FRIDAY BUZZ COLUMN
Young players represent hope for any fan base, and as a new batch of them descend on Davie and Coral Gables, some buzz on the Dolphins’ rookies and Hurricanes freshmen:
### Even beyond DeVante Parker (who was exceptional before foot surgery and has the look of a long-term No. 1 receiver), several other Dolphins rookies have impressed in camp, while running back Jay Ajayi works on pass protection issues that have left him fourth on the depth chart.
Players love fifth-round corner Bobby McCain, who’s usually around the ball and had an interception return for a touchdown Thursday; he was the first name safety Michael Thomas mentioned when asked who has impressed him.
“Bobby really shows his ball skills,” defensive backs coach Lou Anarumo said. “He’s an exciting player.”
Meanwhile, there’s a growing sense from players that because of his sheer strength and physical gifts, defensive tackle Jordan Phillips --- who has been playing ahead of veteran C.J. Mosley --- will be very good.
Mike Pouncey predicted Thursday that Phillips will be a factor this year and Joe Philbin said his effort/motor, which wasn’t always consistent at Oklahoma, hasn’t been a problem so far.
“He wants to become a very great player,” Ndamukong Suh said. “He’s got the talent to do it.”
Defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle sees a player on the brink. “When he really gets it, we’re going to have exactly what we thought, and that’s a very, very athletic big man, powerful guy,” Coyle said. “He’s got to do it every single snap, but I’ve seen progress.”
The front office loves Jamil Douglas, who has worked as the first-team left guard with Dallas Thomas sidelined the past two days.
“Very pleased with Jamil, particularly for a rookie,” offensive line coach John Benton said. “Handles himself like a pro. What he’s doing well [is] he’s playing under control, has a good demeanor.
“He’s physical and handling the assignments very well. What he needs to work on is the different situations that come up, anticipating things the defense is going to do.”
What about Tony Lippett? His transition from receiver to cornerback has gone decently; he had an interception this week.
“At the end of the day, he’s going to have to play in games,” Anarumo said. “When we get to next Thursday night [at Chicago], I can’t wait to see him. There are going to be some highs and there are going to be some lows. Our job is to get him where he can be consistent and eliminate those peaks and valleys.
“It’s natural for him when the ball is in the air to go find it because that’s what he has done his whole life. [The challenge is learning] the little intricacies of the technique he’s playing, the press, the off man. Once he picks up that stuff, he will be OK.”
Fifth-round safety Cedric Thompson returned an interception for a touchdown last Friday and is the front-runner over Jordan Kovacs and injured Don Jones if Miami keeps a fifth safety. “High football IQ, aggressive player, can do many things,” special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi said of Thompson.
As for Ajayi, he made a nifty catch for a touchdown in the corner of the end zone Thursday, but pass protection is a real concern.
### We’re told Dolphins people believe Utah State’s Zach Vigil has been the best of the four undrafted rookie linebackers and has a good chance to make the team. Miami also likes Marshall rookie Neville Hewitt’s potential on special teams.
### What UM freshmen are most likely to make a difference this season from this 22-man class?
The three we’ve heard mentioned most often by players: running back Mark Walton, safety Jaquan Johnson and cornerback Sheldrick Redwine.
Linebacker Raphael Kirby cited Johnson and Redwine as the newcomers who have been most impressive.
Johnson, sidelined by injury Thursday, plays a position where UM is deep, but he’s smart and instinctive and defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio says he’s “going to be a factor. He can impact our team. He’s done a really good job.”
Said Kirby: “He has a nose for the football. He plays with great leverage. He knows how to attack ball carriers, takes great angles.”
Redwine, a three-star prospect from Killian, could be UM’s No. 4 cornerback behind Artie Burns, Tracy Howard and Corn Elder – who are the only three corners with game experience. (Al Golden has said safety Deon Bush also might play some corner.)
“Everyone is excited about Sheldrick,” Golden said, before mentioning Michael Jackson and Terrance Henley, the other two freshman corners. “Sheldrick, like Jaquan, doesn't make a lot of mental errors. He plays thirsty.” (Or hungry, presumably).
Kirby raves about his technique: “I was talking to Brad [Kaaya] about him. Brad feels the same way. He’s a guy who will help us right off the bat.”
Walton, as Golden said, “has made his presence known this summer.”
Kaaya can’t stop raving about a player who ran for 1470 yards and 22 touchdowns and averaged 7.2 yards per carry as a senior at Booker T. Washington, and also caught 24 passes for 282 and four touchdowns.
“Great kid,” Kaaya said. “He already gets it. He just gets it. He’s a different mentality. Knows protections already. His lateral movement stands out.”
Among other freshmen who should be in the mix for playing time this season: offensive tackle Tyree St. Louis (“had a good summer,” Golden said); linebackers Jamie Gordinier, Charles Perry and James King (UM doesn’t have great depth there) and offensive lineman Jahair Jones (had some good moments this spring).
### UM players like what they’ve seen from freshman receiver Lawrence Cager, but it’s difficult to envision him cracking the Hurricanes’ top five, at least initially (Rashawn Scott, Stacy Coley, Braxton Berrios, Malcolm Lewis and Herb Waters).
Cager is “really tall, long, he has a wide catch radius,” Kaaya said. “He can go up high for it. He’s made some good plays one-on-one. We have to see during camp [if he can help this season]. A lot of guys look good in shorts and T-shirts.”
Said offensive coordinator James Coley: “He’s lean, fast, long, can avoid contact and avoid tacklers.”
### One of the more interesting stories is 6-5, 255-pound tight end Jerome Washington; UM offered him a scholarship after his club team in New Jersey mailed his highlight tape last October.
UM, Alabama and Nebraska --- among others --- then started recruiting him and Rivals.com elevated him to a four-star recruit. Washington is raw, which was evident in spring ball; he ranks behind at least Standish Dobard and Chris Herndon on the depth chart.
“Jerome still needs to make a lot of strides,” Coley said. “But you still see his athleticism. He’s so fast with his size. He’s got to keep learning.”
Kaaya said he’s already a “grown man” and “will be a good in-line tight end.”
### Because of UM’s depth at defensive end, there probably won’t be a need to rush four-star prospect Scott Patchan, who’s coming off an ACL injury last August.
UM has a good group of incoming defensive linemen: Patchan, Richard McIntosh (“a guy we have high expectations for,” D’Onofrio said) and tackles Ryan Fines and Kendrick Norton.
### Though the Marlins have numerous contract stipulations with Miami-Dade County that could make it more difficult for David Beckham’s group to strike a stadium deal next to Marlins Park, Marlins president David Samson made clear this week that the Marlins will not be an impediment to any deal.
What if Beckham requests changes to the Marlins contract?
“We are always open to conversation and we would work with David and [Marcelo Claure]… very closely to make sure they are successful and the Marlins are successful,” Samson said.
“We look forward to working with them and creating a sports complex that all Miamians can be proud of and will be used year-round. We’ve always believed Major League Soccer… west of Marlins Park is a perfect situation for Miami.”
Among those rights the Marlins were given by the county, as reported by Miami Today last week: Beckham can’t sell stadium naming rights until baseball sells its own.... The soccer stadium cannot reflect light toward Marlins Park. ... The Marlins get to review all soccer stadium architectural plans and leases... No soccer ads may conflict with a major Marlins sponsor....
Soccer stadium construction may not interfere with baseball from two hours before a game or event to one hour after.... The Marlins get first choice of dates and can't schedule any games at home from March 15 to Nov. 15 until the Marlins choose their dates... Soccer games cannot begin until four hours after a baseball game ends..... And there are several other stipulations.