A six-pack of Canes notes on a Thursday:
▪ Among the questions percolating in UM’s defensive backfield entering the spring:
1) Would Amari Carter or anyone challenge Sheldrick Redwine to start at safety opposite Jaquan Johnson?
2) Would any of the UM freshman cornerbacks challenge to start on the boundary opposite Michael Jackson?
Some early hints have been provided.
Let’s start with safety. Redwine played well for much of last season after his offseason move from cornerback to safety.
But he struggled late in the year, seemingly leaving the door open for Amari Carter, Derrick Smith Jr. or perhaps even freshman Gurvan Hall.
Defensive coordinator Manny Diaz said Thursday that Redwine “has had a great spring. Has come in from day one playing at a very high level. Kind of that, this is my last go-around. I’m going to really attack it. So that’s been encouraging.”
So Redwine remains the starter for now.
Carter “is a guy who’s getting better and better,” Diaz said. “We are trying to get Amari to starter level so when he goes in there’s not the dropoff. He definitely has established himself as our third best guy. What we’re trying to push him now is it’s all 1 and 1A with those other guys.”
Smith isn’t in the competition because he is focusing partly on a role that would have him playing linebacker in nickel.
“Derrick is in a different bucket because Derrick is playing closer to the ball, so Derrick is not playing the same position Redwine is right now,” Diaz said.
That’s also the case with Romeo Finley.
Hall isn’t a factor because of a wrist injury that will sideline him for the remainder of spring practice.
As for the cornerback question, Jhavonte Dean has been primarily with the starters opposite Jackson, with Trajan Bandy getting a lot of work in the slot.
But Diaz said freshman D.J. Ivey is the team’s second-best cornerback on some days. Other days, it’s Dean or Bandy.
So this competition remains open.
Early enrollee Gilbert Frierson can’t be overlooked, and summer arrivals Al Blades Jr. and Nigel Bethel will get a long look.
“The gap between all of them changes every day,” Diaz said. “There are days when Ivey probably walks on the field in the top two. But not every day. Mike Jack has been the No. 1. He played really well last year, and we expect him to be a great leader for us in that room. Trajan has had better days the last two days, but it’s an ongoing battle.”
We were told that Dean had a nice pass breakup of a Jarren Williams pass in Thursday’s practice. But the sense we get from a UM official is that Dean still needs to get better. It’s not like he’s consistently playing at an elite level.
So do Ivey and Frierson look like they will help immediately?
“They have no choice,” Diaz said. “We’ve got what we’ve got. Same thing when Nigel Bethel shows up and Al Blades shows up in the summertime. Everybody we have in our secondary has got to assume a role somehow, some way. We’re delighted they’re here.”
▪ Diaz is happy with how Scott Patchan has looked in his move back from tight end to defensive end.
“Scott pops up, seems like every day in practice, making a play,” Diaz said. “He’s got a great attitude. Scott’s a tough guy, can run. Looks healthy [after past knee injuries]. Really looks like he’s enjoying playing the game.”
▪ We’re told that Malik Rosier was the best quarterback in practice Thursday.
There’s no question N’Kosi Perry has improved — he had a very good practice Tuesday — but Rosier is making the fewest mental mistakes, which will be heavily factored into the starting decision.
Offensive coordinator Thomas Brown told WQAM this week that Rosier remains ahead in the competition but not by a large margin.
Cade Weldon missed Thursday’s practice with an eye infection.
▪ We hear defensive tackle Jon Ford was very impressive on Thursday. He’s going to play a lot.
▪ Diaz, on new defensive line coach Jess Simpson: “Our guys can’t stop raving about him. What he has done with those guys and the mentality and the strides that our younger and inexperienced players have made in just eight practice opportunities, really only six in shoulder pads, has been remarkable. It’s been fun to see.... He’s going to make a major impact on our team.”
▪ During its meeting with Marlins Park officials regarding the 2019 UM-FIU football game, FIU made clear that it will go back to Hard Rock Stadium before making a decision.
The game will either be at Hard Rock Stadium or Marlins Park, and FIU is trying to strike the best financial deal.