In what will be a slight glimpse of what’s to come later this year, the University of Miami will hold their Spring Game at Hard Rock Stadium on Saturday afternoon. In the most recent past, the stadium has been closed during the spring for upgrades and renovations, yet will be open so ’Canes fans will be able to stream into the concourse and stands to catch what is to come from the 2018 football program.
Whether you’re seated in the stands to see the team or watching a stream of the spring game, with so many changes from the end of last season to now, what should fans be paying attention to over the course of the organized scrimmage?
State of the U is here to help you focus on some of the intriguing storylines entering Saturday.
YOU WENT TWO PARAGRAPHS WITHOUT MENTIONING THE QB COMPETITION!!!
My apologies. The battle behind center to name a starting quarterback is the most influential competition happening on the roster. Since the beginning of camp, head coach Mark Richt has bluntly stated that Malik Rosier is the starter, leading CMR to proclaim after three weeks of practice that “Malik is the one that gets it the most.” Saturday gives everyone a window into seeing if Rosier really is a changed signal-caller, or the same old QB they’ve come to know.
The highlight may be that we finally get to see Rosier’s understudy, N’Kosi Perry, working with the first team offense with our own eyes. Perry, who at this point is the “People’s Champ” among the QB battle, has received kind words and remarks from teammates and coaches in his progress from last season to this spring. Kind comments only go so far—they don’t exactly put the ball on a receiver running a 10-yard post route. We can finally judge for ourselves whether the push for Perry to become starter is wishful thinking or logical prognostication.
Seeing what Cade Weldon (questionable with an eye infection) and freshman Jarren Williams bring to the table could be as intriguing as the battle for atop the QB depth chart.
The Ball Really Needs to be in ____ hands
In the best case-scenario, Miami is getting the best possible output from the QB position. This means that the skill position players should have ample opportunity to make plays down the field. So who should get the ball more? Should Travis Homer get the bulk of the load after gaining 966 rushing yards with a 5.9 yards-per-carry average? What about the hype train on DeeJay Dallas, who has added 20 pounds and provided a change of pace on offense in his freshman year. Then there is Lorenzo Lingard, a freshman who some fans have pegged to be the starter entering next season. That doesn’t include Robert Burns or Trayone Gray, both of whom have put together a solid spring session to date.
How the Hurricanes dictate the order of touches could come in the form of a hot-hand approach, whose skill set works best for the game plan of the week or who co-offensive coordinator Thomas Brown deems best. The spring game will help to clarify a pecking order of carries in the backfield.
With WR Ahmmon Richards Out as well as WR Mark Pope and TEs Will Mallory and Brevin Jordan weeks away from arriving, who will step up in the receiving game?
Usually the correct answer to a question of this manner is whoever is open on the given play. The ‘who’ who actually gets open, creates separation and consistently makes the catch on their routes is what fans wonder about heading towards the fall. With Richards and potential freshman phenom Mark Pope serving as spectators, a positive spring outing can leave the door of opportunity open to make an impact. Will it be Lawrence Cager, who has become proficient in bringing down the contested catch that separates himself from the rest of the group? Or maybe it’s the two sophomore receivers, Jeff Thomas and Mike Harley, who continue to push past expectations. Then there is Michael Irvin II, who along with Brian Polendey is auditioning to be one of what is expected to be two openings atop the TE depth chart.
One thing to watch is the blocking from both the receivers and tight ends this spring. Receiver coach Ron Dugans puts a significant emphasis on WRs blocking—so much so that you either help or hinder your playing time based on your effort in that aspect.
Tag You’re In
One of the big concerns before the first game against LSU is the defensive line rotation. There are more bodies to add with DTs Jordan Miller, Nesta Silvera and Illinois transfer Tito Odenigbo all set to arrive by the fall camp. However, for the spring game, the defensive line will be pressed when rotating between first and second team, without enough bodies for a third-team unit. That said, it still should be entertaining to see what Jonathan Garvin does as a bookend for Joe Jackson. Gerald Willis III has been praised for his maturity away from the field as much as his tenaciousness between the whistle.
A couple guys flying under the radar should provide some intrigue during the game. Jon Ford has been complimented for his potential and talent, However, those compliments are followed up with coaches and teammates stating that he still needs address his responsibility on a given plays. Personally, I’d be fascinated to see the development of both DE Scott Patchan and DT Pat Bethel who both have something to prove this spring.
Based on the limited numbers along the defensive line this spring, CMR has hinted that the spring game will likely be similar in terms of first-team offense taking on first-team defense, as opposed to the traditional method of dividing the team in half.
How Good Will This Secondary Be?
Miami returns both of its starting safeties from 2017 in Jaquan Johnson and Sheldrick Redwine. Top cornerback Michael ‘I wear two gloves, not one’ Jackson, will be an All-ACC and perhaps All-American CB when the preseason magazines begin to make the rounds. Trajan Bandy excelled as a nickel corner as a freshman a season ago. Losing Malek Young to a career-ending neck injury is brutal news from a team perspective as well as an individual one, but Young appears to be transitioning well into building his ‘Humble Child’ brand, as well as helping his brothers get prepped this spring.
Fans will get their first look at freshmen DBs DJ Ivey and Gilbert Frierson as they continue to acclimate to the college game. Where they fit on the depth chart at the moment remains to be seen, yet they will certainly be called upon from September through December to make an impact. The conversation of whether this pair of freshmen can give senior Jhavonte Dean a run for his money to start opposite Jackson at corner won’t be settled until the fall. Yet you can get a sneak peek on Saturday.
Whether it’s the competition on the field or just parking and tailgating with some familiar faces, the spring game is meant to bring hope and optimism for the fall to come. For the Hurricanes and their faithful, it’s another step toward a fruitful outcome. The action gets underway at 6PM EDT at Hard Rock Stadium. The team will be divided into two teams, Team Carol versus Team Soffer, in honor of the Soffer family and their contributions to the University of Miami.
IT’S ALWAYS ABOUT THE U!