Barry Jackson

Kirk Herbstreit discusses where UM stacks up. And Hurricanes personnel notes

ESPN/ABC lead college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit offered his thoughts on UM’s football team on Friday.
ESPN/ABC lead college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit offered his thoughts on UM’s football team on Friday. jblake@thestate.com

A six-pack of Canes notes on a Friday:

So is UM’s No. 8 preseason ranking in the AP poll about right or is that a bit high considering how Miami ended last season?

“I think top 10 to top 12 would probably be about right,” ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit told me on a conference call Friday. “I don’t think you can necessarily look at the way the season ended and say let’s put them down to 15 to 18 because they lost their last three. We know Mark Richt, based on what we’ve seen the first couple years, is he’s building this program back up and he’s getting the local talent to stay around.

“You look at the backfield, you look at the depth they now have at receiver they didn’t have a year ago. You look at the offensive line. You have every reason to believe this comes down to — hate to say it — Malik Rosier and his development from where he was a year ago. There were times he looked really good and times, let’s face it, he didn’t look so good. How far he improves from last year to this year will tell you… what kind of year Miami will end up having.

“I know they lost a few guys on defense, but most of that leadership group is back. [Defensive coordinator] Manny Diaz is going to be aggressive. The gold chain is going to be out. This defense will keep them in every game they play. Until we see it, the question is how far along this offense has come and can they win the games that will be pretty tough for them this year, starting with LSU; they got Florida State, which will be a tough game. Let’s see where Rosier is and that will kind of dictate the kind of year the Canes end up having.”

Herbstreit will call three games during the first five days of the season including Alabama-Louisville and FSU-Virginia Tech but not UM-LSU, which will be called by No. 2 team Sean McDonough and Todd Blackledge.

Scott Patchan, back at defensive end after a year at tight end, looks like he’s going to be able to help as a fourth or fifth defensive end.

“Probably had his best scrimmage Saturday, which was good to see,” Diaz said. “Scott is always going to give you high effort and toughness. Scott has been around so long that you think he’s an experienced guy [but he actually] hasn’t played that much. At times, he’s really benefiting from all the at-bats. He needs to go into the game and just play.”

Patchan, a redshirt junior, had played in only one game at UM before switching to tight end last season, when he appeared in five games.

This should help: Safety Amari Carter has improved since an uneven spring, including a breakdown in coverage on a long pass in the spring game.

This summer, safeties coach Ephraim Banda told me:”One big thing that happened in the spring game — I told him something and he went out there and didn’t do it and it cost us a big long pass right before halftime. I told him ‘I can’t put you in the game if I tell you what’s going to happen and you don’t do it.’”

But Banda said last week that Carter has improved.

“At the beginning it’s all `I have to remember this and I have to do that,’ but where Amari is starting to have some growth is understanding why I do this,” Banda said. “The more he understands the why, all of a sudden things really open up for him.”

Diaz put it this way: “We know [Carter] is one of the hardest hitters on our team. The question now is are you the dependable guy? Not every tackle has to be a movie tackle where the guy ends up like Charlie Brown, head over heels. The biggest thing we call it is get the guy on the ground. They don’t award style points for that.”

Here’s how Banda assesses UM’s defense: “We’re encouraged with what we have with our first group. Up front, we really like what’s happening there. Obviously we have this group of linebackers that is playing mentally on another level. I think our linebacking corps, what they do best is make everyone around them better. … Shaq Quarterman, like a Kobe Bryant or LeBron James, you put them on a team and they make everyone else better. Mike Pinckney the same way, Zach McCloud. So encouraged there.

“We have some freaky D ends, love what Gerald Willis (is doing), Pat Bethel it’s been awesome to see the blue collar grinder that he is. The back end I’m really encouraged. [Jhavonte] Dean has done a hell of a job really trying to lock into what we’re doing. Trajan [Bandy] has really improved — just his overall ability to understand the game.

“[Sheldrick] Redwine and Jaquan [Johnson] have been awesome, Mike Jackson has been good battling through things. So we’re encouraged. Now it’s all about developing that second group.”

The sense here is of the four freshmen receivers, Brian Hightower is most likely to have a meaningful role early on, with Mark Pope pushing for time.

Receivers coach Ron Dugans said Thursday that all four freshmen receivers must show more consistency.

“For the most part you have Hightower, Pope that are sticking out and [Daquris] Wiggins,” Dugans said. “[Marquez] Ezzard has been kind of up and down, but he’s going to be a really good football player. Hightower has been doing well for us. He’s a guy that we trust. Pope, he’s come along.”

From the former Canes file: The Indianapolis Colts on Friday waived Brad Kaaya with an injury designation, and he will spend the season on injured reserve if not claimed off waivers by another team. Kaaya, drafted in the sixth round (215th overall) by Detroit in 2017, hasn’t appeared in an NFL regular-season game. He was cut three times last season — twice by Detroit and once by Carolina — before the Colts snagged him off the Lions’ practice squad last Dec. 27. Kaaya was 3 for 4 for 24 yards in preseason. He threw for 9,968 yards at UM, most in Hurricanes history despite leaving after his junior year for the NFL…

Former UM walk-on Vincent Testaverde --- son of the UM great, Heisman Trophy winner and retired NFL quarterback Vinny Testaverde — will be the starting quarterback for the University of Albany. Testaverde last appeared in a college game in 2014 as a freshman at Texas Tech. He didn’t play a game at UM after transferring to Miami.

I’ll have Canes posts for nine days in a row leading up to UM-LSU. Here was Thursday’s, with lots of personnel information.

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