On a day when the defense dominated the majority of the practice, Deejay Dallas took it upon himself to change the course of practice.
“I was just trying to get us a spark, trying to be that spark player,” Dallas said afterward on Tuesday.
So what exactly did Dallas do when he came face-to-face with a defender during his next rep?
“He trucked him,” coach Mark Richt said. “He ran his you know what over.”
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It was a telling sign from Dallas, who is emerging as a vocal presence from the Hurricanes’ offense early in spring practice. It was also, perhaps, a glimpse of what’s to come for a player who spent his freshman year learning Miami’s playbook and trying to find his role in the offense after a changing positions midyear.
“Good things come to those who wait,” Dallas said.
For Dallas, though, waiting time is over. The all-around athlete wrapped up in a 5-10, 221-pound frame, is ready to take on an expanded role for the Hurricanes after a strong finish to his freshman year.
“It’s more comfortable now. [It’s] Year 2,” Dallas said. “The first year, you’re kind of shaky. Year 2, it’s time to make something happen.”
He gave the coaching staff a taste of what he could do in the back half of the 2017 season. After seeing minimal action through the first seven games of the season, Dallas transitioned from wide receiver to running back to give the Hurricanes more depth in the backfield. In the end, Dallas rushed for 217 yards and three touchdowns in the final six games of the year. Included in that was a two-touchdown night against Notre Dame.
“From Day 1, Deejay has been a competitive football player,” offensive coordinator Thomas Brown said.
That was back when he was 200 pounds and still figuring out how to handle the load at running back against ACC-caliber defenses.
Since then, he has gained about 20 pounds, enough to help him go head-to-head with defenders but not too much for him to lose his explosiveness.
“When he makes contact,” Richt said, “it’s impressive.”
And while Dallas has always been confident in his abilities, having more reps under his belt helps, too.
“It’s like instincts now,” Dallas said. “Last year, I was like ‘oh, what do I do?’ Now, it’s like ‘I’m doing it.’ It’s clockwork.”
Now, the focus shifts back to the field, where Dallas hopes to be part of a running back rotation that will feature him, Travis Homer and top freshman Lorenzo Lingard. Each offers a different look: Dallas’ versatility, Homer’s physicality, Lingard’s speed.
And Dallas is taking it upon himself to make sure Lingard, who came to Coral Gables as the No. 2-ranked running back in the 2018 class, has a smooth transition to his college football career.
Dallas’ main message to the freshman is the same one he told himself last year as he was switching positions: Don’t overthink it.
“I’m trying to hold his hand through the way,” Dallas said, “but he’ll get it.”
Richt announced Tuesday that starting linebacker Zach McCloud suffered a wrist injury and will be out for the remainder of spring practice.
“He won’t be able to go through spring, but he’ll be ready in the fall,” Richt said. “I think the entire summer he’ll be good as well to train.”
McCloud had a brace on his left wrist during practice Tuesday. During the portion open to the media, he took part in non-contact drills with a group including De'Andre Wilder, Romeo Finley and Derrick Smith.
In 26 career games over his first two seasons (including 22 starts), McCloud has recorded 85 tackles, 8 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, 2 defended passes and a forced fumble. He had a career-high 10 tackles in Miami’s loss to Pittsburgh last season.