Where did the summer go?
Right to Greentree Field at the University of Miami, that’s where.
Miami Hurricanes training camp begins at 9 a.m. Saturday on campus, and coaches and players will embark on the 2018 season with the fervor and expectations that accompany a No. 8 preseason ranking by the Amway Coaches Poll.
“We’ve got to make Greentree great again,’’ said UM safeties coach Ephraim Banda last weekend at Paradise Camp, where dozens of the best high school players in the nation, including UM star receiver Ahmmon Richards’ younger brother Mark-Antony, showed their skills to the same UM coaches and players who will be working toward that goal this weekend.
“If we can make Greentree great again,’’ Banda said, “we’ll win championships.
Miami, the second highest ranked team in the Atlantic Coast Conference behind No. 2 Clemson, returns 14 starters from a team that went 10-3 in 2017. One of those starters is veteran quarterback Malik Rosier, a redshirt senior who last season threw for 3,120 yards and 26 touchdowns with 14 interceptions. Rosier, who looked thicker and stronger last week at Paradise Camp, knows he must cut down on the interceptions that plagued him — 10 of the 14 were thrown the last six games.
It would help if Rosier has an offensive line that is more consistent than it has been the past several years. That could be the case with three starters returning, though two of them — former right guard Navaughn Donaldson and former right tackle Tyree St. Louis — are shifting to different spots. Donaldson for now is at right tackle and St. Louis is at left tackle
“We’ve got more and more kids that can compete,’’ offensive line coach Stacy Searels said last week. “The issue right now is there are a lot of young kids, but they’re getting better.”
The Canes should again excel in the running game, as Rosier knows how to tuck the ball and take off and tailback Travis Homer (966 rushing yards and eight touchdowns in 2017) is a proven talent. Backups will provide more questions than answers as the season starts because Lorenzo Lingard and Camron Davis are both freshmen, as is fullback Realus George.
The receivers? Plentiful and gifted, despite some of them having never played in college. That includes nationally top-rated freshmen pass-catchers (and blockers) Brevin Jordan and Will Mallory at tight end behind junior Michael Irvin II, who has had his challenges along the way.
Defensively, the Canes are stacked with strong starters at safety in Jaquan Johnson and Sheldrick Redwine and at corner in Michael Jackson and young Trajan Bandy but will be holding their collective breaths that they all stay healthy. Losing the gifted Malek Young to a neck injury that forced his retirement from football was a major blow.
All three starting linebackers are stellar, and though the defensive line lost some excellent talent, there appears to be considerable new talent to help replace them, as well as strong veterans. Freshman tackle Nesta Silvera is a beast according to coaches and fellow players, and freshman end Greg Rousseau dazzled all spring. Among the other hopefuls are Illinois graduate transfer Tito Odenigbo and freshman Jordan Miller, both tackles. The return of a now healthy Demetrius Jackson at end and continued growth of sophomore Jon Garvin and starting end Joe Jackson will all contribute to what the Canes hope will be another successful defensive year under coordinator Manny Diaz.
The season begins Sept. 2 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, where the Canes will have a major challenge against traditional Southeastern Conference power LSU — 9-4 in 2017 and ranked 24th in the preseason coaches poll.
“Every morning you wake up you’re thinking about what we’ve got to do to beat LSU,’’ Searels said. “Our kids are excited about it.”