Canes’ WR Harley on Freshmen Receivers ‘They Can Play Football’
One is small and wiry.
The other is, well, small and wiry.
Both can fly on a football field, harkening back to the days of former Miami Hurricane greats Santana Moss and Devin Hester.
Today’s version of fast and furious: 5-10, 178-pound sophomore receiver Jeff Thomas, who wears No. 4; and 5-9, 175-pound sophomore receiver Michael Harley, who wears jersey No. 3.
University of Miami offensive coordinator Thomas Brown described them in a way you’ve no doubt heard before.
“Speed kills,’’ Brown said Tuesday from the Knight Complex gym after a downpour drenched the Canes in the last few minutes of practice. “Those guys can run, and run all day.’’
Thomas is an extremely soft-spoken and somewhat serious former East St. Louis High Under Armour All-American (with 148 receiving yards and two touchdowns in the 2016 game) who was rated the No. 1 prep player in Illinois. He started four of his 13 games last season, catching 17 passes for 374 yards and two touchdowns.
Harley is a gregarious, impish former U.S. Army All-American four-star prospect out of Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas High School who helped lead the Raiders to a Class 7A state championship his senior year. He started five of his 11 games last season, catching nine passes for 91 yards.
“Those guys are so fast, so twitchy off the ball,’’ cornerback Trajan Bandy said. “They help me, playing the nickel position, because I have to go against the quickest, fastest guys on the football field.”
Could be Thomas by the blink of an eye.
“I got faster,’’ Thomas said, when asked what some of the differences were between last season and this season. “I can’t wait to see what I could do this year. ...This year I ran like a 4.37 [in the 40-yard dash], but that’s with shoes on, so, who knows with my cleats on.”
Said Harley: “The last time I was timed was on the track when I ran a 4.38 probably about two months ago. I was, like, kind of tight.’’
When asked who he thought was speedier, Harley grinned.
“Woooo!’’ Harley replied. “It depends on the distance. If we run the 100, like, 60 on back, I know I have Jeff for a fact. But he’s quick, so his 40 he’ll get out. It’s a distance thing.
“We always push each other. We watch film and it’s like, ‘You were supposed to make that play,’ or, we’ll crack jokes walking to dinner or whatever. ...He’ll teach me some tactics and I’ll teach him some hand placement. We’re the same speedy guys and we’re just small-frame bodied, so we have to do a lot more, like be a little quicker. We practice on our own sometimes, too.’’
Thomas, who looks feather-light but has actually gained 10 pounds since last season, said he and Harley alternate first-team reps: “We go at it every day so we can make each other better.”
Thomas said his most disappointing moment of 2017, one Hurricanes fans undoubtedly recall, was when he fumbled against Clemson in the Atlantic Coast Conference title game. Quarterback Malik Rosier had found him wide open for an 18-yard gain on a well-thrown ball. But Thomas had it ripped out of hands and Clemson recovered the fumble at the UM 47.
“I’m just trying to keep focused and keep the ball high so I won’t have to get them turnovers in crucial situations,’’ he said. “I’m just trying to do better.’’
Coordinator Brown no doubt is thrilled to have both among one of the nation’s most impressive array of receivers this season.
“Mike has been the same guy, for the most part, since he’s gotten here. He’s never had to be taught how to work. He gives it up every single day. He will fight you tooth and nail for every single inch there is on the football field.”
“Jeff probably had the biggest maturation process over the last year of anybody on our whole offense. Jeff was really up and down last year. He would have some bright moments and [then] he’d kind of get tired and go in the tank. Something would go wrong and he’d kind of go in the tank, and I’m really pleased [now] with the way he works every day and really takes coaching... He’s starting to really work himself into a really good football player.
“...The more guys you have, the more guys you can obviously affect the defense with.’’