Hurricanes coach Al Golden said Thursday that Gray Crow has moved past Preston Dewey and is battling junior Ryan Williams for Miami’s backup quarterback job.
“Gray is a little bit ahead of Preston right now,” Golden said of the two redshirt freshmen. “So Gray is competing with Ryan. Stephen [ Morris] is clearly the No. 1, but Ryan and Gray are fighting for No. 2.”
Golden said he will get a look at all four of his quarterbacks in Saturday’s 10 a.m. scrimmage at Traz Powell Stadium.
The fifth quarterback on campus, freshman David Thompson, is on the baseball team and is not participating in spring practice.
Thompson missed the Canes’ past two baseball games because of soreness in his surgically repaired right shoulder, but Golden said he is not concerned about the injury or the dual-sport athlete’s ability to pick up the football playbook.
“David is really bright, and he will learn what he needs to learn,” Golden said.
Senior Jimmy Gaines and sophomore Raphael Kirby are competing for the starting job at middle linebacker.
The Canes, who finished 82nd in the nation in points allowed last season, are looking for help on defense. They also finished 112th in rushing yards allowed, an area that falls under the jurisdiction of a middle linebacker.
Gaines, a 6-3, 235-pounder, has the advantage of experience, having started 14 games the past two years.
Kirby (6-0, 230 pounds) has yet to start a college game. But he might be the more high-end prospect considering that he was a four-star recruit out of Georgia and has put on 22 pounds since his arrival.
Gaines, who was a two-star recruit from Buffalo, N.Y., has earned praise for his football intelligence, a key factor for a middle linebacker.
“Jimmy rarely makes a mistake,” Canes defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio said. “He’s tough and continuing to get better. At [middle linebacker], you have to be a guy who is confident and can put out the calls quick.”
Golden called it a “great competition” and added that Kirby, who played outside linebacker in high school, could move back there if the need arises.
“But if he can [play the middle] and be the captain of the defense, we’d like to leave him there,” Golden said.
Golden said it was Kirby’s intelligence and confidence that made him a natural to play inside. Kirby is also stronger and more poised this year than last year, the coach said.
D’Onofrio said he hopes the Canes’ lack of sacks last season — just 13 in 12 games, ranking 113th in the nation out of 120 Football Bowl Subdivision teams — is a thing of the past.
“[Defensive end Tyriq] McCord came on as a freshman and showed he could rush the passer,” D’Onofrio said of McCord, who had 3 1/2 sacks in limited playing time.
He also mentioned three recruits who will arrive in the fall: Devante Bond, Al-Quadin Muhammad and Ufomba Kamalu.
“We also addressed the need in recruiting with guys who can rush the passer: Bond, Muhammad and Kamalu,” D’Onofrio said. “They’re not here right now, but I’m excited about them. [Pass rushing] is their specialty. Two of those guys are junior college guys [Boyd and Kamalu] — they’re 20, 21 years old. So I expect them to be more mature and help us [right away].”
D’Onofrio also said Miami needs to “get more from the inside,” meaning tackles such as Curtis Porter, Luther Robinson and Olsen Pierre must aid in the pass rush.
• The format for Saturday’s scrimmage will be situational. The Canes will get work in short yardage as well as two-minute drills and other scenarios.
• Offensive guard Brandon Linder is on crutches because of a knee injury, but Golden said no surgery will be required. In his absence, Danny Isadora has been a “pleasant surprise,” Golden said.
• Right tackle Seantrel Henderson missed Thursday’s practice to catch up on academic work and is expected back by Saturday.
Porter and fellow defensive lineman Shayon Green were held out of practice for what Golden called “fifth-year senior privilege.”