On Thursday evening, I had the privilege to interview Xavier Person about the state of Miami and how he views the direction of the program. Xavier knows a lot about Miami football. He has been a coach on the high school level since 2003 and has coached at North Miami Beach High, Miami Edison High, and Hallandale High School. We spoke on several topics including offense, defense and recruiting. He has provided an enormous amount of Hurricane knowledge on many of the message boards and I thought it would be a great idea for him to lend that knowledge here with the State of the U fans. Enjoy....
Who do you see stepping up in the second team role behind Mark Walton?
“It's looking like Travis Homer unless Miami gets a graduate transfer like Tyshon Dye. I like Trayone Gray If he can stay healthy, he is the type of running back Coach Richt likes. He is strong fast and can catch out the backfield. He just did not have a chance due to being behind others like Walton and Yearby. If he is healthy and has the playbook down he has a chance to provide quality depth, but as of now, I would say Travis Homer will be the number two back. We need to stay healthy; if someone gets hurt Miami can be in real trouble.”
What receiver will end up having a breakout role opposite Ahmmon Richards?
“I see two receivers who has the potential to have breakout seasons. My first option would be Dionte Mullins. I think he has a chance to be a really good possession receiver. He runs good routes and can catch anything thrown his way, but he needs to be consistent. I predict he catches 40 passes and can be the go-to guy on third downs. I also like Jeff Thomas the freshman who will enroll this month. He has the speed we have been lacking since Phillip Dorsett. He can stretch the field and open the play book. The defense must account for him. He will open other opportunities for others receivers. If those two step up, teams will not be able to double team Richards.”
The offensive line showed steady improvement the last five games of the season, do you think that progress continues, or will they continue to struggle?
“The line will no doubt continue to get better. During those last five games of last year, players were put into their natural positions. KC McDermott fits at left tackle and should have always been there. Trevor Darling should never have played tackle. Those are an example of players being in their natural positions and how that has impacted the play of the line in a positive way. I also believe it comes down to pride. When you keep seeing a fellow teammate get hit and knock down at some point it makes you step up. The addition of freshmen coming in to push the veterans as well as going up against one of the top defensive lines in the country every day in practice will help them out tremendously.”
Who will end up playing quarterback this year? Will it be a veteran, a freshman or both?
“As of now, I think it will be Evan Shirreffs. He looks like the best option at this point. He is smart, takes care of the ball and he will not make many mistakes. I believe this may be the way Coach Richt wants to go to give his team the best chance at winning. Until they see what they have with N’Kosi Perry, then Evan has the upper hand. I think Perry has the best skill set of any quarterback currently on the roster as none of them has shown they can take Miami to the ACC Championship during spring practice. My preference would be Perry, but he needs to prove it on the field. As of right now, I think it will be Evan Shirreffs.”
With the quality of depth along the defensive line, do you think DJ Johnson and Johnathan Garvin should redshirt?
“Me personally I’m not a redshirt guy even though it may help. With those two guys, you can put them in special packages when teams go into passing situations. Imagine having DJ Johnson and Joe Jackson at the end, with Chad Thomas and Gerald Willis inside. That will put all speed rushers on the field and put a lot of pressure on other teams. It also depends on how healthy the line stays. Johnathan Garvin showed he was ready to play during the spring practice and it looks as though he is setting an example for all the freshmen. They are not coming in to sit the bench, they are coming to play. They way teams are spreading the ball around and speeding up the game, Miami will need as many rushers as possible.”
What are the chances of Miami’s defense finishing in the top ten nationally?
“Yes, they have a chance to be a top ten defense with the front seven they have coming back. If they stay healthy and continue to play the attacking style defense, they could be as dominant as any team in the country. The addition of junior college arrival Jhavonte Dean and graduate transfer Dee Delaney will help tighten up Miami’s weak spot in the secondary. They will be paired with Malek Young who came on strong last year and had an excellent spring. I believe the defense will benefit from Sheldrick Redwine playing his natural position which is safety and having Jaquan Johnson now starting and taking on a leadership role will solidify the backend. Miami will also count on reinforcements like Trojan Bandy, Amari Carter and Derick Smith who will be looking to come in and play early. That’s a lot of talent in that secondary and they are obviously anchored by one of the best front seven in the country. They have a chance to be a top ten defense.”
Speaking of the young freshmen, who do you think will have the biggest impact?
“I must go with Jahvonte Dean because of his size and speed. He is not a rookie, but it will be his first year and he will play a lot. I think Amari Carter has a shot. I also like the kid Derrick Smith. I think he brings the ball hawking skills we have been lacking since the Sean Taylor days, but if I had to bet on it, I would say Dean and Amari Carter for now.”
Miami has had fast starts in recruiting the last couple of years, but this year feels different. What would you contribute to Miami’s hot start in recruiting?
“I think it starts with better coaching and player development. I think Mark Richt is a coach that kids know and parents trust. You also have kids who are believing in building something special at Miami and want to play together. When you look at programs like Alabama and Florida State, they built their programs on kids who played together in all-star games. Miami is starting to recruit like that with Richt and his staff and players are taking notice.”
Are there any surprise names out there that eventually end up a Cane?
“The defensive tackle out of Missouri, Trevor Trout (6’3 315lbs). Coach Kool was recruiting him when he was there in Missouri. I would keep an eye out for him. If Miami has a big season I would expect a surprise commitment from him on signing day.”
What position does Miami need to focus on for the rest of the recruiting cycle?
“Offensive and defensive tackles. In Miami, we don’t have the size, because we have more speed, but we need more defensive and offensive tackles. I think the second half of the recruiting season you will see Miami focus their efforts there.”
Where does Miami end up by the end of the year, what will be the final win & loss record?
“Miami will end with a 10-2 record and win the coastal finally stamping the ticket to the ACC championship game.”