Barry Jackson

NFL teams love their newly-drafted Hurricanes. Here's what they're saying.

The New England Patriots think a lot of former UM receiver Braxton Berrios, their sixth-round draft pick.
The New England Patriots think a lot of former UM receiver Braxton Berrios, their sixth-round draft pick. adiaz@miamiherald.com

A six-pack of Canes notes on a Monday:

What do NFL teams who drafted Hurricanes players have to say about them?

Some of the comments about the offensive players selected:

1) New England Patriots sixth-round receiver Braxton Berrios:

“This kid is really smart,” Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio said. “Really productive, really tough. Good traits, smart, good quickness. . . . He had more opportunities this season at Miami and made the most of them.”

Berrios has a good chance to make the team because New England hasn’t replaced Danny Amendola (or Brandin Cooks, for that matter), though Berrios figures to compete for Amendola's role.

“There’s no doubt that I can’t wait to go in there the first thing and learn from everybody — everybody from Julian Edelman to Philip Dorsett and everybody else,” Berrios said. “That’s the main thing that I’m going to be focused on coming in is just trying to soak up everything I can.”

2) Cincinnati Bengals fourth-round running back Mark Walton:

Coach Marvin Lewis: “Mark Walton missed half of last season with an ankle injury. Before the injury, he did a great job being a fine open-field runner. He’s a real complete player, running and catching. He’s been a big contributor for them on special teams. The coaches (at Miami) spoke very highly of him — his character as a person and how he fit on their football team, along with what he meant to their team, day-in and day-out. We feel blessed, as he was our target in this round. We were able to pick him, so we feel really good about that.”

Walton likely will be the Bengals’ No. 3 running back, behind Joe Mixon and Giovani Bernard.

“When you think about your third running back, there are a bunch of different ways to do it,” Bengals and former Dolphins offensive coordinator Bill Lazor said. “The first thing we have to evaluate is the fact that this is the NFL. There are times when your first back or second back has to miss a game, so you want the very best next runner to be available to play. He may have been the best player on their team.”

“[Bengals special teams coach] Darrin Simmons can watch him. There aren’t a lot of really good running backs in college football who you can watch cover a kickoff, cover a punt, make tackles and show off their versatility by changing directions. He’s a guy that makes a ton of plays with the ball in his hands. We’re excited to have him.”



Bengals running backs coach Kyle Caskey said: “He’s very elusive in space and has enough speed to make breakaway runs happen. He’s a tough kid. He plays a lot bigger than what he weighs in at. He will come in immediately and add to the current room we have.”

3) New York Jets fourth-round tight end Chris Herndon:

Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan believes Herndon could be an upgrade from the Jets' current tight ends.

"We thought [Herndon] had enough functional ability to be an effective blocker, so we kind of liked him in the sense that he's sort of dual guy," Maccagnan said. "He's not a specialist in one or the other [receiving or blocking]. He's probably a little more athletic than some of the tight ends we have, and probably a better pass receiver."

Maccagnan tentatively expects Herndon to be completely recovered from last November’s knee injury in four to six weeks.

As for UM defensive players drafted:

1) New York Giants general manager Dave Gettleman on fifth-round defensive tackle Richard McIntosh Jr.: “RJ McIntosh has inside pass rush potential...he’s got upside and he’s got power.”

2) Cleveland Browns vice president of player personnel Andrew Berry on third-rounder defensive end Chad Thomas:

“We thought Chad, at 6-5, 275 pounds, was one of the most physical defensive lineman in the draft. We think he will play immediately; his run defense will play immediately in the NFL and can rush. He can kick down inside and rush the passer. He's a very talented, strong defensive lineman who can play multiple spots on our defensive front. It shows up with his hand use and strength. As far as setting the edge, he can put on a clinic tape.”

Berry cracked that “between two UM alumni we added to our front office, and Duke Johnson and David Njoku and Chad Thomas, we might need to plant one of those university of Miami flags outside our facility.”

Kendrick Norton (seventh round/Carolina) was the other UM player drafted.

Mark Richt has said the position that was furthest away from championship-caliber when he arrived at Miami is offensive tackle, and UM is still looking for elite talent at that position. That’s why it was encouraging that five-star West Virginia-based Darnell Wright appears to be considering UM.

Wright, who's 6-6 and 275 pounds, is rated the No. 1 tackle in the 2019 class by Rivals and the second-best prospect overall in the country.

His coach, Billy Seals, told Canesport’s Matt Shodell that while Wright doesn’t have a list of finalists, “I know he is very excited about the opportunity to potentially play at Miami.”

Though five-star Ocala-based 2020 receiver Leonard Manuel recently decommitted from UM, "Miami’s definitely in it,” Manuel told Canesport. “I haven’t narrowed it down, I’m open. It’s everybody in there.”

So why did he decommit?

“Just I wanted to back off. I talked to my mom and she thought it would be good if I weigh all my options out.”

He already has visited Georgia and plans to visit LSU.

UM continues to push hard for Oregon-based four-star Class of 2019 quarterback Michael Johnson Jr., a highly-skilled dual threat QB who hasn’t named a favorite but told Rivals that Miami, Nebraska, NC State, LSU, Oregon, Penn State and Arizona State are atop his list of schools under consideration. QB coach Jon Richt reportedly has made at least a half dozen trips to Eugene to recruit him.

If Dewan Huell returns to UM and bypasses the NBA draft as the Canes hope, UM still has one scholarship remaining to use on a prep player or perhaps another transfer.

One variable is whether Wyoming transfer Anthony Mack, who redshirted last season, wins his appeal to be immediately eligible. Pending the Mack decision, here’s how the roster looks:

Centers, forwards: Huell (11.4 points, 6.7 rebounds, 25.8 minutes per game), Anthony Lawrence (8.8 points, 6.5 rebounds, 43.2 percent shooting from three-point range, 30.5 minutes per game), Ebuka Izundu (5.0 points, 3.8 rebounds, 14.6 minutes per game), Sam Waardenburg (3.3 ppg in 14.8 minutes per game; shot 41.4 percent overall and 43.8 percent on threes); Rodney Miller (1.2 points, 0.5 rebounds in just 3.5 minutes per game and 15 games) and redshirt center Deng Gak.

Lawrence (8.8 points, 6.5 rebounds, 43.2 percent shooting from three-point range, 30.5 minutes per game) is positioned to start alongside Huell in the frontcourt, along with possibly Izundu, unless UM goes with a three-guard lineup with Huell playing center and Lawrence shifting to power forward.

Guards: Likely starting point guard Chris Lykes (9.4 ppg, 2.3 assists per game, 40.2 percent from the field, 34.3 percent three-point shooting); swingman D.J. Vasiljevic (9.0 ppg, 45 percent shooting, 41.1 percent on threes), Mount St. Mary’s transfer 6-5 guard Miles Wilson (11.8 ppg, 45.4 percent shooting, 36.2 percent on threes in his one college season) and Florida Gulf Coast combo guard Zach Johnson, who’s immediately eligible.

Johnson, who attended Miami Norland, averaged 16.1 points per game last season and shot 46.9 percent from the field and 39.2 percent on threes. He also averaged 3.0 assists, 3.3 rebounds and 2.0 steals and was on the All-Atlantic Sun team.

The battle to replace Brown at shooting guard should be interesingt, with Johnson, Wilson and Vasiljevic all having a chance to compete. Forward Kameron McGusty, who transferred from Houston, must sit out next season.

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