A six-pack of UM notes on a Tuesday:
▪ So what freshman is most impressing in informal player-only workouts?
Safety Sheldrick Redwine sees a clear choice: five-star receiver Mark Pope, who enrolled last month.
“He's very quick and fast,” Redwine said at UM community service event Tuesday. “I see something special in him. He's going to be a great player. You can see something special in somebody and I see how fluid he moves and how he digs in his breaks."
Digital Access For Only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
From this freshman class, it’s clear that early enrollee/spring sensation Brian Hightower should play a lot this season. And Pope probably will be too good to keep off the field.
Starter Ahmmon Richards and likely starter Jeff Thomas will play a lot at receiver, too, of course.
And Mike Harley, Lawrence Cager and Darrell Langham figure to get playing time. Freshmen Daquris Wiggins and Marquez Ezzard will need to be exceptional in August to warrant offensive snaps. No wonder UM gave Dayall Harris its blessing to seek more playing time elsewhere.
▪ Offensive coordinator Thomas Brown his raved about this freshman class and believes UM’s talent is now comparable to anybody in the country.
"Talent-wise, it's not going to be an issue," Brown said Tuesday at that community event. "I think in every single spot, we have competition now. The two tight ends we brought in are going to be really good. Running back-wise, we've got some depth. We talked about Mark Pope and Marquez Ezzard coming in from a receiver standpoint to add to that mix. It's already a deep room. And even having Evidence [Njoku] coming back off an injury to hopefully be 100 percent will add to the competition mix. Talent won't be an issue. We can line up and match up with anyone in the country. As long as we continue to get more depth, it'll put us in a better spot to help us win."
▪ Though Redwine — according to coaches — so has held off Amari Carter for the starting safety job opposite Jaquan Johnson, Johnson said he has seen considerable growth in Carter.
“Amari, he's come a long way," Johnson said Tuesday. "He's stronger. He's faster. He's smarter. Everything that you want to see in a freshman progressing to the next year, he's done that. Every time he's on the field, everybody's looking because you know he's going to give a big lick and a big blow. That's just the way he plays. The team respects him for it. He had to find a way to earn his way and earn the respect of the guys in the locker room. That was one of his main keys of earning our respect."
▪ So will there be much of a decline at defensive tackle from Kendrick Norton/Richard McIntosh/Pat Bethel to a possible top three of Gerald Willis/Bethel/Jon Ford, with freshman Nesta Silvera and Illinois transfer Tito Odenigbo trying to crack that group?
"Of course, RJ and Kendrick were great football players. We all know that,” center Tyler Gauthier said at a recent UM community service event. “I don’t think there’s going to be much of a drop. When we play that first game against LSU, you guys will see how good they actually are.”
On Ford, Gauthier said: “It was an amazing difference when he went in the spring compared to the fall. The fall, it seemed like he was still trying to figure everything out. Now he’s just playing. He will come off the ball and hit you. He’s definitely a better player now.”
▪ Who’s the best recruiting closer among UM players?
“It absolutely pains me to compliment this person but Michael Pinckney has been our closer for two years,” UM player personnel director Matt Doherty told WQAM's Joe Rose show. “The dude is good. He just gets along with everybody. He's a confluence of everybody's personality. There's something to like about him no matter who you are.”
▪ ESPN’s new NBA draft guru, Jonathan Givony, has the Clippers selecting UM’s Lonnie Walker 13th overall to the Los Angeles Clippers in his mock draft, and Bruce Brown falling out of the first round altogether.
“Walker didn't have a consistent or efficient freshman season, but his talent, combined with the lack of depth at his position, is keeping his name in the lottery conversation,” Givony said. “His youth, strong frame, 6-foot-10 1/2 wingspan and ability to shoot with his feet set or off the dribble make him a candidate to rise during the pre-draft process as teams search for upside and diamonds in the rough. The Clippers' wing rotation is a major work in progress and could certainly use some more shooting, length and perimeter-defensive prowess.”
The Clippers reportedly were impressed with Walker in his interview.
Givony has Brown going 38th — with the eighth pick of the second round — to Philadelphia. Brown could have used another year at UM to work on his shooting but he was always seemingly determined to go pro after two years, even though he missed February and March games this year with a foot injury that’s now healed after surgery.