« Eddie Johnson, Malcolm Lewis among new starters on Canes depth chart | Main | Duke Johnson named ACC Rookie of the Week »

Size, speed, moment wasn't too big for UM freshmen

You've heard it so much now, it's become cliche. 

Freshmen all across the country are asked what the biggest difference is between high school and their first college game. The responses are usually something like: "The game is a lot faster," or, "The guys are bigger and more physical," or "I've never played in front of so many people before."

But none of those responses came from the four freshmen I spoke to on Monday: running back Duke Johnson, cornerback Tracy Howard, safety Deon Bush and receiver Malcolm Lewis. About the only thing that really bothered them was the noise.

"You can't really hear," said Lewis, who was elevated to a starting spot in the team's latest depth chart released Monday after hauling in all four passes thrown his way -- including an 18-yard touchdown catch and run on Saturday.

"So, you have to know your hands signals. That was kind of a big adjustment. But I pretty much knew them. Since you can't hear the quarterback, you have to watch the ball for the snap. Yeah, everything is faster. But I was pretty much the same to me. I was kind of used to it."

Howard, Lewis' best friend and former teammate at Miramar High, echoed those sentiments. "Some people told me like it's a different game 'Those boys are going to be big and strong, faster. I mean, not really," Howard said.

"Sticking those guys were just like sticking guys in high school -- especially in terms of the size. What got me was the crowd noise. It was hard to communicate sometimes. In high school, you could talk, 'Hey watch this, watch that. Watch the slant route.' It's kind of hard to do that in college. A guy could be like 10 yards away from you, but he can't hear you. You have to see those checks with signals. You can't see motion sometimes either. You just got to signal it because it's kind of hard to hear."

What blew Johnson away? Seeing his mom in the stands -- in Boston.

"It was something that said 'This is college,'" Johnson said. "It was faster than high school, but really nothing that would blow me away."

Miami will obviously play in louder stadiums (there were only 39,262 fans at Alumni Stadium last weekend), but at least it's encouraging to see the leaders of UM's 2012 recruiting class and backbone of the future pretty much felt comfortable in their first college game. The moment was overwhelming. But it didn't overwhelm them.


> So what did Duke Johnson think about LeBron James' tweeting about him on Saturday? "Surprised. Excited. Everybody kind of laughed," Johnson said. "We just appreciated he took the time out to watch us, tweet about me."

> Johnson touched the ball 13 times on Saturday between kickoff returns, receptions and carries. Asked if he likes how he is being utilized in Jedd Fisch's offense -- especially in the open field, Johnson smiled. "I enjoyed that very much," he said. "I just like that he's using me in all the ways he can, all the possible ways the offense can. That's good. I like it."

> While the rest of the world might be surprised at how Johnson exploded in his first game, his teammates aren't. "I was expecting it," Lewis said. "I just wasn't sure when it was going to happen. I didn't know if it would be the first game, but I knew it would be quick. He's too good."

Said Howard: "Everybody knew it from practice really, but of course people are going to be surprised because that's his first game as a true freshmen. I really wasn't surprised. I already told people he would score two or three times [versus BC]. I've known him since we were young and I know what type of person and player he is. When you are always that humble, you're always going to have success."

> Howard said he also isn't surprised 12 true freshmen played in the opener. "I knew the guys I was coming in with. I knew the talent we were coming in with. We came in with an urgency that we're not going to be denied, came in competing, ready to play," Howard said. "We talked about it amongst each other. I'm not really too surprised."

As for the problems in UM's secondary, Howard said: "It could be fixed. It's not really major. It's not like we got beat in man-to-man. It's not like they outplayed us. It was just guys in the wrong spots. That's all it really was. You can't really like get mad at that. It's just the little things we have to fix and the things we know. But the game is going so fast and you got young guys playing, so you expect those things to happen."

How much zone did UM play? "We ran zone a lot, but towards the end of the game in the fourth quarter we started running a lot man," Howard said.