Thursday, August 21, 2008

Canes Practice Update

On the 'Canes last scrimmage of the fall before actual gameday action on Tuesday night, the offense played lights out, especially sophomore WR Leonard Hankerson, who had up to this point been invisible. "Hank" had 3 long TD receptions. Here are some other practice tidbits since I last checked in:

* I've been talking a lot about future freshmen sensations LaRon Byrd and Travis Benjamin. As the practices have rolled on, Benjamin has actually been separating himself from the rest of the pack. His explosiveness and big play ability have been a constant since he arrived in Coral Gables earlier this month. Byrd, and fellow freshman Aldarius Johnson, are primed to have big rookie seasons, but Benjamin is the one who has earned consistent raves from the usually stoic Randy Shannon.

* A couple of interesting return game options. At punt returner, freshman Thearon Collier has shown flashes. He is lightning quick, a throwback to UM great Roscoe Parrish. Defensive tackle Joe Joseph has another comparison - "We have another Devin Hester out there." That's high (and premature) praise. We'll just have to see. At kick returner, I'm excited about the possibilities presented by sophomore RB Shawnbrey McNeal. He was an unexpected bright spot last season, and bursts through any sliver of a seam he can find with Bolt-ian speed (okay, maybe he's not THAT fast). He had a 50 yard gain at Tuesday's scrimmage.

* Speaking of running backs, Javarris James and Graig Cooper have seen limited action this fall as Shannon wants to keep his two top horses healthy for the upcoming season. In their absence, fifth year senior Derron Thomas has more than adequately filled in. He was a top back coming out of high school, and it has been sad to see him play third fiddle to a couple of underclassman, but he's never complained, boasts an almost 5-yards-per-carry career rushing average, and has been impressive in fall practices. With JJ, Coop, Shawnbrey, and Derron, running back depth is no issue whatsoever at Canes camp.

* Chavez Grant has emerged as the team's best performing cornerback. He has been a perennial ball hawk this fall, and is a lock to start against Charleston Southern next week.

* I'm a little worried about starting defensive ends Eric Moncur and Allen Bailey. They've been nursing injuries throughout the fall, and have been held out of seemingly every practice for 2 weeks. Their replacements - Adewale Ojomo, Steven Wesley, Andrew Smith, Marcus Robinson, and Gavin Hardin - have done well, but if Miami is to have any shot at uprooting the Gators on September 6, they're going to need their very best pass rushers healthy to make Tim Tebow's life as uncomfortable as practicable.

* As far as the QB competition between Robert Marve and Jacory Harris, we should have a starter named in the next couple of days. Up to this point, neither Marve nor Harris have separated themselves. But practice onlookers say it's because both have played with competence and poise (an instant upgrade over the departed Kyle Wright and Kirby Freeman).

* 7 days!

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