Tuesday morning, the Hurricanes held a fully open practice for the media to view. There was a lot of activity throughout the sessions, so bare with me.
I believe it is crystal clear that D’Eriq King is the starting quarterback of this team, despite Manny Diaz’s comments suggesting they aren't going to name a starter.
When they break off into 7-on-7 drills, King is the first guy out there running with the first team on back-to-back days. He has impressed both times. Yesterday, he rattled off four straight completions as media was escorted, and today he did the same. But today he capped his first round of reps with a long touchdown pass to Dee Wiggins for what was at least an 80-yard touchdown. Sophomore corner Christian Williams was in coverage.
D’Eriq King just hit Dee Wiggins deep with Christian Williams in coverage. King then ran down the field faster than any other player — at least 80 yards — and met Wiggins in the end zone— Gaboowins (@GabyUrrutia22) March 3, 2020
It was a perfect throw, right in stride for his receiver and King bolted from the other side of the field to meet Wiggins in the end zone. He might have been running at a dead sprint and the kid can absolutely fly.
The excitement surrounding King is real and you can just tell he's a guy who elevates his game to the circumstances.
Behind King, true freshman Tyler Van Dyke was getting a fair look with a good amount of starters in today’s session. Diaz was really high on the 6’4 quarterback coming in and it feels like they’re going to keep him in the mix of things, although it is worth mentioning that when the quarterbacks break off into groups, it is still King, N’Kosi Perry and Tate Martell in one group and the rest of the quarterbacks in another.
Multiple clips of freshman QB Tyler Van Dyke throwing this morning pic.twitter.com/XM5gJ7ePdF— Gaboowins (@GabyUrrutia22) March 3, 2020
Other offensive standouts were the trio of freshman receivers, who really blended in with the rest of the group today. Xavier Restrepo looks right at home in the slot, Dazalin Worsham looks like a crisp route runner who finds a way to create space, and Keyshawn Smith has that over the top potential that really creates problems for opposing defenses.
On the young guys, Wiggins said, “They pay more attention, they ask questions, they focus in film. When they get onto the field, they ask questions, ‘How do we do this, how do we do that?’ So, I mean, they came in ready to work.”
As a guy going against them, junior Al Blades Jr. said, “They all different, that's what I like to see. The best thing, I think, about all those freshman receivers is that they’re all falling in line with the older receivers and they’re taking in whatever the receivers have to say. They’re all gifted, that’s why they're here.”
Smith in particular had a really good day, catching one of King’s deep balls today.
Harley and Jeremiah Payton are other guys who have stood out. Harley looks insanely smooth coming in and out of breaks and Payton has the physicality to flourish in this type of offense. He was a guy who excited me last spring and now I’m seeing a bigger and more put together version of the Fletcher High product.
Freshman RB Jaylan Knighton received high praise from starting running back Cam’Ron Harris post practice. The junior tote back said, “Jaylan Knighton, man, he’s a speedster. He’s still learning the offense, still learning the college program. When he gets ready, when his name’s called, oh my God y’all gonna see about him.”
One thing you’re really seeing from the offense is the speed and pace in which they are operating. It’s really high tempo and that is exactly what we expected when hiring Rhett Lashlee away from SMU. It’s not easy from the players perspective to adjust and Lashlee knows that, but players are understanding his system and seem to be gaining a grasp on his high-octane offense.
“They’ll probably tell you that’s a culture shock,” Lashlee said Tuesday. “It’s kind of throwing them into the deep end and letting them figure it out, but whole idea is for it not to be confusing. It’s a fast moving game anyways. These guys have a lot of talent or they wouldn't be here. So if we can get it to where they’re reacting and playing fast mentally, then their ability takes over and that’s what were trying to get done.”
Defensively, I saw a really good day from sophomore Te’Cory Couch, who was a blanket in coverage. I only saw one pass thrown his way completed and it was for a very short gain. I’m optimistic that, despite his size, Couch could be an impact player in the secondary this year.
His high school teammate, Keontra Smith, intercepted a Tate Martell pass from the striker position where he moved to after being listed as a safety last year. Gilbert Frierson still seems to be the favorite at the spot, but Smith has all the tools to be successful at the position and truly battle it out with the redshirt sophomore.
I made sure to get a better look at redshirt linebacker Avery Huff today and I was thoroughly impressed with his length and speed. In 1-on-1 drills between linebackers and running backs, he was right in the back pocket of the Hurricanes speedy backfield and was able to make some really nice plays on the ball.
What Miami lost in experience, they gained in speed and athleticism at the position, despite being paper thin at the position. I believe he and McCloud, along with Sam Brooks and the two freshman, Corey Flagg Jr. and Tirek Austin-Cave, bring a different dynamic to the position than Shaq Quarterman and Michael Pinckney did.