Envision Greentree Practice Field in Coral Gables: It’s just past the crack of dawn on a warm spring morning in mid-March. You’ll find nary a typical college student in the vicinity of this part of campus at this particular hour, most likely nestled all comfortably in their dorm room beds. But for Mark Richt’s student-athletes? Well, it’s just another opportunity to go to work. That’s because every spring brings opportunity: a golden ticket for budding players and newcomers alike to stake their claim to playing time opened up by departures from the prior season and blossom into full-time contributors. Which young guns are stepping up and impressing the coaching staff and which are falling behind? I bring you the Spring Football Stock Report.
Dionte Mullins, WR
It was a whirlwind start to the college career of Dionte Mullins last season. He was extremely late to fall camp due to some academic hangups from high school classes, and, after finally arriving in late August, he never seemed to fully find his footing on the team. This spring, however, Mullins has earned effusive praise from coaches, who point to some jaw-dropping catches from him in practice as a sign he is coming into his own. Mullins is becoming more comfortable within the playbook, and his natural speed and hands are starting to take over. Look for him to play a big role this fall with the departures of Stacy Coley, Malcolm Lewis, and David Njoku in the passing game. If he’s not starting by then, take it as a tremendously good sign for the depth of Miami’s receiving corps.
Navaughn Donaldson, OL
Some already describe Donaldson as the best lineman on the team. Even if you’d like to take that as an indictment of the returning talent on the O-Line, there’s no doubt Donaldson has been impressive. He has routinely been seen on Greentree pancaking defenders into oblivion and has been a mainstay on the first team at either guard or tackle all spring. He’s dropped some weight to get a little quicker and more conditioned, but let’s be real: the man is still an absolute BEEFCAKE and will be a load to move for opposing defensive lineman in the fall.
Jon Garvin, DE
In recent days, both Demetrius and Joe Jackson have compared Garvin to…Joe Jackson. Yeah. I can’t tell if that sound was Offensive Coordinators screaming in their nightmares or Manny Diaz laughing maniacally. Garvin, boasting speed off the edge and an aggressive motor, has displayed an untamable thirst for the opponent’s backfield. Ladies and gentleman, we just might be looking at the sleeper of the freshman class.
Sheldrick Redwine, S
Redwine had an up and down 2016. He made a handful of starts at corner early on but lost playing time to mighty Malek Young and a recovering Adrian Colbert as the season played out. Redwine may have been a step slow for corner and was moved to safety this spring. Needless to say, he has shown the coaches exactly what they want out of their safeties, demonstrating great instincts and tackling ability, along with outstanding chemistry with fellow former Killian High secondary-mate Jaquan Johnson. Redwine provides hope that the safety position may be a formidable duo yet.
Romeo Finley, S
A former 4-star, many pegged Finley to fill the hole next to Johnson at safety, with little experience or proven talent around to hold him back. Instead, Finley has made zero noise in practice and has fallen behind both a safety newcomer (Redwine) and a true freshman (Amari Carter). He’s a hard hitter to be sure, but his ball skills and knowledge of the defense are not quite where the coaches want them to be just yet to trust him on the last line of defense every down.
George Brown, OL
The LSU transfer was looking good on scout team during his mandatory redshirt year (we know how much that means) and most pinned their hopes on him to take hold of the LT position that has struggled since the departure of Ereck Flowers. While he began spring as the starter, he hasn’t seen first team reps in the last few practices, and wasn’t even mentioned among the Top 7 lineman by Stacy Searels recently. The offensive line is not set in stone by any means, but it may take another year of seasoning before you see Brown stepping onto the field for the opening snap at Hard Rock Stadium.
Jack Allison, QB
Nobody needed to make a move this spring more than Allison, who has been a mere afterthought in the quarterback competition thus far. Coaches have offered little praise, only vague coach-speak of what he needs to improve on, and he’s stayed running the third team. Despite Allison’s big arm, Mark Richt values the small things in his quarterbacks, like footwork, taking care of the ball, and consistency, qualities Allison still lacks. With freshman phenom N’Kosi Perry coming in the summer, the time is now for Allison to prove he belongs, or he risks being lost in the shuffle. With his recent shoulder injury and concussion in the first spring scrimmage, he may not even get that chance.
Robert Burns, RB
Admittedly, it’s difficult to put a true freshman in their first spring on campus onto this list, but Burns is a special case. It’s no secret that Miami is hurting for depth at RB; there’s just not much behind stud Mark Walton. Knowing he essentially missed his junior and senior seasons of high school ball with various maladies, Burns really just had to prove he could stay healthy over an extended period of time to call this a successful spring for him. Consider that “Mission: Near Impossible” at this point. Nursing a shoulder injury, Burns’ spring may be over. Mark Richt says he will be fully recovered for fall, but will the Canes ever really be able to rely on his body holding up?