FORT LAUDERDALE -- It's hard to really measure this spring game since I came away feeling like we only saw about 25 percent of UM's playbook, and about half of the expected starters were kept out with injuries. That being said, Eye On The U will still provide you with what we learned from Saturday's spring game, who impressed, who didn't and what was said after it was over.
GAME BALL: Running back Damien Berry. He didn't do go up against the first team defense, but Berry was still by far the most impressive individual performer of Saturday's game. His 54-yard touchdown run and backflip into the end zone was the most impressive play of the day. For a guy who made the move from safety to running back last season and spent all of last year on the scout team (where he earned Scout Team MVP), Berry impressed me with his breakaway speed on several runs, including his toughness to not only take on safeties head on, but barrel over them. With a healthy Javarris James, Graig Cooper, Lee Chambers and Mike James, Berry is probably fifth on the depth chart at running back. But injuries happen -- like they did this spring. And it's good know when given the chance Berry is going to run hard.
IMPRESSED ME AWARD: OK, so Taylor Cook isn't going to exactly win a Heisman anytime soon. But Saturday, he looked like the clear-cut backup to Jacory Harris. Granted, it was against the second team defense. But at one point, the 6-7, 232-pound redshirt freshman completed nine passes in a row, showing us he can get into a rhythm and handle the short-to-mid range passing game if needed. He completed 11 of his 14 attempts for 103 yards and led UM on a 15-play, 71-yard scoring drive before giving way to Cannon Smith at the 11, who capped the drive with a 1-yard TD pass to John Calhoun. Coach Randy Shannon said afterward none of the backups separated themselves and that he'd have to watch the film. But the film won't lie. Cook has improved and is definitely the front runner to be Jacory's backup.
SHANNON SAID: "Very happy [with how the spring went]. We went through the spring adding in a new offense, new defense, and you watched the players come out today and they executed a lot of great things. You see a guy like Damien Berry run the ball pretty well. Mike James did a lot of good things. Taylor Cook, the guy came in and worked well with the twos but also came in late in the game and got another touchdown with the ones. You're starting to see the team gel a lot and do the things we want to get done... We're a whole lot better. We've got more players. We feel we've done a great job in recruiting – our numbers are up. My first year and second year we played a lot of freshmen. Now these freshmen are sophomores, and you can see the difference from last year to now. And guys coming in like Mike James, Brandon Washington, Olivier Vernon – those guys coming in are going to make a difference in next year's season because of what they've learned."
EYE OPENING STAT: Jacory Harris and the first team offense didn't score. It was by far their worst day of the spring. But the first team defense had a lot to do with it. Harris was only 9 of 16 for 141 yards and an INT. Graig Cooper, who took all the first team carries, had just four yards on seven carries. The secondary did a nice job winning several one-on-one battles despite giving up a few long pass plays. There were four pass breakups in all, including ones by Chavez Grant, Brandon Harris and Sam Shields. Randy Phillips had an interception on a deflected pass batted away by Harris.