Fall camp as it always does, has provided us lots of fodder for the upcoming season.
But perhaps because of the great access we have been given by the University of Miami, or maybe it is just the make up of this particular squad, this fall has been exceptionally intriguing.
Here are some observations on what we have learned thus far:
The Class of 2014 is as advertised
Brad Kaaya has stolen the show at times by holding his own as a true freshman in the QB battle with senior Jake Heaps, but he is not alone. First year players are making an impact all over Greentree Field this fall.
Listening to the Coaches rave about Chad Thomas almost makes you forget he hasn't even take his first snap at this level.
Golden on Chad Thomas: "Over 260 now and didn't lose any of his twitch. He's a competitor and a leader." Asked to be a leader already #UM— Manny Navarro (@Manny_Navarro) August 15, 2014
Fellow defensive end Trent Harris has surprised with his maturity as well, and even found himself listed as a starter on the first fall camp depth chart.
Ditto for Trevor Darling at RT, where his biggest competition to stay atop the depth chart is likely in the form of fellow frosh KC McDermott.
The 'Canes have a very deep receiving corps, but it looks like it will be hard to keep Braxton Berrios off the field.
Coley on Braxton Berrios: "He's really been a strong point for this offense, especially on 3rd down. He's come through with some big plays."— Matt Porter (@mattyports) August 16, 2014
The safety position is also very deep, yet Al Golden has praised both Marcus Gayot and Kiy Hester on more than one occasion.
And backing up Duke Johnson, and expected to see the ball early and often, is sensational freshman RB Joe Yearby.
Other first year players like WR Tyre Brady, LB Darrion Owens, and even C Nick Linder have also had some nice moments. It's scary to think how good these guys are going to be in two years.
However, not everything has been peachy and keen this far. Which brings me to my next observation.....
LB Depth is a serious concern
Denzel Perryman is as good a LB as there is in the ACC. And Jermaine Grace and Raphael Kirby are steadily improving. But this unit, quite frankly, is very thin.
Miami moved its' potential starting FB Walter Tucker back over to defense part time in an effort to shore up the depth at LB. They have even experimented with WR/TE David Njoku at LB. Clearly the staff is concerned.
Aforementioned Owens along with another freshman in Juwon Young are going to have to play some this year. Thurston Ambrister is also a veteran presence and a good option should Grace or Kirby play poorly. But outside of converted S Nantambu Akil-Fentress and the names above, this unit is out of options. I won't even mention the names of the two players no longer on the team who essentially leave UM in this position, because what they did off the field is a much bigger issue than what it left Miami with on it.
That being said, the lack of depth at LB is certainly alarming. The 'Canes absolutely have to stay healthy here.
But before we all panic about it, the good news is........
The Defense is going to be much improved (finally)
I know, I know. Until Hurricanes fans actually see it in a game, they won't believe it. And the skepticism is warranted. But at times this fall camp the D has outperformed the high powered O. Anthony Chickillo is having arguably his best preseason.
Hard not to like what I'm seeing from DE Anthony Chickillo. Finishing every drill hard. Coaches have raved about him.— Matt Porter (@mattyports) August 11, 2014
Thomas, sophomore Al Quadin-Muhammad, and junior Tyriq McCord give Miami a trio of pass rushers they have not had since Golden arrived.
And Dallas Crawford has been an absolute beast at S all camp.
You can see why Dallas Crawford is such a hit on defense. Just got to Gus Edwards. Didn't stop trying to strip that ball.— Christy Chirinos (@ChristyChirinos) August 15, 2014
Okay, so everyone looks good in Fall Camp. And we heard the same tune last year about how this unit was going to turn it around. I hear you. But all cynicism aside, the D is having a very nice fall camp.
Which brings me to the next biggest surprise/observation.........
QB play is going to be better than most think
Just yesterday I read that odds makers in Vegas are favoring Louisville on Labor Day for no bigger reason than Miami's QB situation. My first thought was "Wow, even more than the concerns with the D?" My second thought was "Hey, isn't Louisville breaking in a new starter at QB as well?" Then I watched Teddy Bridgewater lead the Vikings to a come from behind exhibition win on NFL Network.
But I digress.....
Whether it's Kaaya or Heaps, Heaps and Kaaya, Miami is going to get some excellent play from its' signal callers in 2014.
Miami Hurricanes QB Jake Heaps continues to impress coach Al Golden: http://t.co/Yn0tCaqXuz— Miami Herald Sports (@HeraldSports) August 8, 2014
Sensing a theme here?
At the beginning of fall camp, the tone of the media and even the coaches/players was that the offense was going to hum no matter who started at QB because of all the surrounding talent.
But because of the strong play of both potential QBs, that has shifted and evolved to the point where anyone watching now feels that whomever starts is going to thrive not only because of the guys around them, but because of their own attributes and strong play.
Take that bookies!
All kidding aside, this team has been incredibly fun to cover and watch evolve thus far. And we are only in the elementary phases of the season. Hopefully everyone avoids serious injury in tomorrow's scrimmage and we learn even more about the 2014 Miami Hurricanes Football team.