to. That way you allow guys the opportunity to earn more time or earn the initial nod. Not to mention if they get hot then you roll from there.
“I think at that position, at linebacker and defensive back are ones where you’ve got to let the weeks play out and see who handles it best.’’
Other Cristobal comments:
▪ On true freshmen Francis Mauigoa (right tackle), Damari Brown (cornerback), Rueben Bain (defensive end), Fletcher:
“They’re all playing. They’re either starting or in the rotation as co-starters or first guy in. They all have proven that they deserve to play and certainly have upped the level and caliber of talent on our team.”
▪ On whether he expects several wide receivers to play early:
“That position has probably advanced as much or more than any other one. We have enough guys that we can rotate and play guys that are dependable, make plays, be explosive; that know what they’re doing, that are willing blockers. I know that Tyler and the rest of the quarterbacks feel really confident now.”
▪ On the defense stopping the run better than last season:
“We feel a lot better about what we’re doing schematically. We feel better about the personnel. We have a chance to play complementary football. When you struggle to achieve your short-yardage goals and goal-line goals it puts a lot of pressure on the defense and now that play count goes up by 20, 25 a game. The trickle effect of that is massive as it relates to the game and season.
“We’re playing against a team that defensively is top-10 [12th in 2022] in turnover margin, a team that held Kentucky to 50 yards rushing,’’ Cristobal said of last season’s game, in which Kentucky won 37-13. “The talent is there to be had and we feel more confident going into this season than a year ago due to schematic enhancement and personnel advances.”

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