Day 2 of Hurricanes preseason football camp finished at Greentree Field on Sunday morning. Coach Al Golden makes players available before practice begins. Then we watch 15 minutes of practice and leave.
It becomes increasingly apparent that almost everyone on this team is bigger and stronger. Defensive ends Olivier Vernon and Adewale Ojomo appear very intimidating (especially if you're a quarterback). They combined for 18 tackles for losses and 11 sacks for a loss of 85 yards last season. Expect more in 2011, as UM led the nation in tackles for loss in 2010 and finished ninth nationally in sacks.
"It is important [to be a leader in sacks and tackles for loss],'' Golden said, "but what we’re focusing on is eliminating the explosive plays. We gave up too many long runs and we can’t give up the big-chunk passes. We like to maintain the pressure on the football and pressure on the quarterback, but also couple that with eliminating some of the explosive plays that really hurt us last year.''
Ojomo told me he worked during the summer with Denver Broncos defensive end Elvis Dumervil, who grew up in Miami. "He was teaching me a lot of things. Coach Swasey, he turned up the notch, a lot of extra running, a lot of extra lifting, so I think it's going to go well. I'm seeing changes in my body type and everything. My speed in the 40 (4.8), I'm hitting 225 (bench press) 25 times (in a row). I'm getting strong. Last year [my 40 time] was bad.''
Here's Ojomo's description of fellow end Olivier Vernon: "He's an animal. He's a beast. If you've ever seen this guy take off his shirt... He's about 270 pounds. He's running like a 4.6 , he's doing like 395 pounds on the bench press. He has great fundamentals, great work ethic. He's going to have an amazing season."
For the record, Ojomo (pronounced oh-JO-mo), a 6-4, 265-pound fifth-year senior out of Hialeah High, had 38 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss and five sacks last season. He's the one who is very fiery and emotional on the field. He is the son of a former Nigerian professional soccer player and a Homestead-born certified public accountant. His cousin is former Dolphins linebacker Akin Ayodele, who was with the Buffalo Bills last season.
As for Vernon, he's the quiet giant slayer. "I really don't like talking too much,'' Vernon said Sunday, laughing a bit while being interviewed. "I just like doing what I do and showing by my actions.''
Vernon said the biggest difference from this last year's team to this year's early in camp was "the discipline and want-to. More of us want to get it done in practice. We know what we're doing now. We're in our playbooks every day, every night right before we go to sleep. The coaches influence us to study. They want us to succeed. When we get on the practice field it's like a game. We're ready.''
Vernon's stats in 2010: 10.5 tackles for loss, six sacks and four quarterback hurries.
Vernon's dad is a Miami Beach police officer.
Micanor Regis, whom you might recall got an interception and turned it into an entertaining TD at Duke last season, also looks like a rock. Regis said he's down to 300 from 310 and down from "20 or 22 percent'' body fat to 18 percent now. "I gained a lot of muscle,'' Regis said. "I got thinner, man. Clothes are a little loose.''
Regis also spoke about junior-college transfer Darius Smith, the defensive tackle who transferred from Lackawanna [Junior] College in Scranton, Pa. Smith is listed on the new roster as 6-2 and 360 pounds. He is from New Britain, Conn.
"He brings depth,'' Regis said of Smith. "The defensive tackles, we get banged up, we get hurt, and you need a guy like that who will push you, make us not take days off. who's going to work,too, who's going to challenge you for your spot.''
The UM linemen are calling Smith "The plug, because he plugs up the middle,'' Ojomo said. "Nothing can get through there. Is Smith the biggest guy you've seen out here? Ojomo was asked.
"Yeah, I think so (laughing).''
Can he move? "He can move pretty well. He's like a Vince Wilfork type of guy." (If only he plays like Wilfork, we'll all be calling Golden a genius)
*Speaking of DTs, Golden said Marcus Forston, who is being integrated slowly into preseason camp, did much more on the first day than the coach expected.
*"Forston was a pleasure yesterday to see because he’s ahead of schedule,'' Golden said. "He did just about everything yesterday so that was great. At some point we’ll sit him down and hold him out maybe on a double [session] or hold him out on some periods with contact. But clearly when he’s right he has a chance to be really good and a special one in this league.
''They all love (including the coaches) newcomer Anthony Chickillo, a defensive end who by all accounts is so beyond his years that he should get on the field this season. "Oh! He looks great for a freshman,'' Ojomo said. "When I came in I was 227. He's at 250. He's what he needs to be at this point.''
A Golden quote from today, regarding which jobs are open on the team.
* "I would say 90-percent of the jobs on the team are open,'' he began.
So, whose job is not for sale?
"There are just a couple of guys who are exemplary in their preparation,'' Golden said. "Sean Spence is a guy who comes to mind who is just an incredible competitor. He doesn’t get enough credit for how smart a football player he is. And he’s in great condition. Clearly, he would have to screw that up to not retain his job.''
* Olivier Vernon said Marcus Robinson, a former DE, is now playing linebacker. Robinson could play outside LB in a 3-4 scheme, and DE in the usual 4-3 scheme.
*Offensive tackle Seantrel Henderson was back again on the practice field with his offensive line group Sunday, getting right in there as they were receiving instruction. He stood next to them, a little bit to the side, but listened to everything OL coach Art Kehoe was shouting (Art doesn't talk) and mimicking their actions. However, he did not practice, and is reportedly set to undergo back surgery tomorrow (Monday).
This is what Golden had to say about Henderson, who lost at least 40 pounds in the offseason:
"Seantrel has placed himself in position where if everything goes well with the surgery he’s not going to have to sit there and lose 40 pounds. He’s ready to go, and that’s a credit to him. I didn’t even recognize him the other day in the team meeting to be honest with you."
Is the surgery tomorrow, Coach? "I’m not going to report on when a young man is having surgery but I’ll let you know post and what the prognosis is.
--SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN