Barry Jackson

Two of UM’s most talented WRs were frustrated at end of last season. Where things stand now

UM quarterback N’Kosi Perry talks about WR Jeff Thomas

Miami Hurricanes quarterback N'Kosi Perry talks about WR Jeff Thomas
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Miami Hurricanes quarterback N'Kosi Perry talks about WR Jeff Thomas

A six-pack of Canes notes on a Wednesday:

Two highly skilled receivers who ended last season frustrated were back on the Canes’ practice field this week, both hoping their 2019 season is more satisfying.

Manny Diaz had offseason conversations with Jeff Thomas and Mark Pope and believes both are in a good place.

Thomas was dismissed from the team Thanksgiving week, announced he was transferring to Illinois but never enrolled and then was reinstated by Diaz in late January after expressing a desire to return.

Pope, a five-star recruit a year ago, reportedly was frustrated to the point that he considered transferring but ultimately decided to remain with the Canes.

With regard to Thomas, Diaz said: “What Jeff and I spoke about was what the program was going to be going forward, what some of his issues were because on a different side of the ball, you don’t really know what was going on at that time. More than anything, where his heart was. There was no convincing that would have helped if he didn’t want to come back. I don’t think Jeff ever really wanted to leave. Jeff’s heart was still here in Miami.

“He wanted to be a Miami Hurricane and play with those guys in the locker-room. That gave us an in. Once we really laid out our vision of how things would be and how discipline would be handled, I think he was very receptive to that. Just the way it was going to be on the field is really what intrigued him. He’s got a lot of people here that cared about him, and I think that mattered to him.”

Mike Harley Jr., who’s close with Thomas, was pleased to see him back on the team.

“You see the smile that just hopped on my face,” Harley said. “That’s like my brother, a best friend in the neighborhood — it’s been a great feeling since he’s been back.

“If Jeff does something I want to do it better. If I do something, Jeff wants to do it better. It’s a great feeling that he got back on the roster, back on the team.”

Miami Hurricanes wide receiver Mike Harley (3) comments on quarterback Tate Martell during spring football practice at the Carol Soffer Indoor Practice Facility in Coral Gables on Wednesday, March 20, 2019.

As for Pope, Diaz said: “Mark — my conversation has been he’s not alone in terms of guys that — sometimes, for some guys they flash their first year. But that’s not always the case. Mark got caught up in a young room a year ago that kind of got off track.

“I told him ‘You will look back 20 years from now and be happy you persevered through this year. But even in two years when you’re a junior I want you to be the guy that is going to go talk to the freshman that’s struggling.’ It’s hard because you have this expectation. If it’s not met, it leads to disappointment.”

Diaz said he tells Pope that if he keeps improving, “there will be a happy ending.”

Pope caught one pass for 11 yards last season and played less than fellow freshmen receivers Dee Wiggins and Brian Hightower. The fourth member of UM’s ballyhooed 2018 freshman receiver group, Marquez Ezzard, transferred to Goergia Tech this offseason.

Diaz said UM ultimately decided not to request a waiver allowing former Auburn running back Asa Martin to be able to play this season.

Martin will be eligible in 2020.

Jon Garvin likely will see more double teams this season with Joe Jackson having moved on to the NFL. But the addition of Virginia Tech senior defensive end Trevon Hill could make it more difficult for teams to use two blockers on Garvin.

“I’m looking forward to him getting here,” Garvin said. “Honestly [grad transfer receiver] KJ Osborn has really set the standard for me so I expect him to come in and be like that. [Osborn] has been amazing - he’s come in, been a leader, working hard and everyone can see it. You can’t deny it.”

Cornerback Trajan Bandy likes what he has seen from sophomore cornerbacks Al Blades Jr. and D.J. Ivey, who are competing to start opposite Bandy.

“I think both of them have [impressed],” Bandy said. “They tell me things I don’t know. Those guys learn the game fast, pick up on things very well.”

Blades ran with the starters for a second day in a row.

As we noted yesterday, no grand conclusions should be based on who’s practicing with the starters because it’s based largely on who stood out in the offseason conditioning programming.

But it’s clear grad transfer Tommy Kennedy isn’t simply going to be handed first team reps at left tackle, even though he seemingly seems best equipped for the job. On Wednesday, he was taking second-time right tackle reps.

D.J. Scaife (left) and John Campbell (right) remained the starting offensive tackles on Wednesday. Kai-Leon Herbert was the backup left tackle….

UM’s first-team line has been Pat Bethel and Jon Ford at tackle and Garvin and Scott Patchan at end. Defensive line transfers Hill and Chigozie Nnoruka aren’t yet enrolled. Gregory Rousseau and early enrollee Jahfari Harvey were the second-team ends…

Robert Knowles was a starting safety opposite Amari Carter before Knowles left during practice with an apparent right shoulder injury.

HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel is working on a profile of Diaz, based in part around the fact that he’s UM football’s first Cuban American head coach. Highly capable Andrea Kremer is doing the piece.

The program debuts at 10 p.m. March 26.

Here was the HBO press release on the feature: “

Elisa Diaz and her six-year-old son, Manny Diaz, fled communist Cuba in 1961 in search of freedom and prosperity, arriving in Miami with little to their name, Elisa’s husband remained behind as a prisoner of the Fidel Castro regime. Working tirelessly to create opportunity for her family, she climbed out of poverty by cleaning hotel rooms. In 2001, her eldest son was elected mayor of Miami, where he would serve two terms. Seventeen years later, her grandson, Manny Diaz Jr., became the first Cuban-American head football coach at the University of Miami. Correspondent Andrea Kremer sits down with the newly appointed Hurricanes head coach and grandson of Cuban exiles to hear his remarkable family story.”

Here’s the Wednesday story from me and Susan Miller Degnan about the quarterback situation, the reaction on the Tate Martell decision and Harley breaking down each of the three quarterbacks on campus.

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