Michael Irvin II, son of the Pro Football Hall of Famer and legendary Hurricanes receiver, was asked Monday on media day if his “Welcome to the U” moment came on Day One of preseason camp last week when he made a spectacular one-handed catch — only to hear an assistant coach scream that he ran a “horse-bleep route!”
“No,” Irvin replied. “The other day I got hit pretty hard. That was my ‘Welcome to the U’ moment. I got smacked catching the ball over the middle,” he said, noting that fellow legacy Cane Jeff James, the nephew of running back great Edgerrin James, caught him in the air, and, pow!
“I got jammed,” Irvin continued. “I’m not supposed to let him get his hands on me like that… I knew it was a bad route. I didn’t have a definitive stick on it or anything. He pushed me into my route and then the ball was thrown and I had to try to make a play.”
Irvin is still a teenager, but like more than a handful of the youngsters once known as “Baby Canes” around these parts, he seemed pretty grown up. On Monday, after session five of preseason camp in full pads, the freshmen shared their stories and dreams to the media gathered at the Schwartz Center for Athletic Excellence.
“You guys seem more mature and advanced than some of the freshmen in the past,” first-team middle linebacker Shaquille Quarterman was told.
“It may be that we’re a new breed,” he replied.
Quarterman, who arrived early on campus in January, like several others, said he grew up a Hurricanes fan.
“Yes, Ma’am,” he said. “I remember them being very dominant, playing smash-mouth football, hitting everything that moved, scoring and being flashy with it. They were actually having fun out there. Winning is supposed to be fun, and they won with a style, so that’s one thing I really admired.
“I want to play like they played. … I want this defense … feared [like] it used to be.”
Quarterman, a friendly, talkative, self-proclaimed “pretty cool guy,” is a 6-1, 240-pound product of Orange Park Oakleaf High. He said he wants to beat Florida State really, really badly—even more than Notre Dame.
“That’s the game I’m really set on playing in,” he said. “After that, I’m ready to get after everybody.”
Yet another newcomer with a mature game: receiver Ahmmon Richards, who appears to have impressed every player and coach in the program. Richards, with 4.39 speed in high school, is already sharing first-team reps at split end with transfer Dayall Harris and Darrell Langham.
“I have no doubt in my mind that we’re going to be ready to play come game day,” said Richards. “Coach [Mark] Richt is just pushing us so hard and challenging us mentally in practices and meetings.”
Richards said he loves “everything about UM. You got little ducks walking around campus. There’s this huge pond in the middle with fish everywhere. It’s just beautiful.” His goal, he said, is to play in the NFL and “be successful in anything I do. I just never want to fail in anything. That’s what drives me. I hate failing.”
As does 6-2, 230-pound strong-side linebacker Zach McCloud out of Lantana Santaluces. Defensive coordinator Manny Diaz told the Miami Herald that “Zach’s got a great future because he’s long and rangy, can really run and absolutely wants to knock the taste out of your mouth.”
McCloud grew up idolizing former Canes linebackers Ray Lewis and Micheal Barrow, among others. “I couldn’t really see myself playing for another school and loving UM the way I do,” he said. “I’d taken some visits to Georgia and Auburn, but I couldn’t get pulled away from UM.
“We’re going to hit a lot harder. We’re going to play a lot faster. We’re going to win a lot more games,” he said.
Freshman defensive end Pat Bethel, like Irvin and James, is yet another Hurricane who has ties to the UM of old. His father, Randy, played tight end for Miami from 1987-90.
“It does reassure me that there’s a standard here,” said the 6-3, 260-pounder from Vero Beach. “My father won a national championship here in 1987.”
Any advice from dad?
“To work my butt off everyday,” Bethel said. “Don’t ever give up, keep fighting and trust the process.”
Miami Herald sports writer Manny Navarro contributed to this report