Musings from UM's first pre-bowl practice, held Saturday afternoon in front of an estimated 200 spectators at Cobb Stadium on campus:
### With seniors (including Stephen Morris) given the practice off, Ryan Williams and Kevin Olsen took all the quarterback snaps, and both threw interceptions returned for touchdowns: Olsen by cornerback Ladarius Gunter (Olsen looked confused; no receiver was particularly close) and Williams by linebacker Jermaine Grace.
Otherwise, Williams --– who took the majority of snaps --– was the more impressive quarterback, reinforcing the notion why he’s the favorite to win the starting job in 2014.
Williams was generally decisive in his reads, accurate in his throws and displayed poise in the pocket. His strength remains intermediate routes; he showed deft touch across the middle (especially on two throws to Beau Sandland and Malcolm Lewis) and for the most part, on sideline routes, though he overthrew one of those.
“Ryan –-- you see plays that are second nature to him,” offensive coordinator James Coley said Saturday.
Questions remain about Williams’ accuracy on deep balls. He underthrew Rashawn Scott on one deep route, which Gunter nearly intercepted.
Olsen has a big-time arm but threw mostly short passes and dump-offs on Saturday. For the most part, he didn’t make decisions as quickly as Williams. Coley said afterward that one message for Olsen to carry into the offseason is “don’t overthink it.”
Morris said he has been working with Olsen on his footwork: “He’s a great athlete. We just have to get it to show on the field. My biggest thing is help Kevin, go through reads with him, help him control his nerves.”
### Good to see UM practicing in December after self-imposed bowl bans the past two years. These 15 practices over the next few weeks should help some of the underclassmen get a jump-start on 2014.
Al Golden said a December practice “felt great. It was unbelievable. All week, didn’t answer one question on the NCAA.... We probably rested 25, 26 guys today. Guys with high play counts, we rested.”
Defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio said: “These practices mean everything. They’re like spring practice. We had 30 less practices than our competitors the last two years.”
### Golden was impressed by several young players Saturday: Grace, offensive linemen Alex Gall and Taylor Gadbois and receiver D’Mauri Jones.
### Stacy Coley, who had a monster November, was impressive as usual Saturday. “He’s got a special skill set,” Coley said. “He’s bringing his skill set to games now. He dedicated himself to really understand what’s going on out there, [not being] a robot.”
### Golden said he has given zero thought to who UM might play in a bowl game (expected to be the Chick-Fil-A Bowl in Atlanta or the Russell Athletic Bowl in Orlando). Seems like UM players would enjoy the challenge of playing against Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater; Louisville already has accepted a Russell Athletic Bowl invitation.
### Several recruits were on campus, including Miami Central running back Dalvin Cook, a UF oral commitment who continues to consider Miami and FSU.
### Golden said Anthony Chickillo, who was in a boot, has a toe injury that’s not serious.
### D’Mauri Jones, Lewis and Standish Dobard dropped passes on three consecutive plays.
### Defensive end Ufomba Kamalu snuffed out a running play and continues to emerge as a key piece of next year's d-line.
### Most entertaining play of the day: Herb Waters tipped a Williams pass, Tracy Howard then tipped it again, and Waters then caught it and ran for a touchdown.
### Linebackers coach Micheal Barrow added some levity, taking the megaphone during practice and ordering James Coley to join the offensive players in wind sprints.
### Sunday's practice at 11 a.m. --- and three more next Friday, Saturday and Sunday will also be open to the public.
### For those who will be out and about tonight and want to hear the FSU-Duke game on radio: Steve Lapa, who runs 640-AM, asked us to note that the game will be moved to 640 from 850 AM, which was originally scheduled to air it, because of an FPL transformer problem.
Check back tonight for the Sunday buzz column. Twitter: @flasportsbuzz