Canes’ personnel tidbits and players on the spot in Saturday’s spring game

Besides Cam Ward and uber-talented freshmen receivers JoJo Trader and Ny Carr, here are some players we’re most interested in watching at Saturday’s Miami Hurricanes spring football game on campus (4 p.m. at Cobb Stadium):

Freshman Elija Lofton: He arrived UM as a tight end, but his versatile skill set and his ability to learn the playbook have quickly made him a Swiss-Army knife. He can line run at H-back or running back, line up at receiver or play a natural tight end role.

On Saturday, UM assuredly won’t put on tape every way it intends to use Lofton. But the progress and talent suggest he’s going to play a role this season.

“He can do it all,” quarterback Cam Ward said Thursday “One-hand, two-hand catches. We have him at running back right now. I describe him as a Deebo Samuel who can do it all.”

Samuel is a multipronged weapon for the San Francisco 49ers, a first-team All-Pro receiver in 2021.

Quarterback Reese Poffenbarger: The Albany transfer has looked like he very much belongs in FBS, and Saturday will be an interesting test. One regular attendee at UM spring practice said he’s resourceful, creative in the pocket, pretty accurate, can deliver vertical throws and has escapability.

Poffenbarger has a good chance to win the No. 2 job, but Emory Williams and Jacurri Brown will challenge him. Brown has said he intends to stick around all year. Brown threw a pick-six the other day in practice but has the mobility/skill set of a modern college quarterback, and UM shouldn’t give up on him.

Running backs Chris Johnson and TreVonte Citizen:

Citizen, according to a practice attendee, has looked better at times recently as he continues to work his way back from a serious August 2022 knee injury.

If he gets much work Saturday, we will get a sense of whether he is diminished from the player rated by Rivals as the No. 4 back and No. 88 overall player in 2022.

Mario Cristobal said Citizen turned a corner recently.

There’s no question that Johnson can run; he’s UM’s fastest back. The question is whether he also has the tackle-breaking ability that Dolphins speedster De’Von Achane brings to the table.

The young linebackers:

Reports have been promising on early enrollee Cam Pruitt, but UM must get a definitive read on whether young players Pruitt, Aldarius Hayes, Raul Aguirre, Marcellius Pulliam and Malik Bryant — and veteran Chase Smith — are good enough depth behind Francisco Mauigoa (out this spring) and Wesley Bissainthe.

Aguirre has received many of the first-time middle linebacker repetitions while Mauigoa recovers from a shoulder injury.

If the Canes aren’t confident that those half dozen players can fill two or three rotation roles this fall, then UM will need to add a veteran linebacker or two in the portal.

The Vanderbilt transfers. Jadais Richard, who was uneven in his first year at UM, has had the entire spring to make his claim for a top four cornerback job, in a group with Daryl Porter Jr, Damari Brown and Mishael Powell (if he plays nickel corner instead of safety).

UM still needs to add another veteran corner, but a strong spring game by Richard would help ease concerns at the position. (Same for second-year corner Robert Stafford.)

The more recent Vanderbilt transfer, Savion Riley, has every chance to win a starting safety job but must tighten up his coverage.

Last season at Vanderbilt, 14 of 19 passes in his coverage area were caught for 150 yards and two touchdowns — equal to a bloated 131 passer rating in his coverage area. But he had 48 tackles in just seven games, including 12 in a lopsided loss to Florida. At 6-2, he can play cornerback or safety.

He played 214 of his 343 total snaps at free safety last season while also spending time as a box player (48), slot corner (74), and boundary cornerback (six).

If Powell plays nickel corner, Riley would be competing with Markeith Williams, Jaden Harris, Kaleb Spencer and freshmen Zaquan Patterson and Dylan Day for two starting safety jobs. It would be one open starting job if Powell plays safety.

Isaiah Taylor (Jason’s son) and Brian Balom (if he sticks around) will join the safety competition this summer. A portal player might be added.


Using NFL verbiage, UM essentially needs to “waive” about a dozen scholarship players in the weeks ahead, to make room for six or seven portal additions and remain in compliance with the 85-play scholarship limit. While most of the cuts are fairly obvious, there will be surprises because of factors such as NIL.

For example: A UM source said UM defensive end Nyjalik Kelly, who left the program this week, annoyed some because he was complaining about his NIL money in recent weeks.

One practice observer said the biggest takeaway watching Ward, beyond the arm strength, is how well he sees the field.

Ward said Powell “is starting to be that leader on defense, which they need. … He’s a good add for this team, is going to make plays for us.”

Ward said Powell and Xavier Restrepo “go back and forth” winning their reps throughout spring ball.

Tight end Elijah Arroyo’s health will be critical this season after two years dealing with knee issues.

Arroyo “can do it all — he knows how to win in man coverage, good vs. zone,” Ward said.

ESPN Plus will stream Saturday’s spring game live on ACCNX, and ACC Network will replay it at 2 p.m. Monday.

UM will host a large contingent of recruits this weekend, including the nation’s top two interior line prospects: Jacksonville-based Solomon Thomas (an FSU commit) and Las Vegas Bishop Gorman’s Seuseu Alofaituli, whom the Canes reportedly have a good chance of snagging.