Monday, August 4, 2008

At Long Last...A UM Football Practice Report!

I feel like Rip Van Winkle awakening from a long and deep slumber, peering outside the window of my cavernous abode, and seeing the very brightest of sunshines for the first time in months. The happiest five months of the year are upon us - college and pro teams are holding spirited practices and there was even an NFL exhibition game last night (okay, so maybe that's not so exciting). The Canes, meanwhile, have held two practices. Here is the latest buzz from the Greentree Practice Field in Coral Gables:

* Perhaps the biggest question mark heading into the fall was at wide receiver, where Miami is counting on an awful lot of true freshmen to lead them. The newcomers did not disappoint. The stud of the group was the 6-foot-4, 211 pound LaRon Byrd, from Louisiana. Sporting the #47 and snatching balls out of the sky with scary regularity, Canes fans had a vision of another "playmaker" who wore the same number - Michael Irvin. His size is considerable, his speed more than adequate, and his hands well advanced for his relative inexperience. Two more newcomers who shone were Travis Benjamin and Davon Johnson. Benjamin dazzled with his speed (he clocked in Saturday at 4.26 in the 40 yard dash) while Johnson drew raves with his elusiveness. Both have the makings of excellent slot receivers and/or kick returners.

* The most intriguing question was who was getting a leg up in the QB race between redshirt freshman Robert Marve and true freshman Jacory Harris (from two-time state champion Northwestern). By all indications, both were good, and already at this young stage in the careers outperforming last season's starters Kyle Wright and Kirby Freeman. That is welcome news, but honestly not very high praise, considering that Wright and Freeman seemed to be among the worst one-two quarterback punches in the country last season. Marve seems to have the slight edge because he's had been around one more season, studying film and learning from Wright and Freeman's (abundant) mistakes. Harris is said to have one of the more beautiful and effortless passing motions you will ever see. Both are leaders and competitors, so it should be interesting. Third-stringer Cannon Smith, who can be seen in the new movie "Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2" (this is no joke), has made big strides since the spring, improving his arm strength and poise considerably (though probably not enough to enter into the conversation of who will start on August 28 against Charleston Southern).

* Marcus Robinson, rated the #4 outside linebacker in the Class of 2008 by, has been moved to defensive end because of depth concerns. He's one of the biggest incoming linebackers, and actually played some end in high school. Head coach Randy Shannon says that he should make an immediate impact as a third-down, pass rushing end. Wunderkind Allen Bailey sat out of the two practices, still recovering from a torn pectoral muscle.

* At defensive back, another thin position, Sophomore cornerback Demarcus VanDyke had a few pass breakups and looks to have bulked up a bit since last season. Brandon Harris looked fast and fierce. True freshman free safety Ramon Buchanon was getting plenty of reps this weekend, and VanDyke called him and fellow true freshman safety Vaughn Telemaque "ballers".

* I bought my tickets for the Charleston Southern game, and derived more joy from the experience than any man my age should.


PG said...

Wow I thought the Top Receivers out of the Freshmen might have included Aldarius Johnson or Tommy Streeter. If we got guys better then them, I just got even more excited for this upcoming season.

E.J. said...

So did most of Hurricane Nation, PG. You know that Aldarius and Streeter will do their thing - they did it for two years against the stiffest high school competition at Northwestern. It's an unexpected and beneficial surprise to Miami fans that they aren't the only freshmen poised to make an immediate impact this season.

A glaring weakness from last year's team seems to be blossoming into a strength for this year's team.