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Hurricanes Spring Practice Opened Over The Weekend: A SOTU Round Up

This weekend marked the start of that special time of year: spring football. Canes fans everywhere can finally catch glimpses of what their favorite team might look like come fall.

Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE

The first weekend of spring practice has come and gone, and it just feels right, ya know?

Anyway, let's round things up and at least provide a decent foundation going forward, so you aren't lost when you see a guy out of position, or in a different number, or what have you.

To begin with, there's a slew of guys that will be wearing new numbers, some due to just changing, others due to changing positions. Here's the breakdown:

QB Gray Crow (13)

DB Antonio Crawford (21)

WR Joey McNeill (26)

DB Rayshawn Jenkins (26)

DB Nantambu Akil-Fentress (28)

RB Brandon Yosha (28)

TE Jake O'Donnell (83)

A couple of those names are obviously ones you may not be immediately familiar with, so who cares, right? Others don't seem to matter all that much, while the remaining few stand out. First of all, Jenkins will now be sporting the infamous 26 at his safety position. This obviously carries tremendous weight within the Canes community, and I don't really have to explain why. We would all like to hope that Jenkins does more service to the number than Armstrong did, and based on what we saw last year, he's got a great shot at living up to what the number means.

Fentress and O'Donnell are sporting new numbers because they are also sporting new positions. Fentress has moved a bit further back and will be helping out the defensive backs rather than the line backers. He's always been a tremendous kid, and should do well in his new role. O'Donnell will be joining the offense rather than working along the defensive line. While some people might say "But what about the line issues!", all you need to do is remember that Dyron Dye and David Perry moved back to that side, so the 2 for 1 swap will work out fine.

Personally, I think he looks much better in orange and green. (Photo: JC Ridley/

Two notable position changes (or lack thereof) deserve mentioning here. First off, Tyriq McCord is now officially listed at LB, although the coaches have made it very clear that it basically means nothing. His role will remain the same as it was last season, and he will work off the edge of the line as much as he does in coverage. The switch is basically a name only thing. As far as one of the fan favorite rumors from the off season, which had Chick moving to the interior of the line, don't hold your breath. He will remain on the outside of the line where he always has been. He has added a bit more weight this year, but has concentrated more on his speed and explosiveness, which were missing last season. There should be no worries there.

FIRST INTERMISSION: Coach Golden and his glorious hair discuss the first day of practice, courtesy of HurricaneSports.

With the Canes missing 2 years' worth of bowl games, that meant extra time for the players to be in the weight room getting bigger, faster, stronger, and better conditioned. That has definitely paid off, with the Canes almost reaching their standard of being a 40/10 team. That means they have 40 guys on the roster who topped 20 reps of 225 lbs, and 10 guys benching above the 30 count. They currently have 36 guys over 20, and 11 over the 30 mark.

As far as individual work is concerned, guys have seen great results. Stephen Morris is the new all-time Hurricane's leader in the QB power clean, with 292 pounds. Duke Johnson is going to be playing much heavier, around 195, than his 180 or so in 2012. This is going to do wonders for his durability, which he will need as the feature back. A lot of folks, myself included, have Danny Dillard as a dark horse kind of guy. His numbers, losing about 15 pounds and currently running a 4.5 forty, help support that fact.

SWOOOOON. (Photo: JC Ridley/

As far as the wide outs go, they've all gotten better. Dorsett is better conditioned from running track in the off season, and Waters has put on a bunch of weight. Malcolm Lewis, a hugely important question mark this off season, is reportedly running and cutting on the field, but is still pretty sore. The early word on him is that he will be full strength soon, and will absolutely be ready for fall work.

The defense, though, is where both coaches and fans want to see improvement, and not just in the weight room. Trust me, the coaches want this just as bad as you all do, especially D'Onofrio. They are excited to have Porter back healthy, and are reporting that pretty much everyone else is at their weight goal. Hell, from what I've read, Corey King was the only guy on the team to throw 225 up 40 times. Forty. Four oh. Not only that, but Golden put heavy emphasis on the fact that while they did struggle last year, the majority of the defense was, as he put it, "like deer in the headlights." That quick fire experience has made them stronger and better, and even after two days the coaches are liking what they have seen. Even all the way in the backfield, guys are working hard. Tracy Howard will be playing around 180 this season, after playing around the 165-170 mark last year. He has also recognized that he will need to step up and lead the defense along with guys like Gunter, Perryman, and Bush.

SECOND INTERMISSION: Golden and his locks of lusciousness discuss Sunday's spring practice session.

Interesting Tidbits:

  • The word on the new James Coley offense is that he integrated a lot of what Fisch left behind, including terminology. This means the existing offensive staff was able to just keep on plugging, learn a few new things, and basically just slip right into the new offense without any trouble at all.
  • Coach Golden seems pretty set in the belief that David Thompson will, in fact, join the football team after baseball is done. While many of us seem to think he needs to stick with the diamond, it's going to be interesting to see how this one plays out.
  • It looks like Hunter Knighton will be getting a lot of looks at the center position, at least based off of what Golden has put out there. With McDermott hurt, and Wheeler the only real backup at the moment, building depth there is crucial.
  • Shayon Green continues to impress in the weight room as well as on the field, finishing in the top 3 of the defensive line group (out of like, 18 guys, in other words). He was a pretty big force for us last year, and seems to be setting up for another productive, although weirdly quiet year.
  • The more players and coaches talk, the greater the chances of Alex Figueroa actually starting seem to be. They rave about his work ethic, and the fact that he came in an absolute horse. If he winds up being as good as they seem to think he can be, he may be one of the steals of the recruiting season.
That wraps up the weekend round up, and while I hope I covered a lot of the stuff that everyone is looking for, I am sure that I missed a good bit. Feel free to leave any questions in the comments below, and I'll answer them as best as I can. Wondering where I got those pictures up there from? Here's the slideshow provided by HurricaneSports: