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What a difference! (with Lamar, Travis, Blake, Vaughn and Brandon M.)

It is becoming more evident every day that either the Hurricanes didn't work exceptionally hard last season, weren't exceptionally organized or efficient and weren't intricately taught --at least in the structured fashion they are being taught during practice now.

     I am very impressed with the meticulousness and organization of the Golden staff and how they are obviously translating that to actual teaching during these early spring practices.

     Sophomore running back Lamar Miller said UM's first practice was three hours long. "We're not used to that,'' he said. "Usually practices are like an hour and 30 [minutes]. But it's a lot of teaching periods so you get to rest during the teaching period.''

   What else is different between the last coaching staff's practices and the new one's? "The tempo,'' he said. "It's a lot faster.''

   More from Miller on the new staff: "I see a difference. Everybody sees a difference. They're changing the attitudes around here and that should help us out a lot.''

   When the depth chart came out, how 'pissed off' were some guys? Miller was asked.

    "Well, some guys were really pissed,'' Miller said. "But it depends on how you worked in the offseason. Now guys get the idea of what they've got to do in the summer.''

    Miller, who is listed third on the depth chart behind Mike James and Storm Johnson, said he wasn't upset at his placement. The reason: He had been working out with the track team when the new conditioning program was implemented.

     "I was expecting that because I was really doing track and them guys have been out here working hard, so now in the spring and summer I have to come out and work harder than everybody else and make my teammates better.''

    Miller said it was "very tough" balancing football and track, but that "it helps keep you in shape and helps with your turnover while you're running.''


> Senior wide receiver Travis Benjamin has either shrunk (we think not) or been measured correctly for this season. The new depth chart/roster has him listed as 5-10, as opposed to last season's 5-11 in the media guIde. Benjamin, who said he has gained six pounds since last year, was asked how coaches told him he would be used this season.

    "They haven't really gotten into details just yet,'' he said. "But I know that I'm going to develop in any kind of way -- even at slot receiver, outside receiver, lined up close to the line, anything.''

    How does he feel about being listed as the No. 1 guy on punt- and kickoff returns? "I like to do anything to put us in the best field position and score points. Special teams is like a free play you get to score touchdowns.''


   > Talked with new tight end Blake Ayles -- a national phenom coming out of Orange Lutheran High in 2008 -- for the first time, and he seems pretty personable and frank. He said he didn't get along that well with USC coach Lane Kiffin, and Miami had always been his second choice. He said he really likes this coaching staff and his teammates. Now, all he has to do is catch some passes and do some heavy-duty blocking. At 6-5 and 265 pounds, he is a definite physical force. His three seasons at USC were not impressive, but he spent a lot of time injured. Last year he had one catch.

       New UM tight ends coach Brennan Carroll, who coached Ayles at USC, said Ayles originally contacted him by Facebook and wished his son Dillon (he's 2) happy birthday and congratulated him on the soon-to-be birth of his first daughter (she's due on St. Patrick's Day). Then Ayles contacted Carroll about transferring.   


> Safety Vaughn Telemaque, the hip Southern Californian who uses his skateboard for transportation, had no turnovers in 2008 and 2009, but ended up with a team-leading three interceptions (tied with Ray-Ray Armstrong and Ryan Hill), three fumble recoveries, one forced fumble and four pass breakups to go along with his 58 tackles.

   Telemaque is elated to be wearing the black jersey that coach Al Golden has awarded to first-team defenders. "You can take pride in wearing these black jerseys,'' he told me. "You want to keep it going and show all your teammates around you that you're working hard and you're getting rewarded for working hard and doing the right things.

    "The coaching staff is great, man. They have their philosophy and that's what they feed to us and we just have to eat it up and take it in stride, man. You really buy into this group of people they have around us.''

    Telemaque called the UTough conditioning program "fun'' and challenging. "You definitely had to answer the call,'' he said.

    Telemaque believes converted safety-to-cornerback JoJo Nicolas will be a success story and brings "a more physical presence,'especially at the spot he's playing in the boundary. A boundary corner technically helps with run support a lot,'' and Nicolas' experience at safety should only help in that area.'' 


> Junior cornerback Brandon McGee is on the track team along with Benjamin and Lamar Miller. He is listed second on the depth chart behind freshman Thomas Finnie.

   Here's McGee's take on the UTough program: "It works. It does what it's supposed to do. It makes a man out of you and brings the best out of you. When Coach Golden first introduced it we were at track and so I didn't know anything about it. Then all the guy were like, 'Yeah, when you all come back you all gotta see what it's like.' We came back ready to work and we were excited.''


P.S. Next practice is Thursday afternoon. UM Pro Timing Day is Thursday at 11:30 a.m.