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Canes Media Day news and notes: Njoku position switch, injury updates, more

There is probably 20 blogs worth of content I can post here from today's media day event, but I'm going to go ahead and give you the fast and furious version as well video and audio clips.

Please come back for updates throughout the day.

> One of the first things we learned at Friday's practice was that freshman David Njoku was switched from receiver to linebacker. The Hurricanes have obviously been looking for help there since Alex Figueroa and JaWand Blue were kicked off the team last month. Sophomore fullback Walter Tucker and senior walk-on safety Nantambu-Akil Fentress were the first two players coach Al Golden switched over from other positions as replacements. Njoku is now the third.

"David is kind of a hybrid for us," coach Al Golden said. "He's 230 pounds. So is he a Big X because he runs well and has explosiveness? Is he an H back? Or is he a SAM [strongside linebacker]? We wanted to take a look at him at SAM now because we know what his ball skills and movements are like. We want to look at his basic movements [at linebacker] because he has length and size. Like we tried Trayone Gray at tailback and it stuck. We're just trying to look at some guys at different spots."

Click on the video below to hear David's take on the switch. It seemed to me like right now he's trying to be a team player. Golden said the move was just a look. So it might be that Njoku moves back to receiver.

> Golden said offensive line depth was his number one concern coming into camp, but that position has made a lot of progress. So what about linebacker? "Tucker and Fentress playing linebacker has kind of fixed that depth issue," Golden said. "But we have to stay healthy."

> Receiver Rashawn Scott, who had been running with the first team, had his right arm in a sling during practice Friday. Golden said Thursday Scott injured his shoulder/clavicle. Golden said he still doesn't know how long Scott will be out, but said "it's not a season-ending deal."

"It's a little bit of an exotic injury, something that's not customary," Golden said. "But he's doing good. Obviously he was out there today coaching. He'll keep his conditioning up so he can return to action quickly. As I said, Rashawn was running with the 1s most of camp. So we'll get him back."

> Starting weakside linebacker Raphael Kirby (undisclosed) and cornerback Artie Burns (right foot) were in red non contact jerseys Friday. Golden said neither injury is serious and he expects both players back soon.

> Golden said freshman defensive lineman Chad Thomas is in the mix right now for first and second down reps and has taken a lot of starter reps on third down pass rushing packages (at defensive tackle). Thomas, Miami's most highly regarded prospect in the 2014 class, came in weighing 250 pounds and is now 260. Golden said he hasn't lost any of "twitch" with the added weight.

"He's a competitor and a leader," Golden said. "And he's not afraid to stand up for what's right. We've asked him to lead already as a freshman in certain segments. He comes out of a championship program. He's got an expectation and standard to win. He's got a will inside of him. He come to work everyday. I'm excited about him. He got a lot of reps today." 

Thomas said he's "acting like a starter," but would not be disappointed if he only play on third downs. Thomas said he's very comfortable playing tackle because he did it his entire senior year for national champion Miami Booker T. Washington. "I know how to rush [the passer] against a guard or a center," Thomas said. "It's easy."

> Golden had more praise for safety Dallas Crawford Friday. Asked how he's changed since the spring, Golden responded: "No comparison. Starting with his body. His lean muscle mass. His weight reduction. His fast twitch. His quickness. His attention to detail. How much more comfortable he is running the defense. I've said on multiple occasions playing safety in college football is almost as difficult as playing quarterback. You see a different formation just about every play. Every week you see a different offense. So, Dallas has made a commitment to his body, worked really hard and performed [in the scrimmage]."

> Senior transfer Jake Heaps took the majority of reps with the first team Friday after freshman Brad Kaaya had those reps Thursday.

Asked what sets Kaaya apart, Golden said: "The first thing that helped him was he came in at 228 and he's 206 now. So, he really leaned out. His endurance is good. His fast twitch is good. He's lighter on his feet, he's better in the pocket. So, again, strength and nutrition staff, tremendous job. That's No. 1.

"Number 2, he loves the game. I mean, everybody says you got to love football. This guy loves football and he's devoted all of his time to it. So he's given up a lot. We talk to our guys all the time about volition. Everybody is motivated right now to have a great season. What are you willing to give up? Well, he's given up a lot in terms of seeing the area, sightseeing, relaxing and all that to learn to the game. So he's made that commitment.

"And obviously he's blessed in terms of his length, his ability to see, and his arm down the field. I think the biggest thing I see with him right now is his ability to conceptualize the play and know where everybody is. So if he does get in trouble he knows where the tight end is going to be. He knows where his checkdown is going to be. So from that sense, it's a little bit of calmness that you don't normally see where its not just panic, sack. You see a progression and he knows where to go. His feet are telling him where to go with the ball and he's trust it."

> Defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio said the freshman rush end Trent Harris began to hit a wall this week in practice, but redeemed himself in Wednesday's scrimmage to hold off junior Tyriq McCord who had begun closing the gap. D'Onofrio said the reason Harris (6-2, 240) started camp with a defensive starter's black jersey was because of what he did during off-season workouts and conditioning, but he's kept it because he understands run fits and wraps up. That has been a problem for Miami's defense for years.

Harris said he came to UM in January weighing 222 pounds. He's now 14 pounds heavier and stronger. He said he increased his bench press reps of the NFL Combine testing standard of 225 pounds by seven to 14 or 15. 

> Freshman running back Trayone Gray (6-2, 197) scored on a 25-yard touchdown run in the scrimmage. "I took the opportunity to show what I got," Gray said. "I got the ball outside, made moves and got in the end zone. I showed coach I can run the ball. I'm still trying to work on my pocket, creating the pocket as a running back [for handoffs]."

Gray started camp a day late because he was awaiting academic clearance. Gray said he attended night school, virtual school and summer school to pass Geometry, Algebra and Physical Science. He said he raised his grade point average from a 2.1 to a 2.5 and finally got a good ACT score to get into Miami.

"I had to makeup a big gap," he said. "I worked out on the weekends. During the weekdays I would stay in, practice and do work for school, study. It was tough. Now, I'm ready to work, come in and make an impact for the team."

Gray said he has yet to take any snaps in the Wildcat formation, but coaches have hinted he will. He said he expects to get on the field somehow this season in "screen packages or outside packages."

> Freshman running back Joe Yearby is coming off right ankle surgery in December and said he feels like he's 90 percent. "I can cut on it and most of the things I used to do," said Yearby, who had a couple of impressive, long runs in Friday's practice. "But I still got to do a little bit more work to get it how it used to be."

Although he's listed at 5-9, 192 pounds, Yearby said he currently weighs 180 pounds. "I'm trying to get myself to 185 going into the season so I can take the impact and the pounding."

> Freshman receiver Braxton Berrios (5-9, 185) said he is feeling no ill-effects of his ACL injury. Berrios said an MRI at UM in January revealed he had completely torn his ACL. He said quarterback Ryan Williams, who tore his ACL in April, comes to him to ask him questions about his recovery from the surgery.

> Freshmen offensive linemen Trevor Darling (6-5, 320) and Kc McDermott (6-6, 305) both arrived in January and have become close friends -- even while competing against each other in camp for the starting right tackle job. Darling currently leads.

"Even though we're competing for the same job we're having fun while we're doing it," McDermott said. "We're not going to curse each other out or argue because one is starting over the other. We're good friends and we joke around with each other."

Offensive line coach Art Kehoe said it's safe to say Darling and McDermott, All-Americans from Miami Central and Palm Beach Central High Schools, have earned playing time this season and will be part of the rotation of 10 linemen the team intends to play.

Darling said he's shed about 15 pounds and six percent body fat since arriving at UM. He said he did 17 reps on the bench (225 pounds) and is considerably stronger, too.

McDermott, who passed on Notre Dame, said playing alongside his older brother, Shane, Miami's center has been an honor. "I love my brother and I couldn't imagine playing with anybody else other than him," the younger McDermott said. 

THE FRESHMEN TALK

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