University of Miami

Miami Hurricanes ‘circle up on the U’ and go mano y mano to prove their ‘toughness’

Oklahoma has its Oklahoma Drills.

But the fired-up U has its own version of major college football players going mano y mano: the “Big Cane Drills.’’

Miami coach Manny Diaz, who earlier this year had his Hurricanes going at it in a wrestling ring during offseason drills at the Carol Soffer Indoor Practice Facility, initiated Big Cane Drills at spring practice on Friday.

These coaches want toughness, and the Hurricanes, in full pads for the first time, brought it Friday. Diaz shouted out pairs of players to compete 1-on-1 as they were surrounded by one cheering faction on offense (orange jerseys) and the other rowdy faction on defense (white jerseys).

To say the guys were pumped up is an understatement. Their mini competitions were accompanied by rap music.

“It’s what we talked about,’’ co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach Ephraim Banda said Friday after practice. “Everyone wants to talk about a team, but it’s an opportunity to go 1-on-1. It’s a big point of emphasis not only for our defense, but for our team. So, it brings a lot of juice.

“It’s just two guys circling up on The U, which I know a lot of the older guys in this program, alumni understand. So, we’re going to circle up on The U and we’re going to see who is tough. The biggest thing you’ve got to do in this program — and I tell everyone — is you have to prove your toughness to the locker room. Not to me or Coach Diaz or to Coach Baker. You have to prove it to the locker room, and that’s an opportunity to do that.”

Every now and then the media got glimpses of the two competitors in Big Cane Drills, especially when one side would win and their teammates celebrated big-time.

A few we noticed included 6-3, 245-pound tight end Brevin Jordan vs. 5-11, 220-pound linebacker Waynmon steed — Jordan won; 6-5, 310-pound offensive tackle John Campbell vs. defensive end 6-4, 250-pound Jon Garvin — Garvin won; 6-2, 235-pound defensive lineman Patrick Joyner vs. 6-7, 310-pound offensive lineman George Brown — Brown won.

But without a doubt, one of the loudest reactions came when quarterback Perry went into the middle against quarterback Williams. Though we couldn’t see the competition, we did see Williams clearly emerge victorious. Jordan leaped sky high and slapped Williams repeatedly on his helmet.

“Obviously, that’s one thing that excites our players,’’ new defensive coordinator Blake Baker said. “Something we challenged our whole team with is physicality, something we’re going to be known for forever and ever on both sides of the ball.”

Quarterback report: Redshirt freshman Jarren Williams looked terrific again, and redshirt sophomore N’Kosi Perry also did well. Tate Martell, the redshirt sophomore transfer from Ohio State, looked anything but good Friday. He was waaaay off target for many of the throws, often overthrowing his receivers by a mile. He appears tight. It was only Day No. 3 of spring, and we don’t know what’s happening behind the scenes with coaches actually coaching and doling out instructions.

Injury report: Redshirt junior defensive lineman Tyreic Martin went down during a drill. Medical staff checked his right knee and leg; safety Robert Knowles, who was injured Wednesday, was not at practice; Derrick Smith, who has moved back to safety from striker, is “a little banged up,’’ Baker said.

Miami Herald sports writer Susan Miller Degnan has been the Miami Hurricanes football beat writer since 2000, the season before the Canes won it all. She has won several APSE national writing awards and has covered everything from Canes baseball to the College Football Playoff to major marathons to the Olympics.