Now that the Canes completed their warm-up for Ohio State with a 45-0 blowout Thursday, a few post-game observations:
Most important development...
> Quarterback Jacory Harris showed no ill effects from last year's thumb injury. Playing in a game for the first time since undergoing off-season surgery, Harris looked sharp. He connected on 12-of-15 passes for 210 yards and three touchdowns in one half of action. No, the Rattles defense will not come close to what he'll see next week in Columbus. But his rhythm and timing were on the money, especially with Leonard Hankerson and Aldarius Johnson. With his 3 TD passes, by the way, Harris moved into eighth place all-time on UM’s list for career TD passes (39) ahead of Kyle Wright. His next TD pass will tie Bernie Kosar.
What else to like...
> The pass rush. Olivier Vernon had a career-high 3.5 sacks and the team had eight total (the most since Sept. 29, 2007). Five different players got in on the pressure. Last year, the Canes had a combined nine sacks in their final six games. After the game I asked Vernon the reason for the improvements. His answer: "Coach Petri."
> Lamar Miller's debut. We heard plenty during camp about how good Miller looked. He showed the kind of burst and explosion in the open field this team hasn't had enough of in the backfield, rushing for a game-high 65 yards and a TD on 11 carries. On special teams, he had a nice 34 yard kickoff return to start the game and then exploded on a punt return (it was called back by penalty). After Damien Berry, he's the second best back on this team in my mind.
> Leonard Hankerson looks even better than last year... He finished with a game-high six catches for 115 yards and two TDs without even playing in the second half. His emergence as the true No. 1 target for Harris is important. I know coaches like to spread the ball around and all. But just like the quarterback and running back positions, I feel there has to be a primary receiver in every offense, somebody the defense has to track every week. Hankerson is clearly that guy again.
> Ray-Ray Armstrong’s 22-yard INT return for a TD... The kid was the top prospect in the 2009 signing class and to see him start and make a huge play on opening night is a very encouraging sign. Wish I could say the same for Vaughn Telemaque. The Canes need him to get going too.
What troubled me some...
> The missed tackles. Not going to harp on this too long, but if you were watching on ESPN3 or at the stadium you saw that FAMU's second drive exposed some bad tackling. UM rebounded later in the game and still put up its first shutout in a couple years. But if they had those ugly moments Thursday against Rattlers QB Martin Ukpai, imagine what Buckeyes QB Terrell Pryor could do. He has to be licking his chops some.
> The slow start at tight end. UM quarterbacks completed 19 passes, but not one went to a tight end. Chase Ford had a chance at a big play inside the FAMU 10-yard line in the first quarter, but dropped the ball. I never saw Richard Gordon do anything more than block (not surprising). I also hoped to freshman Asante Cleveland. The Canes didn't really need a tight end Thursday. But they will down the road.
> Right tackle remains a question mark. OK, it was only the first game and a lot can change in a week, but I'm still kind of worried about the right tackle position. Sophomore Ben Jones got the start ahead of senior Joel Figueroa. Jermaine Johnson didn't even dress. It would have been great to see Johnson, who needs to play, work out his kinks this week before going to Ohio State. And I'm not convinced Figueroa is fully healthy. If he was, he would have started.
Remember that it happened...
> The big guy saw his first action. Seantrel Henderson got in during the third quarter for a total 14 plays according to Randy Shannon. In all, UM said 16 players made their debuts: TE Chase Ford, S Kacy Rodgers, LB James Gaines, QB Spencer Whipple, RB Eduardo Clements, FB Maurice Hagens, WR Allen Hurns, TE Asante Cleveland, DL Luther Robinson, LB Kelvin Cain, TE Billy Sanders, DL Dyron Dye, LB Shayon Greene and OL Jared Wheeler. I could have sworn OL Brandon Linder did too.
> Not all the newcomers played. RB Storm Johnson, QB Stephen Morris, DE David Perry and DB Latwan Anderson didn’t dress. Johnson was the only real surprise. We'll never get a straight answer as to why some guys dressed and others didn't. Johnson had a great camp. But he could be on his way towards a redshirt like the majority of the new guys. If there was a surprise for me it was how much Clements played. Because of his play on special teams, he might actually now be ahead of Johnson on the running back depth chart.
> First starts. Cornerback Brandon McGee, right tackle Ben Jones and center Tyler Horn all made their first career starts. The ‘Canes started out in the nickel package on defense, thus the reason McGee was starting. Jones, though, was the surprise ahead of senior Figueroa.