Miami Hurricanes’ incoming freshmen getting an early jump

The post-spring Baby Canes have been arriving in Coral Gables since mid-May, and will continue to enroll early in summer sessions to increase their learning curve on and off the field.

06/15/2012 12:01 AM

06/15/2012 1:49 AM

David Thompson’s pre-summer vacation included a trip to San Jose, Calif., to visit his older brother, Matthew – and studying an intimidating playbook every minute he had the chance.

“The playbook is humongous,” said Thompson, 18, the University of Miami’s fifth and final scholarship quarterback who will formally arrive on campus in time for the first day of Summer Session II on June 27. “I have a lot of catching up to do.”

Deon Bush – regarded as one of the nation’s finest incoming defensive backs – didn’t have time for vacationing, not after partaking in his Miami Columbus High graduation ceremony May 19, shortly after he arrived in Coral Gables for UM’s first summer session.

And Herb Waters, a wide receiver who graduated June 5 from Homestead High and said he used to “sit in front of the TV watching the Canes and hoping and wishing I’d get to Miami one day,” is finally on the verge of living his dream.

Thompson, Bush and Waters are part of the newest contingent of teenage Hurricanes who are about to enroll or already have enrolled in one of two summer sessions – joining the other football players who arrived on campus as early as January.

These days, unless there’s a glitch in the enrollment process, almost all the new signees arrive in Coral Gables by the start of the second summer session to gently be indoctrinated to college life.

“Deon is doing great getting acclimated to what he’s going to have to do during the year,” said his proud dad, Gary Bush. “He’s taking one class – psychology – and he loves it. They’re feeding them like babies now, a little at a time. According to Deon, the workouts are getting a little harder.”

The 2012 freshmen who arrived for the first summer session also include defensive back Antonio Crawford, defensive back Nate Dortch, defensive lineman Jelani Hamilton, cornerback Tracy Howard, offensive lineman Daniel Isidora, safety Rayshawn Jenkins, tailback Duke Johnson and receivers Malcolm Lewis and Robert Lockhart.

SAFETY FIRST

Bush, a U.S. Army All-American who spurned Alabama and Auburn to try to resurrect his 6-6 hometown Hurricanes, is practicing at safety now, said his dad, because the Hurricanes need some young blood at the position to join seniors Ray-Ray Armstrong, Vaughn Telemaque, A.J. Highsmith and Andrew Swasey.

The players meet for breakfast as a team, then work out, tend to their academics, come back and continue their football regimen – such as seven-on-seven practices led by the veterans (and done without coaches, per NCAA rules).

Waters, who said he will wear No. 86, is rated by rivals.com among the nation’s Top 50 receivers.

“His athleticism is off the charts,” rivals Florida recruiting analyst Chris Nee told The Miami Herald, adding that he’s still a bit raw. “He’s not the type of guy that is going to be dinking and dunking or running short routes. He might be down the road. But today, if you need to play him as a freshman, line up wide and let him go deep. He’s your guy.”

Waters said he and cornerback Vernon Davis have been going to UM daily to lift weights.

“We’re working on our abs and muscles I never even knew about,” Waters said, laughing. “Just being around the players makes you want to [report] even faster than June 26.

“The older guys are pretty cool. I’m very excited to start.”

‘VERY HAPPY WITH MY CHOICE’

Davis, a first-team All-Dade cornerback who graduated June 6 from Miami Coral Reef High, said he and other younger players who lift at UM and aren’t yet enrolled, “signed some papers that we work out after the team does, basically when nobody’s there.

“They gave me a sheet I follow every week,” he said of his lifting regimen. “It’s pretty fun. The other guys don’t look at the freshmen differently. It’s like they respect you and know we’re all in this together. I’m very happy with my choice.”

Incoming defensive tackle Earl Moore is a 295-pound Cane who already has added 15 pounds to his 6-1 frame since the end of his football season at Tampa Hillsborough High. Nicknamed “Big Earl,” he chose UM over South Carolina and talks often with a contingent of Tampa area Canes that includes defensive end Anthony Chickillo (Tampa Alonso), safety Jenkins (St. Petersburg Admiral Farragut) and defensive lineman Tyriq McCord (Tampa Jefferson).

He and McCord are among those expected in late June for the second summer session. Fall camp begins in early August.

“Rayshawn said the [seven-on-seven] practices are hard, but he likes them,” Moore said. “He also talked about how the professors really get to know you, and that the classes are small, like 20 or 25 kids.

“I like the idea of coming a little early because you can get used to the college life and being on your own without your mom waking you up. Mostly I look forward to the football season. I can’t wait to get back on the field.”

TWO-SPORT ATHLETE

Nor can Thompson, who will play baseball as an outfielder for Coach Jim Morris as well as quarterback for Al Golden.

Spring football, however, will not be an option for Thompson, as he said Morris and Golden have assured him he will concentrate solely on baseball during the weeks of spring football.

And though The Miami Herald’s first three-time Class 4A-1A Male Athlete of the Year (Miami Westminster Christian) in the award’s 55-year history admits that “baseball is the sport in which my future in the long run will be,” he intends to get on the football field as soon as possible.

“I really want to make an impact at UM,” Thompson said of his quarterback status. “It’s not going to be easy, and nothing is given to you. But I’m willing to put in the work to hopefully be a starter one day.

“I don’t think I’ll redshirt, just because of baseball. I may not be there all four years.”

Thompson was initially projected by baseball draft analysts to be picked in the first five rounds. But teams likely didn’t want to risk losing him to the Canes should he not go in the first couple of rounds. The Yankees eventually drafted him in the 38th round, but “at that point the opportunity at the University of Miami was too valuable for all of us,” his father, Ed Thompson, said.

He’ll join fellow freshmen Preston Dewey and Gray Crow (both arrived early for spring practice), junior Stephen Morris and redshirt sophomore Ryan Williams.

Thompson completed 132 of 203 attempts last season for 2,055 yards and 20 touchdowns, with five interceptions. He ran for another 382 yards and 11 touchdowns.

He said he welcomes the abundance of quarterbacks.

“It’s sort of like a business,” Thompson said. “You’ve got to produce and you’ve got to compete. The best person is going to start and the competition is going to bring the best out of everybody.’’

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