As many folks are in observance of “Holy Week”, the Hurricanes took to the Greentree Practice Fields Thursday for their second practice of the week and last before their closed scrimmage on Saturday.
The Canes have four spring practices remaining before they conclude on April 22.
Offensive coordinator Thomas Brown and defensive coordinator Manny Diaz along with a handful of players spoke to the media Thursday following practice.
>>> Senior wide receiver Braxton Berrios talked about the on-going quarterback battle Thursday.
He was asked about both Evan Shirreffs and Malik Rosier, the two who are believed to be the leaders in the pack.
“[Evan has] done a lot to impress not just me, but everybody here,” Berrios said. “He’s really stepped up and taken on a leadership role. His timing and rhythm seems to be better, his dropbacks and his accuracy seem to be better. He’s molding himself into a really good quarterback.”
“Malik and Evan are both really becoming better quarterbacks. They both realize that they’re not backing up anybody – as of right now – it’s their job to win or lose at this point.”
>>> Berrios admitted Tuesday that he has watched incoming freshman quarterback N’Kosi Perry’s highlights but said that Perry, who is due on campus this summer, won’t have the job handed to him just because of the highlight reel.
“He’s a great athlete…but he’ll have to be a great quarterback to win the quarterback battle,” Berrios said. “He can do a lot of different things than some of the guys that we have here now, but at the end of the day we’re going to need a leader – somebody who can help us win in week one and win in week three.”
>>> Personal sources have confirmed that Rosier and Shirreffs have been the most impressive quarterbacks this spring. However, neither has taken a full stranglehold of the QB1 position.
>>> Sources have said that Rosier’s ability to move in and out of the pocket continues to be impressive while he has shown a “gunslinger mentality” – daring to make tough throws, which yields either positive or negative results.
>>> Fans are still enamored with the dual-threat abilities of incoming youngster Perry – and rightfully so – but he will have to show enough maturity both mentally and physically right out the gate in order to win the quarterback position battle in fall camp.
“Brad [Kaaya] left big shoes to fill, but we’re not asking for another Brad,” Berrios said. “We’re asking for another leader – another quarterback who can lead this team.”
>>> Early enrollee freshman wide receiver DeeJay Dallas has been receiving good reviews this spring, so I asked sophomore receiver Ahmmon Richards for his opinion on the frosh.
“I feel like he is a natural playmaker,” Richards said. “He is new to the receiver position at the college level but he is adjusting pretty quickly and making plays.”
>>> Defensive coordinator Manny Diaz continues to be one of the more transparent and accommodating coaches when it comes to dealing with the media – as he offered a couple of insightful nuggets Thursday.
>>> Last week, cornerbacks coach Mike Rumph offered praise to junior defensive back Michael Jackson for the positive steps he’s taken in his development this spring.
But Diaz’s words Tuesday painted a clearer picture about the current state of the cornerback position.
“Right now we don’t have enough competition at corner,” Diaz said.
For perspective of those stinging words, Diaz was asked about sophomore Malek Young and if he thought Young could be considered an “ACC starting caliber cornerback” at this point – to which Diaz responded:
“What’s unfair to Malek is that he’s been on this campus for nine months and right now in our corner room, he’s the most experienced corner we have,” Diaz said. “That’s not the way you want it to be. You want an older guy that he can follow and earn his stripes against. The question is: what do we have to push Malek? You have to have competition, have somebody that pushes you to make you a better version of yourself. Right now, that has to be Coach Rumph. What we would like is that in the fall, that would be someone else. I think we will see Malek reach a different level in the fall when all of a sudden there are some guys that can challenge him.”
>>> The “cornerback cavalry” will come in the form of junior college transfer Jhavonte Dean and graduate transfer Dee Delaney, who comes in from The Citadel.
Dean turned himself into one of the top defensive backs on the JUCO level at Blinn College and Delaney will play his final collegiate season at Miami after twice being named an FCS All-American.
Throw in incoming freshman Trajan Bandy, and UM’s cornerback position will receive quite the shot in the arm this summer.
“Our cornerback room will look a lot different in the fall,” Diaz said. “The guys are getting better, but we tell them that there will only be so many reps [in fall camp] because we have to find out what the new guys can do.”
>>> Found it very interesting that Diaz elected to single out sophomore linebackers Shaq Quarterman and Zach McCloud for the way that they work and left out the third member of the “Bermuda Triangle”, Michael Pinckney.
Diaz discussed the competition between McCloud and junior linebacker Charles Perry, who also spoke Thursday, at one of the outside linebacker spots and he said that McCloud is the leader and that it will be tough for others to catch up to him.
“Zach is a hard guy to catch – and not just because of his natural talent. He and Shaq really are just guys that if you tell them to do something 10 times, they’ll do it 11…they’re very difficult people to catch because they are obviously talented, but their work ethic, their demeanor, and their professionalism is really extraordinary for their age.”
And it’s because of those traits – or maybe a lack thereof – that Pinckney is being challenged by a now-healthy Darrion Owens at the other outside linebacker spot.
“[Pinckney is] more inconsistent than [Quarterman and McCloud]…but those other two are kind of ‘off the charts’ type guys, so it’s not necessarily an indictment on Pinckney,” Diaz said.
“[Pinckney is] learning that he’s gotta bring it every day – to be classified as a big-time guy. We challenge our guys all the time that if you’re going to be one of those guys on the wall of the practice field, that’s a daily standard that you have to reach – and it is not easily reached, that’s why there aren’t that many guys on the wall.”
Because you can’t leave your team or fans down in the dumps, Diaz did offer an encouraging nugget Tuesday.
“One thing we are for certain this year – especially in the front seven – is that we are deeper,” Diaz said confidently. “And our depth is experienced depth. I anticipate that being telling in the way that we play in the fall.