We’ve all followed the news and notes Cam and the other on-field reporters have given us on a practice by practice basis. I plan on breaking down what I’ve read based on their observations and then add some of my own prognostications. Feel free to leave your own in the comments section!
Let’s get to this!
Per Barry Jackson’s article from a few days ago: it seems there is a consistent order of the quarterbacks for the depth chart but at this time no one has really distinguished themselves. The depth chart so far through spring practice has seen Malik Rosier take snaps with the first team, Jack Allison and Evan Shirreffs handle the second team duties and Cade Weldon, Vincent Testaverde and the walk ons pick up any of the left over third string reps.
If Rosier really isn’t running away with the job like Jackson is alluding to, the odds go up that N’Kosi Perry has a shot to overtake him as the starter next year as a soon to be incoming freshman. I’m not thrilled with either of the observation or the potential development. I just hope the best quarterback plays and puts the offense in a position to score points.
Mark Walton has had a good spring by all accounts and is ready for what could be his last season in a Canes uniform (going into his junior year). Sophomore Travis Homer is comfortably seated behind Walton on the depth chart and could see a good work load as the number two running back. As of a few days ago, Robert Burns sustained a shoulder injury and has missed the last few practices.
The overall depth of this group should be extremely worrisome to Canes fans. I can’t stress that point enough. If Richt can’t find a talented grad transfer to lighten the workload for Walton, Miami’s running game next year could be in trouble.
Just like last season, the pass catchers are awaiting an infusion of more bodies from the recruiting class to really get the group going. Last year’s spring practice sessions in passing drills Richt had a short staffed group waiting for Bruce, Richards and Mullins. This season the arrival of Harley, Thomas and the younger Njoku are sorely needed to provide even more pop to an already dangerous unit.
Personally, I’m not worried about this group at all. The freshmen are needed to provide a spark next year but really their impacts will only go as far as the quarterback takes them. They’re all talented enough to make the catches (at least we think they’re talented enough) the ball needs to be delivered to them though and that’s the rub looking forward to 2017-2018.
The group is only four deep with Herndon, Haskins, Irvin Jr and freshman Polendey but all reports seem to point to the group being able to hold their own next season. Herndon may have been in the “shadow” of Njoku last season but Hartley has been raving about his skillset all offseason. Haskins and Irvin have been coming along as second team tight ends. Polendey may be in a similar situation as Cade Weldon: he’s still trying to learn the intricacies of the offense and isn’t playing full speed at this time.
This group, to me anyways, is a slight upgrade in depth when compared to the running back group but not by much. Herndon, when given the chance, has made opponents pay in the passing game. Besides his decent production last season (about 300 yards and a few touchdowns) his teammates behind him haven’t taken any real meaningful snaps in the college level. Someone is going to have to step up behind Herndon, we’ll have to see who it will be.
The only point that’s really made about the o-line is where people are playing and what unit. We’ve seen freshman phenom Navaughn Donaldson bounce back and forth from tackle to guard on the first unit and also heard murmurs that Tyler Gauthier may hold down the starting center position even when perennial starter Nick Linder returns from offseason shoulder surgery. Also, it looks like former LSU turned Miami transfer George Brown will likely hold down either the starting right or left tackle position. We’ll learn more about the two deep of this unit as fall practice gets underway.
If I had to guess, this would be my starting five come end of August/early September: left tackle: St Louis, left guard Darling, center: Gauthier, right guard: Donaldson and right tackle: Brown.
Is this a truly impressive group? It’s yet to be seen I guess. The talent is there with former four stars dotted across the front five. We’ll just have to see if Offensive Line coach Searels can flesh out results from the elder statesmen (looking at KC McDermott in particular).
Overall Offensive Group “Take” From Spring Practice:
I’m a heavy believer in leaning on returning talent can breed early, and potentially sustained success for the future. When it comes to Miami’s offense as a whole it’s a big question mark for me. It starts at the quarterback spot. Malik Rosier, from a few reports, has not run away with the starting position. This is troubling to me because I really don’t want to rely on a freshman next season who potentially isn’t physically ready for the pounding of the position (Perry’s roughly 6’4” 180 pounds?).
Even though the QB spot may not have a clear front runner, at least it has enough bodies to field the unit. The running back position is literally just one injury away (if Burns is sidelined indefinitely) from having a rotation of the following: Mark Walton, Travis Homer and a walk on.
When it comes to the tight ends and receivers I think Miami will be fine. There’s enough talent in both units (and more on the way) that a few receivers and one of the tight ends will step up and become the quarterbacks favorite target. That’s what makes Miami unique from other Universities. Even if the talent is untested at the skill positions, it’s usually better than 70% of other skill positions across the country due to the potency of the playmaking abilities of the players recruited.
Lastly, the offensive line we’ll know more come the actual games. During the spring Coach Richt and Searels have been mixing and matching players in at multiple positions and even promoting and relegating players up and down the first and second unit. By the end of spring this group will be solidified and five players will hopefully settle into their specific position. If they’re still mixing and matching during the season then we’re in trouble.
What are your thoughts on the spring? Leave them below!