Barry Jackson

What Miami football coaches want to see from one of the Hurricanes’ dynamic playmakers

Miami Hurricanes receiver Jeff Thomas (4) tries to catch a pass against Pittsburgh in UM’s regular season finale. UM is pushing for more from its speedy sophomore-to-be receiver.
Miami Hurricanes receiver Jeff Thomas (4) tries to catch a pass against Pittsburgh in UM’s regular season finale. UM is pushing for more from its speedy sophomore-to-be receiver. ctrainor@miamiherald.com

A six-pack of Hurricanes notes on a Thursday:

▪ A UM official said of all the things that happened on National Signing Day last February, Mark Richt seemed most thrilled when four-star receiver Jeff Thomas’ written commitment pushed through the FAX machine.

Richt appreciated the badly-needed jolt of speed and explosiveness that Thomas would add to UM’s offense.

We saw some of that in bursts in the second half of the season — Thomas caught 17 for 374, a 22-yard average and two touchdowns — but UM wants much more.

And that begins with making a commitment to improve.

“I said Jeff would be great coming in,” departing receiver Braxton Berrios said. “His potential will skyrocket if he becomes an incredible worker.”

Offensive coordinator Thomas Brown told me that Thomas has a “ways to go” in that regard.

“He has definitely gotten better,” Brown said. “Some of the issues sometimes is guys have been able to get away with certain things in high school, and I’m not knocking his high school program, but certain guys have to understand how to work at a certain level. Braxton is a great example for him. Jeff has all the physical skills to be a great player, has got great speed, great change of direction, great ball skills.

“Jeff has gotten a lot better this year from a work ethic standpoint but still has a ways to go. He fully understands that. The more he buys into that, the better he will be and the better we’ll be.”

▪ UM also is expecting growth from receiver Mike Harley, who caught nine passes for 91 yards as a freshman.

“One of the toughest guys we have,” Brown said. “Obviously not the biggest guy in the world [at 5-9]. Getting a great offseason and developing his body will be huge for him. I don’t care how tough you are in this game; normally big guys beat little guys. His mindset and the way he works is going to be huge for him. Really good ball skills. Very smart player.”

Hurricanes freshman wideout Jeff Thomas talks about his 78-yard touchdown and 101-yard day against UNC on Saturday, Oct. 28, 2017.

▪ Bubba Baxa isn’t the only new kicker in UM’s program.

According to Canesport, Maryland-based Camden Price is joining UM as a preferred walk-on but has a full scholarship because his parents are in the military.

Price made four of five field goals last season and 70 percent of his kickoffs reached the end zone.

“They said on the visit that they play the best player on Saturday, so if I come down and kill it I’ll play,” Price told Canesport. “They have a scholarship kid coming in [Baxa], but it’s anybody’s job.”

Price is rated the No. 12 kicker in the nation by Kornblue, a kicking rating service.

▪ Two Apopka offensive linemen — three-star guard Ed Montius and four-star tackle William Barnes — had talked about visiting UM but now won’t because UM is not inclined to allocate two scholarships to offensive linemen, their coach told Canesport.

UM’s focus is on defense, plus receiver target Marquez Ezzard.

▪ UM says even though Malek Young’s football career is over because of a neck injury, he should be able to live a normal life.

▪ The college basketball world was buzzing over Lonny Walker’s dynamic 25-point performance in the overtime win against Louisville, including the how-did-he-do-that contorting layup to tie the game late in regulation.

ESPN’s Dick Vitale said he was “blown away” by Walker, especially the difficulty of some of his baskets and the diverse way he scored.

ESPN’s Jeff Goodman: “This is the Lonnie Walker we’ve been waiting for. Special talent.”

CBS’ Jon Rothstein: “Lonnie Walker played tonight like the five-star recruit we remember from high school. Completely willed Miami to victory over Louisville in OT. One heck of a game.”

Here’s my Thursday Heat post on what the Heat is doing much better statistically than any team in the NBA, plus an NBA head coach talking today about why his former team cut Hassan Whiteside twice and Bam Adebayo news... Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

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