Spring practice for the Miami Hurricanes came to an end on Saturday as they held their annual spring game at Lockhart Stadium in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. First-year head coach Mark Richt gave the fans in attendance a small preview of what the team will look like once the games count in September.
While the Green team defeated the Orange team 24-7, the results aren't the biggest takeaway. Here are the five things that stood out during Miami's spring game:
1. Gus Edwards is back
After missing the entire 2015 season because of a broken foot, Edwards showed everyone that he was back in a major way on Saturday. The 6-2, 235-pounder ran for 57 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries for the Orange team.
Before his injury in 2015, the coaching staff believed Edwards had the combination of power and speed to rush for more than 1,000 yards. While at Georgia, Richt has traditionally had deep backfields and this year won't be any different.
Joseph Yearby, who rushed for 1,002 yards last year, sophomore Mark Walton and Edwards will give the Hurricanes a quality backfield that can rival any team in the nation.
2. Brad Kaaya looks comfortable in Richt's offense
In front of a crowd around 14,000, Kaaya completed 29 of 47 passes for 345 yards and three touchdowns. Even in three scrimmages this spring, it is evident that Kaaya is very comfortable running Richt’s offense.
"I thought I did my extra work off the field and just studying my plays, so I think I've mastered it pretty well," Kaaya said
after the game. "Coach Richt did a good job of course in following it with us. He didn't throw too much at us at once. I'm sure down the road when it comes to week to week to week, it'll be more complex game plans and stuff, but so far in the base offense, I think I did a good job of learning it and I think some other guys did too."
Richt appears to be bringing the Hurricanes’ offense along slowly, which is a good thing. That will give the young players a chance to study the playbook and be ready for fall camp.
3. Braxton Berrios is ready to set up
Berrios came to Coral Gables with a lot of early expectations, but the talented wide receiver was injured during his sophomore season. On Saturday, Berrios gave fans a glimmer of hope of what is yet to come in the fall.
Berrios caught eight balls for 127 yards and a touchdown in Saturday's scrimmage. He was Kaaya's go-to receiver as he ran productive routes to free himself from defenders.
“It was good to finally feel 100 percent, finally really get back out there, Berrios said. "We were connecting like we’ve been working on all spring.”
Even with Stacy Coley returning, Miami needs to develop other reliable playmakers on offense. If Berrios can stay healthy, he could become Kaaya's No. 1 option in the passing game.
4. Miami's defense isn't quite where it needs to be
For Miami to compete in the ACC with the likes of Clemson and Florida State, the defense will have to improve significantly. While there were encouraging signs on Saturday, the Hurricanes still have a ways to go.
Gerald Willis recorded two sacks and Shaquille Quarterman finished with one, but Miami's secondary was out of position on some plays. Cornerback Corn Elder was superb, but there remain questions in regards to the secondary as a whole.
One positive takeaway was Miami's tackling appears to have improved compared to last year.
“I like the way the guys flew around," defensive coordinator Manny Diaz said. "I thought we were harder to run the ball against than we had been in the previous scrimmages. I think the guys look like they are starting to get it. I think they played more comfortably. If I still had to lobby a complaint for us – it’s the craziest thing – but when we do something good, we just don’t get excited about it."
5. Offensive line is improved, but still needs work
Despite allowing a few sacks, the Hurricanes’ offensive line appears to have made some strides this spring. On a number of pass plays during the scrimmage, the line did a solid job on blitz pick up, something the unit struggled with last season.
“Not bad," Richt said. "There was a sack here and there. There was a bust up front here and there, but they were bringing nice little blitzes and twists and things of that nature, little line movement up front, which we didn’t handle perfectly. We moved the ball well at times, we ran the ball well at times, we threw the ball well at times.”
— Written by Antwan Staley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and has extensive experience covering Florida sports teams. Staley has written for Bleacher Report, Pro Player Insiders and is a reporter for Sports Talk Florida. Follow him on Twitter @antwanstaley.