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THE DOWNLO WITH MIDLO...................... .Barry J. 6 pack 4/20.

KrazyCane

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“Van Dyke has an arm like no other, puts balls in places others can’t,” Bolden said. “Garcia has crazy, Patrick Mahomes throws sometimes. They’re on a path to being great.”

That’s high praise on Garcia. It’s going to be hard for TVD to beat him out after King leaves.
 

Midlo Cane Fan

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A 12-pack of nuggets with insight on where the Miami Hurricanes stand with two final practices scheduled this week, followed by Saturday’s 11 a.m. spring game at Hard Rock Stadium (ACC Network, closed to the general public):

▪ We’ve been mentioning all spring how impressive quarterbacks Tyler Van Dyke and Jake Garcia have been while D’Eriq King heals from his torn ACL.

And WQAM’s Joe Zagacki, the radio voice of the Hurricanes, offered more information on that during an appearance on Joe Rose’s show Monday:

“I think it’s very close; both those guys are playing really well,” Zagacki said. “The other night they were really good. Van Dyke is a very big kid. He gets to his spot in the pocket and does not flinch.

“On the touchdown pass [to Mike Harley Jr.], they sent a blitz right at him, they had a linebacker bearing down and tried to leap in his face and he did not budge” and delivered a well-throw ball to Harley, “who made a nice veteran move to spring free for the touchdown. Van Dyke throws a really nice ball.”

Zagacki noted that UM ran a trick play early in the scrimmage and “Van Dyke finished with a beautiful throw to [Charleston] Rambo. You can’t move him off his spot. He’s not afraid of the rush and doesn’t flinch.”

As for Van Dyke’s primary competition for the No. 2 quarterback job, “the thing I like about Garcia,” Zagacki said, is “somewhere along the line in his career when his number gets called, you are going to hear the other team’s defensive coordinator say ‘We’ve got to get him out of rhythm.’ When he gets going, he will carve you up. He’s making the receivers better. You can’t help but catch the ball. His passes catch the receiver. He hits you right in the numbers.

“When he gets going the only way to stop him is you have to find a way to get him into a mistake, deflect a pass, make a play down the field, get into his face. When he gets going, he is going to be tough to stop. He’s deadly, deadly accurate and his footwork is impeccable. His feet are nimble in the pocket.”

Zagacki summed up the quarterback situation this way: “For the first time in many years, they will have really good competition at quarterback and addressed their goals of getting legitimate quarterbacks in recruiting.”

▪ From observing spring football, Zagacki said of the wide receiver situation: “If I had to handicap it right now, you probably got Harley, Rambo, [Dee] Wiggins, [Mark] Pope and then [Xavier] Restrepo. Pope is getting an awful lot of chances. They [Wiggins and Pope] have had a better spring and they’ve probably had a better spring because of Restrepo and Rambo [challenging them].”

▪ On the running game, Zagacki said: “Jaylon Knighton is very elusive, a running back who gives you all kinds of moves. He makes you miss; defenders sometimes are tackling air. And he’s a real threat in the pass game. [Cam’Ron] Harris had a touchdown where he leaped over Gurvan Hall. That was the best play of the scrimmage” Friday.

▪ Zagacki said right guard Navaughn Donaldson has impressed.

“Donaldson will maul you,” Zagacki said. “I was talking to [analyst Don Bailey Jr.] about it. He runs on every drill, runs on the field, runs off the field. He wants to do things the right way. He had a couple pancake [blocks] the other day.

“That’s the spot I want to run behind. He will be a pretty big factor. I would not be shocked [if] he could be Jaelan Phillips this year” in terms of a high-level recruit returning from injuries and making himself into an All-American-type player and high draft pick.

▪ On the cornerbacks, Zagacki said: “Tyrique Stevenson has been very consistent; he gives them a level of confidence and physicality and he’s able to make plays on the ball.” (Zagacki said he also believes Stevenson will win one of the return jobs on special teams.)

Zagacki said UM is “putting a lot of pressure on DJ Ivey to be a more impactful player… He’s a big, rangy corner that when he gets his hands on you does a good job of redirecting receivers.

“Te’Cory Couch was having a good spring; he’s a little banged up right now…. They’ve got a lot of guys who are big hitters. But we need to find more ball-hawks.”

▪ Zagacki said UM has several players on defense who can “be interchangeable parts. I do see a connection between players and Manny Diaz that’s really good. What ultimately is going to make them a great defense is if they can find great run stoppers.”


MORE SPRING TIDBITS​


A few things I’ve heard from player sources in recent days:

▪ Amari Carter, Hall and Bubba Bolden remain ahead of the young players in the safety battle. I won’t be surprised if UM finds a way to get all three of those players on the field more together.

That said, young safeties Avantae Williams, Brian Balom and Keshawn Washington have had good moments this spring, and it’s good to see Williams healthy again. And five-star safety James Williams arrives this summer.

▪ The Bradley Jennings/Corey Flagg middle linebacker battle has been very competitive. One player conveyed to close associates that he believes Jennings is a bit ahead, but both have had good springs.

The question is whether Flagg, at 5-11, can ever be close to as impactful as the bigger Shaq Quarterman was. He’s fast and has a high motor, and that’s a good start.

Sam Brooks has missed much of spring ball with a toe injury. UM believes he can help if he can stay healthy; durability has been a problem for him.

Brooks’ injury has created more reps for Waymon Steed (solid, good instincts) and Avery Huff (improved but likely not ready to be a starter).

Second-year player Tirek Austin-Cave has flashed; he’s big and rangy.

▪ As one parent briefed on the scrimmage noted, Don Chaney Jr. was not able to finish because of an injury that didn’t appear serious. The Harris/Chaney/Knighton battle remains highly competitive.

▪ Per a parent, at least two starters (one on the offensive line and one on the defensive line) have missed time because of COVID protocols this spring; the offensive line starter was out Saturday.

Jakai Clark appears a bit ahead of Jalen Rivers in the left guard battle, but Rivers has impressed everyone with his power and physicality.

▪ While Restrepo has been consistently productive among the young receivers this spring, Keyshawn Smith’s fast start was sidetracked when he missed the first scrimmage.

Michael Redding has come on strong recently. Reviews are mixed on Daz Worsham.

Jeremiah Payton has been limited this spring for unknown reasons; he has been at practice. But not a single UM coach has mentioned his name publicly this spring.


Rambo, the senior transfer from Oklahoma, has had a very good couple of weeks.

▪ Among the defensive ends, a player source conveyed that end Chantz Williams has had a very impressive spring rushing the passer.

Cam Williams made a great run stop in the scrimmage and UM coaches are encouraged by his growth.

Jahfari Harvey has an intriguing skill set and always gives max effort.

Deandre Johnson, the Tennessee transfer, is just getting back in rhythm after missing time in COVID protocol.
 

305407cane

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Dang that was a very concerning article. Flagg behind Jennings? Carter ahead of younger guys? If Carter is ahead of frierson it will be a rough season of watching him chase around slot receivers and tight ends and watching him bounce off running backs. Did you guys see Redding drag him a mile? Frierson’s fat ass might’ve screwed us. Clark ahead of rivers? Gaynor is trash we all know that.
 

theibisrules

Senior
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Sep 17, 2012
Messages
6,936
Dang that was a very concerning article. Flagg behind Jennings? Carter ahead of younger guys? If Carter is ahead of frierson it will be a rough season of watching him chase around slot receivers and tight ends and watching him bounce off running backs. Did you guys see Redding drag him a mile? Frierson’s fat ass might’ve screwed us. Clark ahead of rivers? Gaynor is trash we all know that.
Depressing stuff right there
 

DTP

Section 102
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Dec 30, 2015
Messages
8,781
That’s all funny stuff. As per a member here who is correct far more often than Barry Jackson, Carter is moving to striker with Keontra Smith moving to WLB.
 

Midlo Cane Fan

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▪ For the second offseason in a row, UM maximized the transfer portal, adding three solid starters with Deandre Johnson, Charleston Rambo and Tyrique Stevenson. But more help is needed, especially at linebacker.

Rambo has shot past veterans Mark Pope and Dee Wiggins at receiver. Rambo, the Oklahoma transfer, was very good in the spring game and the final two weeks of spring practices and is well suited for this offense with his speed and his ability to turn short passes into sizable gains.

“You get the ball to him and let him go,” quarterback Jake Garcia said of Rambo. “It’s going to be a lot of fun [to watch].”

Stevenson had two pass breakups Saturday -- including one in the red zone and another against Keyshawn Smith on a third-down play -- and looks like UM’s best cornerback. He also might be UM’s top punt returner, and there is some injury risk there if he plays special teams.

Meanwhile, Johnson has flashed at defensive end since coming back from COVID protocols; on Saturday, he had a sack for a safety and another tackle for loss in the red zone.

Johnson -- who had 4.5 sacks in eight games for Tennessee last season -- also combined with Jon Ford to stop Cam’Ron Harris for a short gain.

“I was focusing on getting off the ball; that’s the strength of my game,” Johnson said Saturday. “I missed half of spring. When I first came back, I had to get back in shape. Now I feel great.”

If there were a top 25 ranking for the transfer portal, UM would be ranked every year.

“They’ve been really consistently good players all spring,” Manny Diaz said of Johnson, Rambo and Stevenson. “Deandre we’ve had on the field the least of the three. Rambo hit some dog days, fought his way out of it, has had a great last two weeks of practice. Tyrique, from the moment he came in, you feel like you feel his presence in the secondary.”

▪ The bad news: UM’s defense wasn’t great on Saturday - especially in the passing game in the middle of the field - and linebacker remains the position where the Canes likely stand farthest away from fielding the type of personnel needed to compete for national titles.


Diaz described the defense as “OK,” noting UM’s defense was intentionally vanilla and missing several key players in the secondary (Bubba Bolden, Al Blades, Te’Cory Couch).

The potential starters at middle linebacker (Corey Flagg or Bradley Jennings Jr.) and at weakside linebacker (Waymon Steed, perpetually injured Sam Brooks, Keontra Smith or Avery Huff) likely wouldn’t start at a strong SEC program.

But credit Flagg for losing 12 pounds to improve his strength; he’s a worker, has a good motor and has a nose for the football.

Diaz has said the UM defense has played well against the run this spring, but the Alabama game obviously will be a better gauge.

▪ With Mark Pope and Dee Wiggins remaining inconsistent - each had a drop and long reception on Saturday - there is every opportunity for Xavier Restrepo (who was excellent Saturday, including a TD catch in the corner of the end zone), Keyshawn Smith or Mike Redding to seize the No. 3 or 4 receiver jobs behind Mike Harley and Rambo.

On Saturday, Smith eluded two defenders after a fourth-down catch to score an 11-yard touchdown and later scored on a 35-yard TD reception. Smith missed much of the spring but was among UM’s 10 most impressive players on Saturday.

Wiggins dropped a 50-yard pass from Garcia but caught a long pass from Peyton Matocha, with Isaiah Dunson in coverage, to close Saturday’s game.

Pope had a wide-open drop but later caught a 53-yard pass from Garcia.

▪ UM radio analyst Don Bailey noted Pope has now been working mostly in the slot, and I wonder how offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee and receivers coach Rob Likens will carve out playing time for him there behind Harley and Restrepo, who both need to play.

Pope could go back to the boundary, but would need to beat out Wiggins, Smith and Redding to play a lot opposite Rambo. Smith started Saturday’s game and offers the most upside of that group competing to start alongside Rambo and Harley.

To his credit, Pope rebounded from Saturday’s drop to close with six catches for 115 yards.

▪ Disappointing to see Cameron Williams leave the game on crutches; UM people said he had really impressed this spring as a pass-rusher. The defensive end rotation this fall should feature Johnson, Jahfari Harvey, Cam Williams, Chantz Williams (had some good moments as a pass rusher this spring) and Zach McCloud, who exceeded the staff’s expectations in his move from linebacker. McCloud and Johnson started on Saturday.

That group should be adequate to very good as pass rushers, but setting the edge in the run game remains a question.
▪ Also disappointing to see cornerback D.J. Ivey limp off with an apparent foot injury. Ivey has had a good spring and defensive backs Travaris Robinson has compared his skills to South Carolina cornerback Jaycee Horn, a likely top-15 pick in this month’s draft.

Once everyone in the secondary is healthy, this should be a top four cornerback group of Stevenson, Couch, Blades and Ivey, with Dunson, Marcus Clarke (out Saturday), Jalen Harrell and Malik Curtis competing for the No. 5 job.

Diaz said he had no health update on Cameron Williams or Ivey.

▪ Really liked how the young safeties looked on Saturday. Kamren Kinchens, an early enrollee, had a bunch of tackles - including one real impressive one to limit Pope to a short gain - and an interception off a Peyton Matocha pass but also allowed the well-thrown TD catch to Restrepo in the corner of the end zone. (Not sure how much Kinchens could have done to stop that play.)

“Very special talent,” Bailey said of Kinchens.

Avantae Williams had two pass breakups, including one on Restrepo on the goal line. Keshawn Washington forced a fumble.

“They flash; they make a lot of plays, but they’re also a little bit wild,” Diaz said of those three young safeties. “Because you can drive the car 120 miles per hour doesn’t mean you always have to drive it 120. Those guys are learning. This spring, with the number of guys we have out, has been great for them.”

Brian Balom, the most advanced of the young safeties last season, has been out while healing a neck injury from an earlier car accident.

And five-star safety James Williams arrives this summer.

My suspicion is UM will opt to go with the veterans - Bubba Bolden, Amari Carter and Gurvan Hall - for the majority of the Alabama opener. Diaz has been working to get those three players on the field at the same time, though Bolden was sidelined Saturday.

Hall was victimized on Garcia’s 53-yard pass to Pope on Saturday.

▪ Keontra Smith - who has been playing some weakside linebacker - had a nice open field tackle on Jaylon Knighton, a week after pushing Cam’Ron Harris back for a loss in the second spring scrimmage.

UM has interesting options at striker with Smith, Gil Frierson, early enrollee Chase Smith (who had some very good moments in Saturday’s game) and now Carter, who’s playing both safety and striker.

Frierson had a would-be sack of Garcia on Saturday.

UM must decide whether to move Smith permanently to weakside linebacker or have him compete to start at striker.

▪ DJ Scaife opened ahead of Jarrid Williams at right tackle, and Jakai Clark started ahead of Jalen Rivers at left guard. Both battles are very competitive. The staff has liked how Scaife has made the transition back from guard to tackle.

▪ There were still far too penalties on Saturday, including a costly Jon Ford offsides that negated a Gurvan Hall interception. UM must become more disciplined. The Canes committed 7.8 penalties per game last season, tied for 15th most in the country.

▪ There was a lot to like about Tyler Van Dyke and Garcia -- Susan Miller Degnan will have a lot more about them in her story. Among them: their arm strength, their presence in the pocket and generally, their accuracy (Garcia was off on the first series but excellent after that point.)

Garcia can hold onto the ball too long at times but is very advanced for an early enrollee. “I’ve got to get through that quicker,” Garcia said of Lashlee imploring him to get the ball out more quickly in two-minute drills.

Van Dyke has such confidence in his arm that he threw across the field - horizontally - for one completion to Harley.

Garcia closed 19 for 25 for 255 yards and two touchdowns. Van Dyke was 12 for 17 for 102 yards and a touchdown.

▪ For what it’s worth, Ford and Jordan Miller started at defensive tackle on Saturday, with Miller surprisingly ahead of Jared Harrison-Hunte.

Five-star summer arrival Leonard Taylor, Jalar Holley and Elijah Roberts will try to push Nesta Silvera - who missed the spring after a shoulder procedure - and Ford, Harrison-Hunte and Miller for a rotation spot this fall.

I’m eager to see what new defensive line coach Jess Simpson can do with this group.

▪ With Don Chaney (shoulder procedure) iffy for the opener against Alabama, the three-way competition for the starting running back job is down to Cam’Ron Harris and Jaylon Knighton.

Harris gives UM a more physical, bruising back, but Knighton has more elusiveness and offers more in the passing game and perhaps more big play potential (though Harris had several big plays early last season).

Knighton had a 27-yard run on Saturday.

Though Lashlee wants to play his starter the majority of the time, he assuredly will maximize the skills of both Harris and Knighton and eventually, Chaney.

▪ Daz Worsham made a diving catch in the second half but clearly trails Smith and Restrepo -- and likely Redding -- in the battle of the second-year receivers. Bailey mentioned how Worsham must “understand how to read routes and do what’s necessary to get open.”
 

Midlo Cane Fan

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The quarterbacks were sharp.

The receiving corps is definitely better with the addition of Oklahoma transfer Charleston Rambo, though a couple of repeat offenders (Mark Pope and Dee Wiggins) still had drops.

The linebackers? Very much a work in progress.

The defensive line? Same. But according to Miami Hurricanes coach Manny Diaz, promising with enough bodies to fill a rotation.

Two days after the 2021 University of Miami spring game at Hard Rock Stadium, Diaz went on WQAM radio and shared his thoughts after having time to decompress and watch the film.


He started with second-year freshman quarterback Tyler Van Dyke and true freshman Jake Garcia, both of whom looked good Saturday — Van Dyke 12 of 17 (70.5 percent) for 102 yards and one touchdown and Garcia 19 of 25 (76 percent) for 255 yards and two touchdowns (and sacked four times, including once for a safety). The quarterbacks were off limits to contact.

“We kind of wanted the spring game to be a little bit of a commercial for those two guys and they didn’t disappoint,’’ Diaz told WQAM’s Joe Rose. “They’ve really been that way throughout the spring. Both guys have shown really good accuracy, not just on the quick stuff but on the down the field throws. They just don’t look like freshmen.

“Even with Tyler. You have to remember with Tyler we missed out on a spring practice a year ago, Tyler got caught up in some COVID protocols a couple times where he missed practice in the fall. This is really the first true spring for both those guys and to look the way they looked in that stadium is really encouraging for our program.”

Diaz praised the speedy Rambo, who caught seven passes for 74 yards and has a nifty motor to separate and accelerate once he breaks free.

“What you saw the first week [in spring] you realized, ‘Man, this guy can really go,’ Diaz said. “When we were at our best a year ago is when we were our most explosive in the passing game making plays downfield.’’


The coach said Rambo started “to show out” the second half of spring when he got more comfortable with the offense. He’s “a guy,’’ Diaz said, “that can really add to the explosive nature of our offense.”


Rose asked about veteran wideouts Mark Pope and Dee Wiggins, plagued by drops throughout their career. “First balls thrown to both in scrimmage are drops,’’ Rose said. “Pope goes on and has a nice day and Wiggins has a nice catch. They’re getting wide open on deep passes but they drop every so often. As a coach, tell me where you are compared to the frustration of a radio fan?”

Diaz said he didn’t want to see players consistently dropping the ball, but that “you want that to be, pardon the pun, in their hands. ... Ideally for our program to get to the way we want to get it to you’ve got to have the level of consistency to be able to compete. If not, someone is going to take your job. That’s building the depth. That’s what we didn’t have a year ago, because, to use the wide receiver room as an example, all the backups were all basically true freshman because, guess what, they all missed spring and summer and weren’t able to function at that level.”

Diaz said he will not give up on players, but in the end, they determine their fate. “Whatever your role is as we determine what our best 11 is by August and September, then you go dominate your role.”

Pope went on Saturday to catch six passes for 115 yards. Wiggins finished with one catch for 54 yards on the final play of the game.

No doubt the Hurricanes’ defense is behind the offense, especially among the linebackers and still-developing defensive line, a troubling thought as the Canes soon enough will be preparing for defending champion Alabama in the Sept. 4 season opener at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.

Diaz was asked about the linebackers. Former backup striker Keontra Smith started at his new position of weak-side linebacker. Second-year freshman Corey Flagg Jr. is in the middle.

“They played fine,’’ Diaz said. “The way they were ultimately going to get evaluated, that wasn’t what Saturday was about. Because intentionally we were going to throw the ball a lot more than we would normally. We only had three running backs healthy.

“So we didn’t want to sit there and, bang, you create a lot of pileups where we could have lost a guy. It’s obvious from a year ago we had to improve our run defense. I think we have done that. You saw Keontra Smith make a really nice play at weakside. He looks natural over there. The improvement that Avery Huff has made, the improvement that Corey Flagg has made. The battles will continue into summer and camp. We will be a different looking operation than we were a year ago.’’

There were bright spots in the secondary. Freshman safeties Kamren Kinchens (six tackles, interception), Avantae Williams ( 4 1/2 tackles, two pass breakups) and striker Chase Smith (six tackles) had strong debuts, and fellow second-year freshman safety Keshawn Washington forced a fumble. Georgia veteran transfer cornerback Tyrique Stevenson had two pass breakups.

But at defensive line, it’s evident the pass-rush generated by NFL-bound defensive ends Jaelan Phillips and Quincy Roche (not to mention Greg Rousseau, who opted out in 2020 and entered the draft) needs to improve. Diaz said Tennessee transfer Deandre Johnson will make a difference, and the depth is there.

“Saturday, the first time the offense went and dropped back, Deandre Johnson shot around the corner and drew a holding penalty. He’s your right end, he’s coming off that quarterback’s blind side. We’ve got some pretty good right tackles. If we were hitting quarterbacks I think Deandre’s presence would have really been felt.

“Other than that this spring, overall we’ve been encouraged with the development of the depth we have at defensive end — Jahfari Harvey, Cam Williams, Chantz Williams, Zach McCloud.”

The sacks Saturday were from Johnson (for a safety) and starting striker Gilbert Frierson and reserve tackles Elijah Roberts and Jalar Holley.

▪ Defensive end Williams stood on the sideline with crutches the second half of the scrimmage, and veteran cornerback DJ Ivey appeared to injure his right foot/leg on tailback Jaylan Knighton’s 27-yard touchdown . Also apparently injured in the scrimmage was second-year freshman receiver Michael Redding III.

“Initial feedback was that it didn’t seem like anything would be too serious,’’ Diaz told WQAM’s Zach Krantz. “I don’t want to mispeak. We should know more today.”

▪ Vacation is not on the horizon anytime soon for Diaz and his coaches.

“It’s a little different month of May,’’ Diaz said. “Normally we’d all go out recruiting. We have exit interviews with our players. We’re going to get into our spring film review, critique everything we did this spring. Then we’ll get into all our summer scouting reports on first four opponents, conference opponents — [there are] new coaches and we’ve got to get familiar with the people we’re going to play.

“We’ll be working toward June, which will be a recruiting mania as we’ve never seen before. It’s going to be fun.”
 

skillydoo

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Dec 11, 2015
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1,831

The quarterbacks were sharp.

The receiving corps is definitely better with the addition of Oklahoma transfer Charleston Rambo, though a couple of repeat offenders (Mark Pope and Dee Wiggins) still had drops.

The linebackers? Very much a work in progress.

The defensive line? Same. But according to Miami Hurricanes coach Manny Diaz, promising with enough bodies to fill a rotation.

Two days after the 2021 University of Miami spring game at Hard Rock Stadium, Diaz went on WQAM radio and shared his thoughts after having time to decompress and watch the film.


He started with second-year freshman quarterback Tyler Van Dyke and true freshman Jake Garcia, both of whom looked good Saturday — Van Dyke 12 of 17 (70.5 percent) for 102 yards and one touchdown and Garcia 19 of 25 (76 percent) for 255 yards and two touchdowns (and sacked four times, including once for a safety). The quarterbacks were off limits to contact.

“We kind of wanted the spring game to be a little bit of a commercial for those two guys and they didn’t disappoint,’’ Diaz told WQAM’s Joe Rose. “They’ve really been that way throughout the spring. Both guys have shown really good accuracy, not just on the quick stuff but on the down the field throws. They just don’t look like freshmen.

“Even with Tyler. You have to remember with Tyler we missed out on a spring practice a year ago, Tyler got caught up in some COVID protocols a couple times where he missed practice in the fall. This is really the first true spring for both those guys and to look the way they looked in that stadium is really encouraging for our program.”

Diaz praised the speedy Rambo, who caught seven passes for 74 yards and has a nifty motor to separate and accelerate once he breaks free.

“What you saw the first week [in spring] you realized, ‘Man, this guy can really go,’ Diaz said. “When we were at our best a year ago is when we were our most explosive in the passing game making plays downfield.’’


The coach said Rambo started “to show out” the second half of spring when he got more comfortable with the offense. He’s “a guy,’’ Diaz said, “that can really add to the explosive nature of our offense.”


Rose asked about veteran wideouts Mark Pope and Dee Wiggins, plagued by drops throughout their career. “First balls thrown to both in scrimmage are drops,’’ Rose said. “Pope goes on and has a nice day and Wiggins has a nice catch. They’re getting wide open on deep passes but they drop every so often. As a coach, tell me where you are compared to the frustration of a radio fan?”

Diaz said he didn’t want to see players consistently dropping the ball, but that “you want that to be, pardon the pun, in their hands. ... Ideally for our program to get to the way we want to get it to you’ve got to have the level of consistency to be able to compete. If not, someone is going to take your job. That’s building the depth. That’s what we didn’t have a year ago, because, to use the wide receiver room as an example, all the backups were all basically true freshman because, guess what, they all missed spring and summer and weren’t able to function at that level.”

Diaz said he will not give up on players, but in the end, they determine their fate. “Whatever your role is as we determine what our best 11 is by August and September, then you go dominate your role.”

Pope went on Saturday to catch six passes for 115 yards. Wiggins finished with one catch for 54 yards on the final play of the game.

No doubt the Hurricanes’ defense is behind the offense, especially among the linebackers and still-developing defensive line, a troubling thought as the Canes soon enough will be preparing for defending champion Alabama in the Sept. 4 season opener at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.

Diaz was asked about the linebackers. Former backup striker Keontra Smith started at his new position of weak-side linebacker. Second-year freshman Corey Flagg Jr. is in the middle.

“They played fine,’’ Diaz said. “The way they were ultimately going to get evaluated, that wasn’t what Saturday was about. Because intentionally we were going to throw the ball a lot more than we would normally. We only had three running backs healthy.

“So we didn’t want to sit there and, bang, you create a lot of pileups where we could have lost a guy. It’s obvious from a year ago we had to improve our run defense. I think we have done that. You saw Keontra Smith make a really nice play at weakside. He looks natural over there. The improvement that Avery Huff has made, the improvement that Corey Flagg has made. The battles will continue into summer and camp. We will be a different looking operation than we were a year ago.’’

There were bright spots in the secondary. Freshman safeties Kamren Kinchens (six tackles, interception), Avantae Williams ( 4 1/2 tackles, two pass breakups) and striker Chase Smith (six tackles) had strong debuts, and fellow second-year freshman safety Keshawn Washington forced a fumble. Georgia veteran transfer cornerback Tyrique Stevenson had two pass breakups.

But at defensive line, it’s evident the pass-rush generated by NFL-bound defensive ends Jaelan Phillips and Quincy Roche (not to mention Greg Rousseau, who opted out in 2020 and entered the draft) needs to improve. Diaz said Tennessee transfer Deandre Johnson will make a difference, and the depth is there.

“Saturday, the first time the offense went and dropped back, Deandre Johnson shot around the corner and drew a holding penalty. He’s your right end, he’s coming off that quarterback’s blind side. We’ve got some pretty good right tackles. If we were hitting quarterbacks I think Deandre’s presence would have really been felt.

“Other than that this spring, overall we’ve been encouraged with the development of the depth we have at defensive end — Jahfari Harvey, Cam Williams, Chantz Williams, Zach McCloud.”

The sacks Saturday were from Johnson (for a safety) and starting striker Gilbert Frierson and reserve tackles Elijah Roberts and Jalar Holley.

▪ Defensive end Williams stood on the sideline with crutches the second half of the scrimmage, and veteran cornerback DJ Ivey appeared to injure his right foot/leg on tailback Jaylan Knighton’s 27-yard touchdown . Also apparently injured in the scrimmage was second-year freshman receiver Michael Redding III.

“Initial feedback was that it didn’t seem like anything would be too serious,’’ Diaz told WQAM’s Zach Krantz. “I don’t want to mispeak. We should know more today.”

▪ Vacation is not on the horizon anytime soon for Diaz and his coaches.

“It’s a little different month of May,’’ Diaz said. “Normally we’d all go out recruiting. We have exit interviews with our players. We’re going to get into our spring film review, critique everything we did this spring. Then we’ll get into all our summer scouting reports on first four opponents, conference opponents — [there are] new coaches and we’ve got to get familiar with the people we’re going to play.

“We’ll be working toward June, which will be a recruiting mania as we’ve never seen before. It’s going to be fun.”
Thanks for the downlo.
 

Midlo Cane Fan

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Messages
5,800

▪ The most important revelation of Hurricanes spring football this year?

That the Canes have not one, but two high-level quarterback prospects waiting in the wings for the post-D’Eriq King era. That wasn’t a surprise, but watching early enrollee Jake Garcia was eye-opening to teammates. They already knew Tyler Van Dyke can play; now they know Garcia can, too.

One player spoke privately about how impressed he was by Garcia and how UM is in good hands whoever wins the job in 2022. That player said Garcia takes more chances than Van Dyke, which leads to more bad decisions.

But Garcia also showed better touch on the deep ball and might have more upside. Risk-reward will factor into what should be a delicious 2022 quarterback battle; it wouldn’t be a surprise whoever wins the job. The hope is that the loser of that battle doesn’t transfer.

So how did Garcia get such a good handle on UM’s offense so quickly? He said it helped that he played at three different high schools over the past 18 months and learned three different offenses.

He began his high school career in California, but moved to Georgia last year when California canceled high school football due to COVID.

“Moving around [to three high schools], some people look at it as a negative but I look at it as a positive,” he said. “I just wanted to play football. That really helped me be able to know how to learn, how my brain works, how I can process things quickly and learn a playbook. It taught me how to ask questions of coach or teammates to get the answer I need to be able to figure out the system quicker.”

He said being “in the room with teammates and coaches that push you really propelled me this spring.”

Garcia’s spring performance exceeded all realistic expectations considering he just arrived in January. He was 19 of 25 for 255 yards and two touchdowns in the spring game. In the two scrimmages and spring game combined, he was 52 of 71 for 607 yards, four touchdowns and one interception.

UM loves his poise and accuracy. He showed acumen on play fakes and run/pass options.

Garcia suggested the fact he had to transfer twice to be able to play as a senior shouldn’t be held against him. (Not sure who exactly is holding it against him.) Colleague Susan Miller Degnan chronicled his eventful senior year journey here.

“I can go down the list, people look at it as a negative, `he has no loyalty.’ I can go down the list of positive things, just my story line has been crazy,” he said.

“I’d say the biggest takeaway was being able to go into a new situation, new team and be able to fit into the locker room. That’s important. I like to talk a little bit, so having that bond where it’s all love [is helpful]. Being able to command an offense, huddle, that’s big and I’ve picked that up over my past four high school years and all the moves I had to go through.”

Garcia has added weight and strength since enrolling in January.

Strength and conditioning coach David Feeley “does a great job,” Garcia said. “I love the weight room, love the mind over matter type mentality. It’s a lot of fun in there; we push each other to be better at that 5:45 a.m. workout.”

He also seems to take well to coaching. Rhett Lashlee admonished him for not getting rid of the ball more quickly during one sequence Saturday.

“He was just saying ‘Throw the ball, let the ball go. It’s a two-minute drill, you can’t take a sack.’ I have to get through that quicker; that’s an adjustment from high school. One, two, get the ball out, throw it away or check it down. That’s a difference from high school to now. We ended up kicking a field goal” on that series in which he took a sack.

It helps that Garcia is inquisitive. For example, he asks receiver Charleston Rambo “about how did Kyler Murray conduct himself, control the offense, little things like that. He’s helped me out.”

King said Garcia “knows the playbook, which is always big for guys that are younger. Usually, when you get to college, it’s kind of tough to learn the playbook. Jake knows the playbook in and out. So, I think that’s why when you see him play in scrimmages and practice, it looks so easy.”

▪ For likely starting cornerback/Georgia transfer Tyrique Stevenson and likely starting defensive end/Tennessee transfer Deandre Johnson, don’t underestimate the importance of having played in America’s toughest conference (the SEC).

“Playing those big, tough teams — the Alabamas, the Auburns, the LSUs, it most definitely helps for sure going up against top competition,” Johnson said. “You can see it translating.”

▪ ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr., on why he dropped UM’s Greg Rousseau to 35th in his mock draft after listing him in the first round in previous drafts:

“Rousseau had a really good year in 2019 but had some coverage sacks,” Kiper said. “I liked when they kicked him inside, thought he was disruptive at defensive tackle. He did not have a great pro day after a year of inactivity, didn’t compare to Jaelan Phillips. So I have him right now in the early- to mid- second round.”

▪ Kiper slots UM’s Jaelan Phillips 23rd and projects him to go 17th to 27th.

“I don’t see him going earlier than that,” Kiper said. But.. “Jaelan had a great pro day. He had a heck of a season. He’s the best natural pass rusher in this draft with his length, explosiveness, his anticipation of the snap. When he gets around that edge he has the bend.

“He’d be a much higher pick if it wasn’t for the durability concern. He goes solidly in the first round. Now if he’s there in the late first, there’s plenty of teams that would look heavily at him.”

▪ Count ESPN’s Louis Riddick among those who have hopped aboard the Phillips bandwagon.

“Were it not for injury concerns, you can see this guy is a special pass rusher,” Riddick said. “He is the most polished pass rusher, the most ready to rush the passer in the [draft] right now. At 6-5, 250-plus and running a sub-4.6 in the 40 yard dash is exactly what you’re looking for. If it weren’t for the injury concerns, this guy would be considered a top 10 pick.”

▪ A veteran NFL front office executive who has spent time around UM tight end Brevin Jordan this spring said he’s not at all bothered by his brashness.

“He’s a very sharp, very intelligent kid,” the executive told me. “If you’re brash, be brash. That’s the personality of some kids today. I think he’s better than a fourth rounder. He can start right away for some teams.”
 
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