A Friday six-pack of Hurricanes notes:
• Switching positions is difficult enough. Doing it early in the season is even tougher.
That’s what Scott Patchan did when he went to coaches in August and told them he would like to move from defensive end - where UM has considerable depth - to tight end, where depth is shallow.
With backup tight end Michael Irvin Jr. benched last week because of undisclosed off-field issues, Patchan played “significant snaps” against Syracuse, coach Mark Richt said.
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He failed to catch one ball thrown to him when he failed to turn around quickly enough.
“He was running a route it takes experience to do,” Richt said on WQAM. “He was supposed to run it a little differently based on coverage.”
But overall, “he gave us valuable snaps,” Richt said. “We’re happy he’s making progress.”
Irvin, back in good standing, could be back in the role of backing up starter Chris Herndon on Saturday against North Carolina. UM believes freshman tight end Brian Polendey needs more time to develop.
• Haven’t heard a player draw more raves from coaches all season that safety Jaquan Johnson.
“We’re watching film,” Richt said. “If something breaks out, who saves us? Jaquan. Jaquan. Jaquan. Guys really respect him. He may have been named team captain more than anyone.”
• Richt said defensive end Joe Jackson “has a motor like Travis Homer. And he’ll say, ‘Coach, I can run.’ He plays with relentless effort. He’s a fun guy to be around.”
But he needs to get to the quarterback more. He had 7.5 sacks as a freshman last season, just two this season.
• Basketball coach Jim Larranaga, on WQAM’s Hurricane Hotline, said: “We are pretty pleased with where we are. But young teams are notoriouly bad defensively. We're not very good at stopping each other [in practice]. We have to get much better defensively. That's going to take 8 or 10 games during the season before we're defending the way we want.”
UM opens Nov. 10 against Gardner Webb.
• Among the positives Larranaga has seen in the past couple of months: “Our young guys have gotten much stronger. Dewan Huell has gone from 215to 235. You gain that kind of weight and strength, you feel much more comfortable battling on the boards. I see much more confidence from Huell on his interior game, scoring and rebonding.
“I've seen great progress from [center] Ebuka Izundu. Ja’Quan Newton, Bruce Brown have improved their three point shooting.
“The other day, Dejan Vaseljevic made 75 out of 88 threes. We know Chris Lykes, our little point guard, and [fellow freshman] Lonnie Walker are very high octane offensive players. We’ve really got some very strong weapons at the guard position from three point range. And you add Anthony Lawrence and Sam Waardenburg, we feel like we will make a lot of threes this year and a lot of layups.”
• One encouraging thing on Newton, who has had two suspensions at UM and 224 assists compared with 203 turnovers in his three years at UM: “Ja'Quan was very good at finding Davon Reed [who’s now with the Phoenix Suns]; he was not great at finding other guys,” Larranaga said on WQAM. “Right now, he's finding Bruce Brown and Dejan regularly and he's finding our big guys more frequently. Chris Lykes scored 23 and JaQuan scored 17 in a scrimmage and they shared the ball beautifully.”
Larranaga and his staff have tried to get Newton “reduce his dribbles and become a little more efficient. He's improved in the leadership category. He's on track for graduation.”