Day 1 back at UM practice. Here's the news...Also: Tim "Ice" Harris will be a coach again -- count on it.
After 11 days, the Canes were back Tuesday on Greentree Field, which was lined and marked and ready for the first scrimmage March 29th -- closed to the public.
*** Coach Al Golden said the players had good attitudes and that the practice was physical. "Guys look like they came back with a good mindset, good shape.''
*** The defense "got the offense" Tuesday, Golden said. "We challenged the offense to be better by Thursday.'' Golden said the defense had a better mindset today, caused some fumbles, was more physical and tougher than offense. He said they were really good in goal-line and short-yardage periods.
*** Freshman quarterback Kevin Olsen "right now is having a really good spring,'' Golden said. "Really mature. Texting [OC] James [Coley] the night before. Calling James, coming to see him. He's really doing all the little things you need a quarterback to do and it's showing on the field. He's distributing the ball really well for us, running it. He's got to continue to raise his confidence level and continue to lead but that's going to come the more comfortable he is with the offense.''
*** Golden said of first-team quarterback Ryan Williams: "Ryan is having an excellent spring. Ryan's accuracy is evident on the field. Not a lot of balls on the ground. His percentage has been high. That's what he can do. Every guy we have has a different talent and his is his ability to read it conceptually, diagnose it and get the ball out quickly.''
As a veteran who knows the offense inside and out, Williams is still the frontrunner to win the job, but the better Olsen gets, the harder the decision becomes, and the better for the program.
By the way, after practice, I noticed Kevin Olsen in street clothes with a very large ice pack over his right (throwing) hand. Don't know anything more about that.
*** We hadn't heard anything about sophomore tight end Jake O'Donnell until Tuesday. I asked Golden how he was doing. "jake has had a really good spring, up to about 254 right now. Playing a lot of football. Obviously Clive [Walford's] absence (due to unspecified injury) has helped him. He and Stan [Dobard] have both benefited greatly from Clive's absence. He's getting a lot of work and really coming through for us. Scored a touchdown today. Caught another seam ball, things he wasn't doing a year ago. Really pleased with him, because Jake is one of our fastest tight ends.''
*** Offensive lineman Hunter Knighton, who was released from the hospital last week, "is doing good,'' Golden said. "He's being integrated right now. He's getting caught up on school. Our biggest concern right now is just getting him caught up on school. Other than that I just don't want to infringe on the family's privacy. When he's ready to talk, he'll talk. But he's doing great. You might see him around. He's getting treatment and getting caught up on school, is what he should do. That's the first step back to normalcy, and once we get through that then obviously the next step is getting back to football.''
*** Defensive end Anthony Chickillo, who is still dealing with a foot injury, was in a yellow jersey and might return to practice Thursday, Golden said. Golden said there's a lot of competition at the defensive end spot. The coach said there should be a "great competition'' (at strong-side defensive end) between Ufomba Kamalu and Chickillo at that position. Coach said Kamalu has had a "really good offseason" and spring. "Obviously with Chad Thomas and Anthony Moten in the wing, we have a chance to really improve that position this fall. Right now we have Quan and Tyriq at the other end, with Trent [Harris] and those guys behind him."
*** There were at least a few errant snaps from center (Alex Gall, Hunter Wells) Tuesday.
*** Yellow (limited) jerseys Tuesday: Malcolm Lewis, Anthony Chickillo, Corn Elder, Herb Waters, Nate Dortch.
*** Red (no contact) jerseys Tuesday: Rayshawn Jenkins, Clive Walford, Ladarius Gunter, Shane McDermott, Braxton Barrios, Duke Johnson.
*** Black first-team jerseys for defense: Raphael Kirby, Olsen Pierre (who went inside during practice with what could be an injury, but not sure), Tracy Howard, Alex Figueroa, Denzel Perryman.
*** Orange first-team jerseys for offense: Stacy Coley, Beau Sandland (who also stopped in the middle of practice with what seemed to be some type of leg or groin ailment), Ereck Flowers, Jon Feliciano, Alex Gall, Gus Edwards, Danny Isidora, Rashawn Scott.
Also, I'm writing this for tomorrow's paper (tonight online), but new UM assistant director of football operations Tim "Ice" Harris, the pride of high school football in Miami and in particular, Booker T. Washington High, will be a football coach again -- no doubt in my mind. He made it pretty clear today that he is thrilled to be back at UM, and in no uncertain terms expects to be doing what he does best -- coaching -- after he earns his degree at UM.
"Once I get my degree, we wouldn’t be having this conversation if I had it at this point,'' Harris said. "Because I already would have considered myself as one of the top coaches in the country from a high school perspective. And what we do there in developing young people I definitely could be able to do it at the college level with no problem."
Harris wasn't being boastful. He was being honest. He already has worked at UM under Randy Shannon doing basically the same thing, but Al Golden is helping him get his dream job -- to coach in college -- by letting him learn more and observe and be a great benefit for the Canes in dealing with high school coaches. Harris would be a great asset for Miami as a coach who could recruit in UM's backyard and have immense pull.
UM wants assistant coaches to have their college degrees. Once Harris has his degree in a little more than a year, he's fair game. If UM doesn't find a way to grab him as a coach, be assured someone else will.
SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN