Barry Jackson

Mark Walton watched UM practice Tuesday. One thing he saw was eye-opening.

Miami running back Mark Walton left UM early to enter the NFL draft in 2018.
Miami running back Mark Walton left UM early to enter the NFL draft in 2018. AP

A 12-pack of Canes notes on a Wednesday:

▪ Running back Mark Walton, at UM’s Pro Day, pronounced himself healthy after a season-ending October ankle injury and gave UM fans reason for hope:

Five-star running back Lorenzo Lingard is the real deal.

Walton said he went to UM’s practice on Tuesday and loved what he saw from the ballyhooed freshman back.

“He is going to be one hell of a player,” Walton said. “Once he learns the offense, he is going to be a very special talent.”

What skill makes him potentially special?

“His cutbacks finding an open lane,” Walton said. “He’s got some vision.”

Walton said with Lingard, Travis Homer, Deejay Dallas and incoming Camron Davis, it will be a “four-headed monster” at running back.

Walton appreciates how supportive Mark Richt was in his decision to turn pro.

Walton said he (along with several other teammates) will audition for the Dolphins on April 6.

Walton, fully recovered from the ankle injury, was able to do everything at UM Pro Day on Wednesday, which was held inside the Dolphins’ bubble.

Walton said his idol is Adrian Peterson, but some NFL people have compared him to Dion Lewis and Duke Johnson.

▪ Receiver Braxton Berrios helped himself on Wednesday, running anywhere between a 4.34 and 4.47 in the 40-yard dash.

A strong performance was helpful because he sat out drills in the NFL Combine because of two torn fibers in his upper pectoral muscle.

Berrios was timed at a 4.56 in the 40 when he enrolled as a freshman, eight months after knee surgery during his high school season. He knew then that 40-yard time wasn’t reflective of his speed and ran much better Wednesday.

Many project Berrios for the sixth or seventh round, but it wouldn’t be shocking if he moves up to the fourth or fifth.

He has done private workouts for Philadelphia, Tennessee, Oakland and Carolina. He also met with New Orleans.

▪ Why does Richt believe Berrios will be a good pro?

“Because I watched him play the last couple years,” Richt said. “He was the most dominating offensive player we had last year. He took over the Florida State game in my opinion. Without him, we don’t win that one. It happened all year long. There’s no matchup too big for him. Special teams ... one of the best punt returners. One of the biggest jobs of punt returners is knowing when to catch it. When he has space, he can do it.”

▪ Tight end Chris Herndon, back from a November knee injury, did everything Wednesday except run the 40.

He said he was able to show “he’s healthy.”

Herndon enjoyed his meeting with Dolphins officials last Friday. He said he met with offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains, tight ends coach Shane Day and executive vice president/football operations Mike Tannenbaum.

“They took me through plays and asked me some personal questions,” he said.

▪ Kendrick Norton, Anthony Moten, Chad Thomas and Richard McIntosh Jr. were surprised and impressed to see Patriots coach Bill Belichick run them through defensive line drills.

“It was shocking,” Moten said.

Though every NFL team was represented, Belichick was the only NFL head coach in attendance, according to UM.

▪ The most prominent Dolphins people on hand were general manager Chris Grier, special advisor Dan Marino, Loggains and special teams coach Darren Rizzi.

Rizzi wanted UM kicker Michael Badgley during drills. The Dolphins are said to like Auburn kicker Daniel Carlson and UF kicker Eddy Piniero, but are open-minded through the process.

▪ Norton and McIntosh believe UM will be in good shape with their replacements at defensive tackle.

Norton said Jon Ford “is a huge kid. He’s a really big kid. He’s athletic for his size. He gets everything locked in, he can be another great one to come out of Miami. He has a lot of young guys who are going to surprise some people.”

McIntosh said Gerald Willis “can be a great player. He is a great player. He has his head on right. I was just with him two days ago. He’s enjoying the new coach and working hard. He’s got his weight back up. He’s 295, looks good for his weight. They are some big guys. They are looking good right now, even seeing them in some one on one drills.”

Richt told WQAM that the defensive line “is really thin,” and cited defensive tackle, saying “The guys that are in there are doing well. Gerald Willis, no one can block the guy, at least not on a consistent basis. Pat Bethel is solid.

“Ford is getting there, Tyreic Martin, younger guys are trying to find their way. The 1 unit, 2 unit, 3 unit, when our 3’s go against each other we literally go 7 on 7 because there’s not enough D linemen to even function right now.”

▪ The Dolphins are looking very closely at Norton and McIntosh. Norton with the Giants on Tuesday and had a meeting with Detroit after Pro Day, to be followed by upcoming sessions with Tampa, the Dolphins and Bills.

Chad Thomas also was part of the group meeting with the Giants on Tuesday and was scheduled to meet with Arizona and Detroit after Pro Day.

▪ Plenty of Canes alums were in attendance offering support, including Clinton Portis, Sean Spence, Lamar Miller, Frank Gore, Malcolm Lewis, Rashawn Scott and Tracy Howard.

The last four of those play for the Dolphins.

▪ Cornerback Dee Delaney, whose one injury-interrupted season at UM didn’t particularly help his stock, said he received an invitation to the Dolphins’ local pro day audition on April 6.

▪ Two players we’re hearing have been especially impressive early in UM spring practice: early enrollee defensive end Gregory Rousseau and receiver Lawrence Cager.

Jeff Thomas also has been really good.

“He’s practicing with a lot of energy,” Richt said of Thomas. “Last practice he was a highlight reel for the offense making catches, making people miss, catching deep balls, catching short balls, knowing what to do with the inside slot and the outside lane receiver position. He’s come a long way.”

Thomas, who’s playing the slot and outside, is 177 pounds now after enrolling at 156.

“That means a lot so I won’t get tossed around on the field,” Thomas said.

▪ Richt, asked by WQAM’s Joe Rose about UM’s strongest position, said: “I really like our veteran linebackers, they’re juniors,” Richt said. “You’ve got Shaq [Quarterman and Mike Pinckney], [Zach] McCloud’s not playing right now [because of a wrist injury]. But you have these guys around the program, they know what to do, how to do it, are showing great leadership. Really like what we’ve got there.”

But Richt, asked if he’s seen the maturation he would like to see from Michael Irvin II or the other tight ends, the coach said, “No, not yet. I see Irvin getting better, but he’s not where he needs to be yet.”

Richt also said Brian Polendey has “struggled” trying to catch passes, but that he “made a really great catch in today, a highly contested throw and snagged it, turned up and made a big play.”

Bottom line: Will Mallory and Brevin Jordan are poised to play a lot after they enroll.

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