University of Miami

Five things we learned from the Miami Hurricanes’ spring game at Camping World Stadium

The Miami Hurricanes just wrapped up their spring game at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, where the offense beat the defense 35-32 with a modified scoring system. Here are five things we learned from our final chance to see substantial action this spring:

TATE MARTELL WAS MUCH BETTER FROM THE SHOTGUN

Tate Martell, the redshirt sophomore transfer out of Ohio State, looked like a new man Saturday running the spring game offense from the shotgun, as opposed to unsuccessfully doing it under center last week at Nathaniel “Traz” Powell Stadium in Miami. Martell told the media earlier this spring that he played shotgun almost exclusively at Las Vegas Bishop Gorman High and for the Buckeyes. On Saturday, he led the Canes to a missed 26-yard field goal and two touchdowns on his first three drives.

During his first drive, Martell — the third quarterback in the game Saturday — led the second-team offense against the first-team defense. He completed his first three passes for 35 yards and had three rushes for 7 yards. His fourth pass was purposely overthrown because he was about to get sacked. Kicker Bubba Baxa hit the left upright with his failed attempt.

On his second drive, Martell led the offense to an immediate 80-yard touchdown on a post route to graduate transfer K.J. Osborn. Osborn caught the ball at the 35-yard line before sprinting to the house.

Martell, who completed six of 10 passes for 154 yards and two touchdowns, capped off his third drive with a perfect 17-yard fade to tight end Michael Irvin.

His fourth drive was three-and-out, with sacks by Greg Rousseau and Jhafari Harvey.

He was sacked twice, and clearly can take off and scramble when the going gets tough.

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Miami Hurricanes quarterback Tate Martell (18) looks to pass during the Miami Hurricanes spring game at Camping World Stadium in Orlando on Saturday, April 20, 2019. AL DIAZ adiaz@miamiherald.com

JARREN WILLIAMS WAS DOWN AND THEN UP

Redshirt freshman quarterback Jarren Williams, who looked strong last Saturday at Traz Powell, appeared shaky leading his first two drives Saturday at Camping World Stadium. He was the first quarterback in the scrimmage, leading the second-team offense vs. the first-team defense. The Canes went backwards. Insufficient blocking by the offensive line and a sack on the drive doomed Williams. On the first play, Nesta Silvera got to running back Cam’Ron Harris for a 5-yard tackle-for-loss. The second play of the drive was a low snap by center Tommy Kennedy, which sailed past Williams, who lost 13 yards. Finally, ends Jon Garvin and Scott Patchan combined for a sack and Garvin was credited with the safety.

Bottom line: It appears Williams, who finished 4 of 6 for 44 yards and a touchdown and an interception, should have gotten rid of the ball as he sprinted toward the right sideline of the end zone before he was sacked.

However, offensive coordinator Dan Enos said he didn’t want to pass judgement until he looks at the tape.

“What happens is, as a casual observer, which is a coach sometimes, because I can’t see all 11 players, I rush to judgement [and say things such as], ‘Maybe he should have thrown the ball away.’ But sometimes maybe two receivers ran the wrong route....

“Certainly we don’t want to take a safety in that situation. We want to hopefully do a better job of protecting for him. As we all know, the quarterbacks, when a guy doesn’t block somebody it makes them look bad. There are a lot of things involved.

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Miami Hurricanes quarterback Jarren Williams (15) greets fans after the Miami Hurricanes spring game at Camping World Stadium in Orlando on Saturday, April 20, 2019. AL DIAZ adiaz@miamiherald.com

Williams was sacked three times.

“But he did well today,’’ Enos said of Williams. “He came back and did a good job. He was very poised.’’

Then, on his first pass of his second drive, Williams was picked off by Jimmy Murphy.

Ultimately, Williams redeemed himself on his third drive, first with a 16-yard completion to Osborn and then with a 15-yard beauty of a touchdown deep in the center of the end zone to tight end Will Mallory.

N’KOSI PERRY STRINGS TOGETHER STRONG PERFORMANCES

N’Kosi Perry and Williams were clearly the two best quarterbacks in Miami’s second scrimmage last Saturday and Perry followed it up with another great outing Saturday. While Williams struggled early, Perry strung together a few strong drives to start the day.

The quarterback got the nod for the Hurricanes’ second drive and led the No. 1 offense right down the field against the No. 2 defense, albeit mostly on the back of running back DeeJay Dallas. His most impressive drive came on Miami’s next possession, though, when Perry worked with the No. 2 offense against the No. 2 defense. The redshirt sophomore moved comfortably in the pocket to evade pressure and make throws in tight windows. On the second drive, Perry rolled right and made a sidearm throw back across his body to wide receiver Marshall Few for a 15-yard gain. On his second, Perry stepped to his right against pressure and threw between two defenders for a 16-yard completion to tight end Michael Irvin Jr.

Perry finshed 9 of 13 for 145 yards and a touchdown. He was sacked four times.

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Miami Hurricanes quarterback N’Kosi Perry (5) looks to hand off the ball during the Miami Hurricanes spring game at Camping World Stadium in Orlando on Saturday, April 20, 2019. AL DIAZ adiaz@miamiherald.com

ZION NELSON AND KAI-LEON HERBERT AT TACKLE, PLUS OTHER OFFENSIVE LINE THOUGHTS

Zion Nelson has been one of the biggest surprise performers of the spring. Despite arriving in Coral Gables at 242 pounds, the freshman got involved as a first-team offensive lineman. Now up to 271 pounds, Nelson worked as Miami’s first-team left tackle.

“I can’t say he surprised me because I didn’t even know. I got here the same day he got here,” Enos said. “They were like, ‘Who’s that?’ ‘That’s Zion. He’s a freshman.’ I’m like, ‘Oh, he’ll probably be good in a few years. He’s a good looking kid.’ He’s got excellent athletic ability. He’s very tough, he’s a competitor and he’s picking up things very, very fast and to be honest with you the guy, by coming early, has now put himself in a position to be in the first group if he can continue just to get better.”

The Hurricanes have shuffled the offensive linemen all spring — especially with Corey Gaynor now injured — and the first-team group was entirely different Saturday from a week earlier in Miami. Nelson started at left tackle after missing the open scrimmage because of a wedding. DJ Scaife moved to left guard from left tackle with Nelson back. Cleveland Reed bumped John Campbell to start at right guard. The only repeats from the second scrimmage were Navaughn Donaldson at center and Kai-Leon Herbert at right tackle.

The offensive line is far from settled, but Nelson’s apparent ability to contribute as a freshman — plus Herbert’s clear position as a first-team tackle — gives the Hurricanes some flexibility to move Scaife and Donaldson inside, where their a potential professional future would lie.

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Miami Hurricanes running back DeeJay Dallas (13) is lifted by Miami Hurricanes offensive lineman Kai-Leon Herbert (57) after Dallas scores in the first quarter during the Miami Hurricanes spring game at Camping World Stadium in Orlando on Saturday, April 20, 2019. AL DIAZ adiaz@miamiherald.com

K.J. OSBORN LOOKS AWESOME

After pulling in six catches in Miami’s open scrimmage, Osborn put together another excellent performance in Orlando, highlighted by an 80-yard touchdown from Martell. On the long score, Osborn pulled in a catch on a post route, bumped off a defender, then outran the defense for the final 60 yards.

“We know that can be a big play call,” Osborn said. “When Coach Enos put it in — it’s a play that they ran a lot at Alabama. Jerry Jeudy scored on it a couple times, a couple other good receivers that they have, so I knew that it oculd be a big play.”

Last week, some of the Hurricanes’ younger receivers flashed their potential, with Mallory, and wide receivers Mark Pope and Dee Wiggins all making plays with some veterans banged up, but Osborn, a graduate transfer from the Buffalo Bulls, was the most productive wideout both weeks. He seems to be in excellent position to start after catching three passes for 105 yards and a touchdown.

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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.
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