Kelvin Cain’s last dazzling performance came Oct. 1, 2011, at home against Bethune-Cookman.
Then a reserve linebacker, Cain intercepted a pass and went 59 yards for his first career touchdown at the University of Miami.
“That was a long time ago,” said the 6-3, 245-pound junior defensive end who noticed the UM football program in middle school, when he thought “Hurri-Cain” glided nicely off the tongue. “It is what it is. It was fun, but it’s in the past.”
His other great showing goes further back, at Duke as a true freshman when he unexpectedly replaced former middle linebacker Colin McCarthy: nine tackles, a sack, forced fumble, fumble recovery and two quarterback hurries.
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“Too long ago,” he repeated.
Cain would like to forget the past, which has included its share of troublesome moments. He was one of three players suspended for the first weekend of spring practice for violating team policy — along with offensive tackle Seantrel Henderson and defensive back Keion Payne, who has since left the team.
That was the day UM coach Al Golden went into his now well-known weeding-the-garden analogy, saying that to improve the program it was imperative to “water the garden,” too. “If you’re constantly weeding, that’s the problem,” Golden said in early March. “ It’s like, after a while, you stop using the weed whacker and you get a shovel and get the whole root. That’s kind of where we’re at.”
Not only is Henderson finally back and seemingly in a routine, but also Cain is on the right path, too, Golden said.
“The trouble is in the past,” Golden said of Cain earlier this week. “A lot of that trouble is the same trouble a lot of the students in college get into. It’s just that he’s playing for the University of Miami.
“He has grown up. He has matured. I hope that this consistency and this effort we’ve seen from him the last five or six days will become who he is.”
Cain moved during his junior year of high school from Portland, Ore., to Clovis, Calif., a suburb of Fresno. He is UM’s fastest defensive lineman, listed behind Shayon Green as a co-backup with freshman Tyriq McCord. Expect him to see substantial third-down playing time.
Last weekend in UM’s abbreviated second scrimmage, Cain registered a safety.
“He has an advantage because he’s a lot quicker than offensive linemen,” linebacker Denzel Perryman said. “You turn on the film, and you’ll see him make a quick move to get to the quarterback and you’re like, ‘Wow!’”
“Kelvin Cain is amazing, man,” cornerback Brandon McGee said. “He’s taken his game to another plateau.”
Cain saw action as a linebacker in nine games last season, starting the last two. He finished with 20 tackles, including a season-high six in the finale against Boston College — the same team UM will be playing next Saturday to open 2012.
“I’ve been bringing a lot more energy,” he said. “It felt good in the scrimmage showing I’m capable of making plays in pressure situations.
“I like defensive end, because I’m a lot quicker than most guys trying to block me. I can do a lot more than what other people can do, like spin moves or bull rush, stuff like that.”
He, like Golden, said his hardest times are behind him.
“I have to step up as a leader this year,” he said. “I have to show these guys I can stay out of the way on and off the field. I’ve matured a lot by showing the past couple of months I’m not one of these guys who causes trouble.”