For the Miami Hurricanes, spring practice for the 2016 season comes to an end on Saturday afternoon with the Spring Game. Before we get into a couple things to look for, let's deal with the what/where/when of the game.
Where: Lockhart Stadium in Ft. Lauderdale (google map for this location)
Time: Parking Lots open 8AM
Gates open and autograph voucher distribution: 11am
Coverage: streaming on ESPN3.com/WatchESPN app, Radio: 560WQAM (or online), WVUM (90.5 or online)
Ground Rules for the Spring Game:
Four 12 min. quarters
Normal football scoring
Punts for reps, not live (no live returns)
FGs and XPs will happen as game dictates, but will not be live
Orange team (#2-3 offense, #1 defense) vs Green team (#1 offense, #2-3 defense); Roster link
Now that the basics are out there, here are some things to look for:
Brad Being Brad
We all know that Brad Kaaya is the franchise. He's the unquestioned leader of this team and one of the best QBs in the nation. I'm looking to see how he's developed over the course of the spring (all accounts are that he's still awesome and even awesomer than he was before). Some analysts have Kaaya as a surefire 1st round NFL draft pick in 2017. If he's on that path, we'll get a good glimpse of that on Saturday.
Much has been made of the defensive line's ability to flourish in new DC Manny Diaz's attacking 4-3 scheme. With a group that goes legitimately 8 deep (Al-Quadin Muhammad, Chad Thomas, Trent Harris, Demetrius Jackson, Courtel Jenkins, Richard McIntosh, Kendrick Norton, Gerald Willis) with quality talent, the DL should be able to perform to a level of greatness that has seldom been seen around these parts in many years.
It's not the previous staff's 3-4, 2-gap, read and react system anymore, guys! I want to see with my own eyes the new defense. I want to see Jermaine Grace doing all the things he can do. I want to see the DL getting up the field and creating chaos. I want to see MIAMI HURRICANES STYLE FOOTBALL on that side of the ball for the first time in a long time.
Miami is blessed to have 4 RBs with starting level talent. Not only has Mark Walton has been noted as the starter throughout the spring, but he was heavily recruited by Mark Richt when he was at UGA. After a solid freshman year, Walton could be primed for a big sophomore campaign. Joseph Yearby is a returning 1,000 yard rusher, and Gus Edwards is the big back who could really have an impact in an I-formation run game. Trayone Gray is working exclusively at RB and has all the physical tools in the world. With these 4 RBs, Miami could have a very, very potent rushing attack. I want to see how those guys have developed this spring.
Who's up after Coley?
It's no secret that Stacy Coley is BY FAR the #1 target at WR. He can't, however, do it all by himself. I'm looking at Braxton Berrios, Lawrence Cager, Darrell Langham and Malcolm Lewis to see who steps up at WR to add to the passing attack. And if nobody really shows much, that just strengthens the case for the incoming freshman to play from day 1 (spoiler alert: they're going to anyways).
The Three Amigos, 2016 Early Enrollees Zach McCloud, Michael Pinckney, and Shaquille Quarterman, have all been outstanding since hitting campus in January. Pinckney and Quarterman are starting on 1st team defense, and Quarterman is making all the defensive calls from the MLB position. McCloud is on 2nd team, behind Jermaine Grace, who figures to be the leading tackler on the team this year. If the Freshmen are ready for prime time, we'll start to see that on Saturday.
Several recruits will be on hand for the spring game. A couple names (there are sure to be more) are:
- 4-star WR Camron Buckley (nephew of former Canes LB Jesse Armstead) will be on hand from TX with his father and Armstead in tow
- 3-star RB Darrian Felix (Canes lead big)
- 3-star S Derrick Smith (Canes lead)
- 3-star QB Cade Weldon (Canes commit)
- 2018 4-star WR Jermaine Eskridge (Weldon's HS teammate)
- 2018 5-star S Tyreke Johnson (Smith's teammate)
Being able to pull one or more of these visitors (Buckley or Felix are at the top of my list for that) would be big. And, it would keep the momentum going for the 2017 recruiting class (more on that later after the spring game)
This is the most important part. There is nothing more important than getting through the Spring Game fully healthy. I mean, some guys will have some soreness and things of that nature, but ending the day with no major injuries is of the utmost importance. The starting 11 on both sides of the ball can compete with most any team in America. What the Canes don't have a ton of right now is depth. That dearth of numbers would be exasperated if anyone, starter or backup, were to get injured. So, maybe I should have put this as the #1 thing, but we CAN NOT HAVE INJURIES IN THE SPRING GAME!!!!!
That's my take on things. Agree? Disagree? Leave a comment below.