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THE DOWNLO WITH MIDLO

Midlo Cane Fan

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Midlo Cane Fan

804 to 239 to 804
Joined
May 19, 2018
Messages
5,792
Mid spring report from Barry J.


Ten things we’re hearing on UM spring football practice, from player sources, including close family and close associates briefed on what’s been happening during these private sessions:

▪ The quarterback play has gone as well as anyone could have hoped in the absence of D’Eriq King, who continues to recover from a torn ACL and remains on track to play in the Sept. 4 opener against Alabama in Atlanta.

Early impressions of early enrollee Jake Garcia (15-for-19, 188 yards in the first scrimmage) have been very favorable.

Among the comments we’ve heard: “Impressive… Ball comes out of his hands really nice… Throws a nice spiral… It’s not like you’re teaching him mechanics. He already is sound mechanically… Knows what he’s doing and where to get the ball.”

Second-year quarterback Tyler Van Dyke (10 for 15, 114 yards in the scrimmage) also has thrown the ball well and is probably ahead of Garcia because of a full year of experience in Rhett Lashlee’s system. One person raised a comparison to Justin Herbert in terms of size and the fact Van Dyke also has a strong arm.

Peyton Matocha, at the very least, has athleticism and has been very competent.

▪ In practices leading up to the scrimmage, Keyshawn Smith and Xavier Restrepo looked the best of the young receivers. Restrepo then had a great scrimmage as well (nine receptions for 144 yards, two touchdowns).

Smith has the best speed of the four. Restrepo has been very effective making plays in the middle of the field, including intermediate routes.

As for the veteran receivers, UM coaches hope to see Mark Pope and Dee Wiggins do a better job fighting for the ball and win more one-on-one battles. So with those two, it’s not merely a case of eliminating the drops (each had six last season).

It’s also a question of whether they improve enough in that other area to hold off the fast-charging Smith, who will challenge them on the boundary.

With Oklahoma receiver Charleston Rambo on the roster, Pope and Wiggins need to play well to earn as much playing time as they did a year ago.

Meanwhile, Mike Harley Jr. -- the leader of the group -- said Pope is now working more in the slot, as well. Harley had an excellent year in the slot last season and Restrepo is poised to become UM’s slot starter in 2022 if he keeps improving.

“With Pope moving positions, getting him in the slot - free access, just go, get the ball in his hands, make some moves and go,” Harley said. “He’s practicing way better. Mark Pope has come a long way. It’s all mental” with him.

▪ UM has been short-handed at tight end with Will Mallory out for the spring (shoulder), Elijah Arroyo limited and Kahlil Brantley not yet enrolled.


Dominic Mammarelli has had some good moments as a blocker but remains a work in progress as a receiver. Larry Hodges flashes in the passing game, but UM coaches have been pushing him to become more consistent.

▪ Linebacker remains a concern. Sam Brooks continues to have issues staying healthy, and while Avery Huff has slowly improved (as Manny Diaz said) and impressed in the scrimmage (made a nice play on a screen pass), considerable growth is still needed to become the player everyone hoped.

If Brooks isn’t healthy, one view we’ve heard multiple times is that Corey Flagg and Bradley Jennings - who have been battling at middle linebacker - might be UM’s two best linebackers period. (Again, that changes if Brooks is healthy.)

Flagg has speed and good instincts but stands just 5-11, 228. By comparison, Shaq Quarterman was 6-1 and topping 240 when he left UM. If Flagg can become 80 percent of the college player that Quarterman was, the Canes will be pleased.

UM is hoping for a second-year breakthrough from the 6-1 Tirek Austin-Cave, who also has the type of speed needed to match up with spread offenses. Of the 2020 freshman linebacker additions, Flagg was clearly ahead of Austin-Cave heading into spring ball.

According to a parent, a couple of UM’s front seven players (beyond Nesta Silvera) have been sidelined for practice for undisclosed reasons not related to discipline.

Everyone has been impressed by Jahfari Harvey’s speed on the edge, and Chantz Williams has flashed as a pass rusher.
Nobody obviously is expecting Greg Rousseau or Jaelan Phillips production immediately from them, but both of those two - under Jess Simpson’s guidance -have a chance to become quality players.

Zach McCloud’s transition from outside linebacker to defensive end also has gone well; he has made some plays this spring.

▪ Cornerback Tyrique Stevenson’s size (6-1), physicality, diligence in run support and ball skills have been as advertised since his transfer from Georgia.

From early indications, he has a good chance to be UM’s best cornerback, though not by a huge margin over Te’Cory Couch (among UM’s most improved players last season), Al Blades Jr. (working his way back from a COVID-related cardiac issue), and DJ Ivey.

▪ Safety has become fascinating, because the two most recruited players at the position (Avantae Williams and not-yet-arrived James Williams) likely will begin the season as backups but will be nipping at the heels of Bubba Bolden, Amari Carter and Gurvan Hall if those three don’t play well.

Avantae Williams, who sat out his freshman season with an undisclosed football-related medical issue, had an interception in last Saturday’s scrimmage and plays the game with great enthusiasm, as one person noted. The 6-foot Willliams has outstanding range and appears to have the ball-hawking skills that the Canes need more of at that position.


Everyone expects the five-star James Williams - at 6-5, 217 pounds - to possess well-above average range for the position; he’s considered a prospect with a good chance to someday give UM the type of game-changing plays it had at the position with the smaller Jaquan Johnson (5-10, 190), and in a best case scenario and on a much grander level, Ed Reed (6-0, 198 at UM) and the late, great Sean Taylor (6-3, 200 when he left the Hurricanes).

What’s clear is UM needs more impact plays from the position.

Bolden has two interceptions in 16 games at UM, Carter has one in 38 games and Hall has one in 30 games. Because of their experience and knowledge deciphering college offenses, my expectation is two of those three figure to start against Alabama regardless of how the two Williams look in August.

Carter delivered a mammoth shot to Pope in the scrimmage, but UM assuredly would trade that for more turnover-creation and fewer targeting penalties.

Brian Balom, Keshawn Washington (forced a turnover last week) and newcomer Kamren Kinchens also are competing at safety.

▪ We hear the kicking battle between Andres Borregales and Camden Price has been very competitive.

Jaylon Knighton has reinforced the perception that he’s the best breakaway threat of the UM backs. But the battle among Cam’Ron Harris, Knighton and Don Chaney has been close and competitive. It’s going to be difficult to pick out one bell-cow back among the three - which is Lashlee’s stated preference this season - because there isn’t one dramatically better than the others.

▪ Left tackle Zion Nelson continues to impress everyone with his dramatic growth in the past 16 months. Some people at UM believe he can develop into a first-round draft pick… Jalen Rivers has held his own in the competition with front-runner Jakai Clark at left guard and figures to emerge as a starter there by 2022, when Clark moves over to replace Corey Gaynor at center in 2022 (presuming the senior Gaynor doesn’t stick around for a bonus year of eligibility in 2022).
 

FrancisSawyer

Senior
Joined
Jan 15, 2012
Messages
4,879
"If Brooks isn’t healthy, one view we’ve heard multiple times is that Corey Flagg and Bradley Jennings - who have been battling at middle linebacker - might be UM’s two best linebackers period. (Again, that changes if Brooks is healthy.)"

This should absolutely terrify everyone on this board. Just the thought of #44 starting again after the level of play he gave us last year is pathetic. We have nobody better? We can't do better than that? Sad.
 

KrazyCane

SAVAGE
Joined
Sep 11, 2016
Messages
9,639
The LBer group is terrible we need 2 LBers in the portal to make the position atleast average smh. And why is Amari Carter still at safety?... this staff would be out of their minds to play him agains Bama over Avantae or James.
 

FrancisSawyer

Senior
Joined
Jan 15, 2012
Messages
4,879
"If Brooks isn’t healthy, one view we’ve heard multiple times is that Corey Flagg and Bradley Jennings - who have been battling at middle linebacker - might be UM’s two best linebackers period. (Again, that changes if Brooks is healthy.)"

This should absolutely terrify everyone on this board. Just the thought of #44 starting again after the level of play he gave us last year is pathetic. We have nobody better? We can't do better than that? Sad.
To add to the above I have to say that I have no desire to continually write negative things about this young man's play. By most accounts he has given his all and it's not his fault that he just doesn't have the skills to play the game at the level needed. I'm sure Bradley Jennings is a fine young man and I thank him for his hard work, effort and dedication to the program I love. He will always be a Cane.

The issue here is the complete mismanagement of this position and the failure by the staff to properly evaluate and develop talent. It's just beyond belief to me that after the level of play at this position last year we are halfway through spring and we have no answers in terms of other players stepping up. It's insane to me that there is even talk that #44 May be one of the 2 best LBs on our roster. Unreal. I had let myself believe that we actually had some talent at this position with Brooks, Huff and Cave but with Brooks always banged up and Huff and Caves inability to even challenge for a starting role it would seem that I grossly overestimated the "talent" at LB. We need 2 things to happen. We need Brooks to get healthy and stay that way and we need a LB from the portal after spring. More than anything however we need to recruit at a much higher level. Getting a commitment from Wes Bissanthe would be a great start.
 

Midlo Cane Fan

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▪ Receivers Mark Pope and Dee Wiggins have become proverbial punching bags for some Canes fans because of their drops (each had six last season) and inability, at times, to come down with contested catches.

In fairness, both made their share of plays last season, too — Pope had 33 catches for 403 yards (12.2 yards per reception) and two touchdowns and Wiggins had 31 catches for 358 yards (11.5 average) and three touchdowns.

WQAM’s Joe Rose and Zach Krantz, acknowledging that criticism, on Wednesday asked receivers coach Rob Likens what he tells those two.

“The first thing I tell them is you cannot listen to other people because sometimes criticism paralyzes people,” Likens said. “Any time in life you face adversity, you’ve got two choices: you can either learn from it or you’re going to die from it.

“I say, ‘This is an awesome opportunity to trust in the process. Criticism is part of the process to become a better player. It can make you tougher and give you motivation to become a great player.’

“They work so hard. One thing I can promise the fan base, those guys — each one -has caught over 100 balls, tennis balls every single day. Once they get off the practice field, they test every single day. Those two guys specifically, I tell them, ‘You can’t worry about what other people say about you bad. Just trust in the process.’”

▪ Likens told WQAM that “you see some flashes and athletic ability” with new receiver Charleston Rambo, the transfer from Oklahoma and that he’s just beginning to master the level of detail that coaches at Miami expect from players.

“One of the things about coaching is we are so detail oriented,” Likens said. “Sometimes a kid coming into the program can feel a little bit suffocated with all the details.. We coach guys with extreme detail.

“It took nine, eight days [for Rambo to become acclimated to that]. He looks at me like I’m crazy sometimes. I tell him, ‘Trust in the process. You’re starting to meet the standard of the work ethic that others have put into place.’

“He’s going to get a lot better and grow. Over the summer, when he gets a chance to throw with D’Eriq [King] — he hasn’t had a chance yet to do that with D’Eriq — the wide receiver/quarterback work ethic when they’re by themselves, without the coaches, is when they develop their relationships.”

▪ Likens loves how Xavier Restrepo has come along.

“I see it on a daily basis,” Likens said. “You can live for 1,000 years and I don’t know that you’ll find anyone who loves football more than the X man. He has put himself in position to be in a lot of conversations with playing. I’m very excited about the X man. He is a ball player and a playmaker.”

▪ Likens said because of NCAA restrictions related to COVID-19, he hasn’t had a chance to sit down and talk in person with incoming receivers Romello Brinson, Jacolby George and Brashard Smith. None of those three enrolled early.

“I’m excited to meet the guys,” Likens said. “Haven’t had a chance to sit down with them face to face.”

▪ Found this interesting: Likens said he tells his receivers who is ahead of whom on a daily basis.

“If the game was tomorrow, you just beat that guy out,” is how Likens described what he says to his receivers. “We try to do that on a daily basis to create competition.

“When you get to a new place, the hardest thing is setting the standard. They’re correcting each other, they’re getting on each other and holding each other to the standard.

“In the spring, every day is a freaking grind and you’ve got to go out and win your position every day. When you get to the season, you’ve got to set your lineup and hold them to a standard. This is the greatest time as a coach in the spring because everybody is equal. You want different receivers [playing] with different quarterbacks.”

▪ Likens said UM coaches have an agreement with each other not to discuss players at other positions in conversations with reporters but said of the quarterbacks: “If I was a young wide receiver, I’d be excited” to play here.

▪ Defensive backs coach Travaris Robinson said cornerback Al Blades Jr. — who is rebounding from a COVID-related cardiac issue — “is doing some things on the field, a little bit more than he has. We’re excited about him to keep coming.”

▪ Robinson likes what he has seen from safety Avantae Williams, one of the nation’s top safeties in the 2020 class who sat out last season with an undisclosed football-related medical issue.

“Avantae is getting comfortable, adjusting to playing football again,” Robinson said. “Showing him how to be physical, head up, not ducking. We have to clean up technical issues with him. At night, he calls you and says, ‘I want to go over this again.’ I’m excited about Avantae; he’s a really talented player. He’s not where he needs to be, but moving toward that.”

Safety Bubba Bolden said Williams “doesn’t need to write things down” to remember it. “It’s a great improvement every day by him. On the interception [in last Saturday’s scrimmage], he just went up and got that one.”

▪ Robinson said the one early enrollee at safety, Kamren Kinchens, “is a phenomenal young player, very very intelligent, all the things you want your son to be. He is going to be a fine football player.”

▪ Former four-star prospect Jalen Harrell, who moved from safety to cornerback, “is big and physical” and well-suited for cornerback “especially outside how we play,” Robinson said.

“He can put hands on people and run vertical down the line and has great straight ahead speed. Different speed, that gives him difficulties. He’s been doing a fine job of learning what to do” and a “decent job” of applying it.

▪ Robinson — who had been defensive coordinator at South Carolina — should be a great asset in recruiting.

Once the NCAA allows players to visit campuses again (not permitted through at least May), “getting them on our campus will separate us from other people,” Robinson said. “I didn’t know Miami, the university, was as gorgeous as it is. When they open this thing up finally - I’m praying it happens - we can get guys on campus. They’ve done a great job with facilities and the campus.”

▪ Couple notable comments from Bolden: He discussed how impressive young quarterbacks Tyler Van Dyke and Jake Garcia have been in the absence of King, who continues to recover from a torn ACL and remains on track to play in the opener against Alabama.

“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.”

And even though Avantae Williams and five-star summer arrival James Williams will be part of the safety competition this summer, Bolden said he, Amari Carter and Gurvan Hall “are the three best safeties. That’s how it’s going to be throughout the season.”
 

1LuvCane

All American
Joined
Aug 9, 2018
Messages
10,718
"If Brooks isn’t healthy, one view we’ve heard multiple times is that Corey Flagg and Bradley Jennings - who have been battling at middle linebacker - might be UM’s two best linebackers period. (Again, that changes if Brooks is healthy.)"

This should absolutely terrify everyone on this board. Just the thought of #44 starting again after the level of play he gave us last year is pathetic. We have nobody better? We can't do better than that? Sad.
Did make me cringe but hope springs eternal....
 
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