« Eduardo Clements says he will be ready for contact this fall | Main | Donnie Sol, Ken Dorsey, other UM greats to be enshrined tonight in UM Sports Hall of Fame »

Canes sophomore middle linebacker Raphael Kirby making impression this spring

It wasn't quite as memorable as Micheal Barrow's hit on Florida State's Tamarick Vanover or even as bone-jarring as Jonathan Vilma's blow to Nebraska's Ben Zajicek.

But when sophomore middle linebacker Raphael Kirby laid out freshman tight end Standish Dobard with a vicious hit during last Friday's scrimmage in Naples it definitely evoked memories of the days when the Hurricanes had a nasty presence in the middle of its defense.

Kirby (6-0, 230) celebrated his hit by raising his arms in triumph while Dobard (6-4, 255) laid on the ground waiting for trainers to come check him out and escort him off the field. Except for the 15-yard penalty Kirby would have received for taunting on the hit, UM coach Al Golden said Tuesday he's liked just about everything he's seen from his sophomore middle linebacker this spring.

"Kirb is going to be good," Golden said. "He's a bright kid and he's a hard worker. He's got to get to the point where it's second nature and he's not thinking. He's getting there. He's made a lot of progress this spring. He's been in a black shirt the majority of the time.

"He shows up at scrimmages. He had three or four physical plays the other night. You know, the taunting notwithstanding, which obviously, in that situation we taunt, we give them 15 yards and it turns into a touchdown or whatever. And that's a lesson for the whole team. But that notwithstanding they played really physical the other night and we've just got to continue to move him forward. But I'm excited about Kirby."

Kirby, an early enrollee as a freshman, was well on his way to making an immediate impact last season when he injured his right knee during a fall scrimmage. He came back for the final seven games of the season and tallied just 16 tackles.

"When I came back I was probably like 75 percent," Kirby said Tuesday. "I pushed through it, played when they called my number and got the experience."

But playing at 75 percent was definitely frustrating. Kirby would often limp around and favor his left leg. Now at 100 percent, he's been splitting reps with senior Jimmy Gaines at middle linebacker.

He said he gained 15 pounds of muscle in the off-season and now bench presses the NFL-testing standard of 225 pounds a total of 28 reps (junior Denzel Perryman is tops among linebackers with 33 reps).

"This spring I've just been working on being more vocal and being very physical, playing attached, getting guys lined up and being a leader in the middle," Kirby said.

"My goal [in Saturday' spring game] is to go out and have fun, play fast and get to the football and make plays."

Kirby did that last Friday. Aside from his crushing blow on Dobard, he tallied five tackles and had a pass deflection in pass coverage. But that hit Dobard definitely left an impression. Coaches made Kirby run sprints for the final portion of the scrimmage after the hit. Kirby said he apologized to Dobard afterward and said there is no bad blood.

"I believe I can be that type of player," Kirby said of being a vicious hitter in Miami's defense. "You just have to play balls to the wall every play. You can make a lot of plays and be dynamic when you stick to your assignment."

> Defensive end Jelani Hamilton injured his knee during Tuesday's practice according to Golden.

"He got hurt in a warm up drill, went down to pick up a fumble and got hurt," Golden said. "I really have no idea [how long he will be out]. Non-contact injury. Obviously we're concerned about it. It's unfortunate. We're trying to reach his family to get an MRI. Definitely an injured leg."

> Former Hurricanes recruit Angelo Jean-Louis, now at Marshall, was arrested Tuesday morning on felony charges of using a stolen credit card to purchase roughly $25 worth of food at a 7-11.