The University of Miami had just distributed its depth chart, and the appearance of certain starters (or co-No. 1s) seemed as unusual as the program’s forgettable past year.
Thurston Armbrister, Eddie Johnson, Luther Robinson, Kendal Thompkins, Deon Bush, Ereck Flowers and so on, with the word “or’’ appearing between some names.
“When do you think you’ll have a final depth chart?” Golden was asked Monday.
Replied the coach: “This may be it.’’
Less than a year ago, Ereck Flowers was celebrating a state championship at Miami Norland, Deon Bush was locking down receivers for Miami Columbus, Johnson was running with the scout team, Armbrister was warming the bench, Thompkins was tallying 21 yards on three catches and Robinson was missing the entire season with a “lower extremity” injury.
These, and many more, are the players who could be on the field when the Canes open their season Sept. 1 at Boston College. Golden indicated there could be some changes “three or four days before the game,” but that the depth chart has pretty much taken shape.
“I told the team last night, ‘I know we’re young statistically,” Golden said, “but we’re very mature in the way we’ve operated in camp.’ I’m not going to change that now. I’m not going to start talking about inexperience or youth. This team has done everything we’ve asked them to do.”
Fighting for a spot
On offense, the wide receiver position has turned into a significant battle, with junior Allen Hurns — partially back on Monday with a yellow (limited) jersey — and sophomore Phillip Dorsett having an “or’’ between their names; and Kendal Thompkins, a redshirt senior, listed first at the other receiver spot, with an “or’’ between his and sophomore Rashawn Scott’s name.
“Kendal has had a spectacular camp,” Golden said of the 5-10, 184-pound Thompkins, a holdover from the once famous Miami Northwestern recruiting class of 2008.
Malcolm Bunche is still at left tackle, Jonathan Feliciano at left guard, Shane McDermott at center and Brandon Linder at right guard. True freshman Flowers, a 6-6, 314-pounder with the maturity, say coaches, of someone much older, has gone wire-to-wire at first team.
“It’s almost like a rookie in the NFL starting,” Fisch said of Flowers. “It happens very rarely at the OL position, but it happens. When you have a guy that can do it, an elite guy, then you start him and you roll with it.”
Asante Cleveland has maintained his spot at first-team tight end, Maurice Hagens is still the starting fullback, and Stephen Morris will be behind center at Chestnut Hill.
The running back position had a slight change, with true freshman Duke Johnson not only surpassing Dallas Crawford but also having an “or’’ between his name and backup Eduardo Clements’.
“Unbelievable,” is how Golden described Johnson’s acclimation to college. “He studies. He prepares. He’s got a process about him. He shows toughness. And he knows who to block, he knows who to pick up. He’s done a good job.”
On defense, where Golden has been urging more leadership, sophomore strong-side linebacker Armbrister is a co-first-teamer with redshirt freshman Johnson.
Defense nearly set
Armbrister played in two games on special teams in 2011; Johnson has yet to play.
The other “or” is between junior safety Kacy Rodgers and true freshman Bush, a 6-1, 190-pound U.S. Army All-American described by Golden as “very bright” and incredibly valuable on special teams.
“Deon Bush has fought through training camp,” Golden said.
Additional starters on defense: junior Ladarius Gunter and senior Brandon McGee at cornerback (with freshman Tracy Howard and sophomore Thomas Finnie now listed as co-first-teamers); senior Vaughn Telemaque at safety; sophomore Denzel Perryman at middle linebacker; and senior Ramon Buchanan at weak-side linebacker.
The defensive line still has Anthony Chickillo and Shayon Green on either end, but redshirt junior Luther Robinson, with three tackles for his career, is now listed as an inside starter ahead of Darius Smith. Olsen Pierre is the other defensive tackle.
Also intriguing and among the harder decisions for Golden is “trying to figure out Ben Jones’ and Jermaine Johnson’s role on the offensive line.” Both are listed as backup tackles and guards. And both, said the coach, “have earned playing time.”