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Figueroa leads at left tackle; Futch backing up Spence; more news & notes from UM media day

CORAL GABLES -- University of Miami coach Al Golden said Friday that the team's depth chart would probably be released to the media next Tuesday -- after the Hurricanes exchange it with Maryland.

But based on some conversations with players and coaches at UM's media day Saturday here are a few tidbits of news in the fight for position battles that we learned:

Joel Figueroa > Sixth-year senior Joel Figueroa (6-6, 315) appears to have either won or be in the lead for for the starting left tackle job. Freshman Malcolm Bunche (6-7, 328) was expected to win the job coming into camp with sophomore All-American Seantrel Henderson out with a back injury.

But Figueroa, who has 15 starts in his career (13 at guard), has apparently been very impressive according to teammates. Junior Brandon Washington, who was moved to right tackle after Henderson's injury, said he's seen a different level of play from Figueroa, who has lost nearly 15 pounds since having surgery.

"I see this guy down the field full speed every play," Washington said. "Then he comes back to the huddle every play 'Oh man, oh man.' I'm like 'Fig, calm down. You got a missing disc in your lower back bro. You made your block, fine, but don't sprint down the field.' I told him, 'Dog you got other reps to do.' 
"The way he's competing for the starting job, I've never seen him perform like that the whole time I've been here."

Figueroa started two games last season -- Ohio State and Pittsburgh -- at right tackle and clearly looked overmatched and slow. But not now according to teammates.

"The coaches believe in him," Washington said. "Last season early in the season he didn't have too many good games at right tackle. I know they saw that film. For them to come back and say you're going to be our blind side tackle, that's a lot of expectations. But he's showing fight every practice."

The other starting jobs on UM's offensive line that appear to have be won

- At left guard senior Harland Gunn (6-2, 310) is ahead of redshirt sophomore Jared Wheeler (6-5, 315)
- At center senior Tyler Horn (6-4, 305) is ahead of redshirt freshman Shane McDermott (6-4, 290)
- At right guard Brandon Linder (6-6, 310) is ahead of redshirt freshman Jonathan Feliciano
- Redshirt sophomore Jermaine Johnson is running behind Washington at right tackle. Junior Ben Jones (6-5, 310) is rotating at both tackle spots as a reserve.

Jordan Futch > With defensive captain and leader Sean Spence's future in question (he needs to be reinstated by the NCAA), we learned Saturday senior Jordan Futch will be the man who first steps in and tries to fill his shoes.

Futch, beaten out by sophomore Jimmy Gaines in the middle linebacker competition, has been moved to the weakside spot behind Spence. Futch (6-3, 235) said he and Gaines (6-3, 220) would call the plays at linebacker if Spence is out.

"He's doing a great job," Spence said of Futch. "He's already been physical, but he's picking up the mental part of the game. He's doing a better job being vocal, making a lot of plays out there."

Gaines is currently being backed up by true freshman Gionni Paul (6-0, 230) and Kelvin Cain (6-3, 230) at middle linebacker. Senior Ramon Buchanan (6-1, 222) will be the starter on the strong side. His backups are junior C.J. Holton (6-1, 230) and true freshman Eddie Johnson (6-1, 230). Freshman Denzel Perryman (6-0, 217) was wearing a protective boot on his right foot this week in practice. He's currently behind Futch at weakside linebacker.


> Spence on his mental approach on the season with the NCAA investigation that is ongoing at UM: "Same way that I've been preparing. Nothing has changed. I'm still going out and practicing hard, helping guys out, giving it all I got.

"When I'm on the football field I'm at peace. That's where I find my peace of mind."

> Washington on what it's been like facing true freshman defensive end Anthony Chickillo (6-4, 248) in camp: "When he first got in, I was kind of like 'Why did you put a true freshman up against me? I'm a junior. I thought that was a slap in the face. But after the first two practices, that kid brung it. 

"He's physical. He knew what he was doing. He knew the playbook like the back of his hand. He ain't no freshman."

Washington said he tries to make Chickillo believe that he isn't a freshman. 

"He's my locker mate -- I'm number 72 and he's 71. So he asks me questions all the time and I say 'Chick, stop being a freshman,'" Washington said. "I told him that because of his play on the field. He ain't no freshman. I remember they told me the same when I was a freshman. I didn't even get to do some of the things that freshmen did. He shouldn't either."

> Washington on the chemistry he's built with Brandon Linder on the right side of UM's offensive line: "No doubt in my mind I can trust him. I know I can go into that fourth quarter dead tired, unfocused and I can ask him what the call was and he'll tell me. Because he's done it in practice."

> Sophomore quarterback Stephen Morris on what he likes about new offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch's offense: "[The] ability to do whatever you want. Coaches give you a play and you have to maximize that play. You have to know the offense inside and out and just make sure you understand all the checks and reads."

> Defensive tackle Marcus Forston made a funny Saturday when he saw a reporter trip and stumble over some stairs (the reporter was OK). "First tackle by the turf monster," Forston shouted.

As one of the 12 players cited in the Yahoo! article for receiving impermissible gifts from former booster Nevin Shapiro, one might imagine it would be easy for Forston to get down. But he said that hasn't happened yet.

"When you have teammates like we have, 105 players with 105 different personalities there's never a down day in the locker room. It's always fun," Forston said. "Guys telling jokes, guys with great spirits, positive spirits. That's all you can have if you want to have a great team. That's what you need in a locker room.

"We had a good practice today man. Coach Golden said that was one of the best practices we've had since he's been here. I feel like me as a leader, I have to bring energy every day. I got guys looking at me, [can't have them saying] 'Marcus is having a down day.' There's a lot of young guys on that defensive line. Even if I'm having a bad day, I can't show it."