University of Miami

Manny Diaz has a few days left to tackle spring and set Hurricanes up for summer sizzle

The University of Miami spring game Saturday will be here before you know it, and right about now, coach Manny Diaz and his staff are working feverishly to put together information and individualized training regimens for every player to get themselves better as they prepare individually (and with teammates) inside and outside during the summer.

The Hurricanes and Gators were allowed to open their 2019 season against each other on Aug. 24 instead of the originally scheduled Aug. 31, so being organized in their preparation is even more important.

“We’ve got another week here to try to get some things on tape, where now the guys in the summer, when they go work on their own, can at least understand how we’re functioning and come back in August an even better team than we leave it here this Saturday,’’ Diaz said Monday during a radio interview on WQAM with Joe Rose and Zach Krantz.

It could be that several players who sat out the first open scrimmage last Saturday at Traz Powell Stadium won’t compete in the noon spring game at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, but we won’t learn more on that until the media speaks to Diaz on Tuesday after spring practice session No. 13 of 15.

“We’re so thin in so many different spots on the roster that really limits how long we can stay out there,’’ Diaz said Monday, “which of course limits how many at-bats each of the quarterbacks can get.”

One of the injured Canes includes linebacker Bradley Jennings, who appeared to be in a lot of pain after he went down during Saturday’s scrimmage. He barely could walk off the field, and didn’t put any pressure on his left leg. Diaz said Saturday that the injury was “a little bit of a groin deal.’’

Among others who didn’t play Saturday: Corey Gaynor (knee); wide receivers Mike Harley, Jeff Thomas, Brian Hightower; defensive tackle Jon Ford (wrist); striker/linebacker Zach McCloud (wrist).

Diaz again would not be specific to WQAM about the three quarterbacks — redshirt sophomores N’Kosi Perry and Tate Martell and redshirt freshman Jarren Williams — in the starting race.

Williams and Perry clearly performed better than Martell.

“I think it’s still what you would imagine at this point,’’ he said. “I think we’re all still trying to figure out what we’re doing. But what was pleasing to us from where we were a week ago, it was night and day.

“I just thought the quarterback play was much more poised. I thought we were starting to figure out where to go with the ball. I think all three of those guys had some throws they’d like to take back. But you have to consider this: We basically played, in terms of snaps, one game with three guys divvying up the snaps. You’re talking about a super, super small sample size in terms of being able to make any type of impression.”

Diaz on sophomore Mark Pope, who was a five-star recruit, recently excelling: “Whatever happened last fall I don’t really know a lot about that. Let me tell you a quick story: We’re at Columbus last week and it is not going well for the offense [during the first closed scrimmage]. They’re all nervous and they can’t figure out what to do.

“And right before halftime Mark catches a dig route and takes it 52 yards to the house. And this past week we go back to practice and it’s just like a different guy. He’s catching balls. And Thursday he’s just got a different pep in his step and all of a sudden you’re like, ‘Man, who’s this kid?’ It didn’t look like the same guy…as last year. ...These guys gotta learn and they gotta make a play to give them the real confidence that they can do it.”

Diaz on the quarterbacks getting “tagged’’ by defensive linemen Saturday: “At times you’ll see in the scrimmage, ‘Well, the defensive end tagged him.’ Well, if the quarterback is truly stepping up in the pocket a tag is not going to get a guy on the ground. They just can’t stand there like a statue [with] the ball waiting for a guy to come open. That’s just not realistic…

“A quarterback is responsible for his protection either with how he negotiates the pocket or understanding how to get the ball out of his hands. I think that’s been new for our guys. I think on Saturday it showed the best understanding of how to set themselves up to be able to get the ball out of their hands.”

Diaz said sophomore DJ Scaife has done a “really, really nice job on the offensive line’’ and also praised Gurvan Hall at safety. He called Hall “a young guy that we think has got a lot, a lot of promise. He’s really put a foot wrong in terms of just his defense and where he goes.’’ He also praised cornerback DJ Ivey, who appears to have made a substantial leap in progress recently.

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.