Barry Jackson

It’s a Canes thing; More evidence of UM football’s special bond

Former football players Jon Beason, left, and Tolbert Bain, at center, with coach Mark Richt during the Carol Soffer Football Indoor Practice Facility groundbreaking ceremony at the University of Miami on Thursday, May 4, 2017.
Former football players Jon Beason, left, and Tolbert Bain, at center, with coach Mark Richt during the Carol Soffer Football Indoor Practice Facility groundbreaking ceremony at the University of Miami on Thursday, May 4, 2017.

A six-pack of Canes notes:

• It’s just different at UM – the camaraderie, the brotherhood, the desire to help the program long after you’ve matriculated to the NFL – and that was reinforced at Saturday’s Paradise Camp. This is not to underestimate what happens at other schools, but the bond – the urge to give back - runs particularly deep for Hurricanes football alums.

Just listen to former UM and NFL great Ed Reed talking after being a guest instructor at Saturday’s camp on UM’s campus:

“It wasn’t easy for me to get here,” he said. “I left my family reunion which is going on in New Orleans, where I’m from. Half my family is there, who’s having a great time last night. But I also have a family here and an obligation to these great young men.”

But this special bond that a bunch of prominent former Canes maintain with the program goes well beyond players showing up to help Mark Richt at an annual summer camp for high school prospects.

Consider this: At what other program do three former NFL linebackers spend the time to sit and watch tape, separately, with three current linebackers?

That’s exactly what Jon Beason and DJ Williams told me that they – along with Jonathan Vilma – have done with sophomore linebackers Shaq Quarterman, Mike Pinckney and Zach McCloud.

Beason said the former Canes greats have met “separately” with the young players but “we all have relationships with them.”

How unusual is this type of thing?

“It doesn’t happen anywhere with this type of frequency at all,” Williams said. “You have guys who may come back sparingly here and there, but Jon and I work out here. Me, Vilma, Beason – we all live two miles away. Jon and I live on Sunset, Beason lives right in the Grove.”

Williams said he speaks “a lot with Shaq and Pinckney and McCloud. We’ve been trying to get together, break film down with these guys, talk, let them pick our brain and ask them what works with us.

“We watched film on them and we came to them and told them, ‘Hey, this technique you’re doing, you’re doing a little wrong. Or you do this excellent, so you need to work on that a lot more.’ What I’ve told them is you get tight, you get in the heat of the battle, you’re going to do what you do best. So you might as well make that the best thing you’re doing.”

Beason, who contributed $250,000 to UM’s under-construction practice facility, said: “I’ve had an opportunity to sit down several times with the young linebackers and watch film with them. The thing that’s most encouraging is the amount of effort they give. They play with reckless abandonment. And they’re covering up a lot of young mistakes because of the effort. They know how to play. They’ve done some things that make you say, ‘Wow.’ Now it’s how consistent you can be.

“Now it’s continuing to take the next step. Mentally preparing, anticipating. They’re getting outstanding coaching. The sky is the limit for what they can accomplish. They have a chance to set records. They can be as good as they want to be, but are they thinking that?”

I asked Beason how good Quarterman can be.

“What he’s put on film is pro caliber to date,” he said. “You never want to think about how great you can be. Just put your head down and work. After the fact, you go off and have an opportunity to play in the league if you’re so fortunate, then you can look back. You don’t reflect until it’s over.”

As for Pinckney and McCloud, Beason said: “A lot of talent, a lot of raw ability. They have to learn how to do it together. And it’s a lot of communication thing. You see something I don’t see so you tell me. They’re growing. You saw their growth throughout the season.”

• I asked Michael Irvin about Ahmmon Richards and he said “I hear people on Twitter all the time hitting me, saying ‘he’s first round, he’s first round, Ahmmon Richards owns the record.’… I want him… to do greater things. Not just here but beyond here, in the league, go and do greater things. I’m so proud of him.”

• Richt has said he has concerns about depth at tight end beyond Chris Herndon, but Irvin said he has heard positive feedback on his son, Michael Irvin Jr., who projects as Herndon’s backup.

I was talking to [Richt] about him and he says he’s really doing well,” Irvin said.

“He told me, make sure I say that to him, keep encouraging him. He’s really working hard, he’s picking up everything. … Michael’s playing one of the toughest positions. I’ve always thought the tight end position is the toughest on the field because you have to be so involved with the run game and then so involved with the pass game, being up and moving a lot, especially in this offense. But when I talk to him and talk to his coach, he said he’s really doing well. So hopefully he’ll get the chance to make some plays this year.”

• Several former UM greats were asked about the future of the program.

Irvin: “I’m looking forward to this year. It should be a very interesting year for us. Very interesting year for us. I love the organization; they have a plan. And knowing how to implement that plan becomes the difference. And he (Richt) knows how to implement the plan.”

Reed: “Miami has never left. Teams struggle, you know? Last time I checked, we still have championships here. We’ve been through sanctions and stuff like that and we’ve come up out of it. We have before. We back? We’ll see. I know coach [Richt] is doing the right things, saying the right things to these guys that they need to be doing.”

Beason: “It’s only going vertical. It’s not on diagonal. It’s going vertical, fast.”

DJ Williams: "I love the organization. They have a plan. And knowing how to implement that plan becomes the difference. And he (Richt) knows how to implement the plan. We have the right guy at the helm at coach Richt.”

Antrel Rolle: “They have a lot of phenomenal talent. I’m anxious to see Jaquan Johnson back there [at safety]. I’ve watched him. I’ve broken him down on film. I think he’s a prototypical guy, very, very coachable. Good craft. Great technique. And more importantly, he’s always around the ball.”

“I see something in [these players] It’s a different mentality they have. Before, I had the feeling guys were too anxious to try to get to the next level. Right now, I’m not really seeing that. I’m seeing the guys are anxious to get back to winning.”

• There is clearly more contact between former players and current ones under the Richt regime than the previous one. And Beason and Rolle articulately explain the value of that.

Rolle: “These are what guys relate to you. This is what they want to see. You can only coach so much, you can only preach the same thing so much.

“When you get another outside voice, another outside view, that can tell you different things, what it’s like to be in those trenches, players can relate to it. It gives them goose bumps. It gets their blood flowing. That’s the reason for us coming back.”

Beason: “The history and tradition is important because it’s an example of what you can obtain. We’re not telling you some fairy tale dream. It’s happened right here.”

• Among those who caught our eye at Paradise Camp: Oral commitment Will Mallory, the four-star tight end from Jacksonville, looked terrific catching several deep throws. With Herndon set to graduate next spring, Mallory and fellow oral commit Brevin Jordan are poised to play immediately as freshman. Mallory, rated the No. 16 tight end in the 2018 class by Rivals, and the Las Vegas-based Jordan (rated the second-best), should form a dynamic tight end combo for years. Jordan and Mallory have become friends and both seemingly embrace sharing the position….

UM oral commitment Mark Pope is consistently a standout in these types of camps, one recruiting insider told me, and he made deep catches look effortless Saturday night…

Running back Lorenzo Lingard, another ballyhooed UM oral commit, showed receiver skills out of the backfield and held onto a pass over the middle despite taking a big hit from a defensive back…

UM picked up one oral commitment over the weekend (four-star Mississippi based 2019 offensive tackle Brandon Cunningham) and Rivals reports that UM is now the favorite to land former Florida State commit, Kayode Oladele, a four star prospect from Hialeah Champagnat and rated the 23rd best defensive end by rivals. Georgia appears to be UM’s stiffest competition.

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