Greentree practice fields never looked so good. The freshness of a new year brings a certain level of intensity and emotion replicated from each player fighting for a starting role.
Here are my views on the first few days of practice.
1) Michael Wyche looks much thinner
- Last year Wyche struggled to gain that playing time he craved. Unfortunately, he wasn't in the shape necessary to be a consistent DT. However, it seems as if Wyche has trimmed down a lot since the last time we saw him. I managed to catch Wyche working on some D-Line drills, the way he was shuffling his feet around 5-yard diameter rings was something I couldn't see him doing last year.
Speaking to Defensive Coordinator Mark D'Onofrio, he said Wyche has lost a significant amount of weight since he was at 360 last fall. Although he says Wyche still has a lot of work ahead of him, he has the right mindset to get to where he wants to be.
2) Al-Quadin Muhammad is back
- After an unfortunate suspension before the 2014 season, Muhammad is finally back in a Canes uniform and bigger than ever. Muhammad said that in his time out he got a membership at the L.A Fitness in Sunset Place and was motivated to be in the best shape he's ever been for his return to practice.
When he spoke to the media, Quan gave all the answers you'd expect a defensive savage to give. When asked about his level of play, Quan put it simply: "I'm a hell of a football player.
Not getting to witness him in practices last season, quarterback Brad Kaaya was more than impressed with Quan on the opposite side of the ball.
"It's like seeing the incredible hulk out there."...Quan currently stands at 260 lbs.
Well then RT @CanesWarningFS: The new, bulked up AQM introduced himself to OL Jahair Jones today. @Qua_Nito pic.twitter.com/5A1TH5J2Ob"— StateOfTheU.com (@TheStateOfTheU) February 24, 2015
3) Rashawn Scott is already the Number 1 Receiver
- Coming into Spring camp, I mentioned that Scott would be the No.1 receiver on this team. The way he was working with Kaaya a couple of weeks before the South Carolina bowl game told me all I needed to know about Scott. He simply gets open, regardless of who's on him.
On a couple of instances Scott has been well covered by Jamal Carter who is said to be much more improved from last season both physically and mentally.
Scott has connected with Kaaya on multiple touchdown passes during practice, including out and inside post routes, which seem to be his favorite routes to run.
4) New DL Coach Randy Melvin is well integrated
- Most players, if not all players on the defense wanted Kareem Brown to be the newest defensive line coach. When Randy Melvin was hired, it was assumed that it would take a long time for players to respect him. However, that doesn't seem to be the case at all. Quan Muhammad raved about him.
"He's a hell of a coach," said Muhammad. "He brings a lot to the table and we're all on the same page."
From watching Melvin throughout drills, he reminds me of the prototype hard-ass coach. He'll yell at the players consistently, but then reward them with a "There you go!" or "Now you'e getting it."
5) Miami's Running Back Corps Is Still Stacked
- Losing their best player to the draft this season, the Hurricanes have all the talent necessary to reciprocate Duke Johnson's productivity. However, it won't be just one guy getting all the touches.
Most likely, Joe Yearby will come into the season as the No. 1 running back. He's gotten a lot stronger, a lot quicker (thought it was impossible) and his performances last year have earned the trust from his coaches. Throughout drills, RB coach Tim "Ice" Harris rarely gets upset at Yearby, because although he's only a sophomore, his knowledge of the position has improved drastically.
- Gus Edwards, a guy who Raphael Kirby says is the hardest player to tackle on the team, is set to be the big back Miami has been missing in those third and short situations.
As for Trayone Gray, Al golden says he's trimmed down like they asked him to last season and he seems to have changed things around.
"He's just a different guy right now," said Golden on Gray. "He's starting to look like a running back."
There were a lot of questions as to whether Gray would stay at that running back position or possibly switch to receiver, but he's accepted his role as a running back. Gray also says he's been pushing his coaches to give him a chance at kick returning, something he loved to do in high school.
***Gray has not been at practice for the last few days for academic reasons.
6) Jaquan Johnson is adjusting well
- Johnson, along with Mark Walton, are two of the "gameday-ready" true freshmen on this team. Johnson has already been getting reps with the first team defense, and so far has made a great impression on Golden.
"Hes very bright," said Golden on Johnson. "He takes care of his business, he loves football, studies the game, watches film, and he has the athleticism to perform on the field. Good start for him."
At times Johnson has been yelled at to be more vocal or move to a different set on an audible, but that's completely normal at this stage.
Johnson's high school coach Cory Johnson and his teammate Sheldrick Redwine have raved about how smart, athletic and motivated he is last week.
Jaquan Johnson #youngin #Killian pic.twitter.com/6HMVNsWyI2— Alejandro Narciso (@Ale_Narciso1) February 21, 2015