It was a jam packed Friday at Green Tree. Media day, open practice for reporters, and freshmen interviews.
1) Redshirt Freshman Doing Damage
Although it was just the second day of camp, today was a stepping stone for Demetrius Jackson. For a year he's been working to be where he is now physically.
One player who Jackson seems to thrive with is former high school teammate Chad Thomas.
On the play above, Thomas was playing inside and Jackson was playing out. Thomas took on both blockers while Jackson slipped inside for the easy would-be sack. After practice, Thomas was asked if he's surprised with how far Jackson has come along.
"I've been seen this coming, since high school," said Thomas. "It's all about output and he's putting it out more, a lot of people look up to DJax, and I look up to DJax."
During O-Line and D-Line drills, Jackson absolutely abused true freshman Tyree St. Louis with a hard shove to the chest. St. Louis fell down and his teammate Kc McDermott simply looked at him and said, "it happens, man."
About 10 minutes later, Jackson did the same to McDermott. After practice, Michael Wyche spoke highly about Jackson, saying he's very spiritual and he leads prayers for the teams. When I mentioned what happened during the drills, he said, "that's a different person on the field."
2) Don't ask about his conditioning
When it comes to speaking to Mike Wyche, conditioning is the last thing he wants to talk about. Today he just smiled at reporters and gave them a "Next question, please."
As for what he's doing on the field, Wyche seems a lot more agile. He went up against OL Nick Linder multiple times, who he says is his favorite player to go up against, and got the best of him twice. If Wyche can impress DL Coach Randy Melvin and DC Mark D'Onofrio enough this camp, he may have a chance to start alongside AQM and Chad Thomas, who said, "This is the most talented defensive line in the ACC."
3) Brad Kaaya: "As consistent as they come"
There isn't much more to add to how great of a football player Brad Kaaya is. His preparation, leadership skills and ability are those that I've never seen in a 19-year old. When asked about Kaaya, OC James Coley raved about him for about five minutes on his consistency.
"He's been the same guy every day," said Coley, "that's really hard to do. Think about it, what does your wife say? 'Oh you're such a jerk!' and then 'you're so nice,' you know, you change! Moods affect you, and he's been the same guy every day since January, and I'm challenging him on it. It's hard to be consistent, the great ones are."
Coley loves the way Kaaya affects everyone, he believes it's contagious in terms of preparation and leadership. Tomorrow will likely be the first day where Kaaya can start getting back into full rhythm in terms of 11-on-11 action and more fast paced play.
Kaaya would like to see the team be more consistent in one area, however: scoring in the red zone. "We just have to work to be more consistent and be sure to come away with 6 and not 3", Kaaya said.
4) Other QBs impress
We all know that Brad Kaaya is the QB of this team. He's the franchise. He's the man. He's clearly in full control of the system, and the unquestioned commander of this team.
With that being said, I was very impressed with both Malik Rosier and Evan Shirreffs during Friday's practice. Rosier is a great all-around athlete with a cannon for an arm. When he was getting reps, you couldn't help but be drawn to the balls that he was throwing all over the practice field.
Shirreffs, the 6'6" freshman from Jefferson, GA, also surprised me with his increased arm strength. Coach Golden made note of this during his post practice press conference, where he said that Shirreffs' arm "pops". With a year of scout team duty (my presumption for what Shirreffs will be tasked with this season) and further physical development (Shirreffs is still rail thin), I wouldn't be surprised if Shirreffs eventually challenges for playing time down the line.
5) Offensive Line is still a work in progress.
The defensive line got the better of the matchups on the day, with several reps that had the collected media "ooh"ing and "ahh"ing (the already mentioned Demetrius Jackson reps leading the way). To say that OL Coach Art Kehoe was a bit aggravated by that is a reasonable statement. Kehoe could be heard repeatedly admonishing his players, telling them to "WORK!" during reps. Kehoe also told several players to "quit talking and get in your stance" after they'd been beaten on a previous rep.
While the talent level is high, the OL group as a 5 man unit needs to work on their cohesiveness. And, the real test for them will come when the pads go on tomorrow.
Through 2 days of camp, the OL stands as follows:
1st Team (L to R): Trevor Darling, Alex Gall, Nick Linder, Danny Isidora, Sunny Odogwu
2nd Team (L to R): Kc McDermott, Hunter Wells, Hunter Knighton, Joe Brown, Jahair Jones.
Expect to see movement in this group as the Canes try to find the best 5 man unit.
6) The Return of Stacy Coley?
I know it's just one day of practice, but Stacy Coley looks like a different player on the field right now. He's relaxed, and using his athleticism to make plays. He easily won his 1-on-1 reps, and was also a factor in 11-on-11 work. WR coach Kevin Beard said Coley is one of the players who is leading the WR group right now.
While Coach Golden deflected from a question about Coley's slump last year, make no mistake about it: Coley's performance drop had a negative effect on the offense and forced other players to have a bigger role in the passing game. For this year, at least through 2 days, it seems that Coley is on track to once again be a dominant force for the Hurricanes. And that, my friends, is a good thing.
7) Theme of the day: Standards and unity
To a man, coaches and players both said they were working on maintaining high standards, and being together as a position group/unit/team. Several interviews were short because the players absolutely refused to talk about anything individual.
It seems to me that, at least on a surface level, everyone has bought into this year's mantra. I'm anxious to see how that organizational mindset manifests itself on the field when the games start.
8) One reason Gerald Willis III is a Hurricane
Willis, who like many other players says he's just "trying to do his part" to help the team, said his friendship with TE Stan Dobard is "the only reason he came" to Miami. "I had a good connection [with Stan], and I wanted to go somewhere where I knew somebody", Willis told me Friday.
Willis said he's enjoying his time at Miami, and likes the camaraderie of this year's team. His friendship with Dobard is something that TE coach Larry Scott has seen up close. "Stan is a friend to Gerald. He won't always agree with what Gerald is doing, but because of their relationship, he's able to help guide him, to help make sure he's making good decisions." And, while coach Scott told me Dobard has been great in the locker room with all his teammates, the relationship with Willis III is something that has stood out to him this offseason.
9) Jermaine Grace is poised for a big year
Already the 2nd leading tackler as a sophomore, WLB Jermaine Grace looks like he's ready to be a breakout player this season. He's up to 215lbs, and has maintained, if not increased, his speed. He said the added weight "will help me take on blocks, and take on bigger RBs" this season.
Grace also told me he's being used to cover slot receivers (not a mismatch like when other LBs were tasked with that in the past), and blitzing much more. "Coach D is utilizing me more as a blitzer/cover guy right now. He's trying to get me out of the pocket so I can blitz, or cover, and use my speed in a lot of different ways" Grace said.
From what we were able to see on Friday, that seems to be a good fit for Grace's skillset. I've been high on Grace as a breakout player this year, and today's practice only solidified my confidence in that opinion.
10) ditto that, Chad Thomas
A former 5-star recruit, Chad Thomas' play on Friday made you look at him. He dominated in multiple segments on the open practice, and has the look of a player who is primed for a big season.