Miami Hurricanes open fall camp in Manny Diaz era
Donald Chaney Jr. walked with a limp as he headed to the locker room after a season-opening loss to Columbus at Tropical Park.
Belen Jesuit was still within striking distance of an upset when Chaney tweaked his right hamstring midway through the third quarter, but the senior spent the rest of the game on the bench and a one-touchdown deficit quickly ballooned into a 41-7 loss for the Wolverines in Miami.
Chaney, currently the centerpiece of the Miami Hurricanes’ 2020 recruiting class, doesn’t think the hamstring injury is too serious, although it is something which has lingered a bit since track and field season. He also expects things to go much differently for his future team Saturday than they did for his current team Wednesday.
“A 35-7 ‘W,’” Chaney said when asked for a prediction for Miami’s season opener against the No. 8 Florida Gators in Orlando. “It’s the U. It’s Miami.”
Chaney is one of at least a dozen Hurricanes commits in the Class of 2020 who expects to make the trip to Camping World Stadium this weekend (we’ll have a more thorough list tomorrow) and his continued presence around the Hurricanes continues to be one of the most encouraging developments for coach Manny Diaz’s first full recruiting cycle as coach.
Chaney is a four-star running back in the 247Sports.com composite rankings, on the brink of five-star status in 247Sports’ own rankings. He has been one of the Hurricanes’ top recruiting targets for years and he committed to the new staff just about a month after Diaz took over for former coach Mark Richt. Chaney has been steadfast in his pledge since his commitment in February and reiterated the strength of his decision Wednesday.
He won’t visit Florida again. He won’t go see the Florida State Seminoles. Chaney is locked in with the hometown team.
“It’s the new Miami. I only pick one college,” Chaney said. “I’m not the kind of guy to change up just to change up.”
Even bottled up in a loss and outperformed by Explorers three-star running back Henry Parrish, Chaney provided reminders of why some consider him the best running back in Florida on both his 17 carries for 61 yards and even plays which didn’t count.
The tailback’s first big play came in the first half when the Wolverines had yet to score. Chaney took a handoff moving left and found a seam at the edge of Columbus’ defense. He busted through the hole and raced 58 yards into the end zone before the touchdown was called back for a hold on the backside of the play.
The one touchdown which actually counted came because of Chaney’s speed, too. Belen Jesuit had the ball at the Explorers’ 7-yard line just before halftime, and the 5-foot-11, 203 pound halfback again ran to his left. This time he went straight for the front left corner of the end zone and beat the entire Columbus defense to the spot to cut the Explorers’ lead to 14-7 at halftime.
Most of Chaney’s runs were small chunk plays, using his size to push forward for four or five yards at a time. His average yards per carry were hurt when a backward pass went awry on the Wolverines’ first possession and Chaney recovered the fumble for a double-digit loss of yards.
Chaney said the Hurricanes’ coaches are telling him he could be one of the next greats in Coral Gables and they’ve specifically compared him to Willis McGahee.
“I’ve got his running style,” Chaney said. “I can catch out of the backfield just like him. I’ve got the moves just like him. I’m a very similar back.”
Most importantly for the Hurricanes right now, Chaney has the personality to lead the 2020 class. At every camp and recruiting event, Chaney has tried to make the Hurricanes’ case to uncommitted prospects.
Right now, he wants to get some of the old decommitments to hop back on board. Priority No. 1: Gulliver Prep four-star defensive end Donell Harris.
“I’ve got to play him first,” Chaney said, “and then I’ll talk to him.”