When you have a bye week like the University of Miami has this late in the season (a break of nearly two weeks off between games) it can be easy for a young football team to lose focus. But these baby Canes don't appear like they are losing any.
UM resumed practice Thursday afternoon at Greentree Practice Field (their first real one since Saturday's thrilling come-from-behind win at Virginia) and coach Randy Shannon said his team looked sharp working on fundamentals in full pads for two hours. There could be a good explanation -- Shannon has been keeping things light. Instead of spending a few extra days preparing for Virginia Tech, Miami players haven't been doing extra studying with coaches. If they have, it has been on their own. Several players including Javarris James said players have come in to study on their own and work out on their own.
Something else Shannon has been doing: avoiding talk of Bryan Pata. On the eve of the 2-year anniversary of Pata's shooting death, Shannon declined to talk about Pata. And those who were closest to Pata like defensive line coach Clint Hurtt, Antonio Dixon, roommate Dwayne Hendricks and Eric Moncur didn't talk with reporters either. Friday, UM will have a 5 a.m. practice -- that's a good way to make sure the guys are in bed early -- and then will take another day off before starting to preparing for the Hokies and next Thursday night's showdown on Sunday afternoon.
"If you try to get ahead for Virginia Tech players start to get bored because you see it more than you normally do," Shannon said. "You have to keep that edge on them of not really doing anything until next week... We worked on a lot of fundamentals [today], special teams, technique stuff and individual drills. That's all we'll do. Then we'll come back on Sunday, get ready for Virginia Tech."
> While a good portion of the players on UM's roster are either freshmen or sophomores who never got a chance to play with Pata, a couple guys spent some time talking about him Thursday. But unlike last year when Pata talk was natural, this year, nobody on the team seems to be doing much of it at all. It might just be because guys no longer want to bring up the bad memories.
"I haven't heard anybody bring it up," safety Ryan Hill said. "Why would you want to talk about an anniversary like that, for something that is so bad. I feel like they maybe could have done more. But it's a situation where it's like a cold case now. I feel like this was over a long time ago... I'm sure there are a lot of murders that go unsolved each year. Maybe someday somebody will turn themselves in so he can rest in piece. But right now, this is all we have to go by."
Still, that doesn't stop Hill or Javarris James from wondering time to time what happened that night. James said players will still share their favorite Pata stories from time to time. "We try not to forget about him," James said. "But I think we all prefer the stories about him smiling and having fun than his last day."
> Several Canes players were making plans to watch the Hokies' Thursday night victory over Maryland after practice including James, who said his ankle injury was nothing serious and he expects to play against the Hokies. Although many players weren't expected to stay up for most of it because of UM's 5 a.m. practice Friday. Quarterback Jacory Harris said he had to go home and write a paper, but would make sure he finished in time to catch the game. Harris said he has no problem waking up in the morning for practice -- but even a 5 a.m. practice is pushing it. "If I wake up at 4:45, I'll be sure to jog out there," Harris joked.
> There's no doubt who received the majority of the votes from UM players in Tuesday's Presidential Election -- Barack Obama. Offensive tackle Jason Fox was seen on TV celebrating on Tuesday night when Obama won. Quarterback Robert Marve admitted Thursday he was an Obama fan and thought it was pretty cool Obama recently voiced his opinion about having a playoff system in college football.
> Jacory Harris talked Thursday about picking up some pounds -- and gaining strength in his arm. "Coach Nix had us out here throwing across the field, just basically doing drills to strengthen our arm. I feel a lot better. I feel I can go out there and throw it about 70 yards right now."
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