Here's a quick preview of what could be in store next Wednesday, National Signing Day.
> NOTE: I wore the old Cubs jersey in honor of the late great Ernie Banks.
Here are some news and notes from Monday. The Hurricanes (5-4, 4-2) returned to practice after getting a couple days off following their win over Virginia Tech last Thursday night and are preparing for Virginia.
> Freshman linebacker Gabe Terry and running back Duke Johnson were named the ACC's Special Teams Player and Rookie of the Week, respectively, on Monday.
UM coach Al Golden said Terry, who blocked a punt in the win over Virginia Tech, learned from his roughing the punter penalty against Notre Dame.
"He went down low for the ball, elongated - he didn't put his hand up high like he did at Notre Dame, learned from that," Golden said. "That was a tough lesson for all of us at Notre Dame, but obviously he learned from it."
Johnson, who produced his fourth 200-yard all-purpose game of the season, was honored by the ACC for the third time this season. Johnson ranks 21st nationally in all-purpose yards.
> Defensive end Kelvin Cain has been reinstated and practiced with the scout team Monday. The 6-3, 245-pound junior had his name removed from the roster two weeks ago after missing the Florida State game for what Golden deemed "personal reasons."
Asked about Cain's return to the team after he was removed from the roster, Golden said, "It's personal, but he's been reinstated. He sorted some things out, so I'm happy for the young man. It's good to see him back out here today."
Defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio said he didn't see Cain practicing Monday because he "was watching our side of the ball [the first and second team defense.]"
"Hopefully he's got his mind right and is back and ready to do what we need him to do," D'Onofrio said.> Golden said there's no injury update on safety Deon Bush (stinger) or linebacker Denzel Perryman (ankle), but both were expected to see doctors Monday.
"Denzel we're protecting; he'll see the doctor again today," Golden said. "And Deon is seeing the doctor this afternoon."
Golden reiterated he doesn't think Perryman's health went backward during the Virginia Tech game and remains hopeful he's on track to play Saturday at Virginia.
Someone close to Bush told The Herald Monday night Bush's injury doesn't appear to be serious and he expects to play at Virginia.
> Golden said defensive tackle Curtis Porter, who got his first action of the season on Thursday night coming off an appendectomy, has to continue to improve with his conditioning.
Golden said the team was looking to get Porter "around 25 to 30" snaps against Virginia Tech. D'Onofrio said Porter got around 30 snaps.
"He's got another level he can get to if he can get in condition and eliminate the distractions," Golden said. "His biggest enemy is consistency, being the same guy every day. If he can develop that discipline, make good choices every day and have a positive attitude and stay focused he could be a really good player. Inconsistency is his biggest enemy."
D'Onofrio said he was "happy for Curtis." "He's had a tough run, a lot of injuries, hasn't had a chance to play," D'onofrio said. "It was good to have him back. I thought he played well. He was stout in the middle. We gutted him a little bit - he played in the 30s which is a lot of plays considering where he was at conditioning-wise a couple of weeks ago. And that was good. He gave us a boost."
> D'Onofrio noted that of the 26 players to lineup on defense for the Hurricanes last Thursday 22 graded out higher than their season average. He said the defensive line was the most improved unit and praised defensive tackle Luther Robinson for "probably playing his best game."
"It comes down to keeping the points down," he said. "We did that. We're starting to do a better job of that, even the FSU game - they got a couple [of late scores]. We're playing better red zone defense really over the last four games, are in the low 40s in touchdown percentage and that's where we want to be. That's helped a lot."
> UM already has more turnovers (18) than it had all of last year (15). There were three turnovers forced by the defense Thursday night and now UM is plus-5 for the season.
"I haven't coached it any different than we have forever," D'Onofrio said. "I think a lot of things happen. Guys become comfortable with it, become more ball aware. We've got some balls ripped out, we've taken some balls away that way. That comes with strength, with confidence. We're trying to make a big emphasis of it. We really challenged guys this past week. I'd like to see us cause a few more fumbles."
> Offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch addressed the issue of third down efficiency. UM finished 1 of 12 versus Virginia Tech. The Hurricanes are now 52 of 134 (38.81 percent) on third downs on offense this season -- that ranks 73rd. UM converted at 42.57 percent last season (63 of 148, 44th out of 120 teams).
"Last week was kind of an anomaly of game," Fisch said. "We weren't very efficient at times on first and second down, so therefore your third downs are third-and-10. I think we're like 58 percent on third-and-six or less, 90 percent on third-and-one. But when you have a lot of third-and-eight, nine, 10, you struggled there. But most teams do. You really have to execute."
> Quarterback Stephen Morris has continued to see his completion percentage drop over his last five games. Fisch said he's monitoring the way Morris throws the ball and sees no major problems.
"We just have to keep getting better," Fisch said. "The best part about Stephen is he still has a lot of games left with us. It's not like this is the final countdown. He had no spring. He only started one game last year, had no spring. I think his confidence is fine; we have to make some plays."
> Fisch said receiver Allen Hurns "ran some really good routes" against Virginia Tech.
Hurns had two catches for 21 yards and had a 16 yard TD catch against the Hokies. Since starting the season with eight catches for 91 yards and then taking a vicious hit at Kansas State that knocked him out the rest of that game and the next, Hurns has made 13 catches for 157 yards and two touchdowns over his last six games. Not exactly elite production.
> Golden said Sunday he would like to get Dallas Crawford more reps than the two he had on Thursday night. Fisch said Monday "maybe five, six, seven" reps would be possible for Crawford moving forward.> Golden said Virginia's blowout win over N.C. State last weekend shouldn't be the only reason his team is wary of the Cavaliers.
"They beat us four of the last six, the last two," Golden said. "I thought they were a team that pushed us around and were physical a year ago. They have a great running attack. I think they're as deep as anybody, probably the deepest at running back. they have a big, powerful offensive line. They took the ball away on defense, protected the ball on offense, something they hadn't done as well. Coming out of a bye week they were a different team.
"I think our guys understand what we're up against in Charlottesville."
> Golden said right tackle Seantrel Henderson is still battling "consistency and discipline" issues with "his technique every day." But he adds Henderson is "making a lot of progress, has eliminated a lot of distractions" and "has become process oriented."
We have another road trip Saturday, this one at Charlottesville, Va., where the Hurricanes will face the Virginia Cavaliers (3-6, 1-4 Atlantic Coast Conference coming off a victory against NC State) of the Coastal Division.
The weekend off had to be beneficial for the Canes (5-4, 4-2), especially with a road game this week.
The newest depth chart was just released.
Not many changes, but there are some. A.J. Highsmith is now back at first-team safety.
And Seantrel Henderson has taken over at first-team right tackle.
At outside linebacker, Denzel Perryman now shares the first-team position with Gionni Paul.
Keep in mind that Denzel is injured, or at least overcoming an ankle injury.
And our comeback player of the week is Curtis Porter, who after his first game this season on Thursday, is the backup to starter Earl Moore at defensive tackle.
|49||Dyron Dye -OR-||6-5||255||RJr.|
|6||Robert Lockhart Jr.
|92||Jalen Grimble -OR-
|93||Luther Robinson -OR-
|17||Tyriq McCord -OR-
|OLB||52||Denzel Perryman -OR-||6-0||229||So.|
|3||Tracy Howard -OR-
||Kacy Rodgers II||6-2||210||Jr.|