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Miami Hurricanes Spring Game Recap: Who Showed Out, Who Still Needs Work

The Canes held their annual spring game over the weekend, and we had a couple of our guys on hand to see what was what.

Herb Waters (#86) beats Nate Dortch (#35) off the line
Herb Waters (#86) beats Nate Dortch (#35) off the line
Ross Behren

Every year, teams hold their spring game events, to give fans a glimpse at what the next team may look like. Of course, the coaches hold back much of their play books, and these games are getting more and more for show and not much more, but they're still fun. Fans are able to see their new favorite players (cough....Sandland.....cough) as well as their old favorites. Not only that, but teams are beginning to try and bring back alumni to help out in the festivities. For example, Miami brought back Gino Torretta and Andre Johnson, among others like Romberg, to give fans a glimpse of awesome:

There was also an extremely cool moment for not only the fans, but the team as well. Coach Golden scripted a long TD pass to wide receiver Malcolm Lewis, his first major action since suffering a gruesome ankle injury.

Outside all of that, the team actually showed what they can do for a few hours, although things were pretty vanilla on both sides of the ball. Here's what Joe Garcia Jr. and Juan Toribio thought of what they saw from the 2013 Canes.

Best showing on O:

JT: Stephen Morris

JG: Rashawn Scott

Worst showing on O:

JT: Backup Running Backs

JG: Danny Dillard

Best showing on D:

JT: Denzel Perryman

JG: Denzel Perryman

Worst showing on D:

JT: Defensive Backs

JG: Nate Dortch

Want a more in-depth explanation of what they saw out there? Well, you're in luck!

Q1: Who was the one player that really stood out to you as someone that made huge strides since last season?

JT: Rashawn Scott. Scott had a very solid year last season with 35 catches for 512 yards, but he looks a lot more comfortable this spring. He was the best receiver on the team this spring and Miami needs him to have a good year on the outside so it could open up Phillip Dorsett and the Tight Ends down the middle of the field.

JG: It’s easily Seantrel Henderson in my mind. He’s long been the most physically talented lineman on the team but his play seemed to finally start catching up to his talent this spring and he did a great job in the spring game. If he continues this through the season, there’s a chance he turns himself into a legitimate 1st round draft pick next spring.

Q2: Was there any one play that stood out to you that you maybe didn't see from the team last season?

JT: Tight End play. Beau Sandland will probably be the opening day starter at the position and he didn't have a crazy game statistically, but he's a threat. Sandland was on the white team so we couldn't see him with Morris and most of the starters, but still finished with 3 catches for 30 yards. Last season, the tight end position was almost non-existing for this offense and that could easily be a strength this season. Al Golden has praised the position all spring long and it's going to be exciting to see that entire group go to work and make some plays down the seam.

JG: Denzel Perryman almost came away with 3 interceptions on the day but what might be overlooked on those plays is that the middle of the Hurricanes defense was able to step into passing lanes and deflect some of those passes in the air for him. Raphael Kirby got a great jump on one and if he was a half step faster, he would have taken the INT himself. That is significant because all too often last season we saw teams exploit the Canes in the passing game with zero resistance. There’s still a lot of room for growth but seeing passing lanes get interrupted was definitely a step in the right direction.

Q3: What unit on each side of the ball needs the most work through summer and into fall camp?

JT: On the offensive side of the ball, I think the running backs need more work. Duke Johnson is a star and nobody can argue that, but he needs to have a good number 2 to save his body for the entire season. Dallas Crawford and Danny Dillard need a little bit more work, but I think come fall, the 'Canes will be good in that position.

On Defense, it's pretty clear the DBs need some polishing. I truly believe Tracy Howard will be lockdown, but he's not quite at that level just yet. I don't know if the poor showing on Saturday was due to the depth and skill of the Miami receivers, but it was an average showing by that group. Artie Burns should come in and provide some help, but we can't put the rest of the guys are going to have to step up.

JG: Offensively the answer to this is clearly the backup runningbacks with Dallas Crawford and Danny Dillard not looking up for the task of spelling Duke Johnson. Dillard doesn’t seem ready and I’m not sure that Dallas Crawford has another level he can take him game to. The Canes better hope that Corn Elder or Gus Edwards can provide some useful carries or they run the risk of overloading Duke.

Defensively, I still think the pass rush is the major issue. There was very little to speak of on Saturday. Tyriq McCord was the lone player on the roster who had any sort of pass rush ability that jumped out at you. Chickillo gets some with effort and hustle. After that, it’s crickets. The defensive backs will take some flak for giving up the plays but I thought that most of that unit showed a good bit of individual improvement and Ladarius Gunter looks like the best CB we’ve had since Brandon Harris. Get those kids some pass rush help and you’d be surprised how much better they will start looking.

Q4: Who did you see that might not be ready now, but showed some flashes of being a player down the road?

JT: Herb Waters. I don't think he'll get many snaps because of the depth of the 'Canes receiving core, but we all saw flashes of his skill. He had a really good game on Saturday until he hurt his arm/shoulder. He's capable of playing and contributing right now, but with the depth at the position, his time might have to wait a little longer.

JG: This might get some laughs but I’m going to go with Nate Dortch. He had his struggles in the spring game and he’s only halfway there regarding his size and weight. But I thought he showed solid cover skills and didn’t look out of water in the least. He’s still raw and needs to learn to locate the ball better but he was generally in the right place and was just simply getting beat by better players making better plays. As a RS Frosh, he’s still got plenty of time to grow and I’m fully expecting to see him become a solid contributor for the Canes in a couple of years.

Q5: Overall picture. What is your main general take away from this game?

JT: My overall take is that the 'Canes have a lot of good things working for them. Sure, the defense needs some more help, but they also have some playmakers. Tracy Howard will develop, Deon Bush can still hit like a car, and 52 is roaming around at 236 pounds causing all kind of trouble. Anthony Chickillo and Olsen Pierre are playing good ball and the D-line should be better, because I don't think it can get worse than last season.

On offense, besides needing a 2nd running back to solidify themselves as a clear cut backup, it's as potent of an offense as the 'Canes have had in recent memory. Hopefully the injuries stay at a minimum and it should be a fun year for the Miami Hurricanes.

JG: It’s as simple as this: Malcolm Lewis, Andre Johnson, Brett Romberg, and Gino Toretta all played in this game. You know what that says? It says this team is having fun, and that’s something that has been missing here for quite a while. You can break down the players, the schemes and the direction all you want but if this team wasn’t invested then it would never work. We’ll what we saw on Saturday was a team that was not only invested, but enjoying playing the game with each other. If there’s one giant leap we can say this program has made under Coach Golden, is that they are truly now a team.

Of course, keep in mind that there were a few injuries coming into the game to guys that normally would have aged a big part, like Jelani and Figs. Also remember that what you saw was maybe a total of 7 or 8 plays (if that much) on either the offense or defense. Spring games are a good way to at least get a decent idea on what guys may look like come regular season play, but it shouldn't be used as the end all be all of professional opinions.

Didn't get to watch the game? It can be replayed anytime on ESPN3!