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Fall Camp Day 6: Gilbert Frierson And Keontra Smith Battling At Striker, Mark Pope And Jaylan Knighton Impressing Returning Kicks

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Miami having a competitive battle for the starting striker spot on defense.

Miami Hurricanes football practice Al Diaz/Miami Herald/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Day six of fall camp for the Miami Hurricanes is done, and the media had the chance to talk to special teams/striker coach Jonathan Patke, punter Lou Hedley and kicker Jose Borregales.

One of the biggest question marks facing Miami’s defense heading into the 2020 season, is who is going to be the starter at striker, now that Romeo Finley has moved on to the NFL.

As everyone is aware, the battle is between Gilbert Frierson and Keontra Smith, and as of right, both are playing well.

Frierson, the redshirt sophomore out of Coral Gables High School, averaged 15 snaps per game in 2020, and is a player who I think breaks out for the Canes this season. In 2019, Frierson finished with 1 interception, 2 TFLs and 15 tackles. What stands out the most to me about Frierson, is his exceptional coverage skills.

“Gilbert is smart, helping young guys get in line. He knows corner and safety. He knows the defense,” Patke told the media.

Smith has less experience, playing only eight snaps on defense in 2019, but has a lot of potential, clocking a 4.6 40-yard dash time, bringing tons of athleticism to the position.

Finley was one of the more underrated players on Miami, in my opinion, over the past couple seasons. Last year, Finley totaled 54 tackles, 4 TFLs and also an interception.

Another question all Canes fans are wondering is who will be returning kickoffs and punts on special teams. Coach Patke noted two guys, junior receiver Mark Pope and true freshman running back Jaylan Knighton, who have been impressing in that role so far in camp.

“Right now, Mark Pope has a great feel,” Patke said, when it comes to returning punts.

Knighton, who everyone knows I'm very excited to see, and coach Patke even referred to him as “Rooster,” which was awesome to hear.

“We always say to our young guys, it’s special to be on special teams,” said Patke.