Barry Jackson

Shirreffs, Rosier make push for starting job; nuggets from Manny Diaz

For the Miami Herald

A bunch of UM football tidbits from Thursday, with only four practices (including two scrimmages) remaining this spring:

• Evan Shirreffs continues to make a strong push for the starting quarterback job, though nothing will be determined until late August.

“He has done a lot well,” receiver Braxton Berrios said. “He has done a lot to impress. He has been taking a leadership role. Every day quarterback things. His timing, his rhythm seems to be better. His drops, his accuracy. He is really molding himself into a really good quarterback.”

What about Malik Rosier?

“Same thing,” Berrios said. “He is taking more of a leadership role, especially when he’s thrown in with the ones. Malik and Evan are really becoming better QBs. They both realize they are not backing up anybody this year, as of now. It’s their job to win. It’s nobody’s job to lose at this time.”

Linebacker Charles Perry said: “I like Evan and Malik, one of them to lead this team.”

Berrios has seen tape of quarterback N’Kosi Perry, who arrives this summer.

“Great athlete, but he will have to be a great QB to win the QB battle,” Berrios said. “He’s a tremendous athlete. He can do a lot of things, a lot of different things than some of the guys we have here. At the end of the day,we are going to need a leader. It’s a lot of shoes to fill with Brad [Kaaya]. But we’re not asking for another Brad. We’re asking for another leader,... another QB who can lead this team.”

Though the quarterbacks have different strengths, Berrios said: “It’s going to be more a QB trying to work himself into the system than the whole system changing. We put in a whole new thing last year when the new coaches got here. We changed little intricacies this spring. We are not going to have a whole new offense this fall.”

Our Susan Miller Degnan will have a post shortly on what offensive coordinator Thomas Brown (pictured above) had to say today about the QB battle.

• Has Berrios discussed with coaches more of a role offensively? “No extensive talks. At the end of the day, I am going to earn it.”

• I asked defensive coordinator Manny Diaz his most improved players this spring.

“Mike Smith at middle linebacker has really made a jump. Robert Knowles at safety is really improving, a much better player he was a year ago or really in the fall. Those are the two names that standout.”

• Incumbent starter Zach McCloud and Charles Perry are splitting first-team reps at strongside linebacker.

“Zach is a hard guy to catch, not just because of his natural talent,” Diaz said. “He and Shaq [Quarterman] are guys that want to do it. You tell them to do it 10 times, he does it 11. They’re very difficult people to catch because they’re obviously talented, but their work ethic, professionalism, demeanor is extraordinary for their age. That can be frustrating for a guy like Perry. But he knows he still has a role to play. One thing we are for certain this year especially in the front seven is we are deeper and our depth is experienced depth.”

• What about Mike Pinckney?

“More inconsistent than those other two,” Diaz said. “Those other two are off the charts, so that’s not necessarily an indictment on Pinckney. He’s learning he’s got to bring it every day to be classified as a big time guy. We challenge our guys all the time: If you want to be one of those guys on the wall on the practice squad, that’s a daily standard you have to reach.”

Darrion Owens is challenging Pinckney at weakside linebacker.

“Owens is moving better, feeling better,” Diaz said. “They both have strengths, both have weaknesses. The will linebacker is a playmaking position on this defense. That’s why Pinckey does such a nice job. D.O. has to show he has got the same flair for making those plays that Pinckney did.”

• UM says defensive end Scott Patchan, who has had multiple knee issues, is again limited.

“He’s doing limited work, technique, fundamental type stuff,” Diaz said

Can you count on him after the history of knee problems?

“To me, with the way medicine is with this day and age, yeah,” Diaz said. “We expect everybody on our roster to be full speed when we get back to it in August.”

• I asked Diaz who has emerged as the No. 3 defensive tackle behind Richard McIntosh and Kendrick Norton?

“Anthony Moten definitely has made some gains this spring,” Diaz said. “This is his last go-around. Pat Bethel has shown he belongs in there. First play of the scrimmage, he might have sacked the quarterback. Second play, he split a double team and gets the tackle. He’s done some good things as well.”

• Diaz, on defensive end Chad Thomas: “Chad is an improved player from where he finished the season. The challenge for Chad is putting it all together. And allowing it to happen on game day. For us, the game day was last Saturday at the scrimmage. He’s playing so much better [but] he can be so much better, in terms of being the force that makes the play, doesn’t almost make a play. Sometimes, there are still some almosts he can finish on.”

• Diaz, on Malek Young, who’s probably his best corner on campus: “It’s too early for that. What’s unfair for Malek is he’s been on this campus for nine months and right now in our corner room, he’s the most experienced corner we have. That’s not the way you want it to be. You want an older guy. The question is what do we have to push Malek? You have to have someone that pushes you to make you a better version of yourself. Right now, that has to be coach [Mike] Rumph.

“What I like is in the fall, that becomes somebody else. I think we’ll see Malek reach a different level in the fall when all of a sudden there are some guys that can challenge him. Right now, we don’t have enough competition at corner to do that.

Three quality corners - Dee Delaney, Jhavonta Dean and Trajan Bandy - arrive this summer.

• A prediction from Perry: “Our chance of going undefeated is very big. That’s what I see.”