Examining UM's incoming class and who's best positioned to help right away; Dolphins, Marlins trade news, Shula update
FRIDAY BUZZ COLUMN
With the start of fall practice a week away, UM coach Mark Richt, knowing his depth is shaky, will need to rely immediately on transfers and several members of his first Hurricanes 18-player recruiting class (16 are enrolled).
Examining who is ready to help immediately, by position:
• Linebacker: Shaquille Quarterman – having bulked up after a fabulous spring --- is the clear front-runner to start at middle linebacker, and freshman Mike Pinckney will compete with junior Darrion Owens at weakside. One UM official called that Pinckney/Owens battle a tossup.
“They have certainly made a mark,” defensive coordinator Manny Diaz said of linebackers Quarterman, Pinckney and Zach McCloud. “What all three kids did was not easy to do… Shaq possesses tremendous instincts and vision. He seems to feel right at home in the middle of the defense. Mike made a lot of plays behind the line of scrimmage [in high school]. Zach plays with a very high motor, has tremendous range.”
Yes, growing pains are inevitable in a night road game in the ACC, when opponents are trying to fool wide-eyed freshmen. But a bunch of players are convinced Quarterman is going to be an impact player immediately.
“Shaq is going to be a great leader and he’s going to be a great player,” defensive tackle Richard McIntosh Jr. said. “The way he plays, it's unbelievable, to be an incoming freshman and [do this]. He has a high motor. And he knows his stuff. He doesn’t complain about anything. We can expect big things from those linebackers this year.”
• Defensive line: With Al-Quadin Muhammad at risk of discipline because of an ongoing luxury car rental investigation, and with Scott Patchan recovering from a torn ACL, there’s an opportunity for freshmen ends Pat Bethel and Joseph Jackson and end/tackle Tyreic Martin. UM would need a No. 4 defensive end to start the season if AQM (Miami's top defensive end) isn’t available.
Among ESPN’s top 300 prospects in the 2016 class, Bethel was No. 111 and Jackson No. 182. Jackson had six sacks and four forced fumbles at Gulliver Prep last season and “should be a dominant player” at UM, defensive line coach Craig Kuligowski said, citing his “relentless” pass rusher motor and “great speed to get around the edge.”
Kuligowski believes Bethel, who had some good moments this spring, “should be great at stopping the run and rushing the passer.”
Martin, who projects as a tackle if he puts on more weight, “has a huge ceiling,” Kuligowski said. “When you find one of those [end/tackles] that can run, that’s a neat thing.”
• Defensive backs: Adrian Colbert, the senior safety transfer from Texas, is playing cornerback for the first time since high school but predicted to Canesport: "I feel I'm going to come and be a starter this year. I came in with a whole different mentality. I refuse to do anything but start.… It's a different thing in Texas. We take pride
in being able to cover fast receivers….
“I love the position. I'm doing really well, transitioning well and I've already got the playbook down to a T. It's the same as some of the stuff we had run at Texas, just some minor tweaks to it."
Four-star former Coconut Creek alum Malek Young has an immediate chance to compete for a top five-cornerback job, because none of the young corners behind Corn Elder and Sheldrick Redwine did enough in the spring to remove doubts. Young, at 5-9, also can play in the slot and had seven returns for touchdowns in high school, including four kickoffs.
“I got emotional when Malek committed to us,” cornerbacks coach Mike Rumph said. “I know what it’s like to be committed to a team going through so much turmoil. Very natural, really good ball skills. Amazing kid, a thinker, very articulate.”
The other freshmen --- Cedric Wright (not yet cleared to enroll while awaiting high-school credits to clear), Romeo Finley, and Jeff James --- are safeties, though Diaz said James can play some corner.
“What I love about Romeo is his physicality,” safeties coach Ephraim Banda said. “What we put a premium on here is safeties who are physical in the middle of the field….The thing that jumps out with Ced is his ability to pass rush and blitz. We blitz our safeties all the time. [And] Jeff has a natural ability to go get the ball in the air.”
• Quarterback: Jack Allison impressed everyone this spring, and Richt said he’s not reluctant to burn his redshirt if he’s the best of the four options for the backup QB job. But UM would prefer if Evan Shirreffs or Malik Rosier wins the No. 2 job and Allison’s redshirt can be maintained.
QB coach Jon Richt likes a lot about the 6-5 Allison: “Big, tall, athletic, moves very well, great arm, great accuracy.” But a UM official said he needs to get stronger and bigger in the weight room.
• Running back: It’s difficult to see Travis Homer having a significant role this season behind Mark Walton, Joe Yearby, Gus Edwards and Trayone Gray (who Richt made a point to praise after the spring game).
But UM coaches, eager to add more speed on offense, love that element of Homer’s game.
“He’s a home-running hitting tailback,” running backs coach Thomas Brown said.
Rated a four-star prospect by ESPN, Homer ran for 3200 yards at Oxbridge Academy in West Palm Beach.
• Receiver: Sam Bruce and Ahmmon Richards are going to play as freshmen (though Bruce faces a potential suspension) and Dionte Mullins might, too, if he qualifies academically in August.
Special teams/tight ends coach coach Todd Hartley said he wants to give all three freshmen a look on returns.
Bruce, at 5-8, figures to get some time in the slot, because polished, productive slot receiver Braxton Berrios is also now able to play outside more.
“I can’t wait to see the Samburgini in front of me,” receivers coach Ron Dugans said of Bruce. “I hope he’s Samburgini at the U. He’s a dynamic player. He will be a good return man for us as well. I want to put the ball in his hands. I don’t think he’ll be as nervous; he’s been in the dog fight before against a lot of good players at St. Thomas. He’s not afraid of anything.”
Dugans calls Mullins “a playmaker with really good speed” and predicts Richards “is going to be a red zone threat.”
Mississippi transfer Dayall Harris also will get snaps; the former four-star Mississippi signee, who will be a sophomore, never played in a game there, but “he’s a little further along than a true freshman would be. He’ll definitely be able to help,” Richt said. “Smooth, fluid athlete.”
• Offensive line: Tre Johnson, a three-star lineman out of Orlando, “has the size to be an elite offensive tackle,” offensive line coach Stacy Searels said. “He’s a basketball player so he can move his feet. I really like this kid a lot.”
UM doesn't necessarily need him this season, but he will have an opportunity compete, because UM wasn't thrilled with its backup offensive linemen in the spring.
• Tight ends: Michael Irvin Jr. and Jovani Haskins will compete for any remaining time behind David Njoku, Chris Herndon and Standish Dobard. (One of the two freshmen could redshirt.)
Roger Harriott, Irvin’s coach at Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas, says it’s uncanny how much Irvin resembles his Hall of Fame father in how he catches the ball.
Hartley calls Irvin “mature beyond his years, a very gifted pass catcher.”
Haskins, a three-star recruit from New Jersey, played quarterback in high school.
But UM sees him as a tight end because, at 6-4, “he has the ability to make people miss, run over people and is extremely athletic,” Hartley said. “We think he is going to be a very special player.”
• Fullback: Four arrivals, including one on scholarship (Marquez Williams from Division 2 Mars Hill) and three walk-ons: Dewayne Washington, Zachary Lawler and UM shot-putter Gian Piero Roagnesi. They’ll compete with Gage Batten and Corey Giordano.
UM wants to use a fullback at times.
• FYI: Jack Spicer, a former UF walk-on, is walking on at UM and could succeed preseason All-ACC senior Justin Vogel as UM’s punter in 2018.
• With training camp beginning Friday morning, the Dolphins will demand a lot more consistency and production from a bunch of their players, and tight ends Jordan Cameron and Dion Sims are high on that list.
Adam Gase has said Sims must turn potential into results. And the front office expects Cameron to do a better job fighting for balls in the air.
There will be an overhaul at the position next spring if both don’t improve... We'll have training camp updates all day Friday and for the next several weeks.
• There has been a significant development in Don Shula's health. Please click here for that, from earlier this evening.
• The Marlins are determined to add at least one starting pitcher, and two ideally, before Monday’s trade deadline, and we hear these are three new names in whom they’ve expressed interest: Kansas City’s Edinson Volquez (8-8, 4.56 ERA, $10 million mutual option this winter), the Angels’ Matt Shoemaker (5-11, 4.17, under team control through 2020), and Atlanta’s Julio Teheran (3-8, 2.71, due $6.3, $8 million, $11 million through 2019).
They’re also still in the mix for the Phillies’ Jeremy Hellickson (7-7, 3.65), San Diego’s Andrew Cashner (4-7, 4.76), the Angels’ Hector Santiago (9-4, 4.28) and the Yankees’ Ivan Nova (7-5, 4.65) and Michael Pineda (5-9, 5.00), plus Seattle's Wade Miley (6-8, 5.23), among others.
Hellickson, Cashner and Nova are impending free agents.
• Teams keep asking the Marlins about Class A Greensboro first baseman Josh Naylor (.265, 9, 53) and Class A Jupiter right-hander Luis Castillo (7-3, 2.75). The Marlins would at least consider trading any prospect.
• Don Mattingly said the Marlins have discussed making David Phelps a starter again, with a decision pending the trade deadline. Phelps said he would talk to the Marlins about it "if it came to that."
Such a move, seen as a last resort, would require stretching him out back to starter's innings.
Phelps is 16-19 with a 4.36 ERA as a starter (mostly with the Yankees) and 7-8 with a 3.56 ERA as a reliever.
•Reliever Bryan Morris, off back surgery, said he should be ready to return to the majors by early-to-mid September.