Cristobal: execution ‘up and down’ in Miami scrimmage. Canes have ‘a lot of work to do’

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Al Diaz/

Three weeks before the season opener against Bethune-Cookman, the Miami Hurricanes had their first fall scrimmage Saturday night, providing an early glimpse of what coach Mario Cristobal and his new staff might see this season — and the areas in which they most need to improve.

According to Cristobal’s UM-produced video synopsis of the closed, on-campus scrimmage, there’s plenty of work to still be done. But unlike previous years, when former coaches cited numerous players and some scrimmage statistics, Cristobal did not name any players or give any statistics.

The coach said the quarterbacks “made explosive plays and showed our capabilities of making explosive plays — and then came short on some that were there to be had.

“It was a breakdown at one position or another. It wasn’t just that we had a breakdown at quarterback, we had a breakdown at tight end, running back and the offensive line, and the process with the signal coming in. Everyone took a turn today, and that’s — we spoke about it in the huddle. We said we’re doing a lot of good things that have our trajectory going in the right direction, but as a team we’re not doing enough of the things to play at a consistently really high level.

“When you’re sore, when you’re beat up, when you’re out of gas, you gotta find the gas, because the teams we’re playing against, they got a lot of it. It’s time to get back to work.’’

Cristobal told Don Bailey Jr., a former Canes offensive lineman and analyst on the WQAM radio broadcasts, that he made it “real clear that we were going to come out and play football.... Gonna line up and play physical, intense, high-paced, high-tempo football. We did not disappoint in terms of that.

“It’s clearly obvious the strength and conditioning program showed up.” But he also said “the execution is up and down... We expect to be better. .We’re getting there but it’s obvious we’re not there yet. Most of the work has to take place between the ears. We have seen a willingness to go out there and physically compete, to give up pretty good effort — not the championship level effort we want. It’s hit or miss sometimes.

“A lot of progress but a lot of work to do.’’

Some pluses:

On defense: “We’re getting guys on the ground. Our angles are better, our pad level is better, our eyes are more disciplined — that’s the biggest thing. And understanding where our help is. If you know how to leverage the ball, who is working with you, if you clearly understand where your help is, you’re going to do well because you can play fast. And if you don’t, you’re guessing. And if you’re guessing in football, you’ve got problems.”

On special teams: “we can cover’’ and also “we’re really good in punt protection.’’

UM, most recently coached by Manny Diaz before he was replaced by Cristobal in early December, had a disappointing 7-5 season in 2021.

This year the Canes open the season against the FCS B-C Wildcats at 3:30 p.m. Sept. 3 at Hard Rock Stadium (ACC Network), then face newly joined Sunbelt Conference member Southern Miss (ACC Network) at noon Sept. 10 at the Rock. After that it’s a huge, nationally televised game (9 p.m. ESPN) at Texas A&M.

UM’s only open weekend in 2022 will be Oct. 1, with the opening Atlantic Coast Conference game at home against North Carolina on Oct. 8. A time for that game has not been set.