Barry Jackson

The defensive coaches say these Miami Hurricanes offensive players have impressed

Miami Hurricanes receiver Jeff Thomas (4) tries to catch a first quarter pass as Pitt Panthers cornerback Daniel Jackson (11) defends him in a game last November. Thomas has drawn raves this offseason.
Miami Hurricanes receiver Jeff Thomas (4) tries to catch a first quarter pass as Pitt Panthers cornerback Daniel Jackson (11) defends him in a game last November. Thomas has drawn raves this offseason.

A six-pack of Hurricanes notes on a Thursday:

In recent weeks, I asked several defensive assistant coaches what offensive player, in addition to quarterback Malik Rosier, impressed them this offseason. Cornerbacks coach Mike Rumph, safety coach Ephraim Banda and outside linebackers coach Jonathan Patke all mentioned receiver Jeff Thomas, among others.

“Jeff Thomas can be the best slot receiver in the country,” Patke said. “When he gets extra gear, he’s faster than anybody else out there. He can be a real difference maker.”

Banda believes Tyler Gauthier “can be one of the best centers in the country. A very powerful, powerful person.”

And we’ve been cautioned repeatedly not to overlook Deejay Dallas in a backfield headlined by Travis Homer and five-star freshman Lorenzo Lingard.

“Deejay has tremendous vision and agility,” Rumph said. “His quickness and seeing holes and making people miss, he does that the best out of any one in our backfield. I love Travis Homer — he’s going to be really good — and Lingard can fly, but vision and cuts is Deejay Dallas.”

UM believes one area it will be better is its ability to use and defend “12” personnel — with two tight ends and one running back.

Freshmen tight ends Will Mallory and Brevin Jordan are well equipped to play together, and the new striker position will allow UM to defend that set better on defense.

One UM offensive staffer put it this way: “If you go back to the year the Patriots had both Gronk [Rob Gronkowski] and Aaron Hernandez on the field at the same time, they were a 12 personnel team, similar to us in 2016 when we had David Njoku and Chris Herndon. Why that’s so great is you can get into a two-back offense with one of those tight ends as a fullback like we did with Herndon and you can play a larger percentage of your offense….

“You can run every single formation known to mankind out of that personnel grouping. And if your quarterback is a runner, that’s even more dangerous. Having that role on our offense and defense, having guys like Derrick Smith and Romeo Finley that can fit that mold — they’re big enough to hold up in the run game as linebackers but good enough to hold up in coverage against backs and tight ends — will be invaluable to us.”

One UM staffer (not mentioned here) cited cornerback Jhavonte Dean and defensive tackle Jon Ford as two players who have “all the physical tools but haven’t put it all together on the field yet.”

Miami remains optimistic on both, though Ford likely will need to play more than UM ideally wanted, because of the early departures of Kendrick Norton and Richard McIntosh Jr.

I’m most concerned about the offensive line, where UM has no potentially dominant starter unless Navaughn Donaldson makes the guard-to-tackle transition better than the Dolphins’ Laremy Tunsil did last year.

“He always wanted to go to tackle,” said Hayden Mahoney, who’s the front-runner at one guard spot. “He has the height, he has the weight. He’s doing extra reps every day. Learning tackle, watching pro guys, kind of seeing what they do and some of their technique. He’s excited about it. We’re all excited about it, too.”

UM is awaiting word on whether the NCAA will allow basketball transfer Anthony Mack to play this season or whether he will be required to sit out this season after leaving Wyoming this past spring after his freshman season. There was no decision as of Thursday afternoon.

Mack missed this past season while dealing with concussion-like symptoms. If ruled eligible, he could have a prominent role on the Hurricanes next season.

A former three-star prospect at New Jersey’s Blair Academy, Mack generated interest from Villanova, Georgia and Missouri, among others.

Two transfers definitely will be eligible to play for the Hurricanes this season: Guard Miles Wilson — who left Mount St. Mary’s for UM in 2017 — and guard Zach Johnson, who left Florida Gulf Coast for UM this past April.

The 6-5 Wilson averaged 11.8 points and 3.9 rebounds as a freshman for Mount St. Mary’s.

The 6-2 Johnson, a grad transfer, was a three-year starter for the Eagles and averaged 16.1 points per game last season and scored 37 in the Eagles’ Atlantic Sun Championship game loss to Lipscomb.

But Oklahoma transfer guard Kameron McGusty must sit out next season at UM; he’s eligible to play in 2019-20.

Ex-Canes file: Two rookie Canes defensive linemen are missing the start of their first NFL training camps. McIntosh, who has been dealing with a thyroid issue and underwent an offseason procedure, is on the Giants’ non-football illness list. Meanwhile, the Browns placed Chad Thomas on the physically unable to perform list after surgery for a sports hernia. ...

According to the NFL players association, Patriots receiver Braxton Berrios’ University of Miami No. 8 jersey was the second-highest selling collegiate co-branded jersey from March 1 to May 31 this year. Only Tom Brady’s Michigan Wolverines jersey was a bigger seller. ...

Former UM star guard Shane Larkin signed a one-year, $1.8 million offer sheet with Turkish basketball club Anadolu Efes on Thursday. Larkin, who played in Spain earlier in his career, averaged 14.4 minutes and 4.3 points in 54 games with the Celtics last season. He has appeared in 256 NBA games, for the Mavericks, Knicks, Nets and Celtics.

Here are my Dolphins news and notes from Thursday, including interesting lineup decisions, from the first day of training camp.

Here’s my Heat notebook from Thursday, including news on Miami losing out on one prospect but remaining in play for another.

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