CORAL GABLES -- The 2009 season officially got underway moments ago with the start of 15 spring practices at Greentree Field.
The media is getting a rare opportunity to watch the first four practices of the spring -- normally we only get to watch the first 15 minutes. I'll have a full report once this one is over But I do have a few quick notes to pass along...
> Several veteran players are wearing new numbers. Sam Shields, who has been moved from receiver to cornerback, is now sporting No. 9. He's worn No. 83 his entire career here.
> Sophomore receiver Travis Benjamin is now wearing No. 3 instead of No. 81, which he wore last season.
> All six of the new incoming recruits are here and were practicing, cornerback Brandon McGee (No. 21), defensive end Olivier Vernon (No. 35), defensive tackle Curtis Porter (No. 96), offensive tackle Jermaine Johnson (No. 78), offensive guard Brandon Washington (No. 72) and running back Mike James (No. 22).
> FYI, several players we thought would miss the spring are out here participating in some capacity. Linebacker Colin McCarthy, sporting a new mohawk, is running and participating in drills. So, too are track standouts Brandon Harris, Travis Benjamin and Davon Johnson.
Before practice began, Randy Shannon met with reporters earlier Tuesday to discuss several topics before the start of the spring.
> On the new role of former linebackers coach Micheal Barrow: "Coach Barrow is more of our special assistant on defense and offense, special teams. His role is assisting everyone on defense. Most people think it's a demotion. It's not a demotion. It's giving him more responsibilities to keep going and further his career. It's a big change for us."
> On why sophomore Arthur Brown was moved from outside linebacker to middle linebacker heading into the spring: "For four years we had Tavares Gooden at outside, he wasn't productive. We put him in the middle his senior year, he was. You have to move guys around and eventually they'll show what they can do. I think by moving him in the middle he seems more comfortable, quicker reacting, can diagnose plays faster than before.
> On what excites him about new offensive coordinator Mark Whipple: "Coach Whipple brings a lot to our offense, developing quarterbacks. We have young quarterbacks, and he's proven he can develop young quarterbacks. When he was at UMass and Brown, the offense scored points. Sometimes you have to outscore people. That's something coach Whipple has always been able to do."
> On what he's told tight end Richard Gordon about his opportunity to steal the tight end job with other players out: "I told Richard it's his time now. We have guys out that are out, are going to come back in the fall. This is his opportunity to put his stamp on the tight end position – you're big, fast, can run, now it's up to you to get it done. He's been fine catching the football. How many balls are thrown to him?"
> On the seniors he's expecting to step up: "Darryl Sharpton, Javarris James. You go back to Javarris' first year, and I told Javarris this, he was hungry. He came in as a true freshman, wanted to play. He had 800 yards. Then the next two years null and void. Did he slack off his work habits, doing the little things? I told him if you want to be the great running back here this is what has to happen. Now if you don't, we always bring in guys to have competition. He knows I care for him, but he understands the big picture is if you want to be a great football player what did you do as a freshman and what do you need to be doing now? If you go back to those ways, we're going to be a great football team. Darryl, it's time for him to be the Jon Vilma, DJ, Ray Lewis. It's Darryl's time, and that's the reason we recruited him."
> On what he likes about backup quarterback Taylor Cook: "He really does have a strong arm. He's 6-7, gets back, good rhythm, and when he releases it now it has a lot of velocity on it. His short throw are nice touch passes. When he wants to throw it downfield he can throw it downfield."