Barry Jackson

Here is something very encouraging about the Canes’ first football spring practice

UM sophomore-to-be safety Amari Carter (5) holds a sledge hammer after UM defeated Bethune-Cookman 41-13 in its season opener last September. UM coach Mark Richt thinks Carter is an elite player on the field and the nicest guy off it.
UM sophomore-to-be safety Amari Carter (5) holds a sledge hammer after UM defeated Bethune-Cookman 41-13 in its season opener last September. UM coach Mark Richt thinks Carter is an elite player on the field and the nicest guy off it. adiaz@miamiherald.com

Lots of Hurricanes notes on a Wednesday, with the second spring practice session set for Thursday morning:

▪ Yes, it was only one day of spring practice, so nothing that happened Tuesday should be overstated.

But with that caveat, several of Miami’s young defensive players were impressive in their first organized Canes practice.

“In the secondary, [early enrollee cornerbacks] D.J. Ivey and Gilbert Frierson looked really good yesterday,” defensive coordinator Manny Diaz said on WQAM’s Joe Rose Show on Wednesday. Early enrollee safety “Gurvan Hall made a play in practice yesterday that sort of made everybody’s jaw drop. [Sophomore-to-be safety] Amari Carter made an excellent play, an interception, during yesterday’s practice. [Early enrollee] Greg Rousseau at defensive end will figure in right way. The ability to come in mid year and get these reps and work on their technique without having to prepare for a game is really valuable and will really pay off for these guys in the fall.”

▪ Gerald Willis and Jon Ford seemingly are getting first crack at the starting defensive tackle jobs, with Pat Bethel very much in the mix, too.

How good are Willis and Ford?

“Willis has a chance to be really good,” Diaz said on Rose’s show. “He has a set of skills and his ability to make plays and his twitch are really what you want as that 3 technique tackle who can terrorize guards on the run and the pass. He’s done a great job … understanding this is his last go-around.”

“Jon Ford, it’s almost like you’re still taking the wrapper off the presents at Christmas. He got in so late during August camp getting his academics cleared. It’s almost like he was never even taught day one stuff. He was able to get some game experience a year ago. He’s got unlimited potential. He’s got the size and ability of what you want to be a big time guy in the inside.”

Diaz said the loss of defensive line coach Craig Kuligowski to Alabama “was not a surprise. Coach Kool did a great job in

helping sort of re-establish the identity of the Miami defense. He had some long term career goals that he felt like going somewhere else would bring him closer to those goals, which is all a part of college football.

“Anytime you have an opening you have a chance to evaluate where you’re strong and where you’re weak and you always try to improve the overall quality of your staff. I think really we were able to do that.”

Diaz said UM is “really excited” about new defensive line coach Jess Simpson “and what he brings. College football is a player development job … We have shown we have done a great job at that the last couple years.

“But it also comes down to player evaluation and player acquisition. You’ve got to do a great job — we don’t get to draft- we’ve got to recruit them. … Jess brings great experience and is a great teacher, a great man and has already fit in very well. Our players are very eager to work with him.”

Simpson had great success as a prep coach in Georgia and was also an assistant coach with Georgia State and the Atlanta Falcons.

▪ Diaz, on Rose’s show, insisted UM pays no attention to how many stars a player is given by Rivals.com.

“I don’t have any idea the guys we’re recruiting how many stars they have. When they get on campus, usually the first meeting we have, we say everyone take your stars and throw it in the waste basket. That’s about what it’s worth when you get to the next level.”

▪ Don’t discount Venzell Boulware in the competition for a starting guard job opposite Navaughn Donaldosn. The University of Tennessee transfer, a former four-star recruit, arrives this summer and has two years of eligibility left.

Rivals.com’s Mike Farrell noted this week that “Boulware was a Rivals 250 prospect who was clearly an interior lineman with good feet that just needed to add some size and toughness out of high school. We liked his ability to pass block and he was a solid run-blocker, so he should help Miami early on the inside, especially improving the work against the pass rush. I like this pickup a lot for Miami.”

Jahair Jones was first team left guard in Tuesday’s practice.

▪ The Dolphins were gracious in allowing UM to use their practice bubble for their Pro Day next Wednesday.

UM’s Pro Day was marred last season by weather problems.

UM is in the process of building its own $34 million indoor practice facility, but it won’t be ready until Aug. 1.

▪ Cornerback Malek Young, whose football career ended when he sustained a neck injury in the Orange Bowl, was on the field during Tuesday’s practice, standing alongside cornerbacks coach Mike Rumph.

“That means everything, he’s a tough guy,” safety Jaquan Johnson said. “He’s a tough guy, is coming out here to coach up the cornerbacks. I talk to him all the time, we’re always together and he’s taking charge every day to make sure his mind is free and he’s feeling well.”

▪ The final word to Diaz, who cracked on Rose’s show that UM doesn’t bring its turnover chain on recruiting visits because “we can’t get it through security.”

But seriously: “We don’t bring the chain out. Part of the allure is that it doesn’t make many public appearances.[But] it’s a topic of conversation on the recruiting trail.” 

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