A six-pack of Miami Hurricanes notes on a Wednesday:
▪ Who’s stood out at linebacker through five practices?
Jon Patke - who coaches outside linebackers, strikers and special teams - cited Zach McCloud, Sam Brooks and freshman Corey Flagg.
With McCloud, “it’s great to see him running around in the box,” Patke said. “He’s getting a hold of playing inside.”
Brooks, who had 12 tackles in the Independence Bowl, appears to be the front-runner to start alongside the senior McCloud. He’s coming off a shoulder issue this offseason, Patke said.
“Still has a lot to learn, but his athletic ability [stands out] and he’s able to read and react,” Patke said of Brooks, noting he has gained weight and “had a good offseason.”
And Flagg, the freshman from Houston, “comes from great program, understands how to play linebacker,” Patke said. “He’s a natural inside guy, just a ball junkie.”
Also competing: Avery Huff, Bradley Jennings Jr., Waymon Steed, Patrick Joyner Jr. and freshman Tirek Austin-Cave.
Striker is competitive between Keontra Smith and Gilbert Frierson, with Ryan Ragone (now on scholarship) also working there.
“Keontra has done a heck of a job; he’s really coming along,” Patke said. “You think of him as an older guy but he’s only a sophomore; he’s a coach-pleaser and hard worker. He’s going to do everything he can to be a great player. Gilbert is smart and can line up the entire defense, coming over from corner a year ago. He understands defense and what we’re trying to do.”
▪ UM is looking for a returner to replace KJ Osborn, who’s now with the Minnesota Vikings, and Jeff Thomas, who’s trying to make the New England Patriots.
UM had eight players catch kickoffs this week, and Patke mentioned receivers Mark Pope and Mike Harley Jr., and freshman running back Jaylon Knighton as some of the options.
He said Pope has shown “a great feel” on punt returns.
Patke cited cornerbacks Te’Cory Couch and Christian Williams as players who excelled on special teams last year.
▪ Count defensive end Quincy Roche among the early standouts in training camp, according to Manny Diaz.
“Quincy has been really, really good these five days of practice,” Diaz told ACC Network. “A real natural pass rusher, disruptive back there. It’s been fun to see him take his role on the team, as an older guy be a leader.
“Jaelan Phillips … those two are a problem off the edge. At Miami we should always have a very disruptive defensive line and we feel Quincy, Jaelan and Jahfari Harvey will give us that.”
College Football Focus said of Roche: “Last season at Temple, Roche was utterly dominant with 68 total pressures and a 93.3 pass-rushing grade. He was also only listed at 235 pounds and racked up those pressures without a bull rush.
“The reason that’s important is that the ability to beat a Group of 5 tackle is a little different than that needed to beat an NFL tackle. If you can’t threaten with a bull rush at the NFL level, tackles are going to sit back with their arms wide and their pads open, unafraid in the knowledge that you can’t play through them and just waiting to clamp down on any move.
“The good news is that Roche is already listed at 245 pounds on Miami’s website, meaning he recognized it was an issue. That’s still on the small end for the position, but it is within reason. With how good he is at setting up his rushes based on the offensive tackle, Roche may still be able to get by at that size in the NFL.”
CFP adds that “going up against better competition in the ACC this season could prove hugely beneficial for his draft stock. While he dominated Power 5 offensive lines from Maryland (nine pressures) and Georgia Tech (seven pressures) last season, Roche now gets to see multiple NFL-caliber tackles.”
▪ Everybody knows about quarterback D’Eriq King’s ability to scramble.
But “his accuracy throwing the football I think is underrated,” Diaz said. “He can create with his feet if a play breaks down. It’s a very stressful proposition for the defense. “He’s special, a special person first and foremost,” Diaz said of the Houston grad transfer.” He has the respect of everyone in the locker room, because he can always make something happen.”
The accuracy is important to monitor because his completion percentage dropped from 63.5 during his brilliant season for Houston in 2018 to 52.7 percent (58 for 110) in four games last season before deciding to redshirt.
King has an excellent 50-to-10 touchdown-to-interception ratio in his college career.
▪ Roche, Phillips and Jahfari Harvey are close to being set as UM’s top three ends. But the battle for the fourth and fifth jobs is highly competitive.
“Over the next couple of weeks, get in the first scrimmage, into full pads - try to decipher where we are with the fourth and fifth end position,” defensive line coach Todd Stroud said. “We have guys that have done really well - Cam Williams, coming back off an academic redshirt year, shows promise. We have Chantz Williams who went from 238 to 261 [pounds] and settled back at 255, runs well and really rushes the passer.
“Then a couple of true freshmen in here, they haven’t shied away. So we have a good problem right now. Elijah Roberts, Quentin Williams - we’ll make a decision over the next few weeks.”
▪ Quick stuff: At defensive tackle, Stroud said: “We feel real good about [Jon Ford and Nesta ‘Jade’ Silvera]. The biggest challenge for guys during the pandemic was managing body weight. Jade came back and was about 300 pounds, Jon was a little heavy when he came back, 334. He’s down to 322, will probably play at 315. Both those guys are moving around very well, progressing as you’d expect.”...
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