Canes Spring Scrimmage Notebook: Defense Impresses, Quarterbacks Still Battling

jt block7 Canes Spring Scrimmage Notebook: Defense Impresses, Quarterbacks Still BattlingCBS Miami: Twitter | Facebook

The Miami Hurricanes closed out their spring practice session Saturday afternoon with a intersquad scrimmage, in which the White Team defeated the Orange Team 24-16 at Boca Raton High School in front of an intimate crowd.

The White team consisted of the No. 1 defense and reserve offense and the Orange team had Miami’s first team offense and reserve defense.

Canes head coach Mark Richt elected to have the team’s final spring practice session at Boca Raton High because it is his alma mater – Class of 1977 – and he said this past Tuesday and reiterated Saturday that the team would have held the scrimmage at Hard Rock Stadium had it not been unavailable due to minor renovations.

Richt also said Saturday that he elected to restrict media access – working media was only allowed to take photos and videos during pregame warmups but not during actual game action – as well as the general public because he wanted to make sure the team would be presented in the best light possible.

Unlike the Canes’ previous two scrimmages, media was allowed to watch Saturday’s scrimmage.

>>> The Hurricanes defense remains a dominant unit. Both the No. 1 and the reserve units dominated the day.

>>> The defensive star was sophomore cornerback Malik Young. Young, who actually worked his way into Miami’s starting lineup by the end of the 2016 season, has carried over that strong play into the spring and has been routinely singled out by coaches for his play over the past month.

He picked two passes Saturday and returned one of them – in which he jumped a comeback route thrown by Malik Rosier – 75 yards for a touchdown.

Young said after the scrimmage that he believes he’s picked off “four or five passes” this spring and that he hopes his performance has been enough to earn a spot as one of UM’s top 11 defenders – despite the pending arrival of JUCO signee Jhavonte Dean, graduate transfer Dee Delaney and incoming freshman Trajan Bandy.

Young’s continued emergence will only strengthen UM’s defense as a whole, even with the addition of Bandy, Delaney and Dean. It will allow them rotate fresh corners – either for matchups or scheme – and create major competition within the cornerbacks room each week.

>>> According to the stats provided by UM, Young finished with five tackles to go along with his two interceptions.

Saturday’s leading tackler was early enrollee freshman Amari Carter. Carter finished with 10 total tackles with the Orange team (reserve defense), including a big hit he put on tight end Malik Curry.

Sophomore middle linebacker Shaq Quarterman finished with seven tackles and a pass break-up that led to a Charles Perry interception of Evan Shirreffs.

Converted safety – from cornerback – Sheldrick Redwine also finished with seven tackles for the White team while Pat Bethel had six tackles and a 1.5 sacks for the Orange team.

Jaquan Johnson had five tackles; defensive tackle Kendrick Norton had four tackles and Perry had a pair of stops to go along with his pick.

>>> The hot topic and biggest question mark for Miami this spring has been who would emerge or put themselves in the best position to emerge as UM’s next starting quarterback.

Performing for the first time with a live audience this spring, the Canes played six different quarterbacks Saturday. Evan Shirreffs and Malik Rosier split reps with the Orange team (first team offense) while Jack Allison, Cade Weldon, Vincent Testaverde and walk-on Augie DeBiase all took snaps with the White team.

After watching Shirreffs and Rosier work with the No. 1 offense, their performance was in line with what personal sources have said about the two signal callers all spring. Both had their positive moments during the scrimmage, but both also missed on throws and neither of them did anything to truly separate from the pack.

Shirreffs “started” the game, serving as the first quarterback on the field with the Orange team. After that, Rosier and Shirreffs alternated series.

>>> The unofficial stats, provided by the UM athletic department, had Shirreffs completing 7-of-17 passes for 75 yards and an interception.

Rosier wasn’t match better, he completed 8 of his 18 passes for 169 yards with a pair of touchdowns and a pair of interceptions. Majority of Rosier’s passing yards came on one play – a 75-yard touchdown pass to sophomore Ahmmon Richards.

The best quarterback of the day – statistically – was Allison. The redshirt freshman went 12 for 16 for 104 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. Allison connected with Darrell Langham on both touchdowns and flashed the elite arm strength that had him rated as a 4-star prospect coming out of high school.

Unofficial stats were not provided for Weldon, Testaverde or DeBiase.

However, DeBiase – who “started” the second half for the White team – elicited cheers from the crowd and his teammates as he showed some fancy footwork to juke defenders on a pair of scrambles.

>>> A key example of a missed opportunity by the quarterbacks would be the final offensive drive of the day, in which Rosier was on the field operating the No. 1 offense in a “two-minute drill” scenario – with the Orange team trailing the White team 24-16 with just over two minutes left on the clock.

Rosier completed one pass, but then took a sack and missed on a couple other throws – leading to the drive and the game ending at 24-16. That one situation could’ve been Rosier’s chance to show his leadership and playmaking ability under center.

>>> As he said he would, coach Richt did offer a depth chart or “pecking order” among the quarterbacks.

From one perspective, it is disappointing that neither Rosier – who has started a game for the Canes and has been in the program the longest – or Shirreffs could have taken hold of the starting job.

On the other hand, the theoretical door is wide open for incoming freshman N’Kosi Perry to come in and not compete for the starting job. Perry, who was reportedly in attendance of Saturday’s scrimmage, is a dual-threat signal caller that has drawn comparisons to Louisville Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson.

Perry is due on campus in May and will be able to workout during the summer and will participate in fall camp.

>>> The rest of the offense had its moments Saturday.

Junior running back Mark Walton finally got a cheat day from his “blocking diet” – as he rushed the ball a game-high 11 times for 65 yards.

Walton had expressed some displeasure with the coaching staff’s decision to limit his carries during practice and the first two scrimmages – using him to predominantly block in pass protection.

Sophomore Travis Homer, who also played with the Orange team, ran the ball seven times for 24 yards.

Saturday’s leading rusher was T.J. Callan, who ran for 79 yards on eight carries for the White team.

>>> Besides the quarterback position, the other group that has a lot of question to answer is Miami’ offensive line.

The first-team O-Line Saturday consisted of Tyree St. Louis at right tackle, early enrollee freshman Navaughn Donaldson at right guard, Tyler Gauthier at center, Trevor Darling at left guard and KC McDermott at left tackle.

The group had a day that consisted of both highs and lows.

Offensive line coach Stacy Searels said that there’s still room for growth with the young group and that he’s anxious to see how the group looks when seniors Nick Linder and Sunny Odogwu return from injury.

One thing that must be cleaned up, as Searels referenced during his post-scrimmage interview, is the quality of the snaps by the center – Gauthier in Saturday’s case.

Early in the scrimmage multiple snaps were off the mark and forced the quarterbacks to fall on the ball or threw off the timing of a play.

>>> Darrell Langham’s performance Saturday also lined up with what personal sources have said about the 6-foot-4, 220-pound redshirt junior – that he’s looked like one of Miami’s best receivers this spring.

Receivers coach Ron Dugans said it has been encouraging to see Langham use his large frame to make plays – like did Saturday with eight receptions for 57 yards and two touchdown catches.

Dugans was also asked about sophomore receiver Dionte Mullins, who made a pair of nice catches for the Orange team during the scrimmage.

He said that Mullins remains a player that needs to perform with more consistency if he is going to make an impact on the field this coming season.

>>> Early enrollee receiver DeeJay Dallas was impressive for the little things that he did Saturday. He played for the White team, but was seen making a concerted effort with his downfield blocking – aiding teammates gain more yards on two particular short sideline passe

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