You can read all the latest details about the UM quarterback battle in my Thursday post here. Meanwhile, here are six non-QB nuggets from our sessions today with defensive coordinator Manny Diaz and offensive coordinator Thomas Brown:
• Sheldrick Redwine not only has smoothly handled the transition from cornerback to safety, but he has emerged as a likely starter opposite Jaquan Johnson.
“Right now, I feel like he's one of our 11 best football players,” Diaz said when I asked him if he will emerge from the spring regarding Redwine as a likely starter. “He is enjoying the physical side of the football game. He’s got the most bite - anytime you make a man go backward against his will - that's a bite. He leads the safety room in bites. Can he handle the physical transition from playing on the edge of the field to the middle of the park? He seems to enjoy that the most.”
• Though defensive end Joe Jackson impressed everyone with 8.5 sacks as a freshman, he hasn’t positioned himself to be a complete player yet.
“Joe Jackson flashes with his potential but there's so much more to it,” Diaz said. “The way the game is today, you have to earn the right to rush the passer. You do that by being where you're supposed to be to stop the run on first and second down. The way the game is changed, defensive end… turns into a linebacker position because they start reading those guys with the quarterback run game. You've got to be aware what types of blocks are coming. Sometimes that takes at-bats for Joe and [early enrollee] Jonathan Garvin would be the same way. D-Jax [Demetrius Jackson] and his experience and his size help in that regard.”
• Darrion Owens has been getting first team reps at weakside linebacker ahead of Mike Pinckney but I wouldn’t read into that. Pinckney has done nothing to lose his starting job.
And while Zach McCloud and Charles Perry have been sharing first-team strongside linebacker snaps, McCloud remains the favorite to start.
On Owens, Diaz said: “DO is a big man. He can set a hard edge. Hard guy to block. Hard guy for pulling offensive linemen to deal with at times. Knows his assignments. Still getting more confident in his ability to move and run. The next step to really be the guy at will linebacker is you have to have that ability to make a play, the flair for the dramatic. That's where he's learning to trust himself and let himself go.
“Pinckney has an amazing inate ability to believe in what he sees, trust himself and not overcomplicate the game and let it go. We feel we have the ability to be able to roll a couple guys in that spot and when we come back in August potentially have some more depth there as well.”
• I asked Brown if he’s convinced if Dionte Mullins will be a factor at receiver this season.
“I won’t say I'm convinced,” Brown said. “He's gotten better. He's gotten mentally and physically tougher. He's gotten in better shape but it's still a process to get him to be where he should be and reach his full potential, which will be a daily battle with him. I think he's committed to the process, he's working at it. But to say 100 percent convinced? I can't say that fully right now.”
• The receiver who has made the biggest jump?
Darrell Langham, Brown said.
“By far, Darrell Langham. Seeing a guy with that type of size, he's not the most dynamic from a speed standpoint but thinking he could be a bully type receiver because he had the body to… It was mental deal last year just being able to believe he could play as big as what he was. He has been great surprise when it comes the receiver room, has stood out every single time we're on the field, playing like he's a big man [6-4] and not like he's 5-8. Use your size and length and ability to overpower dbs and make some plays!”
• And who has made the biggest jump among tight ends?
“Michael Irvin has probably made the biggest jump about being consistent about knowing what to do, how to get lined up and executing the stuff we ask them to do,” Brown said. Starter “Chris Herndon has been consistent. He's somewhat of a quiet guy. We're trying to get him open up more.”
• Bonus note: I asked Diaz if defensive tackle Gerald Willis, who has missed the spring with an injury, is a big part of the plans.
Love Diaz’s answer: “Whoever shows up and acts like they're mad at the offense for trying to run the football at us, we'll play.”