It was very hot. Al Golden was very tan. Mark D'Onofrio was very angry. Jethro Franklin was very terrifying. Jacory Harris was very... Jacory. After the jump I'll break down who and what was impressive and who and what was not.
- It's no secret that the strength of the Miami offense is its running backs, and that was proven again on Saturday. Though I have a feeling that Mike James will be the nominal starter, the eventual rotation also including Lamar Miller and Storm Johnson should be one of the best in the ACC. Until the quarterbacks can demonstrate that they can complete passes to the players on their team on a routine basis, Miller looks to be the lone consistent game breaking threat. If he doesn't touch the ball 20 times a game at minimum, the offense will have gone completely wrong.
- Personally, I'm not completely sold on Jedd Fisch, but I will give him credit for already noticeably changing how both quarterbacks see the field. Be it because of design of the offense or coaching, Jacory Harris and Stephen Morris rarely checked down to their running backs under Mark Whipple's offense, but both routinely dumped the ball off on Saturday if they didn't see anything down field. Likewise, Fisch seems intent on getting the ball to his running backs in space via swing passes, another decision that will both cutdown on interceptions and allow for the backs to make plays. Harris especially looked impressive in this regard, consistently leading his running backs when throwing to them.
- Right now UM has a gaggle of tight ends who have flashed potential. Asante Cleveland was a small revelation when he was on the field last season, and USC transfer Blake Ayles was Rivals' #31 overall recruit in 2008. On Saturday it was redshirt freshman Clive Walford that put in a bid for increased playing time this season. Walford started the day off by catching a fade over Ray Ray Armstrong in redzone drills, and he also caught a few passes during scrimmage play. Walford won't be continuing the tradition of "Tight End U" but at the moment he's the team's most athletic tight end, and that should be enough to get him on the field.
- We all know that Tommy Streeter with his rare combination of height and speed can be an elite deep threat. He made it well known again on Saturday, catching two deep bombs.
NOT SO IMPRESSIVE
- The offensive line should be rock solid once the coaching staff decides who they actually want on the field, but the unit did not play well on Saturday. The interior offensive line was at times a disaster in pass protection, getting gashed on blitzes, most notably by Jordan Futch. The tackles also had their fair share of problems: Seantrel Henderson was beat once off the edge by David Perry, and it seemed like Adewale Ojomo spent as much time in the UM backfield as did Lamar Miller.
- The intermediate passing game was non-existent on Saturday. Allowing for the fact that the offensive system is new, that it's spring and because of that the team is working with a limited offensive palette, the passing on Saturday vacillated between throws under 10 yards (including wide receiver screens) and throws over 30 yards. Harris completed a post to LaRon Byrd (that resulted in his knee injury, fittingly enough), but this team will almost certainly miss Leonard Hankerson's ability to catch the ball over the middle.
- The immediate difference between the Golden and Shannon regimes is the intensity of the coaches, and it starts with defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio and defensive line coach Jethro Franklin. D'Onofrio, a frenzied and very loud presence, was reminiscent of Will Muschamp, while Franklin's enthusiasm (and ridicule) was palpable and unavoidable. If the team takes on the personality of its coaches, then this defense will be notably more intense than previous iterations.
- The Canes have been in search of an adequate middle linebacker ever since the days of, like, Jon Beason, and on Saturday Jordan Futch staked a claim to possibly being that player. Futch was a terror during the scrimmage, racking up two sacks and a few other pressures as well as a few jarring hits on the running backs. Based on seniority, size and play, Futch should have the inside track on the MLB job.
- Despite losing Allen Bailey, the defensive ends looked very impressive. As noted earlier, Adewale Ojomo was a constant presence in the Miami backfield, and he was probably the most impressive single player on Saturday. Along with Olivier Vernon and Marcus Robinson, Ojomo should help consistently put pressure on opposing quarterbacks this coming season.
NOT SO IMPRESSIVE
- The linebackers may be talented, but right now they're very small. Ramon Buchanan, Sean Spence and Travis Williams are undersized at outside linebacker and Jimmy Gaines and Kelvin Cain and Kevin Nelson are undersized inside. Spence had some vicious hits on Saturday and should be one of the best linebackers in the conference, but the linebackers will be a concern from a physical standpoint.
- No cornerback asserted himself on Saturday. Thomas Finnie was fearless and clearly showed why Canes coaches are enamored with him, but he was also burned deep by Travis Benjamin and is still a freshman. Lee Chambers was a constant presence on the field but didn't leave a mark at all, and Brandon McGee didn't play at all despite dressing. The position is still a huge question mark for the Canes, and that's not even taking into account Vaughn Telemaque being in a neck brace.