Ryan Williams is good, but not Stephen Morris good....or something.
Well, spring practices are over. The
spring game (the what now?) has come and gone, and it's time for all of us fans to just buckle down, enjoy the summer, and try not to go blind from lack of football. So where do the Canes currently stand as far as on the filed production? Will they come into the fall semester ready to play? What awaits the new guys that are chomping at the bit to get to campus and compete for their careers? Hit the jump and let's take a quick look.
Let's begin with the defensive side, since they earned the spotlight this spring. The DB's and LB's all performed wonderfully, and in each scrimmage and the spring game they shut down the scoring. While that may have been in part due to the ineptitude of the offense, the defensive presence was undeniable.
This year's defensive front should be a lot better than years past. They are bigger, faster, and stronger than they have been, and they are healthy. The middle of the line will most likely be anchored by Darius Smith and Curtis Porter, and Olsen Pierre playing a lot as well. They have all bulked up, and should have no problem getting a lot of push come game time. The ends, or at least one of them, will be good as well. Chickillo has his spot all but locked up, and if he builds off of last year like he should, he is going to be an absolute monster. Ricardo Williams and Jalen Grimble will be working on the other side, and both should be productive. There are quite a few young guys coming in the fall that will most definitely compete for spots. Namely Tyriq McCord, Jelani Hamilton, and Dequan Ivery, among others. These guys will provide the depth needed, but they will also be guys the opposing teams don't want to see come on the field when the starters get winded.
Ramon Buchanon should be coming back soon, and when he does he will be only the third guy with actual game experience in the LB corps. While this may seem troubling, it has turned out to not be as bad of a crutch as once thought. Jimmy Gaines and Denzel Perryman are the two other guys with experience, and they both have stepped up their games. This motivation is not only produced because they want to succeed, but also because guys behind them are not that far off from starting. Guys like Raphael Kirby, Gionni Paul, and Tyrone Cornelius have proven to be big surprises, and will be among the names called to play on game day. Jawand Blue is an incoming freshman who must have something up his sleeve, or at least that's what you could gather from the VT staff's reaction to him flipping to the Canes.
Depth. Depth is the word of the day here, and Miami has it. Not only do they have depth, but they have a lot of very skilled guys practicing now, and with more to come in the fall, things can only get better. Brandon McGee is finally stepping up to be the player he was expected to be, and his blazing speed will come in handy in coverage and when he gets his hands on the ball. Larry Hope, AJ Highsmith, and Thomas Finnie have also been playing very well. Hope especially has been receiving high praise from the coaches as of late. As far as the safeties are concerned, Ray Ray Armstrong has been an absolute beast, and seems to finally be locked in and committing to playing his best. On the opposite, Vaughn Telemaque has been a bit of a disappointment. He has shown a lot of inconsistency throughout the spring, and it is not surprising that another guy who has played hard, Andrew Swasey, is currently listed above him on the depth chart. It will be interesting to see how Telemaque reacts after the summer. Once the leaves turn colors in a few months, that is when things on the defense are going to get FUN. Tracy Howard arrives, bringing with him Antonio Crawford and Deon Bush. Even with the current play of the DB's, I see absolutely no way that Howard doesn't come in and start as a freshman. He is simply too good.
/SIGH. Ok, here's the thing. It's early. It's spring ball, so prediction, observations, and opinions are all exactly that. Yet, after the few scrimmages and the spring game, the offensive line has simply been underwhelming. This is a giant sized surprise considering that these guys are mostly experienced, albeit young. Not only that, but they are just ridiculously big. Seantrel Henderson, Malcom Bunche, and Jonathan Feliciano are all guys you would expect a lot more out of. There's also not a lot of help coming in the fall. In fact, there's only one guy coming, Daniel Isidora. The other two recruits from last years class, Ereck Flowers and Taylor Gadbois, are already on campus. Flowers has been a big surprise, and Gadbois is coming along nicely. Bottom line here is is that these guys need to put in a lot of work over the summer, but I have no doubt that their coaches will whip them into shape by season's start.
Until the fall rolls around, there isn't an explosive guy at this position. With Mike James, Eduardo Clements, and Dallas Crawford, what you have is a solid group of guys that could easily start on a lot of teams. James has emerged as the more than likely starter, which is a very good thing to see after his first few lackluster seasons. Clements has struggled a bit, but this is not so surprising as it always felt like his best work was catching out of the backfield. Crawford is still getting used to the system, and has also seen some time at WR, although that will more than likely start to fall off as the season draws near. The explosiveness that the team is missing with Lamar Miller gone will come in the form of Duke Johnson. As soon as he steps foot onto campus he will immediately be the most talented kid in the backfield, and although he more than likely will not shoulder a lot of starting work, he will definitely see a lot of time on the field. Danny Dillard is a guy flying under the radar a bit, and that's fine by him. He's going to be a bruising, downhill runner as he is coming in at 6'2" 205, and should only get bigger.
This is by far the position of most need on the field, there's no doubt. Even so, the guys that are on campus now have stepped up in a huge way. Perhaps none more than Garrett Kidd, a walk-on. Guys are raving about his great hands, and he should definitely get his shot to play. Other guys that have impressed are Rashawn Scott and Phillip Dorsett, even though they have both had their brain-dead moments. Dorsett looks like he could be the next big thing on the offense, with Allen Hurns helping out as well. The corps will get a big boost when kids like Robert Lockhart and Malcolm Lewis get to town. Unfortunately it's looking more and more like Angelo Jean-Louis will need a year of prep school before joining the Canes.
This group is one that should see a lot more production this year. Coach Fisch wants the tight ends to go from about 29 receptions to about 60, if that tells you anything about his plans for the position. Since there were no (zero, none, nada, zilch) tight ends brought in with the most recent recruiting class, it's up to the established guys to put in the work. Thankfully, there are a couple of guys who are more than capable of doing so. Asante Cleveland and Clive Walford are going to be huge match up nightmares for opposing defenses. Dyron Dye and Corey White are showing their skills at blocking as well.
Ah yes, and here we are. At the beginning of the spring, the quarterback situation was pretty clear, but there were also a lot of unknowns. Now that spring ball has wrapped up, the picture is exceedingly more clear. Stephen Morris will be our starter. He hasn't gotten a lot of work in due to back surgery, but he started to throw late in the spring, which is good. Him having the spot locked up is not so much due to his production, however. It is more on the fact that Ryan Williams, the only realistic threat to Morris, showed that he is (currently) at best a very good backup. While it is only fair to mention that this is his first full year being entrenched with the first team and practicing with this level of competition (c'mon...Memphis?!), he still was expected to show more than he did. The young guys, Gray Crow and Preston Dewey, were heralded somewhat, but have both proved to be exactly what we all though they would be: works in progress. The only surprise with them is that while Dewey was the "better quarterback" coming in, Crow has somewhat out-shined him.
So there you are, Canes fans. That's how the team is looking going into the summer. The guys mentioned are all the likely starters according to the most recent depth chart, although that will of course be subject to change once the 25 or so kids hit campus in the fall. Things aren't currently incredible from what we have seen, but again, keep in mind that not everyone is present and accounted for. Also bear in mind that what you see at scrimmages, spring games, and practices for any team is a watered-down, vanilla version of the playbook, and should be treated as such. Questions or comments? You know what to do.