Barry Jackson

The Shirreffs mystery, WR intrigue, recruiting and other UM notes

Evan Shirreffs (16) makes a routine pass during a University of Miami football practice held at the Greentree Practice Field in Coral Gables on Tues., Aug. 16, 2016.
Evan Shirreffs (16) makes a routine pass during a University of Miami football practice held at the Greentree Practice Field in Coral Gables on Tues., Aug. 16, 2016. mocner@miamiherald.com

Some UM football nuggets on a Friday:

• Evan Shirreffs is an amiable, well-mannered, studious young man, but we’ve always been skeptical about his chances of winning the UM quarterback job because 1) his arm strength isn’t above average; 2) we were told his accuracy was erratic during spring practice; 3) he was thoroughly unimpressive in the final scrimmage, failing to move the team consistently.

So why does Mark Richt keep saying that Shirreffs and Malik Rosier are about even, with N’Kosi Perry also very much in the mix?

Part of that speaks to Rosier’s occasional penchant for turnovers, including two in that pseudo-spring game at Boca High. Part of that speaks to the fact that ballyhooed freshman Perry wasn’t on campus until this week, and coaches cannot be sure if he’s ready to play.

Malik Rosier talks about the UM quarterback race, yoga, and meeting freshman N'Kosi Perry.

But feedback from a player also provided some insight into why Shirreffs is still in the mix. Besides Shirreffs being highly intelligent and having a good command of the playbook, one player said one advantage that Shirreffs has over Malik Rosier is that Shirreffs, at 6-5, can see over the line of scrimmage better than the 6-1 Rosier, which helps Shirreffs spot open receivers more effectively than Rosier at times.

Though Shirreffs struggled in the final spring scrimmage, one player said he did a good job, at times, of getting the ball into tight spaces during closed practices this spring.

If I were making odds for who would start the opener against Bethune Cookman, I would place Shirreffs third behind Rosier and Perry. But that’s assuming the highly-skilled Perry picks up the offense quickly and impresses in August, which is a big if.

Would I be surprised if Shirreffs is the starter? Yes. Would I be shocked? No, because there is a scenario this could happen.

Shirreffs, who had no other scholarship offers from any other Power 5 conference schools besides Miami, should be commended for his progress. But he needs to show a lot more consistency in August to beat out Rosier and Perry.

Vinny Testaverde Jr. is a major long shot for the job, and Cade Weldon’s work this spring shows he isn’t ready. For those who missed it, Jack Allison announced he’s transferring.

• Miami Southridge senior-to-be Mark Pope, rated by Rivals.com as the sixth best receiver and 30th best overall prospect nationally in the 2018 class, orally committed to UM in March. So it was surprising that Pope tweeted this on Wednesday: “My recruitment is still open. Please respect my decision ”

Pope hasn’t elaborated on that tweet.

UM has two other receivers orally committed for 2018: Four-star Bradenton-based Brian Hightower and three-star Daquris Wiggins, Pope’s teammate at Southridge.

• One of the interesting starting battles will be the receiver job opposite Ahmmon Richards. There are a bunch of contenders: Lawrence Cager (who didn’t play last season because of a knee injury), Dionte Mullins, Braxton Berrios, Dayall Harris, Darrell Langham and freshmen Jeff Thomas, Deejay Dallas, Mike Harley and Evidence Njoku.

Cager, who didn’t participate in contact work during spring ball, told our Michelle Kaufman this week that’s he ready to go and told Canesport’s Matt Shodell:

“I feel great, I’m ready to get to work, ready for August. I feel fine as far as speed, I actually got faster even though I’ve put on weight…. Mentally I was ready for anything [this spring], but the training staff wanted me to go slow coming back because we’re not trying to win anything. They want me ready for September….

“It felt like four years I was sitting out. I really wasn’t used to it. It was adversity, but you have to come through adversity to be great. I’m ready to accept the challenge.”

Cager, 6-5, caught eight passes for 70 yards as a freshman in 2015, including a touchdown in a loss to North Carolina.

Mark Richt would love for him to study NFL star A.J. Green, another tall receiver who played for Richt at Georgia.

• Former UM linebacker Jon Vilma was named to UM’s Board of Trustees, joining Bernie Kosar as the only former Canes players on the board. Former MLB star Alex Rodriguez and ex-Dolphins star and NFL Hall of Famer Nick Buoniconti also are on the board.

Asked about the state of UM football, Vilma said: “The structure and discipline, I'm most encouraged by that. I've been very encouraged by the commitment to discipline, the commitment to the structure and to the process.

“What I mean by that is you hear less about kids doing silly stuff outside of the program and if you do hear about it, there is immediate discipline, immediate action.

“That's how our program was run when I was with Butch Davis. I get the sense Mark Richt and his coaching staff instilled it and now they're trying to pass that on to some of the players and the leaders to enforce that, and now the players start policing themselves.”

Before Richt’s hiring, Vilma injected himself into the UM coaching search when he asked UM athletic director Blake James for players to have a seat at the table. James responded by placing Vilma and Vinny Testaverde on the search committee.

Vilma said he has avoided direct contact with players because “I've been cautious to deal with them until Blake gives me an OK what I can do.”

Vilma was paired with Butch Davis in ESPN2’s college football studio last season. But Davis left to take the FIU head coaching job and ESPN on Friday named former Oregon/Philadelphia Eagles/San Francisco 49ers coach Chip Kelly to replace him.

Asked if Kelly would be paired with Vilma this season on ESPN2, a network spokesman said the network was not ready to name its full studio teams, beyond announcing Kelly’s hiring.

This is the second in a flurry of posts from me this morning. Please click here for news on three interesting power rotation prospects that the Heat summoned to team headquarters this week. Please click here for Dolphins nuggets, including a new encouraging development with Ryan Tannehill, an undrafted rookie who impressed this week and observations from the first open media practice session of the offseason. And please follow me on Twitter (@flasportsbuzz) for quick links and news.

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