Barry Jackson

UM’s running back concern and other spring nuggets

Miami Hurricane's coach Thomas Brown speaks to journalists about how his team did on National Signing Day at the University of Miami's Schwartz Center in Coral Gables on Feb. 1, 2017.
Miami Hurricane's coach Thomas Brown speaks to journalists about how his team did on National Signing Day at the University of Miami's Schwartz Center in Coral Gables on Feb. 1, 2017. For the Miami Herald

An eight-pack of nuggets from Day 2 of UM spring football practice:

• Running back depth is clearly a concern behind Mark Walton, especially with Trayone Gray still sidelined from last year’s knee surgery.

UM has only three scholarship backs available this spring: Walton, Travis Homer and newcomer Robert Burns, who is something of a mystery because he had just nine carries at Gulliver last year because of an injury.

“Robert Burns has been pretty good,” offensive coordinator Thomas Brown said. “First day he was swimming some, like most freshmen out here day one, especially coming out of high school, midyear. He has a really good skill set. Very sharp guy but panics too much at times, which is normal when we're playing fast and I'm yelling telling him to get lined up and play harder. He has a long way to go but it's encouraging to see him in two practices.

“Travis Homer has been consistent. Details with Travis need to continue to improve because Mark can always get better, but Mark is a perfectionist.”

The fourth string running back at the moment? Crispian Atkins, a walk-on who attended Durant High in Plant City and spent a year at ASA College in North Miami Beach. Brown praised his work.

UM continues to explore adding a grad transfer at running back, including Clemson’s Tyshon Dye. Mark Richt had spoken of a player switching to running back, but Brown indicated that hasn’t happened.

• Because UM won’t be in pads until practice No. 3 on Saturday, Brown said it’s far too early to make any judgments on quarterbacks.

“Guys look phenomenal in 7 on 7 but nobody has punched him in the mouth,” Brown said, after initially saying nobody looks good.

• Brown declined to say if early enrollee receiver DeeJay Dallas could be tried at running back but said “he can play all over the field. Can do a lot of stuff on special teams.

“Really impressed with how he fields punts so far. Really natural for a guy coming out of high school. Catching it out of a college punter is a little bit different. He has a great bubbly personality which has got broken down at times. He can do multiple stuff for us.”

• On backup tight ends Michael Irvin Jr., Jovani Haskins and Brian Polendey, Brown said: “We've got to see a lot more from those guys. We want to see what they can do. They have a different skill set from guys we've had in the past…. We're not going to throw you fade balls all day. You have to attack at the point of attack, be good in pass protection too.”

• When I asked Brown his most improved offensive players, he mentioned Mark Walton (“even more detailed than he was in the past, which is impressive because he's a pretty detailed guy”); Trevor Darling (who remains with the first team at guard; “does some really nice things up front, from a fundamental standpoint”) and KC McDermott (who also remains with the first team at guard).

What about receiver Dionte Mullins, who drew praise from Mark Richt on Tuesday?

“Absolutely,” Brown said. “Dionte has the talent to help us. Dionte's issue last year was more mental than physical. He has the physical tools to help us in multiple ways. He's a big powerful guy, got really good speed, quickness and ball skills. He was his own worst enemy in the past. So far, through two days, he's been pretty good.”

• Defensive coordinator Manny Diaz said he doesn’t want to call Sheldrick Redwine’s move from corner to safety an experiment because there are “no lab coats.” Funny.

He believes Redwine “can do some of the same things” departing Rayshawn Jenkins can do but said he can move back to corner if things don’t work out.

• Zach McCloud said he’s being backed up by Charles Perry at one outside linebacker spot, with Mike Pinckney backed up by Darrion Owens and Terry McCray at the other outside linebacker spot.

Shaq Quarterman is being backed by early enrollee Bradley Jennings and Mike Smith at middle linebacker.

• Defensive tackle Gerald Willis, suspended for UM’s bowl game, hasn’t been practicing because of a medical issue, Diaz said.

• Susan Miller Degnan will have more defensive notes and more from Diaz in her post… Mark Richt did not speak to reporters today (he won’t on Thursdays) and team drills were not open to the media.

Canes offensive coordinator Thomas Brown praises running back Mark Walton and how he has handled himself considering his mother passed away recently.

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