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Home gyms and invisible quarterbacks: The coronavirus forces Miami football to adapt

<p>Then-redshirt junior offensive lineman Tommy Doyle (No. 54) leads the RedHawks onto the Yager Stadium turf before Miami&#x27;s Sept. 28 showdown with Buffalo.</p>

Then-redshirt junior offensive lineman Tommy Doyle (No. 54) leads the RedHawks onto the Yager Stadium turf before Miami's Sept. 28 showdown with Buffalo.

Jack Sorenson knows he probably looks ridiculous.

For the past couple of weeks, the redshirt senior receiver on Miami’s football team has been heading to Cook Field with redshirt senior corner Manny Rugamba. They’ve been running through passing drills.

With no quarterback.

“Really, the only thing we do is, I run a route, and I beat him. So, we say, ‘All right, I won that one,’” Sorenson said, laughing. “Then, I run another route and Manny’s right on me, so all right, he won that one. There’s no real ball.”

They don’t have much of a choice.

Last month, Miami’s spring practice schedule was canceled due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. The football facilities will remain shuttered through at least the end of May, but no one really knows when the team will be able to reconvene. 

So in the meantime, Sorenson and teammates like his neighbor Tommy Doyle are holding out in Oxford. They’re practicing social distancing while trying to establish some semblance of a normal training routine.

Luke Kelly, Miami’s assistant director for human performance, is specifically in charge of football workouts. Doyle said Kelly has been tailoring exercises to each individual player.

“Most guys are able to find some equipment, or they have a friend with a home gym,” Doyle said. “Coach Kelly has been doing a good job of sending out some home workouts for us to do, even if it’s prison-style workouts of pushups and situps. Most guys have a pair of cleats and some turf they can get to, so we’re still able to move around a little bit and do some football-specific stuff. But everything is remote, and we cannot go down to the facility.”

Sorenson, Doyle and a couple other Oxford leftovers drive 20 minutes to senior defensive lineman Cole Jones’s house three days a week. Jones has a gym in his basement, meaning Doyle, a 326-pound offensive lineman, hasn’t had to skip his bicep curls.

Doyle is focused on his diet and preparing nutritious meals at home. His grill is receiving a workout of its own, frequently heating his favorite, a steak with melted cheese on top. He’s been allowing himself a beer every once in a while.

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To make up for the lack of in-person interactions, the players hold meetings on Zoom with their position coaches three times a week. They talk more about life than football.

“We’re taking time to learn about each other,” Sorenson said. “I think [receivers coach Israel Woolfork] and other position coaches are really taking the chance to create the environment we want to have at Miami. We’re hoping we can build that through Zoom calls and just sharing our life stories with each other … It’s cool because you’re able to learn things about people you wouldn’t be able to learn in the facility with 20 other guys in the room, ’cause you might not feel comfortable. But you put a screen there, and you’re a little bit more confident to share things.”

Being away from the team is tough. No one prefers this situation, but Sorenson and Doyle focus on the positives.

Friday, Sorenson will travel home to Kildeer, Illinois, to cherish family dinners. He thinks this could be the last time his whole family is under one roof for an extended period of time before he and his five siblings move out permanently.

Doyle is sleeping in more. He and his dad plan to take a three-week vacation to their cabin in Minnesota soon.

And this year provides a chance for the RedHawks to write the epilogue to their 2019 Mid-American Conference Championship book.

“I think it’s a really great opportunity to create this cool story and show who we actually are,” Sorenson said. “It’s going to be really cool next season, because coming out, you’re going to be able to see real clearly what teams have been training — the teams that actually wanted it — and the teams that didn’t. 

“I think that’s going to be cool, because I have no doubt our team is working their butts off right now.”