Randy Shannon has closed up shop for the weekend -- at least to the media -- and will hold his first scrimmage of the fall Saturday morning. Nobody except "special guests" will be able to see what's going on. But come Monday, we might learn what Shannon really thinks of his team.
While practice is important, Shannon has never been one to put too much stock into what a guy does during 7-on-7 work or goalline situations. Like he said earlier this week, it is easier for a defensive back to intercept a pass during the two-minute drill because he knows the pass is coming. It is easier for a linebacker to smack a running back in goalline situations when he knows the run is coming. So, that makes what Shannon or his players might be willing to tell us after the scrimmage a better litmus test. That being said, here are some early impressions, thoughts I've collected from being out a practice...
> The Canes' tight end situation might not be as bad as we initially thought. Not only is Dedrick Epps playing full speed and taking hits, but Jimmy Graham is emerging as someone who might actually be able to help the team. Graham had a long catch and run Thursday that impressed teammates -- including Epps.It wasn't the first big play Graham has made. He's scored multiple times and has had a few nice diving grabs too. If Graham can continue to pick up the playbook (he's learning about 15 plays a day), UM could essentially have two real playmaking tight ends this season. Two months ago, we worried there might not be one.
> Miami's young secondary is growing up. Interceptions in practice are on thing. But following my one-on-one conversation with defensive backs coach Wesley McGriff, I got the sense even he feels more confident in what his guys can do. "It's a relief when you aren't the only one yelling anymore," McGriff told me. "These guys are yelling at themselves. Now, they know when they do something wrong. That's a huge difference." Brandon Harris will probably end up being UM's best corner this season. Several receivers -- including LaRon Byrd -- have told me he's without question the toughest guy to beat because of the mix of his speed and physical play. McGriff said Harris has made huge strides. "He's a lot better than what he was last year at this time -- a trillion times better," Shannon said. "He's making plays, knocking down some balls, making interceptions. He's having fun with it."
> Freshman impact is going to be smaller than it was a year ago. The Hurricanes are a much deeper team than they were at the start of last season, which is why you probably won't see a lot freshmen in starring roles this season like you did last year. It's clear highly touted safety Ray Ray Armstrong is going to need time to develop. Same for offensive lineman Jared Wheeler and Cory White. The freshman who look like they will make an impact are defensive end Olivier Vernon (already practicing with the first team a left end), cornerback Brandon McGee (rotating with the first team at field corner), running backs Mike James (we all remember what he did in the spring) and Lamar Miller (he's had several impressive long runs and could end up returning kicks) and offensive lineman Brandon Washington (who might be the best available lineman off the bench).
FYI... UM's Sports Information staff is putting together daily photo galleries on their website. So, if you are looking for photos from practice, check them out there.
And last, but not least, check out the newest baby Cane to join the family. Here is a photo of Sean Hanrahan's niece. Her name is Keely and she was 8lbs 10oz and 21 inches when born and perfectly healthy! The Hanrahan's are big Canes fans living in Cedar Rapids, IA.