Barry Jackson

Here are two UM veterans who have really helped themselves. And an update on some freshmen.

A six-pack of Hurricanes notes on a Thursday:

There are a bunch of veteran Hurricanes who have helped their stock this offseason, starting with Trayone Gray.

But here are two others: redshirt junior Lawrence Cager, who has made a strong case for a starting receiver’s job, and senior Sheldrick Redwine, who followed an exceptional spring with an outstanding August and is becoming an NFL prospect while staying substantially ahead of Amari Carter, Gurvan Hall and Robert Knowles.

Not long ago, UM people would talk about Redwine having the worst hands on the team (at least among defensive backs).

That’s no longer the case. Redwine is now consistently holding onto errant passes that he might have dropped in the past, according to UM coaches.

“He’s playing at an elite level,” safeties coach Ephraim Banda said last week, noting he had three interceptions in the second week of camp. He had another one in Saturday’s scrimmage. “Redwine and Jaquan [Johnson] have been awesome,” Banda said.

Moving Redwine from corner to safety last year was one of this staff’s best personnel moves.

Cager, meantime, has made a strong case for the boundary job opposite Ahmmon Richards.

“I can’t play around no more. I’ve been here for too long,” Cager said Thursday. “Just being a vet and younger guys expecting more out of me, coach expecting more out of me, I had to really get down on my leadership and just attack.”

Cager, two years removed from a major knee injury, said he dealt with “knickknacks” last year “but probably after the season, going into the winter, that’s when I really felt ready to go.”

Receivers coach Ron Dugans said Cager has led “by example, staying after practice, doing extra to get better. The biggest thing with Cager was just being consistent with catching the deep balls, blocking on the perimeter and not having missed assignments. He’s done a really good job of being consistent.”

Redwine said of Cager: “He’s been going up, high pointing the ball. For a big guy he has a good release, uses his body type, frame. So that’s a big difference.”

UM, initially unsure how much stamina defensive tackle Jon Ford would have this season, feels better about that issue after Ford lost 20 pounds.

He was surpassed by Pat Bethel in the spring, but he’s expected to be among the top four in Miami’s tackle rotation, though he could end up No. 4.

“I’m moving better and have way more stamina,” said Ford, who’s now 302. “I need to be a starter [at some point].”

Defensive coordinator Manny Diaz said Ford “is a different guy than the spring. Our strength staff has done an outstanding job transforming his body. Now it’s about that down to down consistency. Jon Ford should do it.”

This staff gets its defensive linemen in better shape. Freshman Nesta Silvera said his body fat has dropped from 27 to 22 percent. Jordan Miller has dropped 20 pounds to 326.

“You see his power,” Diaz said of Silvera. “Silvera and Miller have big time futures ahead of them. But the future is now.”

UM’s sixth through eighth offensive linemen likely will end up being freshman Delone Scaife (UM believes he could play any position on the line), guard Venzell Boulware and guard/center Corey Gaynor.

“Delone might be a little bit ahead of [freshman tackle] John Campbell but both will be good players,” offensive line coach Stacey Searels said.

UM, so far, hasn’t gotten much from several four-star offensive tackles: Kai Leon Herbert (struggled this spring and must be more consistent, Searels said, but far too early to make any definitive judgment on him), Bar Milo (came from Brad Kaaya’s high school and barely played here) and tackle George Brown (the LSU transfer struggled this spring and is now out after knee surgery).

Freshman receiver Brian Hightower is positioned to get immediate playing time and expect freshman Mark Pope to get snaps early in the season, too.

Less clear is whether Daquris Wiggins and Marquez Ezzard will get much time as freshmen in a very deep receiver group.

“It’s a difficult [transition] for me because I ran the triple option offense in high school,” Ezzard said. “We ran three or four plays in high school. Now I have a whole lot thrown at me. Once I learn the plays, I will be fine.”

Wiggins, meanwhile, is aware that Dugans said he can look like Jerry Rice on one play and essentially lost on the next.

“Great players make mistakes - I make mistakes, just have to get it out of my head and keep it moving,” Wiggins said. “For sure I’m going to play. I heard they’ve been talking about me redshirting, but I just keep that out of my head. That just motivates me, keeps me pushing hard and harder every day.”

Not only is UM ranked eighth in the Associated Press poll, but Miami is ranked sixth in Athlon’s preseason magazine (behind only Alabama, Clemson, Georgia, Ohio State and Michigan) and seventh in both Steele’s and Lindy’s preseason magazines.

Steele’s says of UM: “They would have made the playoffs if their offense was not banged up at the end and they would have upset Clemson in the ACC title game.”

Street & Smith’s ranks Miami No. 8 and says of the 2017 season: “In an unsurprising development, success brought some of the swag back to The U, from a penchant for winning close games to what became a ubiquitious symbol of the Hurricanes solid defense, the Turnover Chain.”

Freshman defensive end Greg Rousseau said there’s no concern about him getting overconfident after producing nine sacks in three spring scrimmages and several more in fall camp.

“I know it will be harder when we get to LSU,” he said. “Here, we know the tendencies of our own offensive line.” Rousseau said his early success in practice “surprised me a little. I have to do it in a game.”

Rousseau, who has increased his weight from 220 to 245 pounds since the spring, played some safety in high school but said “I know my ceiling at defensive end is higher than” anywhere else.

Here’s my Thursday post on Dolphins’ roster battles, by position.

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