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Spring Game Observations

After getting to spend a few wonderful weeks at home with my wife and our first child, I got the chance to escape the house -- and diaper duty -- for a few hours Saturday to catch the Canes Spring Game at Lockhart Stadium in Fort Lauderdale.

Here are a few thoughts and observations (FYI, Saturday's game will be broadcast on CSS at 5 p.m. Sunday in case you weren't there):

Jacory Harris and Stephen Morris > No Canes assistant has a tougher job ahead of them this summer than offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch. I hate to start with the stinky stuff, but it was painfully obvious Saturday that Jacory Harris and Stephen Morris still have a long way to go. Now it's true that the Canes were short on receivers (LaRon Byrd, Aldarius Johnson, Asante Cleveland, Travis Benjamin weren't out there). But with a vanilla offense (Al Golden said there were just seven pass plays used) and an inexperienced secondary, Harris and Morris shouldn't have looked that bad. Both threw two interceptions each (Morris' pick to Sean Spence, which was returned for a TD, was horrendous). But I was more troubled by the poor choices they made with the football, holding onto it for too long at times and just not finding open receivers. Fisch not only has to find a way to get Morris and Harris to protect the football better, but also see the entire field and check down to their running backs and tight ends more often (he kept screaming for that throughout the game). Unless Harris and Morris get it right, 2011 could still end up looking and feeling a lot like last year -- regardless of how much UM improves in other spots.

> Lamar Miller appears ready to hit another gear. Remember when the Canes had Clinton Portis, Willis McGahee and Frank Gore? Lamar Miller, Mike James and Storm Johnson could end up being just as potent a trifecta. All three continued to impress Saturday even though it was Miller who was Saturday's star with three touchdowns and 166 yards on just 10 carries. The question moving forward becomes how Fisch utilizes all three and splits carries and touches. Last season, Miller carried the ball more than 11 times only twice (he had 22 carries for 125 yards and a touchdown versus Maryland and 15 carries for 163 yards and one touchdown versus Virginia Tech). James hit double digits in carries three times (no more than 11). And Storm carried it only nine times all season (for 119 yards, most on a 71-yard TD run versus USF). Personally, I'd make Storm and Miller the primary ball carriers (both are more explosive than James) and use James (13 catches in '10) as the primary pass catcher out of the backfield and the specialist in short yardage situations. And, I would make sure to get the ball into the trios hands one way or the other 75 to 80 percent of the time on offense.

Jojo Nicolas > Moving JoJo Nicolas to cornerback was smart. At first I kind of balked at the idea of seeing Nicolas, a rather average safety, move to cornerback. But Al Golden and his staff obviously saw something most of us hadn't yet in the 6-1, 200-pound senior from Homestead. Nicolas made a couple nice plays in coverage Saturday including batting away a perfectly thrown pass by Harris to Tommy Streeter. Now, I'm not saying Nicolas is going to be able to come in and provide what Brandon Harris did last season. But he could prove to be just as effective as say Ryan Hill was. And that's something this young, inexperienced secondary could use. Brandon McGee, Thomas Finnie and walk-on Andrew Swasey (who appears headed for big things with this team one way or the other) all had picks Saturday. The talent is there, but it feels like the secondary still has a long way to go in terms of development.

> It's time for Tommy Streeter and Kendal Thompkins to really contribute. We heard all about the talents of the former Miami Northwestern receivers before they got to UM. Then, we heard about how great they looked in practice. We've seen glimpses here and there in a handful of games. But after three years, isn't time we stopped hearing and started seeing real results from these guys? Despite reportedly making strides all spring, Streeter had a rough afternoon Saturday. He didn't show enough of a fight for the football on a couple balls he could have had including one in the end zone Swasey (who is seven inches shorter than him) took away from him. Thompkins had a team-high seven catches for 81 yards and made a nice grab near the sideline on a 23-yard touchdown pass from Morris. But we've seen Thompkins do this before in games that don't count. It's time he does it when it matters, especially in the slot where the Canes need help.

> Clive Walford looks like he will be able to help out at tight end. UM's best tight end, Asante Cleveland, missed this spring due to injury. But that gave others a chance to shine. Sounds and feels like Walford was the only one who really took advantage. He had four catches for 48 yards Saturday and looked comfortable blocking. USC transfer Blake Ayles and senior Chase Ford were invisible. Walford said afterward he's got about 90 percent of the playbook down and definitely feels like he will contribute this coming season because "I feel comfortable with blocking." That's great news for the Canes who could use two solid options at tight end.

A FEW MORE QUICK HITS...

> Loved the big hits delivered by safety Ray Ray Armstrong Saturday including one in which he knocked the helmet clean off running back Darion Hall. Armstrong appears as though he's ready to turn the corner.

> I'm not as worried about the middle linebacker spot as I thought I was going to be with Colin McCarthy moving on. Kelvin Cain, Jordan Futch and Jimmy Gaines all appear as though they are headed in the right direction. My guess is Futch will probably earn the starting job in the fall with Cain pushing him hard for playing time. 

> Just wanted to give some kudos to Susan Miller Degnan for doing a great job with the blog while I was out. SMD is old school, but she's coming around to enjoying this blogging deal. I think we make a great team. By the way, she needs more Twitter followers. Jump on board @smillerdegnan

-- MANNY

Comments

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Glad to see you back big homie! Hope all is well with the wifey and the little one at home!

Thanks BG. Loving fatherhood. Less sleep? Not so much.

Manny.. great to have you back and Congrads on the litte one!

Great to have you back Manny and Susan did an excellent job. Enjoy your little one. They are truly blessing of course unless they are crying at 4 in the morning. Your life is changed forever.

I totally agree with you manny. 100%.

I posted on your prior blog regarding the pathetic play of the 2 QBs. Embarassing. I will repeat some of the same things for emphasis. That is how p--off and concerned I am.

Golden and Fisch both underplayed how bad JH and SM looked as QBs. It wasn't just the ints, but how the ints were thrown. I can see Morris doing it, as he is a true soph, who was thrown to the wolves last season with little ability to actually learn the offense by observation and reps. But Jacoory has absolutely no more excuses. he cannot read defenss. He does not or refuses to learn how to follow his progressions and dump passes to the rbs, and he cannot look off safeties. He continues for the life of me, to throw ints in the redzone, wasting beautiful drives, valuable clock time, and he has done it over and over for 3 yrs. He has no zip in his throws, but he thinks he does, and he refuses to take blame for what he does. He has more than one come up with stoopid excuses and once blamed "racist" e-mails for his poor performances. Or at least made some think he was under so much social pressure.

I say, if Golden knows what's good for him, he shluld keep the entire QB race open even through the maryland game. No starter can be named at this point. I thought Gray Crow was for 2011 I was wrong. So is Forcier. My bad. Or correct me someone please. The dummy from St Thomas who committed to Iowa (Jake Rudock) is just that a dummy because he could have walked into this team loaded with superstars who will only make him look good ( Tommy Streeter excepted). He could have walked in here and taken this QB job easily! Like Gino said- Dump the ball one yard and let the athletes make the play for 88 yards! Insated, Jacorry tries to zip balls into tight coverage (so does Morris), knowing full well he cannot make dthose throws!

Fisch and Golden both said that jacorry is doing very well in Spring. Really? Really? can you lal just stop bsing us? We know full well he sks and will always sk. And as long he is playing Um UM willsk if he is the QB.

Lamar and Storm should run the ball 40 times a game combined, and give Mike another 10-15 carries, and we will become a run run run first team and thatwill keep J12 from throwing anymore passes. In the reddzone especially, NEVER EVER pass the ball. Run the ball 3 or 4 times or take the fg.

i am so sick of this kid and of that whole Miami Northwestern, overrated classs of 2008 who only had 1 player who is worth anything #31.

Congrats Manny, Glad ur back any inside info?

The issues with the QB's will take a little time to figure out for those QB's, Jedd Fisch will have to de-program those two and build them up from nothing again. Bad choices on the field that were not cleaned up during the last regime will continue to be an issue apparently. My suggestion is the QB's get worked just as hard as the other players that make ME's and create turnovers, maybe that attention to detail effort will be enough to wake them up.

OH Manny, whats the word on the street about Michigan transfer? d-line? o-line any difference with Keyho back?

i was able to take in both practices and the spring game and as a 25 year season ticket holder and someone who has missed only a few games i am more worried now than ever.our qb play is average at best and spencer whipple has looked better than jh and sm multiple times, very scary.here are the facts, with this o line and these 3 backs we better move the ball on the ground.remember that whipple went to the ground the last 4 games and we led the nation at 218 per game.tight end play and the short game will be our savior especially if jedd can get the ball to espn 4th fastest guy in the country travis benjamin.streeter looked lathargic as smaller corners pushed him around all day.we have only 140 days to go and need everyone of them.

Andrew, you hit the nail on the head. I didn't think the WR'S were going to be a problem area, but after seeing the spring game, Coach Kehoe better have his boys ready. RUN,RUN RUN.

MN back so I is Gone

there is no excuse for the play of the QBs none what so ever. JH has been here 4 years and there has been no improvement. SM is a ? mark who has not taken the opportunity that is being offered him. you cannot play football on potential you have to produce on the field-this is what Golden said. If this is true then we should run the ball 45-55 times a game. wide receivers who will not fight for the ball and are only practice players should be just that practice players. Coach Golden needs to follow up on his talk-play the producers and not give us a bunch of bull. time to come to the game with their chin straps buckled before the snap of the ball.

Manny congrats on the youngin...I was at the game and because of the small crowd was able to experienced the black cloud of Uncle Luke. Obviously his bid for mayor of Miami Dade County has him cleaning up his act but if Shapiro's book ever comes out...what effect will Shapiro and his payouts have on the program?

Great Update, Thx Manny. Hope you and wife are enjoying parenthood, and you are right, you and Susan make an OUTSTANDING team!

None, Miramar Douche. As I recall, you were sure it was coming out in December. Here we are nearly may and, shocker, you are wrong again Curse Pig.

Can't wait till Fall when you predict a loss every week. It's new and original.

But I think you dress in women's clothes so now way anyone would have recognized you yesterday.

You are a fat joke, Pig.

Listen, just because I am a fat slob loser who is laughed at by women does not mean I can't rip the Canes whenever I want. Yeah, I am getting repetitive and boring but since I dint leave the house I don't get new material.

If you only knew what a loser I, the former Curse Pig, am, you wouldn't know whether to laugh or cry.

Now about the roach barbecue in Trailerville....

WR position is alarming. streeter MUST step up. he plays scared.

Well......This is the team they have this season, either get behind them and show support, or don't.

Oye...look at my twins....where were you at the spring game you Hialeah homers. Unlike you, I actually attend The U.....you Jethros defend UM blindly and are a joke....there are like 4 Miramar Canes here at Eaton and you amuse us. THANKS!

This team is gonna suck again. Can't wait until we get a real QB in 2012. It's been 10 years and counting since Dorsey. I just can't understand WHY we can't get a decent signal caller anymore.

In my opinion, Stephan Morris should start. He's a true soph with good upside & I believe he'll get a lot better. Jacory on the other hand, in my opinion, is a lost cause. As a human being ur gonna make mistakes but when u make the same mistake over & over & over & over again that's a sign of the person not getting it. JH is a lost cause, I say prepare for the future now, START STEPHAN MORRIS

Congrats Manny with the baby

Tommy Streeter has to start helping our QBs out. Job one is to work on his ball-skill aggressiveness and his confidence. This is something that Coach McDonald has to hammer home to TS, but the coaches can't do much coaching now that spring's over. It's up to our players.

This is where the leadership skills of our three QBs come into play. They need to get all those receivers together and start chewing some ass today (because the WR corp's not doing them any favors). The QBs need to organize off-line practices and get their timing down to a science by practicing on their own with the WRs. Pass, pass, and more passing....especially to Streeter, until the WR corps can catch those passes blindfolded. As for Tommy, we need this young man to step up his game. He can dominate in college football much like Alabama's Julio Jones did, but if he's gonna let DBs dictate the outcome of those passes that come his way, then he might as well just sit it out, grab a cold one, continue on with his studies, and let one of the other kids take his place.

Coach Golden and Jedd Fisch have practically handed Tommy a key role in this offense, but to continue in a role as our dominant WR that we can count on game in and game out for the big play, Tommy's gotta start proving that he's deserving and start playing aggressively, with dominance and some confidence in his own ability, and finally with some consistency. I'm sure he can do this, but for some reason his mental toughness is failing him right now. Cure that and we'll have an All-American WR in camp. We can rely on those stud RBs all we want, but they can only take us so far. To win a championship the WRs have to start pulling their share of the load too; otherwise, teams are just gonna stack the box in disrespect and disregard of our pass attack.

Congrats Manny, thanks Susan, and Go Canes!

At quarterback **sigh**, it looks like a wait till next year proposition. I hear good things aout Gray Crow... All Streeter wants to do is run streaks and posts it seems. He needs to become a complete receiver. And really take advantage of his size and sped in multiple ways.

Four douchebags? Can it be? Of the four, guess the biggest loser. Hint: Curse Pig.

Yeah, let me NOT forget, Susan did an EXCELLENT job in your stead. Great work SMD!

Why are we complaining about the quarterbacks and wide receivers because of the spring game? I thought it didnt matter? Wasnt that just fun for the fans?

I was at the game and the picks from Morris were worst than the ones from Jacory. Morris throw the ball right to Spence there wasn't a receiver in the area at all. Streeter cuase the pick for Jacory because he let a walk on corner (swassey) take the ball out of his hands. That unacceptable you 6'5 go get the ball. Same thing happen when Jacory throw him the ball if he high points the bs jojo Nicholas has no chance of knocking it out of his hands. The first pick Jacory throw the yellow jersey WR clearly ran the wrong route. Both of the QBs held on to the ball too long and need to find the tight ends and the runningbacks n the flats. I'll take our backs against linebackers in the flats all day, we have too Mich speed. Our wide outs need to step their game up as well as the d line our d tackles are soft and were getting abused by the o line. We have a lot of work to do.

of course the coaches saw more in jojo than you did. that's what they do. and about thomkins and streeter, they have to play in games before you talk badly about them. whether that was randy's fault or whatever, you have to give them a chance

Harris and Morris have only had 3 months in this offense. I'm not surprised they didn't do very well.

We're a running team, so get over it. Are OL and RB's do their thing and we'll have open receivers.

Good description robert c. Appreciate it.

Look guys, all said and done it is nuts to keep Jacory in a 'competition" for starter. Just use every waking moment until the fall to get Steven Morris in sync with the receivers...that comment on Jacory is the most telling, as he is just not a fiery leader, a clown personality, and does not have it...his success first year was because the opposition didn't prepare for him, and ever since then all it takes is watching film on him to see his tendencies and set up defenses to take advantage of his weaknesses..the ACC is not the SCC, but there sure as hell are first line coaching staffs at VT, GT, FSU and Virginia. Real world, this year is NOT going to be any championship year and if we want any future for this program we need to grow a year with Morris, and permanently put Harris out to pasture. IMHO, we will be really hurt up the middle by any running team due to undersized DTs...so why isn't anyone asking why are we twelve deep with OL all 6'6" and 330 plus? Every single one of them played defense in HS so take one or two who will never see the start on the OLine and make them into Tony Siragusa type widebody DTS that have nothing else to do but tie up two OLs and stop the run and let the LBs fly all over the field? The Ray Lewis model anyone? We seem to have no problem converting RBS and WRs to the DB side, so why not take two of the behemoths that will likely never see playing time and give them a chance to play immediate in the DL rotation?

Personally, I LOVE a running team. The defense seems to get energy out of an aggressive, smash-mouth offense. (with the speed to go the distance on every run).

Against teams like FSU, VA Tech, Clemson, North Carolina, etc controlling the clock will be a great advantage. However, we'd batter have a way to pass against teams like OSU, who will outweigh/out-muscle) even our huge O-Line.

A shame we don't have a walk-on QB. We got beat by one last year (the guy from USF.)

definitely need to run the ball a lot and try to rely on defense. still playing to win, but it aint trickin if you got it they say. we should basically just use the gameplan we used against gt last year

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