A six-pack of Hurricanes notes on a Wednesday:
▪ UM is expected to hire legendary Georgia prep high school coach Jess Simpson as its new defensive line coach, according to a source.
Simpson’s expected hiring, originally reported by insidetheu.com, would give UM another strong recruiter in Georgia, where this staff already is well-positioned because of Mark Richt’s long history coaching there, as well as several of his assistants.
Simpson, who would replace Alabama-bound Craig Kuligowski, was a defensive assistant for the Atlanta Falcons in 2017 and spent the 2016 season as the defensive line coach and assistant head coach for Georgia State.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Miami Herald
Before that, Simpson won seven state titles as the head coach at Buford High in Georgia, posting a 164-12 record.
▪ Wide receiver Ahmmon Richards, off a meniscus injury in his left knee, is expected to be a limited participant in spring practice but is expected to be full-go for camp in August and be ready for the start of the 2018 season.
Richards sustained the injury in a Nov. 29 practice in advance of the ACC championship game against Clemson.
Richards, who had surgery on the knee, was a Freshman All-American in 2016 but sustained a hamstring injury during fall practice last August, and that injury hampered him for much of the season.
Meanwhile, receivers coach Ron Dugans quibbles with any notion that Richards regressed last season, even though he dropped several passes and saw his numbers tumble from 49 catches for 934 yards in 13 games as a freshman to 24 for 439 in eight games as a sophomore.
Richards dealt with three different injuries during a frustrating sophomore season.
Dugans said he liked “what the kid showed me in training camp and what he showed me this past season outside of the injuries, what he showed me in spring ball. The kid got a lot better. His strength, his route running, his physicality, his muscle mass, his blocking on the perimeter.
“The injury bug got him. As far as saying he was a bust his sophomore year as opposed to be his freshman year, a lot of people don’t see what he did in practice. I got no question about his ability at all.”
Richards’ return to 2016 form will be vital this season, even though there’s plenty of talent around him.
▪ Lawrence Cager came on late in the season after Dugans said he “challenged him to compete and play like you’re 6-5. Sometimes you’ve got to have those talks with a kid and give him confidence. If I have confidence in you, you have confidence in yourself too. Part of it [his strong play late in the year] was he felt better with his knee. He went out and let it go.”
▪ Even though he made a few huge catches (including the game winner against FSU), Darrell Langham finished with only 11 catches for 209 yards last season and played fewer than 15 snaps in a bunch of games.
Asked about that limited playing time, Dugans said: “I would like to play all those guys. Early on, I had a rotation going to keep guys fresh and keep them healthy. I would like to see him play more. I would like him to be more consistent also, making sure on every play I’m working on my technique and fundamentals with what coach Dugans is teaching. That has to happen on every play. Sometimes it does.”
And don’t overlook Dayall Harris, who also had some moments in the final third of the season after a three-game suspension.
“Harris missed some games early in the season, got back and got in a rhythm,” Dugans said. “He’s a good route runner, good ball skills. Kid has done a good job doing what we asked him to do.”
(We’ll have information on UM’s freshman and sophomore receivers in a future post.)
▪ Ja’Quan Newton’s 40-foot heave at the buzzer to beat North Carolina on Tuesday night was even more amazing considering Newton was just 4 for 24 on three-pointers this season before that shot.
He’s a career 28.7 percent three-point shooter. He was 11 for 40 last year.
Miami is 12-1 this season when Newton scores in double figures.
Before Wednesday, this had been a disappointing senior season for Newton, his scoring average having dropped from 13.5 last season to 8.7 this season.
“For a long time he was putting too much pressure on himself,” coach Jim Larrañaga said Tuesday night, via the Herald’s Linda Robertson. “He was angry at himself, angry at his teammates and angry at me. But the last couple weeks he’s been smiling like crazy. That team spirit is what you need and it had been lacking.”
Newton has now played in 124 games for UM, tied with Elton Tyler and John Salmons for eighth-most in Hurricanes history.
▪ Some Canes 2019 defensive recruiting notes: St. Thomas Aquinas four-star linebacker Anthony Solomon — rated by Rivals as the No. 3 linebacker and No. 132 overall player in this class — took an unofficial visit to Miami on Feb. 17 (his fourth visit to UM) and told Canesport that “Michigan and Miami are top two for me right now.” UM offered a scholarship to St. Thomas Aquinas three-star safety Jordan Battle, and he told Canesport that Miami has “a great chance” to land him. …
Miami Northwestern three-star linebacker Samuel Brooks told Rivals that “my top schools I’m really looking at are South Carolina and Miami. I will be committing by April.”… Three-star Apopka defensive end Rian Davis called UM, Louisville and Houston his favorites. UM also is pursuing his three-star teammate, defensive tackle Tyler Davis.