Barry Jackson

Hurricanes add new defensive position. Here's what it involves and who's playing it.

Miami Hurricanes' defensive player Romeo Finley (30) speaks to the media in August 2016. He's playing a new position in UM's defense, called "striker."
Miami Hurricanes' defensive player Romeo Finley (30) speaks to the media in August 2016. He's playing a new position in UM's defense, called "striker."

A six-pack of Hurricanes notes on a Thursday:

UM said Thursday it has created a new defensive position to make its defense more dangerous and versatile.

It’s called “striker,” and it in many ways mirrors the strongside linebacker position but with added responsibilities.

Former safeties Derrick Smith Jr. and Romeo Finley and redshirt freshman linebacker De’Andre Wilder are playing that position and getting a lot of first-team work because strongside linebacker Zach McCloud is missing the rest of spring ball with an injury. Backup Charles Perry also remains sidelined after knee surgery last year.

“We ask them to do more things that Zach and [Perry] haven’t done in the past,” outside linebackers coach Jon Patke said. “Playing a little bit more man with their athleticism out there. It kind of changes the dynamic of our defense because you can do more things with their athleticism and their length.”

Here’s the thinking behind the new position:

“What we try to do at Miami is we want to get the fastest players on the field and Derrick and Romeo are athletic coming from the safety room,” Patke said. “We want to get the most speed out there. If they can play with physicality, it’s going to help our defense immensely.”

So who’s ahead?

“Derrick started that way but it’s been a battle,” Patke said. “I have let them know up front, every day we grade practice. I feel comfortable with both of them rolling with the ones right now. Right now, [Wilder] is considered a striker right now with Derrick and Romeo ahead of him a little bit.”

With Smith and Finley no longer in the safety room, UM has five scholarship safeties – Jaquan Johnson, Sheldrick Redwine, Amari Carter, Robert Knowles and newcomer Gurvan Hall, who is missing the final 10 sessions of spring ball with a wrist injury.

Asked how big the gap is between Redwine and Carter, safeties coach Ephraim Banda said: “I am very very pleased with Sheldrick. In my opinion, he’s had the best spring he’s had since he’s been here. Him and Mike [Jackson] are far and above all the defensive backs we have on campus that are practicing. Jaquan Johnson is taking that class; not here the whole time. Sheldrick is lights out, killing it. Sheldrick has had one bad day. That’s the one thing I always talk to him about. Sheldrick has to play consistently every single day for us to be good.

“Amari is coming along, doing a good job. Robert Knowles is having a great spring, too. Those two are battling. We have some competition in the room. Really needed it. Can’t wait to get Gurvan Hall back off the injury.”

UM cornerbacks coach Mike Rumph made clear he expects more from Jhavonte Dean, who’s battling with Trajan Bandy for the boundary job opposite Jackson in the wake of Malek Young’s career-ending December neck injury. Early enollees D.J. Ivey and Gilbert Frierson also are competing.

“Him and Bandy are battling pretty good,” Rumph said of Dean. “There are some basic things he got to get better at. One of the things I tell the corners is you’ve got to be really good at something. I’m still trying to figure that out from him.”

Rumph said Dean is UM’s fastest corner: “He’s long and he’s fast. You’ve got to show me where you can be good with those two things. You have the size and speed of a big time player. I’m waiting for him to get a niche of what he’s really good at.”

Rumph said of Bandy: “He’s been on the outside the whole camp but the past two or three days he’s starting to go back into nickel. Bandy is good wherever he’s at when he’s 100 percent and playing fast. He’s a blessing wherever he’s at. He’s starting to get comfortable with both roles. Last year, he fell in love with the nickel spot, but this year he’s going to be able to do both for us.”

Rumph said Ivey and Frierson aren’t yet getting working with the starters. “DJ has done some things he got on campus knowing how to do a little bit better. But Gilbert is right there with him. It’s amazing how fast they learn and the physicality they play with. They’re battling back and forth for that second spot.”

Who has been the hardest receiver for the cornerbacks to cover this spring?

“Lawrence Cager, when he’s on, when he’s that guy, Cager is pretty tough with his length,” Rumph said. “But [it’s] Jeff Thomas without a doubt. Just the speed aspect, something the ACC is not going to be used to seeing. I can’t wait to see the other corners try to run with him. He’s not just a fast guy; he’s doing things exactly right. The guy Jeff Thomas reminds me of is Santana moss, Roscoe Parrish. He understands how dynamic he is.”

UM men’s basketball received some encouraging news this week when language involving the Canes was softened considerably in a rewritten federal indictment that alleges that Adidas officials paid parents of athletes willing to commit to North Carolina State and Kansas. Prosecutors say an Adidas representation agreed to pay $90,000 to the family of a Kansas recruit and $40,000 to a recruit at North Carolina State.

In three separate instances, language involving UM was softened this document compared with last fall’s original FBI indictment.

One example: The FBI deleted a sentence saying coach Jim Larranaga had “awareness of a scheme” involving Adidas and a recruit. And there were other changes that should have UM fans encouraged.

There have been no charges against UM coaches, and there’s no ongoing NCAA investigation. Larranaga has denied any wrongdoing.

UM basketball is hosting two potential transfers this weekend, according to a source: Florida Gulf Coast guard Zach Johnson (he would be immediately eligible; averaged 16.1 points per game last season) and Wyoming transfer Anthony Mack (who has a chance to be eligible next season, but that’s uncertain).

Last weekend, UM hosted Oklahoma transfer Kameron McGusty, who’s visiting Houston this weekend.

UM would love to add at least two of those three.

If Dewan Huell bypasses the NBA Draft, UM would have four scholarships to fill.

Miami is optimistic that Huell will return to school. He has placed his name in the draft pool but hasn’t hired an agent.

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