The final scrimmage is here.
It's the final fight for positions like linebacker, defensive end and cornerback. The candidates, whom we will investigate later, have flashed all fall, but with prep for the Alabama Crimson Tide the main focus going into the next two weeks, this is the time for the Miami Hurricanes to have their final competition.
Going into the last scrimmage there were things We Needed and Wanted To See. We needed to see the advancement of the offense in year 2. We needed to see Manny’s defense return. We wanted a running back to step up and the freshmen receivers show out. Most importantly we wanted to figure out what we had at linebacker and defensive end.
What we got, to recap, was the advanced offense, Jacolby George and Romello Brinson showing, and Keontra Smith stepping in front at linebacker. We still need to see defensive ends stand up and claim spots. We need to see a running back hold down the number one spot. These among others, are must haves going into this final scrimmage and into Alabama. Let’s dig in.
While we have our defensive coordinator back, along with some big-time ammo in Travaris Robinson, Jess Simpson and Bob Shoop, it feels like he defenses, as a while, is struggling to find itself and its identity. In years past on Manny’s defense, it was apparent that Diaz could tunnel his energy into defensive leaders like Shaq Quarterman, JaQuan Johnson, Chad Thomas and Mike Pinckney. Players like them were overtly and identifiably passionate not only about football but the brand that Diaz is selling. The 2021 version of Manny’s defense may very well still be in search at those leaders at all levels. While Bubba Bolden and Nesta Silvera jut out as alphas, we are missing that in the middle at linebacker and on the edge. This scrimmage will loom large in capturing that identity and champions to deploy it. Look for Corey Flagg and Tirek Austin Cave to make noise in this regard at linebacker while Deandre Johnson and Jahfari look to find and hold that spark on the line. It’s time for the defense to yearn big plays and bigger results. We need Manny Diaz to have a reason to be jacked during his post scrimmage interview, rather than the defensive disappointment that was obvious after scrimmage one.
Battle For the Rock
So just who wants to be Rhett Lashlee’s lead back? That question has been answered at multiple times in multiple ways. Knighton felt like he was coming on in the spring show his versatility and durability. Can Harris have been getting the most chatter in fall camp, showing consistency and an expanded athleticism. Don Chaney has been “donned” the title of Heir Apparent by fans after his showing last season, but we need to see him on the field.
I will be looking for Rhett Lashlee to find ways to assist an offensive line that prefers pass blocking and diversify his run calls to help out deficiencies on the line. Will that mean Knighton will utilize his speed more to get to edges and his catching ability to make a run game out of short passes? Will this mean Cam Harris will get the bulk of time as the senior back and the most versatile? Or will finally see Don Chaney rip off that red jersey and put his great frame and balance on display, helping his linemen using his power to shed some tackles? we have to answer these questions before we prep for Alabama.
Are the Corners Back?
The while off-season the arrival of Tyrique Stevenson, Travaris Robinson and Demarcus Van Dyke have had us buzzing on the possibilities at corner. We all see Stevenson’s frame and traits, and know Robinson’s track record. Fast forward to the final scrimmage, and it’s time to see this room unleashed. Recently we have seen some interesting developments, as Rique has slid inside to slot and Te’Cory Couch slide out to the perimeter. While my gut tells me this is a slight reveal by Miami, thinking Alabama will run often, requiring bigger bodies near the line, some may see this as Couch heating up at camp. While the two alternate at that spot, we need D.J. Ivey, who has been DVD and TROB’s camp darling to make some noise in the scrimmage. Practice is great, but they don’t give out Gold Jackets for catching off the jugs or locking down the scout team. The dark horse to all of this is Al Blades. The polarizing talent can really turn some heads if he can scrimmage and shows his ability to attack the ball and play man coverage.
Let The Pups Run!
Here, and now, with Alabama and Nick Saban around the corner, we need to see THESE exact pups, freshmen and sophomores, get major burn in the scrimmage, and major burn in Atlanta.
Tirek Austin Cave
Why these five specifically? Let’s go in order. Smith’s involvement to me means that Rhett is ready to deploy some major diversity on offense. Recently there has been word than Smith and Jaylan Knighton had been taken snaps together in the backfield. With Smiths size similar to a running back and Knighton’s chops in the passing game, this combination is extremely dangerous to a defense, but also tells me Rhett and letting it all hang. It tells me he trusts what he sees on the depth charts and is willing to open the book and keep it open.
Leonard Taylor and James Williams inclusion is signal for a few things. We are getting our best players on the field, regardless of class. That has been an issue in past years and this would do well to diminish that thought. Taylor and Williams are playmakers at multiple levels. If they are on the field, we have a unique and chaotically advantageous arrangement on defense that will give new quarterbacks like Bryce Young a lot to think about. Lastly, it’s a wakeup call to those they jump on the depth chart to turn on the gas. Competition breeds the absolute best teams, and this would be a shot across the bow that it’s time to step it up.
Tirek Austin-Cave is a machine. Point blank. He has the ability to cover and run like Keontra and to run through you like Corey. The second-year player has been coming since spring and word out of last scrimmage was that he had arrived. Despite the sighting of a boot early this week, Cave was back to full capacity mid-way through this week's practices and his inclusion in the scrimmage would be a great sign of health. Even more than that, the presence of true linebackers in a Manny Diaz defense signals to me that we are closer than we think on that side of the ball, and I am definitely here for it.
MAKE. MORE. BIG. PLAYS.
Yes, Manny and Rhett, don’t talk about it be about it. Both the offensive and defensive schemes are designed to promote big plays early and often. The air raid and spread components on offense should favor athletic quarterbacks, quick receivers and fast running backs. While the first two were on display we need more on the ground and more in general. On defense, Manny wants to create Chaos, Havoc if you will, to force turnovers and defense dice touchdowns. If the offense is not afraid of your defensive ends and other pass rushers it’s going to be difficult to get those turnovers. We need to see quarterbacks in distress to give the defensive back 7 interception opportunities. We need running backs to dance around the line to give our linebackers a chance to strike and strip. If Miami is to win big games, we HAVE to make the big plays. Practice is a great place to start.