Saturday, while I was up in Jupiter covering the Marlins, our Barry Jackson was in Coral Gables to cover UM's first scrimmage of the spring. Here is his report...
University of Miami coach Randy Shannon was pleased with the running game but unhappy with receivers' drops and missed tackles during Saturday's scrimmage, the first of three that UM will hold during spring practice.
"The guys we're depending on at receiver had too many drops and the tight end position had too many drops," Shannon said. "As a total offense, we had too many dropped passes. The best thing was the running backs really performed well. Damian Berry performed unbelievable. Lamar Miller did some great things. Storm Johnson did some great things, and Mike James."
Berry finished with 48 yards on eight carries, and James had 46 yards on six carries. Johnson, a freshman, ran for 34 yards on six attempts. Miller had 32 yards on nine carries and scored the only rushing touchdowns - one for nine yards and one for three.
The scrimmage was not open to reporters, but UM's sports information office reported that Miller bulldozed through the middle, carrying defenders with him, on the nine-yard score. But Miller said, "I have a lot of improvement to make on blocking schemes."
Other notes from the scrimmage:
> With Jacory Harris out while recovering from thumb surgery, A.J. Highsmith completed 9 of 18 passes for 95 yards and three touchdowns and no interceptions. The touchdown passes covered five yards to Leonard Hankerson, 17 yards to LaRon Byrd and 14 yards to Thearon Collier on a goal-line drill.
When Highsmith arrived at UM last year, "he scrambled more," Hankerson said. Now, "he's staying back" more and reading the defense.
> Spencer Whipple threw the only other touchdown pass, a 15-yarder to Travis Benjamin on a goal-line drill. Whipple also connected with Hankerson for the day's longest play (45 yards). But Whipple finished 2-for-10 for 60 yards and had one pass picked off by Ray Ray Armstrong, who had three tackles and the day's only interception.
> Freshman Stephen Morris, battling with Highsmith for the backup job, completed 6 of 11 passes for 63 yards. "Morris looks real good and stays calm in the pocket looking for guys downfield," said defensive end Steven Wesley, who had the only two sacks of the scrimmage.
Shannon liked how all three quarterbacks showed poise and "they didn't get down when a receiver dropped a pass."
UM didn't identify who dropped passes but said Benjamin led receivers in catches with four for 49 yards. Kendall Thompkins, trying to make a case for more playing time, had two catches for 32 yards.
> Defensively "we had too many missed tackles," Shannon said. "We got running backs that make people miss. But you know what? We've got defensive players that should make those tackles. I'm very disappointed the way we tackled. [But] we chased the football hard on defense." The defense held the offense to two first downs in the first six possessions before the offensive started playing much better.
> Linebacker Colin McCarthy had five tackles and a fumble recovery. Cornerback DeMarcus Van Dyke had three tackles and four pass breakups. Shannon said senior middle linebacker Kylan Robinson "is playing a lot better. Maybe the light came on."
> Kicker Jake Wieclaw, filling in for injured Matt Bosher, converted all three of his field goal attempts - from 32, 25 and 22 yards.
> Safety Jared Campbell (knee) and left tackle Orlando Franklin (back spasms) were among those who sat out the scrimmage with injuries. Franklin is unsure if he will return this spring... Former Canes Ken Dorsey, Jon Beason, Ed Reed and Antonio Dixon attended the scrimmage.
> UM will hold another scrimmage at 7 p.m. Thursday at Lockhart Stadium. The spring game is at 4:30 p.m. March 27 at Traz Powell Stadium. Both are free and open to the public.