Barry Jackson

UM QB race close; depth concerns emerge elsewhere

UM's quaterback N'Kosi Perry at the University of Miami's first day of football practice for the 2017 season, Miami, Florida, August 1, 2017.
UM's quaterback N'Kosi Perry at the University of Miami's first day of football practice for the 2017 season, Miami, Florida, August 1, 2017.

A six-pack of Hurricanes notes after Wednesday’s practice:

• Braxton Berrios, one of the team’s most thoughtful, articulate players, naturally wouldn’t say publicly who’s leading the QB race even if he had an opinion.

But he insisted Tuesday that the top contenders are extremely close in performance through nine days of camp.

That’s a view we’ve heard elsewhere as well, with top contenders N’Kosi Perry, Evan Shirreffs and Malik Rosier all having their moments in camp but none of them perfect by any means.

“I don’t see much distance whatsoever,” Berrios said. “They are all splitting reps. There is zero distance in my mind. And I kind of expected that until the first scrimmage and especially the second scrimmage. Once people go live, you see a lot more than you do when you can’t get hit. I don’t see much distance. It’s a pretty even race right now.”

Scrimmages the next two Saturdays will have a major role in determining the starter.

• It’s easy to overlook Shirreffs, who received no Power Five conference scholarship offers other than a late one from Miami.

But receiver Ahmmon Richards said Shirreffs doesn’t have an issue with getting the ball downfield 50 plus yards, amid previous questions about arm strength: “He can throw the ball. He works extremely hard and he really cares. You can see the passion he plays with.”

And Berrios said: “I don’t care about stars, how many offers you have. I always knew he could be something special. He’s a good quarterback overall.”

• Depth at running back and tight end are real concerns.

At running back, Travis Homer is Mark Walton’s likely backup, though offensive coordinator Thomas Brown stopped short of saying that.

But he made clear Crispian Atkins is pushing Trayone Gray for the No. 3 job. Freshman Robert Burns (shoulder) isn’t expected to be ready for the opener, as Mark Richt has said.

“Atkins has been a pleasant surprise,” Brown said. “Every spot is up for grabs. Robert is getting mental reps. In the spring, he looked really good. Big, physical guy, really powerful with top end speed.”

When will Burns be able to play?

“Who knows?” Brown said.

Brown said receiver DeeJay Dallas hasn’t received any snaps at running back during camp.

But moving Dallas to running back “isn’t out of the question,” Brown said. “He’s a very versatile player. We can use him multiple returns, including kickoff returns and punt returns.”

At tight end, no clear cut backup has emerged behind Chris Herndon.

Michael Irvin Jr. has missed time with dehydration. Walk-on Malik Curry has received considerable work with the second-team. And freshman Brian Polendey remains a work in progress.

“Curry has been solid every day, consistent,” Brown said. “It would be tough to make it through some practices without him. He’s been great for us so far. Polendey is being more consistent with run blocking and knowing what to do and catching the ball out in space will be a big thing for us. But he’s been fine.”

• I asked Brown if he’s comfortable using Berrios, who’s a skilled slot receiver, on the boundary, if he and Richt determine that Richards, Berrios and natural slot receiver Jeff Thomas are Miami’s top three.

“The great thing about Berrios is he can play multiple positions,” Brown said, noting Thomas and Mike Harley are playing both inside and outside as well. “He’s a super smart guy. We wouldn’t have any hesitation to put him where we need him best. Great confidence in Berrios” - who said he’s looking forward to more targets.

• Brown said of Mike Smith: “I’m not sure how much we will use him at [fullback]” because he’s needed at linebacker.

Smith said his offensive snaps have been limited.

• Richards, on Dee Delaney: “He’s a bigger corner, likes to use his hands. That’s helping me get better, using his hands.” And Malek Young? “He uses his head, tries to outsmart you, based on your tendencies. He watches a lot of film, knows what you want to do.”

Berrios said this cornerback group should be at the caliber at a very high level of ACC football, if not higher.

• Sophomore defensive end Joe Jackson, who had 8.5 sacks as a freshman, said freshman Jon Garvin might be better than he was at this stage.

"I think he can be better than me at this time because he came in earlier,” Jackson said. “I think he has better raw talent than me, to be honest. He's doing real well -- when he learns the play he'll be OK. One thing he does do well is his speed. He comes off the ball and he's fast. It's very hard to stop him when he just uses his speed rush.”

Manny Diaz has said that Garvin “terrorized” Palm Beach County as a high school pass-rusher.

Susan Miller Degnan will have a lot more on the receivers later on our web site.... Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

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