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Miami Hurricanes Spring Game: What we learned

A couple players stood out, but questions abound for the Canes

NCAA Football: ACC Championship-Clemson vs Miami Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Hurricanes’ Spring game — a 17-0 win for Team Soffer over Team Carol — was a great event for fans to come out and see the Canes for the last time until the fall.

Before the game, our own Matt Washington had a couple things to watch, so I watched them, now I’m going to talk about them.

Quarterback Competition

Yeah, this was at the forefront of everyone’s mind. And, during today’s game, it was kind of blah, to be honest.

All 3 healthy QBs — Malik Rosier, N’Kosi Perry, and Jarren Williams (Cade Weldon continues to miss time with contagious conjunctivitis) — played during the game, with varying levels of success.

The operation of the offense — moving in and out of the huddle, changing protection, etc — was crisper with Rosier at the helm, but it wasn’t remarkably better than with Perry out there.

Both Williams and Perry hit vertical throws and led scoring drives, but Perry seemed the more comfortable and confident of the two, understandable based on his added year of experience here in college.

Rosier hit some throws (he really had a couple nice balls), but the inconsistent nature of his accuracy remains.

When adding in Perry’s ability to run, which is clearly better than Rosier’s, the QB battle between the two is much closer to my eye than what we’ve been led to believe. Mark Richt hedged on this/cut this off at the pass during his post-scrimmage presser by noting that Rosier mainly went against the #1 Defense, and that was why his numbers/passing success was lower than the other QBs.

I get that CMR is protecting his QBs — neither Rosier nor Perry were available for comment after the scrimmage — but, even in small flashes seen today, the ceiling for potential of both Perry and Williams is DEMONSTRABLY HIGHER than Rosier’s.

Whether we see 5 or 15 at QB this season is a question yet to be answered, but it’s a conversation worth having, because we’ve seen the best of Malik Rosier, and all I saw today was more of the same, if we’re being honest about things.

On the next episode of Playmakers...

(Man, that was a great show, right?! If you don’t know what I’m talking about, hit youtube. you’re welcome)

Miami has a ton of elite skill players, and getting them involved is a good thing. Several guys from Travis Homer to Jeff Thomas to Lawrence Cager to Mike Harley to Dayall Harris to DeeJay Dallas made plays in the spring game, and showed that they can be weapons on the field.

The really encouraging thing was how well the freshmen performed. RB Lorenzo Lingard showed toughness, speed, and elusiveness. WR Daquris Wiggins made a couple really great plays. But the star was WR Brian Hightower, who was the leading receiver overall on the day, and had 2 leaping TDs for the only scores of the day.

The Tight Ends, however, continue to leave MUCH to be desired. Brevin Jordan and Will Mallory can’t get to campus soon enough.

AND, Robert Burns was on the field today, running as good as he has since 2014, no exaggeration. If he’s able to stay healthy, adding him to the RB rotation would be huge.

But, overall, Miami is working on way to get their playmakers the ball and let them be great. If they’re able to do that, the Canes should be in business come the fall.

Who will step up in the passing game?

Obviously, this is a question due to Ahmmon Richard’s continued recovery from hamstring and knee injuries, and the absence of Mark Pope, Brevin Jordan and Will Mallory since, yanno, they’re still in high school.

Quick answer: Brian Hightower (4 catches for 100 yards and 2 TDs in the spring game). He stepped up big. Also, Darrell Langham had 61 yards, Lawrence Cager had 48 yards, Brian Polendey had 40 yards (most of which was on a nice 30 yard completion from N’Kosi Perry), and 6 other guys had 10+ yards.

The depth of the receiving corps is a strength for Miami, so players like Hightower and Cager and Langham stepping up will only make the Canes harder to defend when the season rolls around.

Defensive Line Dominates

The Canes have some really good guys up front. The DL combined for 9 sacks on the day, with Jonathan Garvin (3), Gregory Rousseau (3) leading the way.

Scott Patchan, Gerald Willis III, Jon Ford, Pat Bethel, and others made their presence known on pass rush and in run defense. The Canes’ 1st team defense (both teams, really) made running very tough on the opposing offense. The fact that neither the 1 or 2 O could really run made the game pass heavy. And, passing was still a touchy situation with the defense getting pressure seemingly at will, but that’ll happen, I guess.

I know that losing Kendrick Norton and RJ McIntosh wasn’t what Miami wanted, but the DL group that’s still on campus is pretty good, you guys.

Secondary Standouts

A year after being one of the youngest units on the team, the Miami secondary is a standout group. Led by Jaquan Johnson, Sheldrick Redwine, Amari Carter (who plays with VIOLENCE) and Michael Jackson, the DBs played well during Saturday’s spring game.

Freshmen D.J. Ivey and Gilbert Frierson continue to show flashes of greatness as they push for early playing time. Of the two, Frierson had the better day Saturday, with 2 tackles, a TFL, a Sack, and an interception on the last play before halftime. Even still, both players earned unilateral praise from players and coaches alike after the game, and both are in line to play major snaps this upcoming season.

Derrick Smith and Romeo Finley played well in the brand new STRIKER (hybrid S/OLB) position. I think that’s a good place for both players to show their skills and athleticism when teams go 3 or 4-wide against the Canes.

I wish Gurvan Hall had been healthy (he’s out with a knee injury sustained earlier this spring) because all reports are he was a beast out there early on in camp. But, better safe than sorry. I’ll see him on the field this fall, most likely.

THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM

I’m going to be very honest and keep it very real with you all right now:

The Miami Hurricanes Offensive Line is bad.

Not in the myopic “my team’s OL is bad because they’re not running for 50 yards every play” kind of “bad” most CFB fans say. No. They’re objectively terrible.

OL coach Stacy Searels said the other day after practice that “usually you have 2 tackles and are looking for #3. We have 1 and I’m looking for #2.” CMR eachoed those sentiments post game, saying “Do we have tackles right now? Is Tyree St. Louis a Left Tackle? I don’t know, but he gives us the best chance right now”.

Those statements, alarming on their face, were evident on the field on Saturday.

The new starting OL — from Left to Right Tyree St. Louis, Jahair Jones, Tyler Gauthier, Hayden Mahoney, and Navaughn Donaldson — has only been in that formation for a couple of days, so maybe additional time together as a unit will help. Donaldson, a Freshman All-American at RG last year, is finally playing tackle (which is where he wanted to play) but needs to reshape his body a bit to be successful. Mark Richt said Donaldson has already started the process of dropping weight because “he could be heavier at guard, and needs to change his body a bit to be a tackle”.

Richt also compared Donaldson to longtime NFL lineman Cordy Glenn, whom Richt coached at Georgia. If Donaldson were to take the same developmental and performance path as Glenn, that would be a boon for Miami in this and future seasons.

But, the lack of excellence from the OL was manifested by RBs having little to no room to operate. By QBs having few opportunities to get a clean pocket and survey the field without multiple DL or blitzers in their face.

The need for improved OL play was a GLARING ISSUE, and Miami would be wise to do whatever they can within their power to address it.

This is also a recruiting issue, because the top end of the OL group, the 3rd-5th year players, is not very good. The 2018 recruits at the position are good, but as CMR said post-game “Offensive Line is a developmental position”. Meaning, to compete at the highest level, you need older linemen to do the job. Sure, you can get a superstar out of HS who can play right away from day 1 once in a while, but OL need to growth mentally and especially PHYSICALLY from HS to be able to do the necessary job at the college level.

Whether Miami has enough of those guys is a question that still needs answering, but based on what was seen today, “no” seems like the likely answer to that question.


That’s what I saw today. Thoughts? Comments? Concerns?

Hop in the comments and let me know.

Go Canes