« Newsy hoops banquet wrap-up | Main | The Recruiting Circle »

Spring Hardware

I'm not going to pretend I've been busy thinking about what I saw in Saturday's Spring Game. To be honest, most of it is a blur from boredom. No offense. Not much interest. I'm sure you all felt the same way. Neverthless, I'm going to try and give you my opinion on who impressed me and what I learned from talking to Miami's positions coaches.

I'd love to break down every single position over the next week or so, so we have something to talk about since we've entered the dead period. I'll get to that in a minute, but the Canes have been busy recruiting and I've been lazy to report it. Canesport and Canestime have been all over it. UM has five commitments for 2008 according to the websites including three defensive tackles. The early five are:

DT Justin Thompson, 6-5, 290 from El Camino JUCO.
DT Micanor Regis, 6-3, 310 from Pahokee, Fla.
DT Jeremy Lewis, 6-3, 275 from West Palm Beach
OL Brandon Washington, 6-4, 314 from Miami Northwestern
DB Patrick Johnson, 6-1, 193, 4.44-speed from Pompano Beach Ely

I'd love to tell you this is significant. But last I checked we're in April. February is 10 Patrickjohnsonmonths away. After covering high schools for five years in Miami-Dade, I can tell you commitments this early from 17-year olds are about as valid as my commitment to never eating a hamburger again. The only way that's going to happen is if McDonald's, Burger King and Wendy's all shutdown for good. And that's not going to happen. Kids are going to want to make their trips. And you never know what can happen when they do that -- even if they are sold on a school from Day One. Patrick Johnson is most certainly the stud of early commitments and the most hyped player of the bunch. I haven't seen him play, but I'm hoping to catch him at some point. There are plenty of camps going on this weekend and I'll be at the one Saturday morning at Traz Powell Stadium where most of Miami-Dade's top players will be working out for Recruitflix.com.

All in all, the one thing you should take from these early five commitments to The U is the fact that The Commander and crew have certainly changed some attitudes locally and around the country about the program. This time last year the buzz in the recruiting world around UM was darn-near death. This year The U seems like a live-wire cooking up some zzzing. Good sign early.

OFFENSIVE MVP: As for the hardware for this spring. I asked Patrick Nix Saturday to give me an offensive MVP for this spring. Considering how bad the offense looked I might has well been asking Nix to shave my back. He couldn't and wouldn't. So I did the next best thing. I asked the defensive players. Naturally, the player who created the most buzz overall was freshman Graig Cooper. Super Coop climbed the charts and right past Charlie Jones for the No. 2 spot behind Javarris James. I know. There is no depth chart. But I'm making mine up and I say Cooper is going to be No. 2. He's too good. Too fast. Too everything and what UM needs more of: they're called playmakers.

But I'm not going to give Cooper the award. He was hurt and didn't play enough. The Rutledgequarterbacks certainly aren't getting it and neither are the receivers. Did they actually play this spring? I'm going with the second guy whose name I heard dropped the most: offensive lineman Chris Rutledge. With three potential starters out with injuries, C-Rut got snaps at both guard and tackle and maybe did enough to move into the top 5 spots on the team behind Jason Fox and Reggie Youngblood, the two tackles, and Derrick Morse and Andrew Bain, the guards. Matt Pipho could end up playing center, but I think Morse will end up getting the nod at center in the fall and Rutledge will move into his guard spot. "I think he made  tremendous improvement of the course of the spring and was one of the most improved players out of the group," offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland said. Rutledge is also the guy Calais Campbell dropped when I asked him who had made the most strides on the o-line.

I will give honorable mention to a few people, namely the tight ends, who I thought did a pretty good job catching and making plays in the short passing game. Charlie Jones also deserves mention for making a few nice catches out of the backfield and making a few plays on the ground.

DEFENSIVE MVP: This isn't as easy a decision as you would think. Yes, Calais Campbell is the best player on the field, offense or defense. But Kenny Phillips had a great spring as did most defensive players. But I'm going with Campbell right now because he's the reigning champ from last year and is absolutely unblockable when he's at his best. His three sacks Saturday were cake for him. I really believe there is a chance he could be a top three pick in the NFL Draft next year -- with Phillips not far behind.

CampbellBut enough about Calais, who needs a catchy nickname (I'd love to hear what you guys can up with). The guys who moved and shaked on defense and earn high honorable mention are end Eric Moncur, tackle Josh Holmes and linebacker Colin McCarthy, who I predict will all be in the starting lineup come the season-opener against Marshall. There is no question where the weakspot on this defense is -- linebacker. McCarthy, though, looks like he's smart enough to be in there all the time. He outplayed Tavares Gooden and in my mind passed him on the weakside. Moreover, the only thing that will stop Moncur stopping opposite Campbell is an injury. Teraz McCray is a lock at tackle and Holmes is in better shape than Antonio Dixon and a better player than Dwayne Hendricks right now.

OK, a few other notes to get in. Former Hurricanes point guard Denis Clemente will not end up going to Kansas State. I've been told the Wildcats aren't looking for a guard.