Chatter on how UM stacks up, by position, with spring ball ending this weekend:
• Quarterback: Mark Richt said Malik Rosier and Evan Shirreffs emerged as co-leaders, but practice observers said neither was consistent enough this spring, and that continued during Saturday’s psuedo spring game at Boca Raton High.
Shirreffs couldn’t move the ball Saturday, threw one (deflected) pick, and his accuracy – even on shorter routes – has been shaky this spring, according to a UM source. Arm strength is also an issue.
For the second consecutive scrimmage, he completed fewer than half his attempts Saturday (7 for 17, for 75 yards, with a deflected interception to Charles Perry).
Rosier makes some big plays (he had a 72-yard sideline touchdown to Ahmmon Richards and a bullet 23-yard TD to Chris Herndon on Saturday) and he thrives on read-option plays.
But by his account, he threw at least six picks this spring, including two Saturday, one of which Richt took the blame for. Rosier also couldn’t mount a drive on UM’s final possession, which disappointed Richt, with a Richard McIntosh Jr. sack and a Rosier overthrow to Herndon contributing to that foiled final drive.
Jack Allison has a big arm and looked good at times Saturday against UM’s second-team defense (two touchdowns, one pick, 12 for 16) but Richt wants more consistency.
When I asked Richt what Allison needs to do to catch up to Rosier and Shirreffs, he said: “It’s making good decisions, throwing to the right guy for the right reason. Putting it on the money if he has the opportunity to have the protection and the field of vision. He’s certainly a guy who’s going to make his career as a pocket passer. He’s a very talented pocket passer. When he gets opportunities, he has to stand there and rip it and put it on the money.”
Cade Weldon isn’t close to being ready. Unless N’Kosi Perry wows everyone this summer or Allison takes another step in Richt’s eyes, Rosier might be the best option.
Richt likely will need to call a lot of safe throws and bubble screens.
• Running back: Depth is a huge concern behind Mark Walton, and a grad transfer (preferably Clemson’s Tyshon Dye) assuredly will be added. Though Travis Homer’s pass protection needs work, a UM source said he proved effective on stretch plays this spring, showed good elusiveness on cut backs, and isn’t afraid of contact. He had seven carries for 24 yards on Saturday.
Trayone Gray and Robert Burns will be back by August, Richt said, but UM isn’t convinced about Gray’s instincts as a ball-carrier and Burns’ durability issues throughout high school are a red flag.
Walton seemed irked about lack of carries this spring, but he shouldn’t be; UM needs to protect his body and he needed work on pass protection. He carried 11 times for 65 yards on Saturday.
• Receiver: Offensive coordinator Thomas Brown said 6-4 Darrell Langham was the most improved receiver this spring and he had eight catches Saturday, but I’m not yet convinced he will play a lot because of shaky hands and depth at the position. We’ll see.
Ahmmon Richards (four catches, 112 yards Saturday) will be UM’s No. 1 receiver, but No. 2 is wide open. Lawrence Cager (who missed all of spring) will be a factor.
Dayall Harris had some good moments, including six catches for 70 yards Saturday. UM says DeeJay Dallas surprised with his ability to make contested catches. Braxton Berrios seemingly remains an afterthought on offense, which is curious to me considering his elusiveness and reliability.
Ballyhooed Mike Harley and Jeff Thomas (and Evidence Njoku) arrive this summer.
Dionte Mullins made a couple of very good plays Saturday but also has outfought for a ball on one of Malek Young’s interceptions.
“He's gotten in better shape but it's still a process to get him to be where he should be and reach his full potential, which will be a daily battle with him,” Brown said. “But to say 100 percent convinced [he will help in 2017]? I can't say that fully right now.”
• Tight end: Chris Herndon has a chance to the best tight end in the country, tight ends coach Todd Hartley said. He had four catches for 48 yards Saturday, and one UM source said quarterbacks missed too many throws to him this spring.
Among backups Michael Irvin Jr., Jovani Haskins and Brian Polendey, Irvin appears ahead.
Among tight ends, “Michael Irvin has probably made the biggest jump about being consistent about knowing what to do, how to get lined up and executing the stuff we ask them to do,” Brown said.
Haskins has potential on vertical throws, but that isn’t a strength of these quarterbacks.
• Offensive line: UM closed spring with a first team of Kc McDermott and Tyree St. Louis at tackle, Trevor Darling and Navaughn Donaldson at guard and Tyler Gauthier at center. Nick Linder, when he returns from injury, will try to get his job back from Gauthier, who has had problems with snapping this spring, including Saturday.
Offensive line coach Stacy Searels is happy with McDermott and St. Louis and Donaldson but wants more from Darling, who will be challenged by the loser of the center battle.
• Defensive line: UM is loaded at end with Chad Thomas (“been highly productive” this spring, Manny Diaz said), Trent Harris (“always going to be where he’s supposed to be,” Diaz said), Demetrius Jackson (plays the run well), Joe Jackson (8.5 sacks as a freshman but UM wants him to be better against the run) and early-enrollee Jon Garvin, who impressed everyone with pass rush moves.
Scott Patchan remains limited after years of knee problems, and perhaps UM’s most ballyhooed recruit – Deonte Johnson – arrives this summer.
At tackle, Kendrick Norton and Richard McIntosh both have a chance to be all-ACC challengers, Anthony Moten improved considerably, and Pat Bethel (1.5 sacks Saturday) made a smooth transition from defensive end. Gerald Willis returns from injury in August. Dismissed Courtel Jenkins reportedly will enroll at Connecticut, incidentally.
• Linebacker: Depth should be improved here behind Shaq Quarterman, Mike Pinckney and Zach McCloud.
Mike Smith has been one of UM’s most improved defensive players (per Diaz); Darrion Owens is showing more explosiveness two years removed from knee surgery; Charles Perry has been splitting first team work with McCloud and had the pick Saturday, and UM likes freshmen Bradley Jennings (on campus), Waymon Steed (on campus but recovering from last year’s knee injury) and De’Andre Wilder (arrives this summer). Jamie Gordinier (knee) will be back by August.
• Safety: Sheldrick Redwine, switched from cornerback, already “is one of our 11 best players,” Diaz said, and I expect he will start opposite Jaquan Johnson. But I wouldn’t totally discount Robert Knowles, who is much-improved.
And early enrollee Amari Carter impressed everyone with his physicality, instincts and intelligence. He had 10 tackles Saturday and several huge hits. Romeo Finley, who intercepted Allison on Saturday, also is developing.
• Cornerback: Malek Young was exceptional all spring (two picks Saturday) and will be one of UM’s top three corners with summer arrivals Dee Delaney (The Citadel transfer) and Jhavonta Dean (the former junior college standout). No wonder cornerbacks coach Mike Rumph because emotional when Young signed with UM 14 months ago; the kid is a special talent.
The No. 4 job could go to summer arrival Trajan Bandy or Michael Jackson, who had the best spring of the ‘other’ corners, including Terrence Henley and Ryan Mayes.
• Punter Jack Spicer was erratic all spring, but Zach Feagles arrives this summer.
• Quick injury note: Those sidelined Saturday included Burns (arm in a sling), Cager, Willis, Patchan, Steed, Linder, Willis, Gray and offensive lineman Sunny Odogwu.