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5 Things We Learned From The First Week of Spring Practice

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The Keyshawn Smith hype is building, Avantae Williams is drawing impressive comparisons, and more from week one at spring practice.

247 Sports

The first week of spring practice for the Canes is in the books, as Manny Diaz and his team prepare to build off their 8-3 record in 2020. While the media hasn’t been able to view practice first hand due to COVID-19, there are still tidbits of information to observe from Greentree.

So, what did we learn after week one?

  1. The future of Miami’s QB room looks great

The biggest storyline surrounding Miami’s spring practice is the fact that D’Eriq King is not participating, as he's still recovering from his ACL injury he suffered in the Hurricanes bowl game. Still, it’s giving younger quarterbacks an opportunity to work with the first team offense, and give the team a glimpse into the future.

Tyler Van Dyke was certainly the most talked about player during the first week, as the second-year QB has taken the majority of reps with the first team. And so far, we’ve heard nothing but great things about the Connecticut native.

Whether it’s his play on the field or the leadership that he’s shown off the field, Van Dyke has made an impression. “People want to follow a leader that does the things the right way and that is what Tyler does,” said Coach Diaz this past week.

True freshman Jake Garcia also has his teammates talking. “He’s my guy. We’re both from the west coast. He has an arm. He’s someone to look at in the future,” said wide receiver Keyshawn Smith.

There’s no doubt King is still the starter for the Hurricanes once he returns from his injury, but you have to feel good about the future of Miami’s quarterbacks and the experience they’re gaining this spring.

2. The Keyshawn Smith hype is building

It’s no secret Miami had wide receiver problems in 2020, but many believe that second year Keyshawn Smith may be ready to step into a bigger role for the Hurricanes in 2021. With track speed and impressive ball skills, Smith is the pick of many as a player who will breakout this season.

“He has a little bit of that self confidence about him that when the ball is in the air, I’d like to see that scale out over the entire spring, which will give him confidence into the summer and maybe replicate those things this fall,” said Coach Diaz talking about Smith.

I’ve said recently I expect Mike Harley and Charleston Rambo to be two of the three starters at WR, and at first I thought Mark Pope would take the other spot, but after this last week, I’m starting to believe Smith could take his place.

It appears former Canes running back Deejay Dallas is also fan of the young wide receiver.

3. The Avantae Williams hype is building as well

One of the biggest commits in Miami’s 2020 recruiting class, Avantae Williams is apparently picking up right where left off. After a medical issue sidelined him for his first season at UM, Williams being cleared for spring practice was incredible news.

Through the first week of camp, Williams is reminding everyone why he was perhaps the best safety in the country coming out of high school. He’s also drawing some impressive comparisons.

When talking to the media, Coach Diaz compared Avantae to how Jaelan Phillips looked during last years spring practice. Phillips, like Williams, didn’t play his first season at Miami, but when he was able to work with the team and be on the practice field for the first time last spring, UM coaches were impressed with what they saw. They were right too, as Phillips became one of the top DE’s in college football, before declaring early for the NFL Draft.

Now, are they saying Williams is going to have a similar season and breakout as a star in 2021? No. But.....it was definitely an eye-raiser when coach Diaz said it, and it should have Canes fans excited.

4. Corey Flagg Jr. is the future leader of this defense

Even though Miami’s linebackers struggled mightily at times during the 2020 season, one bright spot was the play of first year LB Corey Flagg Jr. Towards the end of the year, Flagg looked like the most polished linebacker that Miami had, with an impressive football IQ and quick instincts.

Now in his second season, Flagg is ready to establish himself as the full-time starter at middle linebacker for the Hurricanes.

“I think Corey Flagg has had a really good first two days at linebacker. I think he is in better shape in the fall and is redefining his body a little bit and that is helping, Diaz said regarding Flagg.

5. It’s a fresh start for the Canes defense

Blaker Baker is gone to LSU, which has now brought Manny Diaz back as Miami’s defensive coordinator, a position he held for three seasons before becoming head coach. After a rough end to 2020 on that side of the ball, it’s clear that Diaz isn’t taking the role DC lightly, and intends on making Miami a dominating team on defense again.

“He is the head-honcho of this defense and of this team. Last year he was observing and would teach here and there, but this year he is hands on and all in,” said safety Bubba Bolden.

“He is very serious about what he wants and he keeps it simple. He is everywhere that he needs to be. I like how it is all working out. Practices have been really good, smooth, and efficient,” said Corey Flagg Jr.