A six-pack of Canes notes on Thursday:
▪ As noted in my midseason awards, the five Hurricanes freshmen who have logged the most snaps all play on offense.
But what about the defensive freshmen? Perhaps the most ballyhooed of the bunch, defensive end Gregory Rousseau, is out potentially for the season with an ankle injury.
Per Herald correspondent Daniel Gould, among natural freshmen defensive players, cornerback D.J. Ivey has the most defensive snaps (69), followed by safety Gurvan Hall (68), cornerback Al Blades (62), defensive tackle Nesta Silvera (57), defensive end Patrick Joyner (22), cornerback Gilbert Frierson (18) and cornerback Nigel Bethel and defensive tackle Jordan Miller with 10 apiece.
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Rousseau played 16 snaps before his injury.
Silvera hasn’t been needed a ton because Gerald Willis (257 snaps), Pat Bethel (177), Tito Odenigbo (99) and Jon Ford (89) have all played more.
“Coming in here, he’s a big-time player, all kind of expectations outside people have put on him,” defensive line coach Jess Simpson said of Silvera. “He’s done a super job of managing that, has really got to a good place where he just focused on today and trying to get a little bit better.”
Because of need at tight end and on the offensive line and, to an extent, at receiver, UM has relied more on freshmen on offense than defense.
The natural freshmen with the most offensive or defensive snaps, in order: Tight end Brevin Jordan 352, receivers Brian Hightower and Dee Wiggins 138 apiece, tight end Will Mallory 118 and offensive tackle DJ Scaife 112.
Here are the other offensive snap counts for freshman, per Gould: receiver Mark Pope 53, running back Lorenzo Lingard 26, offensive tackle John Campbell 21, receiver Marquez Ezzard 19, guard Cleveland Reed 18, running back Cam Davis 16, quarterback Jarren Williams 9 and fullback Realus George 9.
FYI: Though Miami’s five freshmen defensive backs have all played, the top seven in snap counts in UM’s secondary are more experienced players: Michael Jackson (314), Sheldrick Redwine (297), Trajan Bandy (215), Jaquan Johnson (183; missed two games with injury); Jhavonte Dean (129), Amari Carter (128) and Robert Knowles (98).
▪ A UM source who has spoken to Ahmmon Richards and his family said his career-ending neck injury appeared to trace back to a play earlier in his career when he was blocking and felt numbness in his neck, something that would be especially noticeable when lifting weights.
He told UM and was recently sent to two specialists, who advised him to stop playing football.
“It was kind of a chronic thing that became to the point where the doctors felt like it wasn’t safe, so that was it,” Mark Richt told WQAM’s Joe Rose.
▪ Richt admitted on WQAM’s Hurricane Hotline this week what Miami hoped wouldn’t be true: Navaughn Donaldson is “better suited for guard than tackle.”
And Richt said Scaife “is probably the best pass protector we’ve got at tackle.”
That’s why UM felt it was time to increase his role against FSU and very likely, moving forward, too.
▪ Miami Palmetto High Class of 2019 three-star defensive back Cornelius Nunn announced on Twitter that he’s decommitting from Syracuse and it wouldn’t be surprising if he ends up at UM, which offered him a scholarship this past July.
Asked by Canesport’s Matt Shodell where Miami stands in his evaluation, he said: “Miami feels like home. That’s all I have to say for now.”
Rivals rates him the 37th best safety in the country.
Meanwhile, Louisville-based four-star linebacker/defensive end J.J. Weaver loved his official visit last week and told Canesport that UM is now “most definitely in my top” with Louisville and Kentucky.
The 6-5, 235 pound Weaver told Canesport that Richt said “to make the best decision, said that you only can live somewhere one time, so why not pick South Florida?”
Rivals rates him the No. 13 weakside defensive end.
Meanwhile, four-star University School running back Kenny McIntosh, rated the sixth best Class of 2019 running back by Rivals, told Shodell that UM’s win “most definitely helps” Miami’s chances. It shows they can win big games like this, and watching them come back like that shows they are a winning team. So I’d say that helps a lot with me.”
Oklahoma, Alabama, Georgia, Auburn and UM are his finalists.
▪ Willis continues to improve his NFL stock.
Per Pro Football Focus, his 88.0 overall run grade ranks 10th in the nation for defensive tackles. Willis has the No. 7 pass-rush grade in the country with 14 pressures on 136 rushes.
▪ UM’s excellent pair of starting defensive ends, Joe Jackson and Jon Garvin, apparently knew they would be primed to pounce on ACC teams.
“We do what we do best,” Jackson said. “Obviously, you want the d-end to be able to rush the passer first and then play the run. So, we knew once we got into league play we’d have our chance to get sacks because, you know, a lot people they don’t want to block against our D-Line in passing [situations]. So, when you get in league play you almost have no choice, especially if you go down, but to pass to go score. So, we knew we [would have] opportunities to go make big plays.”
And here’s what defensive coordinator Manny Diaz loved about the difference between how his unit reacted in the FSU game compared with the LSU game:
“What I loved is the difference between how we handled adversity in the LSU game as opposed to the FSU game. The games were very similar. Really, we were playing well and the field position was stacked dramatically against us in the first half. We gave up a touchdown when weren’t on the field defensively. We almost ended up in the exact same score as we were in the LSU game. LSU game we got very negative. There was no response.
“This game, the opposite. One of my favorite thing was after [Sheldrick] Redwine’s fumble, the attitude of our team on the field, celebrating. We were still down 20 points. Really, the attitude of the stadium, the fans’ part too. Theoretically, you’d say, ‘we’re still down 20.’ But it was not that way. It was very positive. As it was as if we believed that, at that moment, that that was a play that would turn the game around. It’s easy to say in hindsight. But at that moment, our guys were very upbeat and positive. That is where, from me, they get the most credit.”