A six-pack of UM football notes on a Tuesday:
• Linebacker Shaquille Quarterman and receiver Ahmmon Richards reached the personal pinnacle in their first year on UM’s campus, both named freshman All-Americans by ESPN, along with linebacker Mike Pinckney.
Now the question is how far they can climb on the distinguished list of UM greats at their positions.
Asked if he hopes to be an All-American eventually, Quarterman indicated Tuesday that there’s no need to wait.
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“I shoot for that this year,” he said at a UM community service event in South Miami. “I don’t want there to be any dropoff from freshman all-American to regular all-American. That’s what I’m gunning for and I’m going to get it.”
Quarterman quickly seized the starting middle linebacker job as a freshman early arrival in 2016, then had 84 tackles as a freshman, second behind only safety Jamal Carter’s 85. (Carter is now with the Denver Broncos.) Quarterman also had 10 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks and a fumble recovery for a touchdown against Georgia Tech.
“I feel like I can get better in every aspect of my game,” he said.
Defensive coordinator Manny Diaz (pictured above with Quarterman) has challenged him to be “around the ball” more. “He said last year I was in the right places a lot of the time but had to get in on the play,” Quarterman said. “That has to do with getting in better shape than I was last season.”
To achieve that, Quarterman said he’s “getting leaner and stronger at the same time” and lowering his body fat.
“It feels great to have a whole year under your belt,” he said. “I arrived Jan. 10 last year. This Jan. 10 I felt like a whole new man.”
• Richards, meanwhile, faces enormous expectations after breaking Michael Irvin’s UM record for receiving yards by a freshman (934, on 49 catches). His average of 19.1 yards per reception ranked 18th in college football.
One publication rated him among the top 25 returning players in college football.
“If I see something like that, it motivates me to be able to say I’m supposed to be in that category,” he said. “It makes me want to work harder [to] live up to it.”
Another publication rated him ninth among the fastest players in college football.
“I didn’t think too much of [that],” said Richards, who said he ran a blazing 4.31 in the 40-yard dash. “There’s 40 speed and there’s game speed. I want to be a game speed kind of guy, someone who can run down the field.”
NFLdraft.scout rates him the fourth-best receiver in the 2020 draft, though he would be eligible for the 2019 draft if he turns pro a year early. He said he has studied NFL receivers Amari Cooper, Odell Beckham Jr., AJ Green, Julio Jones and Antonio Brown.
Richards wants to bulk up from 190 to 195 pounds and is working on nuances of his craft, including tucking the ball in after catching it.
“Just putting the season back to back [is the goal],” wide receivers coach Ron Dugans said this spring. “Just because you had a great freshman season doesn’t mean you automatically will have a good sophomore season. He’s still maturing. He’s the type of kid who leads by example with what he does, how hard he works.”
• Quarterback N’Kosi Perry, who arrived on UM’s campus about three weeks ago, continues to get positive early reviews.
Richards said Perry throws “a really tight spiral. He’s confident back there. He’s making reads – looking through his progressions more. He’s getting more comfortable.”
“He’s getting acclimated quite well to the college speed,” Quarterman said. “There’s no pads yet. He’s looking good. From watching him from the sidelines, he’s looking good.”
Said guard Trevor Darling: “I like how the ball comes out of his hands.”
• Darling, a four-star recruit who hasn’t completely lived up to expectations at UM, said “I’ve got to step my game up, show them I can do the job.”
Asked how he feels about UM offensive line coach Stacy Searels not including him among four linemen he’s happy with, Darling said he understood.
“I’ve got to get the guard technique down,” he said. “It’s a little bit different [from] tackle. I can handle the change.”
He said Searels has challenged him to improve his technique and that Searels is “real tough” on him but “I expect him to be tough because he’s a coach. That’s what he is supposed to do to get the best out of us.”
UM closed spring with a first team of Kc McDermott and Tyree St. Louis at tackle, Darling and Navaughn Donaldson at guard and Tyler Gauthier at center. Nick Linder, who missed spring with an injury, will try to get his job back from Gauthier, who has had problems with snapping this spring, including in the final spring scrimmage.
Searels is happy with McDermott and St. Louis and Donaldson but wants more from Darling, who will be challenged by the loser of the center battle (Nick Linder or Tyler Gauthier).
“Trevor has had some good days and has had some bad days,” Searels said after spring ball. “Trevor has played a lot of ball and has played a lot of ball for us. He's got to continue to get better.”
• How fast are receivers Jeff Thomas and Mike Harley, two May arrivals?
“I haven’t seen Jeff run as fast as he can yet,” Quarterman said. “Harley is very quick.”
Richards’ take: “Jeff is fast. Harley runs great routes. The other day, [Harley] made somebody fall. His routes are on point.”
FYI: Richards described Lawrence Cager – nearly a year removed from a major knee injury and surgery – as looking “elegant” catching passes. Cute.
• Richards, Quarterman and Perry were among several UM players at the community service event near UM’s campus. Freshman running back Robert Burns and redshirt sophomore defensive end Scott Patchan both moved freely, showing no signs of injuries that limited them in the spring. Neither wore any protective covering on body parts that have sidelined them in the past – Burns’ shoulder (this spring) or ankle (in high school) or Patchan’s knee.