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Eye on Spring Football: The Storylines

Spring football practice begins Tuesday at the University of Miami. In order to prepare you, I've compiled a list of important story lines and players to follow throughout camp, which ends March 28th with the BankUnited Canesfest at Lockhart Stadium.

Randy Shannon This year, unlike the previous two under coach Randy Shannon, the media will be allowed to watch some of what goes on behind the scenes as the first four practices (Feb. 24-25, 27-28) will be open to the press. Two practices will be open to fans (the spring game March 28th, and a scrimmage at Traz Powell Stadium in Miami at 6:30 p.m. on March 12th). The team will sandwich some time off from March 13-23rd for spring break, but will basically practice on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. On the days I'm in town (and not following Frank Haith's basketball team) I'll be around to provide updates from football practice.

One thing I think needs to be understood about spring football (and all of the reports you'll be reading in the next few weeks) is that this time of year is really used by coaches to create depth and to experiment with their players more than anything else. Anything you read in the next couple of weeks should be used simply as a progress report heading into the fall. In nearly every case, it's fall camp where positions are really won and lost. So, just because you might hear Randy Shannon say Kylan Robinson is practicing with the first team at outside linebacker should by no means be taken as Robinson is going to be a starter in the fall. A lot of what is said by coaches this time of year is used to feed their players motivation (not only for the guys healthy and who have served as backups for most of their career, but for the guys who are hurt and need a little push when they return in the fall). 

Anyway, here are the important storylines/questions the U will be trying to solve during the next few weeks of spring practice. 

> 1. Does UM have the talent on the team right now to patch up the holes on its offensive line? According to the coaches I've spoken with the answer is yes. Here's what UM wants to accomplish this spring: find an everyday center, at least two solid rotating tackles to start alongside and backup captain Jason Fox and find at least three guards to rotate in the interior. That's not an easy task for position coach Jeff Stoutland, who really got average at-best performance out of Xavier Shannon, Chris Rutledge and Reggie Youngblood last season before they graduated. 

Orlando Franklin will start at left guard, but if others emerge he may be given a shot to move to right tackle The center job will most likely fall to senior A.J. Trump (6-3, 300), who is more experienced and more talented than redshirt sophomore Tyler Horn (6-4, 289). Trump, who has plagued by injuries most of his career, started nine games at guard last season and is definitely considered one of the top five linemen for UM behind Fox and junior Orlando Franklin. So, if Horn were to emerge at center, there is a very good chance he would move back to guard and remain in the starting lineup.

As for the interior, Franklin will begin the spring at left guard, where he started 11 games last season. But the ideal place the 6-7, 328-pound behemoth would like to play is at right tackle (where he could get a shot if others step up). The question is will they? Redshirt sophomore Harland Gunn, highly-touted freshman Brandon Washington and 6-9, 351-pound junior Ian Symonette will all be given an opportunity to show what they've got inside. Washington, a former standout at Miami Northwestern, is the most likely to emerge although Gunn will reportedly begin with the first team at right guard with junior Joel Figueroa (shoulder surgery) out for the spring. 

The right tackle position will begin with a battle between senior Matt Pipho (6-7, 307) and redshirt freshman Ben Jones (6-5, 310). But as I said earlier, ultimately, Shannon wants the best five on the field come the fall. Look for prep school freshman Jermaine Johnson, slated to backup Fox on the left side, to get a shot in that rotation too. 

Is Demarcus Van Dyke (up to 180 pounds) ready to play like an everyday starter? > 2. Who will emerge in a secondary loaded with question marks? Ask Shannon to give you a depth chart at cornerback and safety and he simply can't. There is no area with greater unknowns on the team than here where every starting position is really up for grabs heading into the spring. While six veterans return with defensive back playing experience, each has plenty to prove. At corner, sophomore Brandon Harris, junior Demarcus Van Dyke and senior Chavez Grant will be joined in competition by seniors Ryan Hill (moving down from safety to corner) and Sam Shields (moving over from receiver) and true freshman Brandon McGee

At safety, senior Randy Phillips is back after missing nearly all of last season, along with junior Jojo Nicholas among the veterans. But the name everyone expects to see a lot from is redshirt freshman Vaughn Telemaque, whom Shannon compared to Ed Reed at the end of last season. Those three are likely to be in the mix with the first team while redshirt sophomore Jared Campbell, redshirt freshmen C.J. Holton and Joe Wylie compete behind them. While more help will arrive in the fall in the form of players like Prince Kent, Ray Ray Armstrong and Jamal Reid, it's often very hard for true freshman to see the field immediately and beat the guys who have been competing since the spring for starting spots. But in this case, where so many guys have yet to prove they are the man, I would be surprised if it happened this year. 

Are the Canes going to be able to count on Arthur Brown more than just on special teams this season? > 3. Whom, besides sophomore Sean Spence, is going to prove he is worthy of playing time at linebacker? Say what you want about the lack of big-time playmakers in UM's secondary last season, I thought the bigger problem was finding guys at linebacker who could make the basic plays (like tackling and stopping scrambling quarterbacks from carving the Canes defense). With John Lovett taking over for Micheal Barrow (who is now classified simply as a defensive assistant), task No. 1 will be finding guys who not only consistently wrap up, but have the speed and ability to make those special plays. The talent is said to be there with sophomores Arthur Brown, Jordan Futch and Ramon Buchanon, but we'll have to see how much they've really grown. 

As it stands, the loss of Glenn Cook, Spencer Adkins and Romeo Davis means UM only has Spence (weakside) and senior Darryl Sharpton (middle) as healthy players on the roster this spring who have played actual real minutes at linebacker in games. Shannon said seldom-used junior Kylan Robinson (strongside) will get an opportunity to compete on the outside along with the young guys. The ideal goal for UM is finishing this spring knowing they've got playmakers behind Spence, Sharpton and Colin McCarthy (when he returns from his shoulder injury in time for the fall). 

> 4. Will Richard Gordon get his act together or will the tight end position at The U disappear until real help arrives? Since the day he arrived at UM all we've heard about Gordon is what an athletic freak he is. At 6-4, 260-pounds, he's been used just about everywhere. He even handled a job as a kick Will Richard Gordon emerge at tight end? returner for a few games two seasons ago. The bottomline is Gordon simply still hasn't found a place to contribute. This spring, with Chris Zellner gone (graduation), Dedrick Epps out until September at the earliest (torn ACL) and Tervaris Johnson battling injury woes, Gordon will have every opportunity to work with the first team and try and impress a new coordinator. When he needs some rest, sophomore Daniel Adderley, a recruiting bust, and Steven Wesley, who could move over from defensive end, are expected to share the snaps at tight end. Still, it's Gordon who is the only healthy Cane who has any of the ingredients to be a legit tight end. Last season, he had only three catches for 24 yards. Gordon's biggest problem according to position coach Joe Pannunzio has been route running. There's a chance new offensive coordinator Mark Whipple could devise an easier way to utilize Gordon. But if that doesn't happen, I seriously wonder if UM might just go into the fall deciding to abandon the tight end position until real help arrives. 

> 5. Who will take a step forward as the backup quarterback to Jacory Harris? A year ago we went into the spring knowing Robert Marve would likely go into the fall with Harris as his backup. This year with Robert Marve gone, we know who the starter for The U will be for the next two seasons. But one of the biggest keys according to Randy Shannon this spring will be finding a backup to Harris. The candidates are the two guys who were red-shirted last season as freshmen, 6-7, 225-pound Texas native Taylor Cook or 5-11, 200-pounder Cannon Smith. Most expect Cook, who has the stronger arm and ideal size to emerge as the frontrunner to backup Harris heading into the fall. But we'll have to see how far along he's come since last year when the former option quarterback looked like he was struggling with his basic mechanics. For what it's worth, Smith actually took a few snaps last spring before getting injured on the scout team in the fall.

Comments

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First!

Lots of questions, but can't wait to see what the answers are.

With Jon Lovett taking over for Micheal Barrow as the unit's position coach, task No. 1 will be finding guys who not only consistently wrap up, but have the speed and ability to make those special plays -- What happened to Michael Barrow?

Yea...what did happen to Barrow Manny? & When will the official spring rosters be released?

Thanks for the insight. Had two things that came up when reading through. First, you mentioned Epps is out for the spring with shoulder surgery? I may have missed it, but when did this happen and is he still thinking of being able to start by game 1 next season?

Secondly, Adderly a bust? I thought he was a sophmore. He didn't contribute much last year that I could remember, but RS was going crazy rotating as many WR's as he did. I think you're right that he has a lot to prove, but it may be too premature to call him a bust just yet.

Barrow is a defensive assistant with the Canes still. He will work in other aspects of the units like special teams. I think he is being groomed to become a D coordniator some day.

I thought epps had a torn acl

I thought epps had a torn acl
Posted by: jkasse2 | February 23, 2009 at 04:11 PM

He does. I fixed it in the blog. I mixed up his injury with Figueroa. Also explained Barrow is a defensive assistant.

does anyone think that tommy streeter could fill the te position? i think he is a big enough target to be one....
why can't college football be all year?
go canes!

my toto !!

Is Barrow taking a demotion? Could have moving from being a player to HS position coach to college position coach so quickly without a coaching mentor slowed his development?
LB's on the team have talent, but did not demonstrate that on the field last year. They missed a lot of assignments and did not have the fundamentals locked down.
Was that coaching's fault?
He is a very good recruiter, though. Let's hope our coordinators develop players and coaches, too.

Casual Observer:

Danniel Adderly is a bust. I remember seeing him in practice and to say he looks clumsy is an understatement. He's big but doesn't belong in a Cane uniform, he's definitely better off transferring to a division 2 school where he might be alright.

Why do people keep mentioning Tommy Streeter as a TE? This idiotic rumor started last year and people continue to run with it. Do you guys realize how thin he is. He's a WR and will be a great one. It's like saying Lamar Thomas should've been moved to TE when he was here.

Epps did have reconstructive knee surgery. He tore his knee up during practice the week of the Emerald Bowl. (He has said he will be ready to go in the fall) Adderly actually announced he was transferring shortly after the bowl game but has decided to go through spring practice to see if he can make an impact. If not he's heading home to South Carolina

OK,Shannon has two years now under his belt..i know it doesn't sound like much but it's time to start producing...he has all the talent in the world and very good coaching surrounding him.the marve b.s is gone,don't want to hear anything about distractions..with this much talent an acc title game,at the least,should be a gimme..anything less would be a disappointment..it's time..

Coach Shannon said that moving Barrow is not a demotion, just a change of positioning. Barrow is a hell of a recuiter and he's going to be a good if not great coach somewhere, someday.

Yeah, Streeter for TE! I hope they at least try it out. It's pretty prevalent in the NFL to use specialist TE's for passing downs and running downs. I have no doubt the kid would not be a complete TE at the beginning of the fall, but he wouldn't need to be! Shoot Winslow still wasn't a complete TE when he left Miami and his career has worked out pretty well.

Streeter's got the frame and the speed, just needs to add some muscle, learn the blocking technique and figure out how to really work in traffic. I know that's a lot, but I'd love to see him try out there. It is his best chance to contribute this year for sure.

Why is Billy Sanders being ignored when it comes to the TE position. I thought this guy was a huge win for us on signing day because of our need at TE. Has it been announced that he's redshirting or something?

Thanks Manny.

To all of you who say that Tommy Streeter needs to move to TE ,or thinks that this would be a good idea, this is not NCAA09. If any of you have ever watched Streeter play, would know that he is actually faster than Aldarius Johnson. Why would you take a kid that has that kind of speed and not to mention, only weighs a buck sixty, and put him on the line against a 260lb LB/DE? Think People!

Kayne4Lyfe

R,
I think we are still another year away from national prominence. Though they are sophomores they still need to develop and we are still in need of building depth. It also doesnt help that our schedule is brutal, its going to be tough this year to win the acc. I think next yr is a no brainer barring injury.

Blich Canes,
I think Sanders is being overlooked because he wasnt a highly touted TE. He wasnt a Richardson. Hes also a freshman coming in during the summer. Hes going to have to be on the scout team first and will probably be redshirted. Hes not good enough to make an impact as a freshman. He will get a shot though.

This is a time I really wish we had Orson Charles

i agree with you i think we are 1 more year away from really dominating college football.

Our seconday should be SICK by the middle of the year.

DVD, Brandon Harris, VT & Ray Ray will light it up.

Tommy Streeter is listed last year at 6' 5'' weighing 205 lbs. He might have gained some weight over the past year. However, he definitely is not the optimal weight for a tight end. However, if no one emerges during the spring and early fall, then do we abandon the tight-end position? There are some teams that ignore the tight-end position but we should not. It would be interesting trying to see a linebacker cover Tommy.

Gordon is not a tight end, te's need the ability to catch the ball. Ray Ray might be a great POTENTIAL te, maybe, but he is so good on defense.


It looks like there is now enough talent on the defensive to do some damage. Hindsight view, it seems like coaching has held back the defense, Walton, then Young they never fielded defensives that looked like they knew what they were doing,talent is better that.

LOvett has fielded defensive units in the sec. where competition is always tough. I look for a big jump in defensive polish. If nothing else Whipple will school them, they will have to improve.

They should just put Cooper in the slot or a guy like Streeter, Benjamin, or even Mike James and leave the tight end out on some plays.

Ex. of coaching question marks, last yr. the dbacks played so far off receivers that the dbacks had no chance for interceptions, and the stats at the end of the season showed that to be true.

Cook and Romeo were not playmakers were completely showed up by freshman Spence. I think that there was talent there at linbacker that never got to play. Why?

A lot more questions on the D the last couple of yrs, The D needs to do the same thing Whipple said that he was going to do, Evaluate the talent and use the talent to make plays.

Can't get anything but better after the last two pathetic years at theLB and defensive back positions! I don't care who it is but anyone is better than those guys that just graduated.

Good points DLU.

Anyone know if Ramon Buchanon will play Safety or Linebacker?

We haven't given anyone a chance at TE, so you can't right Gordon off yet. The guy might suprise us this season.

I'm still not comfortable with calling current UM players "BUST"... why Manny why Manny ???

"When he needs some rest, sophomore Daniel Adderley, a recruiting bust, ..."

I always want us to remember that these guys are student-athletes, and sometime a player might be great in HS and average college player, or great in college, and not make it in the NFL... it's just a fact of life... can we stop the name calling of CURRENT UM PLAYERS... DAMN !!!

I swear I'm gonna leave this blog if you keep this crap up ! ... I can get this hate on any UF-Gator Blog.

clauhoun is our back up at full back he would be a good fit for te postion

If BB don't want to play at the U, then he should come out and say it. It should be a family decision, because the parents will be supporting these kids. Parents should have some input. Dad should have set up some rules, before It got out of hand. Miami hands are tied in away, they can't comment on anything. BB toyed with his decision for to long. I think Dad wants him at Miami, but he's leaving it up to BB. And BB has to make that choice, maybe afraid of the competition at the U.

I thought Adderly asked to be released from his scholarship so that he could transfer to Memphis with McKenzie and McNeil

Spence brown futch and buchanon were 4 of the top 7 LB"s in High School last yr, all rated that high on espn and many on all sites. I HOPE they should be ready, especially with Brown who played spring ball last yr. I THINK THIS OUR YEAR TO BREAK OUT, we have a ton of talent on the team , skill players, a qb who is getting 2 more of his high school teammates in thompkins and streter, along with a johnson that gives jacory 3 wr's who hes thrown balls to for years, a strong RB group, so, with a decent OLINE, whiplash O should be strong.

The Susan D. article claims that Mr Brown Sr. said that they are concerned aboutthe "media circus".LOL! LMFAO~!
I mean, did I just land on this planet from constellation 13124455xpy? DId he say media circus? Am I the only one here who literally fell from my chair when I saw that comment?
-Who started this media circus?
-who has a "re-pre-sen-ta-tive"?
-Who did the media just have on the radio making comments? (hint: Butler).
-Who verbally commited to UM only to then decide to NOT. Correct. You read me right. NOT sign on National "signing day"?
-Who has said that they are going to "fast" and then decide where he is going?

Don't suggest that UM started this because that is not True, Mr Brown. Maybe that is how things work in Kansas, but down here, IT IS WHAT IT IS. FACTS ARE WHAT FACTS ARE. AND THE U DID NOT START THIS MEDIA CIRCUS. U DID!

One last thing--- It seems that in the last few years, Um has recruited players, who were top notch studs, and I mean studs in high school (Leggett, Shields, Gordon, even Ryan Moore, Kyle Wright) and others, only to see them bust out . I do not believe in so called "develpment" These kids were studs in highschool and they did not pan out to the expectations at UM. Maybe they would have done ok, say at central Michigan, Toledo, or somewhere else, but not in thisleague. I am sorry, butit's true.

Gordon can't catch the ball, neither could Shields or Leggett. That is not development. I am sorry. But it is not. You either can run a rout or you can't. You either can catch a ball or you cannot. You either can learn an offense, throw theball to a receiver, or not. What is it? How do these players get mis-recruited? And how does a player like the dude up in the MAC, or the dude at NC state, get passed up? I realize, it is the system sometimes, butplayaz are playaz. And a true baller will be good anywhere! Sam Shields got the ball thrown at him plaenty of times. He got chances to be THE next laymaker at the U, after Hester left. He did not pan out. He dropped key passes inhis hands as a freshman, sophomore and lat year, geez. he single handedly lost the FSU game.

i just don't know!

Some day a real rain will come and wash all the scum off the streets.

Yea...what did happen to Barrow Manny?

Posted by: R.CityCane | February 23, 2009 at 03:54 PM


Gotta take care of all dem baybies ...


Yea, I thought Adderly was gonna transfer out? Also, to call a 2 star recruit as a bust is a bit of a reach no?

Yeah, to call Adderly a bust is kind of crazy. I never really expected much out of him anyway. He only had UCF, Middle Tenn, Coastal Carolina and Miami recruiting him. That should be obvious enough. Who the hell recruited him from Miami anyways? Nix?

43rd!!

Great article Manny! Thanks for giving us the best inside information in jounalism.

1. I agree that Richard Gordon has not produced. I will never forget that NC State game where Jacory threw him what should have been a touchdown, and he bobbled a good throw and easy catch. I recall the WQAM UM color commentator saying Gordon should have been a DT, not a TE, and I agreed he played like a DT that day. As RS has said, now is Gordon's time to produce. If Gordon fails, he will have only himself to blame.

2. According to the Herald articles I have read, RS expects an improvement this year. Historically, second year college football players make dramatic improvements as sophomores or red-shirt frosh, so we can expect to see great strides by individual players on the field given the fact that so many freshman played (and played very well) last year.

3. These improving recruits, along with the new Coaches (Lovett and Whipple) provide the ingredients for special improvements on the field next year. We all (esp. UMASS Cane) feel that Whipple will improve the offense, but I think Lovett will also surprise people in how he improves the defense (his teaching sound technique and bringing valuable experience). If UM can stay healthy, I expect a special year (10 wins).

anyone know how bruce johnson performed at the combine?

ESPN is reporting that Bryce Brown has been cut loose by Miami. What have you heard Manny?

Thanks CaliCanesFan, I saw that ESPN.com's Heather Dinich, wrote "In regards to this story about the possibility of Bryce Brown not visiting Miami, let's get something clear: Miami is no longer interested in Brown. It's over, done. A source at Miami has confirmed this for me, which is why it's no surprise LSU is suddenly in the picture for that last visit."

It makes sense with everything we have been reading recently. With Bryce and Butler's chemistry-killing, anti-team attitudes, I say, good riddance! Let's move on. No recruit who has gained one yard in college football should have such an attitude. We have had the Sapps, Irvins, we have a loaded backfield with JJ, Coop, Lamar, and MJ, and as many blogger here have noted the 2010 South Florida talent is "sick."

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