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Stoutland: O-Line depth has ways to go

Beyond backup quarterback, it hasn't been hard to see this spring what one of the major concerns is going to be on offense heading into next season. Tied for second on the very questionable list: Second team left tackle, second team left guard, second team center, second team right guard and second team right tackle.

Offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland prepares his players for practice. Offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland said Wednesday his mission this spring was to try and find guys for those spots and establish a rough draft of a working eight to nine man rotation he could put on the field Saturdays (like he's done in each of his previous two seasons at Miami). Consider the job partially done at best. What Stoutland has really been able to do after 13 spring practices is figure out junior Matt Pipho can really be his starting right tackle (he's shown enough consistency), and that his three talented newcomers -- Ben Jones, Brandon Washington and Jermaine Johnson -- are better off in different spots than he initially thought. The rest really remains unknown.

"Our first group is a lot further along than our second group," Stoutland said. "Our first group is really clicking right now. Second group is just a lot of young people."

Jones, who began the season backing up Matt Pipho at right tackle, has been moved to the left side. Johnson, who began on the left side, has been moved to backup right tackle (where he told Stoutland he feels more comfortable). And Washington, who began at right guard and has since been moved to left guard, can likely play anywhere if needed.

The good news is all three appear talented enough -- along with right guard Harland Gunn (who has taken advantage Joel Figueroa has been out with an injury this spring) -- where they could be serious contirbutors down the road. But it's obvious they have plenty of work to do this spring and summer if they hope to turn the corner and really earn a spot in the roation. “There’s still a lot of teaching going on,” Stoutland said of his second team. “But they’re going to be good players down the road.”

Jones, who played mostly right tackle in high school, has to "learn and kick from a new standpoint," Stoutland said. "But I’m happy with him. He’s a real good athlete. He didn’t play at all last year. He was injured twice. It was hard to develop him. But he’s really come a long way this spring. If he continues to improve like that, then we’ve added more depth."

As for Washington, Stoutland says, "When he gets in that weight room full time, you’ll see him change a little bit." Stoutland said there is still a lot to like about Washington, especially his smarts and maturity after playing a year in prep school. "You talk about a bright kid, he’s very, very intelligent. We can do a lot of things with him and you only have to coach him once. He’s not going to [make a mistake] next time. He could actually, like Orlando [Franklin] did, end up helping us this year. He can play tackle, center. He’s extremely bright. Right now we got him playing left guard. Before he’s done here, who knows where he’ll play."

Joel Figueroa missed the spring with an arm injury > While Gunn has played the entire spring with the first team at right guard, don't expect him to remain there when Joel Figueroa returns this fall. "I can’t wait to get back to coaching Fig again. I believe he’s going to be a force," Stoutland said. "I think the best thing to happen to Harland was Fig not playing. Now we’ve established some depth. But Fig is really going to have to drop in a bucket [for him not to start]. I have a lot of confidence in that guy. I think all of our players do. Still, our guards have always rotated. So, Harland Gunn is going to play."

> Wednesday's practice had too many amazing offensive plays to mention. In fact, the offense really has dominated a lot this spring. Left tackle Jason Fox summed it up the best Wednesday -- and certainly laid the foundation for some trash talking heading into Saturday's Spring Game at Lockhart Stadium.

"I think the defense has won maybe one practice so far this spring," Fox said. "I don’t know if you watched practice but I think we scored every other play. We’ll see what happens Saturday. But we plan on... I'm just going to stop right there."

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1st time 1st!

CAN'T WAIT FOR CANESFEST & SPRING GAME. PLAN ON MAKING THE 3 1/2 HR TRIP FROM NSB GOTTA GET A PREVIEW ON THE 09 CANES!

if there is already a solid starting line then im extremely excited for this upcoming season. can't wait to see all our play makers contribute. now only if the defense can live up to its potential.

Our offense have never been ahead of the defense like this before. I hope its not, that the defense is just bad. Either way I'm glad to here that the offense is doing better this year. I cant wait for the season to start. I wish I lived in florida, man I would be at all the games.

I hope we finally have a good O line, this has been a major weakness for too many seasons now....let's see how they do in the Spring game

O-line is the weakest unit on the team, these guys need to pick it up if we are going to do anything this year.

If this is really true and not an aberration this is GREAT news about the offense being far ahead of the defense. Usually it is the other way around very early in the season. Here are a few reasons that this is such good news:
1) The offense has been putrid, bland and inconsistent for years.
2) The team is showing growth and maturity over last year.
3) The team is learning and applying Coach Whipples offensive schemes
4) Jacory is making good reads and right decisions.
5) We all know that the defense will come around. With all the potential playmakers we have on that side of the ball, they will be alright.
For us to do well (4-0 or 3-1)over the "gauntlet" (our first 4 games) we have to score points. Early in the season, defenses are usually ahead of offenses, so we need our offense to score points and move the ball early in the season. I have confidence that our defense will catch up over the summer and when the season kicks off that we will have an all around complete team on both sides of the ball.

Interesting quote from Heather Dinich on ESPN...

"Gut feeling? There will be no in-between for this team. Miami will either start the season 4-0 or 0-4."

Canesjunkie, that's actually not too far from it....I think we get through the gauntlet 3-1, worst case...the high we will be on beating F_U will carry us to winning the next 2, and then we will really be tested against Oklahoma......we will really need our D-line be ready that game cause OU is in search of 3 new linemen so that maybe the only weak point in their amour..

Joel Figueroa is an ugly dude

Would someone please post the CaneSport practice summary ("Wed. practice news, notes & quotes"). That would be really awesome! I'm dying to get more color on what made yesterday's practice so amazing. Thanks in advance! GO CANES!

per rivals,

LT Jason Fox has a new aspect to his game: Lower hand placement.

Line coach Jeff Stoutland showed Fox pictures of NFL linemen and then showed Fox the same players in college. The difference? In the NFL pictures those players had lower hand placement when blocking.

"Coach Stoutland's been trying some new techniques out," Fox said. "He's been talking to coaches at the next level and carrying those things down to us. It's working out.

"We watched film (of NFL players) and see how much cleaner their technique is at the next level, how the game evolves."

Will having his hands lower make a big difference?

"It helps get under the defense," Fox said. "When you get under their pads you can lift them up and stop their rush a lot easier. It helps out with leverage."

For his part Stoutland says "Too many players play with their hands outside here. If you're trying to push somebody and your hand's on their back, how can you push them? It's just showing the guys where their hands are going and leverage.

"We've worked on tighter hands."

Fox also was asked about the progress of first team right tackle Matt Pipho.

"He's done really well," Fox said. "We all have a lot of faith in him. He got his opportunity and he was ready for it. He stepped up to the challenge. He's a really smart guy. He came out and he knows his stuff."

* Sam Shields says he's "feeling more confident" at his new position - he moved from WR to cornerback this spring.

"I have to keep working at it," Shields said. "There's progress. Day after day I'm getting better on whatever I need help on doing."

* Free safety Joe Wylie is backing up Vaughn Telemaque.

But he's hopeful for a role on the field this season.

"The spring's going real well," he said. "I'm receiving great coaching, am just trying to work through it and get better every day. I can definitely see improvement in my game."

Wylie arrived at Miami at 170 pounds. He now weighs 205 pounds.

"(Andreu) Swasey has a great strength and conditioning program," Wylie said. "It's real easy to put on weight, especially if you do what you're told."

* Freshman RB Mike James has enjoyed a strong spring.

"I'm finding ways to help my team," he says. "I don't know, it just happened. A big play just happens before I even know it. I just get in there, say I'm going to run hard and whatever happens, happens."

James says "it's not easy" playing at this level.

"It's tough," he said.

But James says he's feeling more and more comfortable.

"After the Traz Powell scrimmage I felt more comfortable running the ball," he said.

James says his blitz pickup has been the hardest thing for him to learn.

* Allen Bailey again did not participate in any 11-on-11 work but did individual drills as he recovers from an unspecified injury. With Bailey out the first team tackles were Joe Joseph and Josh Holmes. Behind them were Marcus Forston and Micanor Regis.

* Highlights from the day's work in full pads:

In goal line drills the offense dominated. With the ball placed on the three, Jacory Harris ran in a score on the second play of the first series. On the next series Mike James ran in a two-yard TD on second down. On the following series Damien Berry pounded right up the middle for a touchdown on first down. On the next series Cannon Smith had an easy TD run on a bootleg around the right side. He was untouched on his way to the end zone.

On the first play of 11-on-11 non-goal line drills Graig Cooper took a handoff around the right end for a 30-yard touchdown. He was untouched on the play. Cooper had a 60-yard scoring run later, breaking around the right side untouched. LaRon Byrd had a big play with a 50-yard catch and run for a score, and Daniel Adderley also had a long touchdown catch and run on a pass from Taylor Cook.

Other offensive highlights: Tommy Streeter had a nice diving 15-yard catch, Thearon Collier had a 20-yard grab on the left sideline, and Byrd took a short throw for a 25-yard gain.

Sacks on defense came from Marcus Robinson (he had two), Marcus Forston and Olivier Vernon. Demarcus Van Dyke did a nice job breaking up a Jacory Harris pass, and Sam Shields had an interception when there was a miscommunication between the receiver and quarterback. Steven Wesley recovered a fumbled handoff exchange between Harris and Mike James. Vaughn Telemaque had a couple of nice stops in the run game.

* The first team receivers to start 11-on-11 work were LaRon Byrd and Leonard Hankeronson. The next set of receivers to get on the field were Tommy Streeter and Davon Johnson.

The first team cornerbacks were Brandon Harris and Demarcus Van Dyke. Ryan Hill and Chavez Grant were behind them. The first team safeties were Vaughn Telemaque and Randy Phillips.

The first group defensive ends to start 11-on-11 work were Marcus Robinson and Olivier Vernon. Behind them were Steven Wesley and Andrew Smith.

* During punt return drills the returners were Graig Cooper and Thearon Collier.

Keep Graig Cooper off of the punt return team. This kid is the best weapon we have on offense; lets keep him healthy.

The title of this article is misleading..

When I read the article, it just points out that the first team is further along, but seems as if all of the guys are capable

If Ben Jones can play anywhere, and Harland Gunn is prep'd for first team action, Washington has the tools to be used like and help out like Franklin did....

Then whats the problem again???

I'm really happy that the offense is finally winning over the defense, but I'm very concerned at how thorough the domination is. When you read Jr. Reed's post from rivals above, every play is a score and most of them are 50 to 60 yard plays! I think our offense is improved but to be ripping off plays like that every practice is probably not a good sign for the defense.

I disagree with Heather Dinich on the 4-0 vs. 0-4 record. My gut feeling tells me 2-2, mostly because Oklahoma is going to be great again and we get them too early and because Georgia Tech comes in with the same triple option that torched us last year. We weren't even close to GT last year, and this year that weird offense is sandwiched in between other HUGE games with teams that run pro-sets. It's bad timing, and it's SO different from everything else that I don't think we'll be ready. Are they in our division? If not, we'll take them down in the championship game.

Go Canes!

Thanks Jr Reed!!!!!!!

I'm concerned over something I read on the Heather Dinich blog about Miami not thinking beyond the FSU game. If this is true and remains true in the fall we're going to get SMOKED by Georgia Tech. LSU beat the crap out of them because they had time to prepare. Since GTech is our second game, we too have time to prepare.

Last time we played we only had seven days to prepare and look what happened. The ten days between the FSU and GT games are NOT going to be enough. Randy and Lovett better get their acts together and introduce the triple option during the Spring and dedicate AT LEAST one third of their fall practice to beating Georgia Tech. In the best-worst case scenario, it'll be a shootout with us coming out on top since our offense is strong, but I'd rather not take my chances. I don't know about other Canes fans, but I want REVENGE against Georgia Tech!!! This game should be a high-priority game for us, similar to how UGA was a high priority for UF last year. GO CANES!!!

I also think 2-2 is a realistic record. But I'm optimistic that the Canes could start 3-1 or 4-0. Although, whatever happens to OU is pretty much inconsequential unless Miami is in the running for the National Championship. That's the nice thing about tough non-conference games...they don't really matter. Based on what I'm reading about the defense, they are in trouble, period. It's strange how the offense and defense seem to be switching effectiveness. We'll see what happens.

Canesjunkie, I am in complete disagreement with you about Cooper staying off of punt returns. I think it's the only thing he does well. The guy has zero discipline at the RB position. At least on punt returns, he can do basically whatever he wants as long as he doesn't fumble. Last year, Miami was a better team when he was returning punts.

COOP should be used like reggie bush( not saying he is),if he is our best weapon we need to use him as a multiple threat. give him 10 to 15 carries, line him in the slot, use him on kickoff and punts to expand the playbook. we have good depth at running back to take him out of some plays as a runner. that would be great for coop to be used as in that manner he has great field vision so imgaine him in open space. with him doing the things that i have mentioned will show case his ability even more beside just becoming a r/b.

Thanks JR Reed!

Sounds like Shannon is really rotating the players into the starting role, that's a great thing to do in spring practice.

AZ...Why do you think Cooper is undisciplined? The knock on him has been that he gets tackled too easily. Haven't heard anything else.

umm, discipline was a bad word choice. sorry. word should have been impatient. it's not just that he gets tackled too quickly; he just doesn't know how to do anything but run in open space. don't get me wrong, when he gets to open space, he can keep up with anybody in college football. but he's a hit or miss guy (sometimes negative runs and sometimes big gains) like Barry Sanders or Reggie Bush (okay, huge comparisons, but you get the point). personally, i would rather have a running back that's slow and steady and gets 3-4 yards every carry (aka JJ). Yeah, Coop makes me hold my breath, but not always for good reasons. I also can't recall him making that many good blocks (he made some, but missed many). Thus, he's a great special teams guy. I agree with 'pay attention ...' that he should be used all over the place. He's a scary talent but not a great RB.

AZ...

I get your points now. I think Cooper is a great change-of-pace back to compliment the steady 3-to-4 yard type you're talking about. Part of the problem has been we haven't had the 3-to-4 yard guy, JJ, in the lineup. Mike James looks like the perfect back to compliment Cooper and will give us a nice rotation.

I want Cooper off of the kick return units because I don't want the RB combo to get messed up this year. We'll see what Lamar Miller can add to the mix. I'm not counting on Javaris James at this point. Let someone else develop kick return skills....this way the RB's are fresh in December.

Wayne...

I'm rarely positive and negative about the same thing. I think Randy Shannon is the only topic where I flip back and forth. I'm not bashing the Canes if I express my opinion on a weakness. It's just my opinion, feel free to counter if you feel differently.

What, I'm bashing the Canes because I don't think our offensive line is good?

Jason Fox is crazy. The offense is moving the ball on the defense has a lot to do with Jacory's ability to read the field and deliver the ball quickly. That and the fact that he's not taking hits.

We must've been there the one time (according to Fox) the defense won in the Spring. You remember the scrimmage where the offense fumbled over 5 times and the defensive line was raising hell on anyone with the football in their hands.

I totally agree about the depth at RB. I think Coop can get his 10 carries while still getting a few punt returns a game. Hopefully, JJ can also get 10 carries and it looks like Mike James could get 5-10 carries. Plus, I haven't heard anything about Benjamin, but he's good for a few "carries" on end arounds or wr screens. I know Whipple will probably mix it up a little more than Nix did, but you can't eliminate the WR screen with a guy like Benjamin. Or Thompkins for that matter. On returns, I know Miller will be back there, but he's still a freshman. If Miller, Benjamin, and Coop all get chances back there, not only will the competition be better but their legs will be fresher. It really sounds, in general, like the offense will have much fresher legs with all these guys on the depth chart. I suppose realistically, some guys might get left off the gameday roster in the end.

I also agree in principal that Jac's success in the spring has been somewhat contingent upon what sounds like a mediocre defense. It will be interesting to see what he's like against real live defenses that he doesn't fully know.

Canes are NOT losing to GT this year. Four straight losses to GT...Thur night game...10 days between FSU and GT to perpare...bad taste from last year's debacle...Jacory...way more depth/size on D this year...Fired up home crowd...etc... And don't buy into that "only looking at FSU stuff". Randy and Lovitt will spend half the summer studying Miami's/UGA's losses to GT and LSU's thrashing of the same offense... We may go 2-2 but one of those losses will not be GT. And the GT fans/alums I know do not expect to pull of a 5th straight win...

If UM beats FSU in Tally, I am confident they will have a great year because FSU is a good team and on par with GT and VT. A 2-2 or 3-1 start puts UM in ACC title contention, while a 4-0 start puts them in BCS title discussion.

T-Ben is UM's best punt returner by far, but I don't know if he can stay healthy.

I've been following the practices on all medial outlets this spring, and I see the offense making a lot of "big" plays. This is either good if it turns out our offense is just great and will score a ton of points this year, or bad if it turns out our offense is not that good and it is all due to our defense just being bad. I am hoping that it is our offense being great and not the other way around because we play Oklahoma this year and they can score 100 points on us if our defense is not up to the task.

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