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Refresher course: The "Hands" Team

It's another day closer to the start of fall practice and time to take another look back and ahead to what is in store position-by-position for your Canes.

Today, I try and cover UM's receivers and tight ends, who for lack of a better word did a pretty job covering themselves last year by dropping passes and failing to make big plays time and time again.

RECEIVERS...
> Who is gone:
Darnell Jenkins (leading receiver last season); Lance Leggett (graduated); Ryan Hill (moved to cornerback)
> Who is back: Sam Shields, Jr. (6-0, 180); Kayne Farquharson, Sr. (6-2, 185); Leonard Hankerson, So. (6-2, 218); Khalil Jones, Sr. (6-2, 200); Jermaine McKenzie, R-Fr. (6-2, 173)
> Who is new: Aldarius Johnson, Fr. (6-2, 217); LaRon Byrd, Fr. (6-4, 205); Tommy Streeter (6-6, 200); Travis Benjamin, Fr. (5-11, 160); Thearon Collier, Fr. (5-9, 165); Davon Johnson, Fr. (5-11, 165), Kendall Thompkins, Fr. (5-10, 170).

> What happened in '07: Miami's receivers took another step back in 2007. The passing game, which finished dead last in the ACC, saw not only poor quarterback play, but inconsistency Darnell_jenkinsfrom receivers yet again who often dropped balls when they were rarely open and never really showed much separation to get open. If you want to know what type of season it was, realize Jenkins (who led the team with 31 catches for 619 yards and 2 scores) earned MVP honors in what would have been an otherwise average season at Miami. Leggett, hailed by Rivals.com as a 5-star recruit, was the biggest disappointment among the wide outs. He managed only 15 catches for 238 yards and one touchdown his senior year. Shields, who often found himself in coach Randy Shannon's doghouse, had brief moments of stellar play including a six catch, 117-yard effort against Texas A&M. The rest of Miami's receivers did little. Farquharson, Hankerson and Jones combined for 16 catches for 158 yards and two touchdowns. McKenzie missed the season after suffering serious neck injuries in an auto accident right before the start of fall camp.

> Spring recap: Johnson, an All-State performer and star at Miami Northwestern, was the only freshman receiver get into school early. Although he didn't exactly blow up in the 030408_receiversspring game (he dropped the only pass thrown his way), there was enough talk about him from new receivers coach Aubrey Hill to believe the experience Johnson gained will propel him into a starring role at some point in the very near future. Other than that, there wasn't a ton of positivity to come out of the spring. Receivers still dropped a ton of passes, some deep down field. McKenzie, who most were hoping would finally get on the field and peform, missed the team's opening scrimmage and game with an apparent leg injury. Farquharson had five catches for 51 yards in the team's first scrimmage and led all receivers for catches in the spring game with 4 for 29 yards. He, Khalil Jones (2-16) and Hill (1-14) were the only receivers to catch balls in the game itself.

> The Big Question: There isn't a bigger question on the team than who emerges at wide out. Most Sam_shields_big_catch would say Shields should develop into the go-to receiver. He is the fastest wideout on the team and who has the most experience. But when you take into account his off field issues and the rumblings about his academic issues this summer, you can't count him for sure to become that player. After Shields, word out of the 7-on-7s this summer suggest Hankerson and McKenzie (who was a 7 on 7 star before his car accident) will become Miami's other starters with Jones and Farquharson in the rotation.

> What to expect: The unexpected. If any of the freshmen come in and wow during the fall, look for them to quickly climb up the depth chart. There isn't a 022608_ajohnsonposition on this team in more dire need of talent and consistency. Shannon himself admitted there were times last year where they were looking for Jenkins to save them. After signing seven receivers in February, some one is going to break out. And word is Johnson, Byrd, Streeter and Benjamin are the most likely to do so. Having watched Johnson and Streeter closely in high school I can tell you both have type of go-over the middle toughness Miami's receiving corps has lacked. I think if Shields doesn't screw up, he'll be the go-to guy. But with or without him, by the end of this season there is no doubt in my mind Johnson, McKenzie and Hankerson and a few other freshman will be part a solid young core for the future.

> The Kool-Aid Quote of the Spring: Offensive coordinator Patrick Nix on the play of the receivers: "A lot of times wide receivers are blamed when it’s a bad throw or they might have not the protection. We might have to throw early. To the average spectator they think it's all the receivers fault or something like that when it could be a lot of different things. But the receivers had a good spring. They all did very good. We have a lot of depth, so that's a very good thing. They made a lot of big plays all spring."

TIGHT ENDS/H-BACK...
> Who is gone:
Dajleon Farr (transferred to Memphis).
> Who is back: Dedrick Epps, Jr. (6-4, 255); Richard Gordon, Jr. (6-4, 260); Chris Zellner, Sr., (6-2, 247)
> Who is new: Daniel Adderley, R-Fr. (6-6, 220) and Tervaris Johnson, R-So. (6-2, 220) who moved over from receiver and safety respectively this offseason.

> What happened in '07: Not a lot if you came to Miami thinking you were going to follow in the footsteps of Jeremy Shockey, Kellen Winslow and Greg Olsen. The tight end Dajleon_farrposition basically became obsolete last season with Zellner, Epps and Farr getting very little action at all. Zellner, who played more of an H-back role, caught 13 passes for 105 yards and 1 touchdown to lead UM tight ends. Epps had eight catches for 83 yards and 1 touchdown -- the lone highlight of the season for UM tight ends, the game-winning touchdown catch against FSU. Farr, who came in as the nation's third best tight end according to Rivals in 2005, caught all of six passes before opting to transfer to Memphis. Gordon, who originally started at tight end, moved back there after moving over to the defense. He caught one pass for 8 yards.

> What happened this spring: The three remaining tight ends each got a few balls thrown their way in the spring game. Zellner caught 2 for 16 yards, Gordon caught 1 for 5 yards and Epps caught one for 4 yards.

> The Big Question: Will Miami even bother to develop a tight end like it once had when Shockey, Winslow and Olsen were dangerous weapons down the middle of the field? And is he available right now? Or, will Patrick Nix phase the tight end -- outside of blocking -- out of the offense until help arrives in the form of recruiting and let his receivers do the heavy lifting?

> What to expect: For Epps, Gordon and Zellner to continue doing the little things like blocking Dedrick_eppsand making a catch or two in dump off situations. Right now, neither of the three players have any skills remotely similar to what Canes fans are used to at tight end. Although Gordon, who once returned kickoffs early last year, has the speed and big frame to possibly be used as a real weapon in the passing game, he has struggled to to pick up route running and there are long odds he ever will. Instead, Epps will most likely be the guy who leads this group in receptions and production near the goalline. He showed the most improvement in the spring.

> On The Recruiting Trial: So, who exactly is the staff looking at to be the next great tight end at Orson_charlesMiami? The Canes are trying hard to land Rivals' No. 1 tight end in the '09 class, Tampa Plant's Orson Charles (who is reportedly expected to visit UM this weekend with his family). Charles (6-3, 216) is the playmaker Canes fans covet. Miami also has three other commitments who play tight end -- 6-6, 240-pound Stephen Plein of Fort Myers, 6-4, 225-pound Cory White of Jacksonville and 6-4, 235-pounder Billy Sanders of Phoenix. White is being recruited as an offensive lineman. Charles should already be adored by Canes fans. He's the kid who broke the Gators' crystal national championship trophy when he accidentally knocked it to the floor on his visit.

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