Barry Jackson

Area of concern emerges for UM; High-end QB visiting UM

ctrainor@miamiherald.com

A six-pack of Hurricanes notes on a Tuesday night:

• If you’re looking at positions where UM has some level of uneasiness, safety and running back depth would be on that list.

So would tight end.

UM has great confidence in Chris Herndon, but he’s not as explosive an athlete as NFL-bound David Njoku, and there’s serious concern about depth.

Michael Irvin Jr. and Jokani Haskins were suspended for the bowl game and early enrollee Brian Polendey is the only other tight end on the roster; tight ends coach Todd Hartley calls Polendey a “very physical kid and tenacious blocker.”

As for Irvin and Haskins, “they need to mature this spring,” Hartley said. “They need to show us that we can trust them. They’re not freshmen anymore. They need to stop acting like freshmen and start putting themselves in positions to play. Right now it’s Chris, and then after that it’s wide-open.

“Last year we played with two tight ends most of the time. Can we do that this year? I don’t know if we have a second tight end. Who’s going to step up and show they’re not a freshman?

“We’d love to have another walk-on to help us get through practice. … Who knows. We might be able to add a grad transfer to our room. If someone wants to come and they stay for a year, and off the books and it doesn’t hurt your numbers. It only helps your team if you bring in somebody that fits our culture and what coach Richt’s standard of being a Miami Hurricane.”

UM really likes Herndon (pictured above), who had 28 catches for 334 yards last season, including two touchdowns. He caught 18 passes for 237 yards and one touchdown in 2015.

• IMG Academy QB Artur Sitkowski, rated by Rivals as the No. 5 QB in the 2018 class and the No. 61 overall prospect, told Canesport’s Matt Shodell that he will take an unofficial visit to Miami Feb. 25 and likely will be accompanied by some teammates.

“Miami’s one of my top schools along with Rutgers and Florida, Wisconsin and LSU,” Sitkowski said. “I look forward to getting down there the 25th.”

Shodell asked him if moving to IMG from New Jersey helps UM’s chances. He said: “It definitely helps the schools down in Florida because they don’t have to go that far to see me. It’s not a big factor but it might help them.”

• QB coach Jon Richt, who spoke with our Susan Miller Degnan about UM’s quarterbacks last week, told Canesport that he hopes N’Kosi Perry, who is expected to arrive in May, becomes another Deshaun Watson (the elite Clemson QB).

“He’s got the ability and makeup to be that type of guy. He’s a big, tall kid with big, broad shoulders. He might be 175 right now but he could easily get to around 200 and hold it very well, be a very physical runner as athletic as he is. He’s got a much better arm and touch than people give him credit for, and that’s one of the things we love about him. He just gets the guy the ball.”

Of Cade Weldon, who is already on campus, Richt said: “I think he was very under-rated. He was a guy who was hurt his junior year, hurt his knee, and a lot of people fell off of him. We watched his sophomore tape and thought he was good as a sophomore but wanted to see how he was recovering. Once we saw his knee and him run around at camp it was a no-brainer for us. We’re really excited to see how he develops.

“He’s a big, physical guy, is a lot more athletic than people give him credit for. He has all the intangibles as a quarterback, command of the room, command of the huddle. It’ll be good to see how he does this spring (as an early enrollee).”

• George Brown, the highly-regarded offensive tackle transfer from LSU, is expected to work at left tackle and right tackle in the spring.

• With three of the next four at home (including Virginia Tech on Wednesday), the UM basketball team (15-7, 5-5) must make a move to keep alive realistic hopes of making the NCAA Tournament.

Coach Jim Larranaga said the team’s youth has been an issue. "It's about kids growing up and learning. That's why veteran teams are so good."

While UM had only two different starting lineups last season, Larranaga continues to tinker with this group.

"Every discussion I have with the coaches - `Oh, we should proably change the lineup again because (this opponent) is so different than the others,'" Larranaga said.

• Forward Ebuka Izundu had a career game against North Carolina State on Saturday (16 points and six rebounds) and needs to build on that for a team lacking depth.

Larranaga said that “I’ve sensed a game like that was coming from him throughout the season. He’s very good offensively scoring the ball. He stayed out of foul trouble, which was hugely important. When he’s defended a certain way he’s very, very comfortable and confident. But even the same game you’ll see different defenses. We need low post back-to-the-basket scoring. It’s been a high priority for us trying to figure out how to get that.”

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