CORAL GABLES -- Tommy Streeter was asked Wednesday about what might have hampered his ability to be more involved in the Hurricanes passing game in each of his first three seasons.
Streeter paused and then smiled almost as if he was weighing whether or not to answer the question honestly. Finally, he came out with it. "I'd say, not taking anything away from the old staff, but I felt those guys had their guys that they felt confident in," Streeter said.
Well, it's safe to say Al Golden, offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch and receivers coach George McDonald aren't lacking much confidence in Streeter. The former Miami Northwestern standout, who caught 16 passes for 286 yards and TDs combined in his first three years at UM, has seen his role shift dramatically this season.
He's grown from afterthought into one of UM's most reliable targets. The 6-5, 215-pound Streeter is second on the team behind Allen Hurns with 10 catches for 130 yards and a touchdown. Hurns has caught 12 passes for 159 yards and two TDs. But he hasn't been UM's most targeted receiver. Streeter owns that distinction having been thrown to a team-leading 19 times.
"It feels good," Streeter said of being in the mix at receiver. "Since I've been at UM my main objective was to help this team in anyway possible."
The Hurricanes aren't exactly lighting teams up in the passing game. With tailback Lamar Miller carrying most of the load on offense, UM ranks 87th in passing. But McDonald's receivers have done a pretty good shining brightly -- especially in light that the unit lost record-setting receiver Leonard Hankerson (Redskins) and hasn't gotten much out of senior LaRon Byrd or the team's tight ends.
McDonald said Wednesday his receivers have dropped just three passes in UM's first three games. Drops were clearly a much bigger problem a year ago under Aubrey Hill.
"They're doing pretty good," McDonald said Wednesday. "But we still have a lot of work to do.
"We've caught some tough balls, but I don't want to single anybody out. But we haven't caught every ball. We're catching a high clip. Jacory and Stephen have done a good job giving us catchable balls. We've done a good job coming down with them."
McDonald said he's a big stickler for what guys do in practice and believes it has a carryover to game days. That's why he and Golden love Hurns, who plays with as much enthusiasm and energy in practice according to teammates as he does on game day.
"He comes out here in practice, dives, blocks and does the same things on Saturdays," McDonald said. "It's been real good to show him as an example to the group -- especially the young guys -- if you do the right things everyday you can be successful too."
McDonald said freshman Phillip Dorsett "has really followed Allen's lead." Golden said Wednesday Dorsett is getting about 20 snaps per game.
"Same thing with Reshawn [Scott]," McDonald said. "He had a great week of practice, so we gave him a couple plays. Like coach Fisch talks about, we want everybody to have an opportunity to go out and make plays. But in order to do that you need to come to practice and earn it. That's why you're seeing some of these new, young guys on the field."
As for Byrd, who has four receptions for 41 yards (he had 12 for 118 after 3 games a year ago), McDonald said he's "in a little bit of a slump -- just like a home run hitter."
"We've tried to have him go back to the basics," McDonald said. "As a senior, you put a lot of pressure on yourself because it's your last go-around, your last games. We just want LaRon to back to having fun. We're going to need him. He's going to come up big. It might be this week. But he's going to be in our rotation. Right now he's just playing a little too tense."
Asked if Byrd was responsible for Jacory Harris' lone interception Saturday against Kansas State, McDonald said: "He needed to come back to the ball a little harder. He pulled up a little bit and the DB was able to undercut him. So, it's just the matter of him trusting his training and coming back to the ball a little bit harder."
McDonald said senior Travis Benjamin, suspended for the opener, "is buying into what we're doing." Benjamin is third on the team with nine catches for 104 yards and a touchdown. "We're excited to have him back," McDonald said.
McDonald cited Benjamin, Hurns, Streeter and Byrd as players who have taken over Hankerson's role as vocal leaders. "I think a lot of guys are taking ownership," McDonald said. " I think everybody feels like they have a voice. It's not just one dominant guy. Everybody has made plays and earned the right to speak up. That's what we want as a team."
Junior Kendall Thompkins, who has shined on special teams, has yet to catch a pass. "He's been on the field," McDonald said. "Sometimes the ball just doesn't go your way."
THIS AND THAT
> UM coach Al Golden thanked reporters Wednesday for continuing to bring up the lack of production from the team's tight ends.
Asked why Chase Ford, Clive Walford and Asante Cleveland have combined for just 6 catches for 48 yards, Golden said: "Some of it is just what [the defense] is giving us. Clive had a touchdown called back against Ohio State. We had a couple of other opportunities we had to give it to him and we didn't. It's as simple as that. It's a function of them running the right route, the right depth, Jacory [Harris] being precise, getting the protection on that specific play and then everybody executing."
> UM quarterback Jacory Harris said Tuesday he called for audibles "a couple times" in last Saturday's loss to Kansas State. One of them was on Lamar Miller's 59-yard touchdown run.
Asked why the passing offense was much more aggressive in the second half (Harris was 11 of 13 for 191 yards, 2 TDs) versus Kansas State, Harris said: "Coach called good plays."
> Palm Beach Post reporter Jorge Milian spotted Harris wearing a harness around his left shoulder Wednesday at practice. Harris was hit hard by a Kansas State defender on his fourth quarter touchdown pass to Travis Benjamin Saturday.
I spotted Lamar Miller no longer wearing a yellow non-contact jersey Wednesday. Golden reiterated banged up players like Miller would play Saturday. "I keep telling you guys they're playing, they're all playing," Golden said. "If the doctor tells me otherwise we'll report it. But they're all playing."