The coaches and players have been at it for about a week now, and in true Canes fashion, it's been a week's worth of hype, drama, and WTF. I'm just going to cut to the chase here. Hit the jump to get a quick breakdown of different positions, players, and the situation surrounding Seantrel.
First off, let's get the rather large elephant out in the open. It's been no secret that Seantrel Henderson has had a rough go of it lately. He had his name attached to possible suspensions, possible dismissal, not being at practice for the first three days, among other things. As is the norm in the sports world, everyone was quick to judge and give their 2 cents as to what should be done with the kid. Overlooked was the fact that he is a junior, a young kid in college trying to play football and graduate while at the same time trying to figure out who he is. Yes, he has under performed in his first two years, but part of that was injury, and part of it was not being utilized as much as he should have. A good chunk was also his attitude, which was never the best. It seems as of late, however, that he is straightening everything out. Golden heaped praise on him at media days for being in the best physical shape of his life. He was cleared of any possible dismissal or suspension rumors by Golden. Things were looking up. Then the last few weeks happened.
According to Manny Navarro over at the Miami Herald, Seantrel has some pretty damn good reasons for both missing the first days of practice, and for not being able to practice just yet. To start the ball rolling, he was involved in a traffic accident in which he was cited for three things: expired license, disobeying a traffic sign, and unknowingly driving without a license. He was fined, which is to be expected, but even worse, he apparently may have suffered a concussion. He is being held out of practice until those symptoms clear up, which is the absolute smartest thing to do. After the accident is when things really took a turn for the worse. Between him and his father, the story has been able to be pieced together. We all knew he had returned home to attend the funeral of a childhood friend. What we only found out later was that it was apparently a murder/suicide situation, and he ended up losing two people that were close. On top of that, He had an aunt lose her battle with cancer. Knowing this, it's pretty easy to see why he missed three days. Not because he was lazy, or didn't want to play for Miami, or hated Golden, but because he is a 20 something year old kid dealing with three people in his life passing away on top of a car wreck.
The bottom line is is that hes in great shape, he wants to work hard, and he's back with the team and doing whatever he can until he is cleared to practice. Outside of that, let's say we leave the kid alone, shall we?
Now on to the fun stuff. Practice has only recently gotten into the full pads stage, which is where we want it to be. Before that, it's all basically just drills and installing the offensive and defensive packages. It would be a bit silly to expect any gigantic revelations to come out of these practices, but what they do provide is an opportunity to see how the new kids on campus stack up against the incumbent players. So far, the results have been pretty great.
It took exactly two days for Tracy Howard to don the black jersey and run with the first team defense. Sure, he was helped out a bit by the fall of Brandon McGee (who said in an interview that he had been ill), but he is already showing why he was so highly rated. At this point, it is extremely hard to imagine him not suiting up on one side of the field for game one. As far as who will be on the other side? Coaches have said that McGee needs consistency. If he can get over his illness and get back to the top, he and Howard would be a pretty potent duo. If Brandon can't perform the way he needs to, Ladarius Gunter started off badly, but has come on like a...well...like a hurricane in the last few days. If i had to place bets on it, I would say that Howard and Gunter will be your starting CB's, with McGee close behind. The other young guys Vernon Davis and Antonio Crawford have also been earning praise, and should provide not only competition, but a great set of backups.
Deon Bush has been showing why he should play safety in college. The kid is just big, but he also has the speed to roam around in the middle. While he likely won't unseat Vaughn Telemaque or Kacy Rogers from the starting spots, he certainly is making his case. A.J. Highsmith is also playing hard, finally settling into a permanent position after playing the journeyman role under Shannon. The linebacking group looks to be pretty well set, with Ramon Buchanon, Jimmy Gaines, and Denzel Perryman holding on to the top spots. Buchanon looks to be 100% healthy, and that's great news. Raphael Kirby is as advertised, and will see plenty of playing time this year.
The defensive line is looking more solid than anticipated, with Shayon Green and Anthony Chickillo proving to be anchors on the ends. Curtis Porter has been a bit of a disappointment lately, and Olsen Pierre has taken over the top spot. The line will sort itself out just fine, and the moral amongst the players seems to be pretty high, so I wouldn't worry too much about this group. One way or the other a guy who is bigger and stronger is going to get on the field, and as a group they should be a lot more disruptive than last year. BONUS! Anthony Chickillo video!!
Chickillo 1st day of UM camp (via mannynavarro614)
The offense is rounding itself into form, and confidence in this group is getting higher and higher every day. To begin with, Stephen Morris has apparently decided it is time to man up. Every player that has been asked about him has said that he has made the team his, and that he is definitely a more vocal leader than Jacory Harris. Coaches have said that he is much better than he was pre-surgery, and honestly at this point I don't know why Golden hasn't just handed him the reigns officially. Ryan Williams has been performing well, and will be an excellent backup should Morris get hurt.
The wide receiver group, the one that had most of us worried, looks to be in a lot better shape than we thought. Allen Hurns is stepping up, more consistent, and looks to be the clear number 1 guy. Behind him, Philip Dorsett and Rashawn Scott look to be the second and third guys, as they continue to improve and show that they can be dependable options. As far the new guys are concerned, three have stood out, and they are the three we all expected. Herb Waters, Robert Lockhart, and Malcolm Lewis are drawing raves from just about everyone. Lockhart is tops on that list, showing a Randy Moss-like ability to just go up and get the ball when it's in the air, no matter where he is on the field. Lewis is just all around good, but excels in making people miss.
The running backs are exactly what they thought we were. At least, that is, until you get to Duke Freaking Johnson. I say that because of one reason. He hurt LB Gionni Paul on a run. He literally was running with the ball, cut back, and Gionni Paul hurt his knee (Paul is OK by the way. The originally thought it might be as bad as an ACL tear, but he will apparently be back in action by Saturday.) While he apparently has the ability to snatch your achilles tendon from your leg at will, he is still not strong enough to withstand a full season of being the feature back. He will get more than his share of playing time, mind you, but it won't be as a started over Mike James. One thing to watch out for with Duke, he has a tiny migraine issue. He was held out of a day of practice while he recovered from one. It doesn't sound like it is Percy Harvin level bad, but they are apparently pretty horrible when he does get them. This is the reason he wears that dark helmet visor, which carries the added bonus of looking like a bad ass.
The offensive line is rounding (hah!) into shape. At this point, the only real question is who will be the starter at right tackle. Henderson was handed the starting job, but in his absence rookie Ereck Flowers has blown up, and very well may take the spot. It is certainly never a bad thing to have multiple guys at one position that can start for you, but in this situation it comes with a bit of worry. Both guys are inexperienced for different reasons, and that's always something to keep an eye on. You don't want someone who has all the talent in the world but no idea how to harness it protecting your QB from murderous defensive ends. Either way, it will work out fine, and while he has yet to practice, I don't see anyone but Henderson there by season's start. BONUNS AGAIN! Ereck Flowers putting in work!! (short video, but what you come away with is the knowledge that Flowers is GIANT.)
Canes freshman RT Ereck Flowers (via mannynavarro614)
Overall, practice has been pretty productive so far. The Canes have a scrimmage on Sunday, and then things continue as they start to actually run their offense and defensive schemes in the coming weeks. After week two, we will be giving you guys your official positional previews (we wanted to wait and let practice run a bit since so many freshmen will be factors,) so keep checking back. If you have any questions about any of the guys not mentioned above, put them below in the comments and I'll answer them as best I can.