Barry Jackson

Hurricanes players reveal more changes with football program and team’s offense

Lots of Hurricanes nuggets on the first day of spring practice:

The UM offense officially entered the 21st century on Tuesday, and that was among several changes that were evident in Manny Diaz’s first day running a practice as UM’s coach.

Among the things that have changed:

The UM offense, which had limited presnap motion under Mark Richt, is going to do things differently under new offensive coordinator Dan Enos.

“The big difference from last year is a lot of motions, a lot of shifts, a lot of peels,” tight end Brevin Jordan said. “A lot of everything. This offense, schematically, is very intense. This is an NFL offense. Overall, this offense is elite, and we’re going to put up big numbers Week 1. A lot more thinking. Once you get the whole offense down, it’s going to be insane. We’re going to put up numbers.”

So will this require studying more?

“Yeah, that’s a part of the game,” running back DeeJay Dallas said. “You have to become a student of the game to be the best you can.

“It’s real fast and gives us chances for explosive plays. Explosive plays equals touchdowns and touchdowns equals wins.”

The new offense is also going to help the defense, according to Diaz and linebacker Mike Pinckney.

“Hats off to coach Enos,” Pinckney said. “He’s definitely challenging us, and that’s great for the defense because it’s stuff we usually don’t see with the last offense.”

Explained Diaz: “They’re doing many things that defenses don’t like to see. They’re making defensive players make decisions. When we self-evaluated a year ago, when we were put in that position, we didn’t always respond very well defensively. The fact we are [seeing this in practice] will make our defense better.”

Enos appreciates that many of the players have studied the offense during their off time.

“There’s a lot of window dressing: shifts, motions, personnel groupings and alignments and things they have to get accustomed to,” Enos said. “We knew there would be a learning curve. There has been. A lot of the guys have done a really good job of trying to learn things on their own and study. We’ve challenged them. The more things we can do offensively, put pressure on defenses, the better off it’s going to make our football team.”

The whole vibe around the program has changed. Asked the biggest difference from the old regime, Jordan said:

“Energy. In the weight room, coach [David] Feeley has us jumping around. It’s fun. The energy feels so much different. The whole vibe of this team, we walk into the locker room excited to be here, excited to be at Miami. It feels different. The whole difference is coach Diaz. Coach Diaz brings energy. I wish you could see our meetings. He is so funny. The dude is a character. When he says The New Miami, he’s being for real, you all. We’re elite. Tune in Aug. 24 [when UM opens against the Gators in Orlando].”

Players are being held even more accountable for mindless errors. During Tuesday’s practice Enos ordered players to do 10 pushups for mental missteps.

“Coaches holding players accountable,” Dallas said. “That’s what the standard is here.”

Diaz put it this way: “Those are the type of men those coaches are. They ask them all the time: Do you want to be great? Some of our guys will respond to that and some of our guys, to be honest, might be in the wrong place. But if we’re going to be Miami, and win the games we’re supposed to win, we have to hold our guys to that standard.

“What was impressive today was watching our coaching staff coach on both sides of the ball: their energy, their passion, their knowledge of the way they made corrections. What we have done today is what we wanted to do; we have knocked everybody out of their comfort zone. There is not a guy on this field that has it all figured out. That’s a part of what we think is going to make us better.”


Greg Olsen, Jon Beason and Michael Irvin were among former star players who attended Tuesday’s opening practice.

“The University of Miami football program belongs to its alumni,” Diaz said. “Those are the guys that made this program great. There are coaches who have come and gone. We want those guys to feel the ownership of this program.”

Linebacker De’Andre Wilder (neck) is the only player who is missing spring practice entirely.

Diaz said striker Zach McCloud (hand), running back Lorenzo Lingard (knee) and tight end Brian Polendey (knee) will be limited.

Count Dallas among those pleased to see Jeff Thomas reinstated. “Happy we got Jeff back,” Dallas said. “He brings a Devin Hester-like feel to the game.”

And Dallas likes the addition of senior grad transfer receiver K.J. Osborn: “He’s a mature dude, brings maturity to the receiver room. Our receiver room is kind of young. He brings a pro-like feel to the receivers.”

Diaz cautioned not to put too much stock in who played with the starters on the first day, because “we were going to set our depth charts [Tuesday] off what they’ve done in the offseason program. We didn’t really play football, didn’t have pads on. We’re really not concerned who’s first and second in March.”

In one surprise, D.J. Scaife lined up with the starters at left tackle and John Campbell at right tackle — instead of grad transfer Tommy Kennedy at left tackle and Scaife at right tackle.

Completing the first team offensive line Tuesday: left guard Navaughn Donaldson, center Corey Gaynor and right guard Zalon’tae Hillery…. Al Blades Jr. was the first-team cornerback opposite Trajan Bandy.... Dee Wiggins, Osborn and Mike Harley Jr. got first-team work at receiver.

Susan Miller Degnan will have an update on the quarterback situation in her piece later today.

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