The Hurricanes returned to the practice field Monday following their important Coastal Division win over Duke last Saturday in jerseys and baseball caps, a relatively light workday as they begin preparing to face Georgia Tech in Atlanta.
Here are some news, notes and observations:
> Coach Al Golden said he still had no updates on the injury status of starting right tackle Taylor Gadbois and backup Kc McDermott, but neither player was at practice Monday.
> Fifth-year senior Jon Feliciano, who has made 38 career starts at UM (23 at left guard), was once again working with the first team at right tackle. Freshman Nick Linder was with the first team at left guard.
> Golden said the injuries to Gadbois and McDermott has created "a great opportunity" for Hunter Wells (back from suspension), Linder, Trevor Darling and Sunny Odogwu to compete for playing time. He said Darling and Odogwu would backup Feliciano at right tackle.
> Golden said the reason Linder replaced Feliciano at left guard when he moved over to right tackle in the fourth quarter Saturday was because Linder had a great week of practice last week.
"[In the game] I think nine out of 10 reps he scored nine plusses," Golden said. "That's not dissimilar to what we see in practice everyday. He brings a poise and a familiarity in there with those guys and it's good."
> Freshman defensive end Chad Thomas, who missed the Nebraska game because of back pain, got in for three plays Saturday against Duke, Golden said. Thomas said he was jumping up and down on the sideline against the Blue Devils and feels a lot better now. "I feel good," he said. "I'm ready to play."
> Running back Duke Johnson had his right foot heavily taped and was limping Monday after spraining his ankle against the Blue Devils. "Just precautionary," Golden said of the tape. "He'll be okay."
> Kicker Matt Goudis, who hasn't played since the Florida A&M game with a bad back, was at practice Monday. "I don't know where he's at yet," Golden said. "Today was just kind of a loose up day, get loose. We'll know more by [Tuesday] for sure."
> Golden said freshman walk-on kicker Michael Badgley, who has missed two extra points in two games, has to continue to improve.
> Golden said punter Justin Vogel will compete with Badgley this week to handle kickoffs. UM ranks 101st in kickoff return defense (23.19 yard average) and has already allowed one return for a score for the first time in six years. "We've got to get the ball a little bit deeper on kickoffs so we can cover," Golden said.
> Duke coach David Cutcliffe and several of his players remarked after Saturday's game about how physical the Hurricanes were on defense, how played with a lot energy and did a great job tackling and making plays on the ball.
Quarterback Anthony Boone said Miami "had a great game plan and they came out executed very highly, made a lot of plays."
> Saturday marked only the seventh time in 38 games under Mark D'Onofrio the Hurricanes defense held an FBS opponent to under 300 yards total offense and fewer than 100 yards rushing.
Golden said Miami's defense was better, but said they've still got a long way to go. "I thought we played together," Golden said. "We executed. We communicated well. Our [mental errors] were down. Our explosives were down. I think the guys are starting to understand: it’s all or nothing.
"It really is. It’s all-in, everybody executing the correct technique, trusting their training, nobody on their own and be a band of brothers. They saw in that game on Saturday night, when they weren’t, when they had a defect, we got exploited. That’s what college football is anymore. I mean, it really is. You can get exploited quickly. They’re just going to come after you with yards and [explosive] plays if you’re not all together. I think we did a good job of settling down after that scoring drive that they had. And I think where we need help is protecting the ball on offense. The offense has got to help us with that, and then third-down conversions. Those two things are putting the defense in bad spots and we’ve got to help them."
> Receiver Stacy Coley's sophomore slump continued against Duke with a huge drop on what would have been an easy touchdown, but coaches aren't giving up on him yet.
"I wish that didn’t happen the other night," Golden said. "[But] last time that happened [the FAU game last year] he came back with a vengeance. I expect him to come back with a vengeance."
After rolling up 1,468 all-purpose yards and scoring 10 touchdown last season on 67 touchdes (33 catches, 2 carries, 10 punt returns and 22 kick returns), has 257 all-purpose yards on 24 touches this season. Coley missed the Arkansas State game with a shoulder injury, but Golden said "he's healthy now, so let's throw that out."
> Offensive coordinator James Coley, who said last week his receiver was having trouble getting open, said he sat down with Stacy and showed him his drop was simply a matter of taking his eyes off the ball.
"I know he feels bad about it," James Coley said. "It's a long season. There's a lot of plays to be made. We're not going to hesitate to dial him up on it [again]."
> The Hurricanes rank 124th out of 126 FBS teams on third down conversions (24.14 percent). Miami went 2-for-13 on third down against Duke. Coley said the key to improvement will be having more success on first and second down and not getting into third and long situations.
Coley said in practice the last two weeks -- when the team does third down drills -- if somebody doesn't convert "they're off the field."
"We're putting an emphasis on it," Coley said. "It's important obviously because it sustains drives. We have goals we want to get to. The last two weeks [before Duke] were pretty good. We were above 50 percent. For us, if we get 10 third down opportunities and we're five out of 10 that's championship football across the country."
> Miami had 11 players on defense wearing black starter jerseys Monday: cornerbacks Ladarius Gunter and Corn Elder; safeties Nantambu Fentress and Deon Bush; linebackers Denzel Perryman, Thurston Armbrister, Raphael Kirby and Tyriq McCord and defensive linemen Anthony Chickillo, Olsen Pierre and Ufomba Kamalu.
How good did it feel to see his bounce back from Nebraska?
"It felt great," defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio said. "I was very happy for our players, coaches, everybody. Like I said whenever I talked to you guys last week after the last game 'There's no finger pointing, everybody take accountability for their part, let's just go back to work.'
"At the end of the day defensive football -- and I know I sound like a broken record -- it's about execution. When you don't execute, they make you pay. When you do execute, you look pretty good. We just did a better job. We executed a lot more this week. It wasn't really anything different other than better execution."
D'Onofrio said the one series UM's defense didn't execute Duke went right down the field and scored it's only touchdown. "We had about four or five freelance plays, and that happens," D'Onofrio said. "Today's [defensive] meeting [room] was no different than the one after Nebraska. It was just about teaching and presenting the facts. Here's what we gave up, here's what we gave them... when you give people free yards they move the ball. That one particular series [versus Duke] we did. Other than that, I thought we played pretty solid."
Was Nebraska a wake up call? Are we not going to see freelancing again? Do D'Onofrio's guys have it figured out now?
"You hope," D'Onofrio said. "I hope it was a turning point. I really do. That's what we said. When we got done with the game, when we looked at the [Nebraska] tape we said 'We're not far off.' We just don't have a guy doing his job on every play. We all see what kind of football team they are. They're continuing to move along and they're very good. You play a great back like that [in Ameer Abdullah] and you're not where you're supposed to be you can get exposed.
"So, I think the guys learned from that a lot. They focused in. I think the combination of that and the fact we didn't play very well last year against Duke, I think the combination of the two, got our focus where it needed to be and the guys were locked in to execute and do their job. Hopefully it is a turning point and they'll see what we can do when we execute."