Three takeaways from the Hurricanes’ spring game

Junior running back DeeJay Dallas turns upfield during the Hurricanes' first spring practice March 19 at the Carol Soffer Indoor Practice Facility. Photo credit: Josh White

The Hurricanes wrapped up spring football Saturday in Orlando at Camping World Stadium— the same place Miami will open the 2019 season against the Florida Gators Aug. 24.

Miami’s offense defeated the defense 35-32 with a modified scoring system in front of 9,102 fans.

“I thought there was good execution on both sides,” first-year head coach Manny Diaz said. “The big thing is we are starting to look like the Miami Hurricanes. I think in glimpses you can kind of see the improvements that this team has made. Now, if we stop here, we have no chance.”

DeeJay Dallas
Junior running back DeeJay Dallas turns upfield during the Hurricanes’ first spring practice March 19 at the Carol Soffer Indoor Practice Facility. Photo credit: Josh White

After five weeks of practices, including two open scrimmages, here are three things we learned:

The quarterback competition remains tight

Last week, Hurricanes offensive coordinator Dan Enos said that the starting quarterback would not be named until after the summer.

Redshirt sophomores N’Kosi Perry and Tate Martell and redshirt freshman Jarren Williams all showed flashes throughout the spring, rotating snaps with the first-team.

“I thought that I’ve had a gut feeling like three different times already,” Enos said. “It keeps changing because guys keep getting better. It’s a process. That’s why you don’t get caught up in your emotions of one day or one practice. But I have to give the three quarterbacks a ton of credit because I think all three of them improved a lot.”

On Saturday, Martell linked up with fellow transfer KJ Osborn for an 80-yard touchdown. The Ohio State transfer completed six of 10 passes for 154 yards and two touchdowns.

Perry, who started six games a season ago, finished nine of 13 for 146 yards and a touchdown. The Ocala, Florida native connected with highly-touted freshman receiver Jeremiah Payton for a 32-yard score.

And Williams, who had been consistent all spring, struggled early but rallied to finish four of six for 44 yards. Williams converted a late touchdown after an early interception.

“I was happy to see all of our three quarterbacks make plays,” Diaz said. “We believe all three of those guys can play and I think they go into summer now knowing that all three guys can play. So, I think that was a big plus out of today,”

Defense flexes muscles despite departures

Miami finished as the nation’s fourth-ranked total defense in 2018.

And despite losing six starters, Diaz was impressed with the defense’s performance.

“Our one defense played like our one defense should,” Diaz said. “There was one drive that kind of thought was not to our standard, but for the most part I thought those guys tackled well.”

Redshirt freshman Patrick Joyner, Jr., who moved to linebacker earlier in the week, finished with a scrimmage-high four tackles, including two tackles for loss. Defensive ends Jahfari Harvey and Greg Rousseau both racked up two sacks, while defensive tackle Jordan Miller notched 2.5 tackles and two sacks.

“The first guy that really stands out was Jordan Miller,” UM defensive coordinator Blake Baker said. “We’ll see more off the film and we’ll have a better idea, but Jordan Miller really had a really good day, I believe. The first defense played really, really well as a whole. We gotta get some depth in certain spots, but he’s the one guy just off the top my head who had a good day.”

Question marks on the offensive line

The Hurricanes have shuffled the offensive line the last five weeks. During their final scrimmage, Zion Nelson, DJ Scaife, Navaughn Donaldson, Cleveland Reed and Kai-Leon Herbert started on the line with Corey Gaynor sidelined because of injury.

“Our offensive line made a big jump this spring,” Diaz said. “Now, I think the question is, finding out who our best guys are and being able to settle, get everyone back from injury…and getting some continuity with those five guys, But if I had to grade the entire spring from the offensive line standpoint, I think they’ve really made a big jump for us.”

Yet, despite overall growth up front, the offensive line gave up nine sacks.

One bright spot for Miami is Nelson’s emergence. The freshman arrived in Coral Gables at 242 pounds but is now up to 271 pounds, working with the top unit.

“I can’t say he surprised me because I didn’t even know. I got here the same day he got here,” Enos said. “He’s got excellent athletic ability. He’s very tough, he’s a competitor and he’s picking up things very, very fast and to be honest with you the guy, by coming early, has now put himself in a position to be in the first group if he can continue just to get better.”