Barry Jackson

Here's what's happening with the UM running back competition

Miami Hurricanes running back Travis Homer (24) scores a touchdown against Wisconsin in the Orange Bowl. Homer continues to lead the competition for the starting running back job.
Miami Hurricanes running back Travis Homer (24) scores a touchdown against Wisconsin in the Orange Bowl. Homer continues to lead the competition for the starting running back job.

A six-pack of Hurricanes offensive notes on a Friday:

Entering the spring, one of the big questions on offense – after quarterback – would be whether five-star early enrollee Lorenzo Lingard could seriously challenge Travis Homer for the starting tailback job.

Spoiler alert: Lingard hasn’t.

“As far as being an every down tailback, [Homer] the only true complete guy that I can trust in every single scenario,” Brown told reporters this week. “Other guys do it at times, in spurts.”

Brown then told WQAM’s Hurricane Hotline: “Travis Homer sets the tone. He knows exactly what to do. He normally does everything perfect every single rep, which obviously continues to put him out more and more out in the lead for the starting spot, to keep that starting spot.”

What about Lingard?

Brown said freshman RB Lorenzo Lingard has “come a long way” since the start of spring practice.

“Lorenzo is obviously very talented, has all the gifts to be an every down tailback,” Brown said. “He’s trying to learn what we do. He’s the only new guy I have in my room, so I know it’s frustrating for him that everyone else knows what to do, how to do it, and he’s like

`Coach is on me every single day.’

“He’s doing well, getting better. … I’m in his ear every single snap to just relax and play confident like he did his whole life, let his talent shine and make the most of his opportunities.

"He has all the physical gifts in the world to be successful. Just trying to learn how to operate in the offense when it comes to our footwork, our techniques, our coaching points. Pass protection is the hardest part about learning tailback.”

Among UM’s other running backs, Brown said of DeeJay Dallas: “The guy always makes plays wherever you put him on the field.

"[He’s] trying to transition into being an everydown tailback [though that won’t be needed at UM barring injury]. It's more about being comfortable with pass protection. He knows what to do.”

Brown said running back Robert Burns “has been a big surprise. [He’s the] most improved tailback. Last year, he was banged up the entire year. I know he's been frustrated [with injuries, including two surgeries in 2017 and a hamstring injury last season]. I’m glad to see he's working to get himself in better shape, better condition and taking better care of his body. He's a physical presence, 225 pound one cut downhill runner. We're trying to get him to be more confident in his ability.”

Brown likes how Navaughn Donaldson has approached the move from right guard to right tackle.

“In the recruiting process, Navaughn wanted to be a tackle,” Brown told Joe Zagacki on Hurricane Hotline. “He is getting the opportunity he asked for. He definitely has the ability to do it.

“We had a right tackle issue the first scrimmage, gave up like 1000 sacks almost at that same spot, seems like it.”

George Brown was the first-team right tackle before Donaldson moved there.

“Good to see Navaughn out there,” Brown said. “We lit a fire on him to be more competitive and kind of take ownership of that spot. He takes coaching very well.”

Brown believes this starting offensive line – which struggled with pass protection in the scrimmage – has a chance to be solid.

That group includes – from left to right – Tyree St. Louis, Jahair Jones, Tyler Gauthier, Hayden Mahoney and Donaldson.

To this point, they haven’t been good enough, though Donaldson gets something of a pass because he’s only been at right tackle for a few practices.

“When they’re all on the same page I think we’re pretty dang good,” Brown said. “Those guys are learning new different spots -

Navaughn is now at right tackle, Tyree at left tackle, Tyler at center, Jahair and Hayden Mahoney haven’t played much in the past. Every spot is going to continue to be up for grabs.”

UM believes fullback Realus George will make a real difference. He enrolls in May or June. Brown said George is a “true” fullback.

Trayone Gray, who was moved from tailback to fullback, “has done a really good job, is one of the bigger guys I have in my room, is athletic,” Brown said. “He does struggle in space sometimes, but is suited to play football. He just has to use all that weight room strength he has, play with more confidence.”

Receiver Brian Hightower’s excellent work in the spring game (four catches, 100 yards, two touchdowns) wasn’t a surprise to coaches.

Brown told Zagacki that Hightower has been like this “the entire spring, from day 1. He's been that way [consistent] from day 1, in run

game as well.”

Related stories from Miami Herald