Chances are at least one of the University of Miami’s backup quarterbacks — maybe both — will get playing time Saturday against Central Connecticut State, even if doctors permit sixth-year senior D’Eriq King to play.
A few hours after delivering more distressing news for the 1-2 Miami Hurricanes regarding the injury status of starter King and left guard Jalen Rivers, coach Manny Diaz confirmed on Zoom that Rivers is “doubtful” Saturday for the FCS Blue Devils and paused for several seconds before saying King was “questionable.’’
Among UM’s best players on offense, King and Rivers were both injured during UM’s 38-17 loss to Michigan State — King to his right shoulder and Rivers to his right leg or knee.
Diaz earlier Monday told WQAM that Rivers, who was hurt in the first quarter Saturday, had “initial scans that show he’s got something” in terms of the injury. “We’ll know more about that on Tuesday. We won’t know the initial length of time [that he’s out] until Tuesday.’’
The offensive line has played poorly this season and has been shuffled multiple times.
Regarding his quarterback’s injury in the third quarter, Diaz told WQAM’s Zach Krantz that “D’Eriq is roughed up pretty good,’’ not giving any injury specifics. “He has an appointment with the doctor tomorrow.”
After the game Saturday, King wore a black splint over his wrist and right arm (the splint was mostly covered by a long-sleeve shirt) while speaking on Zoom with the media. He leaned heavily onto a lectern with his right side to seemingly eliminate any pressure on the shoulder. He said his shoulder was “all right, not too bad,” but it clearly was.
He landed hard on the shoulder after a 1-yard rush, jogged with Dr. Lee Kaplan into the locker room to have it checked, then returned without missing a play.
“The guy does everything for this program,” Diaz told WQAM of King. “The guy simply sacrifices himself.... But we gotta get more around him. There are too many guys sitting there watching D’Eriq and not playing with the same desperation he has. That’s been unfair to D’Eriq. The 10 guys on offense have got to help our quarterback position play better going forward.’’
In the first three games, King has completed 81 of 122 passes for 767 yards and three touchdowns. But he has also thrown four interceptions and fumbled four times, including two of each against Michigan State. He has 40 carries for 96 yards, but that takes into account the yardage he has lost after being sacked nine times.
King has had it hard injury-wise since he transferred to UM from Houston in January of 2020. He tore the anterior cruciate ligament of his right knee in the Dec. 29 bowl game, then had reconstructive surgery on Jan. 4. His dedication to intense rehabilitation got him back on the field in only eight months for the Sept. 4 opener against No. 1 Alabama.
“The first thing I know is I never bet against that guy,’’ Diaz said of King on Monday afternoon. “Obviously, I’m concerned for D’Eriq. He’s been through three physical games.” The coach said UM has “been repping” second-year freshman backup Tyler Van Dyke and true freshman Jake Garcia “to get those guys ready.”
“If those guys have to step in for D’Eriq this weekend, we’re confident in what they’ll do and kind of excited to see them out on that stage and how they respond.’’
Van Dyke, who took second-team reps during fall camp, would at least initially likely be King’s replacement. He has rushed three times for 17 yards this season and threw one incomplete pass against Alabama. Garcia has yet to play.
“If D’Eriq isn’t able to go,’’ offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee told reporters, “it’s really valuable that Tyler and Jake got spring all to themselves. In terms of base offense, I have confidence in those guys. One guy has taken like maybe 10 snaps in his college career, maybe not that much. The other guy has never taken one. So there will be some natural first-game jitters for both of them. But my expectation would be they’d settle down and play nicely if called upon.’’
Diaz and Lashlee said several times Monday that lack of physicality is a major problem for UM across the board. For the offensive line, that means being continuously dominated and failing to open holes for UM’s 117th-ranked rushing offense of 130 FBS teams. The Canes are ranked 108th in sacks allowed.
Former right guard Navaughn Donaldson, who was benched for the start of the MSU game, was moved to left guard when Rivers got hurt. Diaz said second-year sophomore center/guard Jakai Clark, who coaches had planned to redshirt but got in the game Saturday, could potentially play more.
“Situations change due to injuries,’’ Diaz said, adding that playing freshmen offensive linemen “would be a lot to ask.’’
“I had a different starting group, especially on the right side, the first three games [before] we lost Jalen,’’ Lashlee said. “We never got the run game going. We can’t be a good offense and be one-dimensional.’’
The Hurricanes have turned the ball over seven times in three games this season compared to nine times all of last year. “Losing Jalen was a big blow because he probably had been our best [O-line] performer,’’ Diaz said. “It’s simply playing with a little bit more dog and a little more physicality.... We can’t go on getting out-hit. We’ve got to figure out who the guys are that are up for the fight.”
Lashlee said he foresees more competition in practice between the first-team offensive line vs. first-team defensive line. “It’s hard sometimes to simulate it with your scout team.’’