Al Golden (COMPLETE AUDIO OF GOLDEN'S PRESS CONFERENCE THURSDAY) wasn't ready to reveal a final depth chart or tell us who has won the remaining position battles up for grabs (secondary, right tackle), but we did learn Thursday at least who will be handling kickoffs and punts.
Walk-on sophomore Justin Vogel, a transfer from Florida, said Golden informed him a couple days ago he'll be handling punts at Louisville Monday night. Vogel said he also climbed to the top of the depth chart -- the one only players and coaches have had a chance to see -- on kickoffs.
"I've always been No. 2 on kickoffs, but I had a really good day on Tuesday," Vogel said. "I had always been hitting them here and there. But then we did our game plan, scheme and I just hit a couple of really good kicks. Coach [Golden] was like do it again the next day. So I replicated it again. That moved me up to first team."
Freshman walk-on Michael Badgley is backing Vogel up on kickoffs. Redshirt senior Ricky Carroll is behind Vogel on punts.
"They judge all of it," Vogel said of the competition for the kicking jobs. "First off [on punts] they want to make sure the operations aren't slow. No matter how good your kick is if the operation is bad you're kick is getting blocked. So it has to be off under in under two seconds. Coach Golden wants is 43 yards, 4.3-second hang [time]. I've been averaging around that. I've kicked better than that too."
GOLDEN TALKS TEAM
> So what is happening with some of the remaining position battles yet to be determined?
"We're still going," Golden said. "For some of them it's too early to call. I like our depth at a lot of positions. Obviously some of them are settled like Denzel [Perryman] and Chick [Anthony Chickillo]. But if you look at the back four, the secondary, those guys are fighting. Thurston [Armbrister] has had a good camp, [Raphael] Kirby seems to be back now from his ailment. On the other side [Taylor] Gadbois and KC [McDermott] and Trevor (Darling) are all still in the mix at tackle. We'll see more of [Chris] Herndon and Jake O'Donnell now and Ron Regula as a third or fourth tight end. The tailbacks are the same as all camp and Brad [Kaaya]. We'll probably play six or seven wide receivers as well."
> Golden yet again reiterated that sophomore defensive end Al-Quadin Muhammad will play in Monday's opener. Muhammad was back at practice Thursday morning after missing Tuesday's practice to deal with what Golden referred to as a personal issue.
> Golden said the only freshman who will be counted on in a major role is quarterback Brad Kaaya.
"The last few years we were counting on so many young guys before they had the opportunity to learn the system or ready to go. We're playing a lot of young guys but they're not in significant roles, they don't have to shoulder the burden," Golden said. "Obviously Brad is the one outlier in this instance. The good news with Brad is he has a veteran line in front of him, a nice complement of veteran guys."
Asked if there is plan to play senior transfer Jake Heaps, Golden said: "No."
Asked if Kaaya struggles if Heaps would replace him, Golden said: "No. He's our quarterback. He's going to do great, execute really well, has been doing really well. Brad's worked really hard over the last 16 weeks, has earned this job and that's it. There were no qualifiers here ever. He's the exception this year in terms of a freshman that has to start."
What is it about Kaaya that gives Golden so much confidence in him? "I don't know," he said. "All I can say is really sharp. First of all not many mechanical flaws. And then the young man went and lost 20 pounds so you weren't dealing with mechanics and something physiological in terms of condition. And whatever he learned via videotape or book transferred to the field spatially, conceptually. Plus a young man who's a great example for everyone else. He gave up a lot socially, a lot of his time to continue to work hard, ask the right questions, fix his flaws. He has a long way to go as a quarterback, as we all do, but he really worked hard mentally and physically to put himself in this position."
Did Golden think Kaaya would start from Day 1? "No," he said. "We thought he'd compete, but we took a lot of roads since April 4 [the day Ryan Williams tore his ACL] to get to this point. I sleep well at night knowing we have two guys we can run at quarterback right now without Ryan being in the mix yet."
> On Wednesday night Miami landed a commitment from Kaaya's former high school teammate, four-star offensive tackle Bar Milo. Golden was asked how having a kid like Kaaya helps UM's recruiting efforts.
"Your greatest recruiters are the young men that are in your program because they're the ones that know how you treat them every day, what the values are," Golden said. "When you start getting that endorsement, the testimony they give to the local kids, that gives a lot more weight than any feedback a coach has in a recruiting setting. It's good. We're seeing more of that. Guys are proud of what we're building at the University of Miami. It's exciting for us."
> I was able to catch up with Vogel and defensive end Anthony Chickillo and record their interviews on video.
Chickillo talked a lot about facing Louisville's offensive line which returns four starts, game planning for new coach Bobby Petrino's offense and what it's going to be like facing a Louisville team that trash talked a whole lot in the bowl game.