A six-pack of Hurricanes notes on a Tuesday:
▪ Offensive coordinator Dan Enos made clear Tuesday that the quarterback play is nowhere near where the Hurricanes need it to be and that Tate Martell, Jarren Williams and N’Kosi Pery are “pretty much even” after more than three weeks of the five-week spring practice period.
But he said he’s not at all worried about the position because UM is going against a defense whose system has been in place for years.
“All of them played really, really slow,” Enos said of his quarterbacks when asked how they played in Saturday’s closed scrimmage. “Slow in the huddle, slow at the line of scrimmage, too indecisive making decisions — all three of them at times. Their pocket demeanor, pocket posture got them in problems at time.
“When they played more decisive and when their feet were good, they played very well. It was the same for all three of them. The defense totally dominated the offense the entire day so it was hard to really get a huge evaluation of the three quarterbacks.”
Enos was pleased that “they didn’t turn the ball over.” But he said “they took way too many sacks. N’kosi was the benefactor of having a couple big plays, of generating a couple big plays. One time he really negotiated the pocket well, stepped up, slid, eyes down field, hit a dig and got a big play out of that. Was the benefactor of having some good eyes and some good feet. But to be totally honest, there wasn’t a lot of offense explosiveness at all so it was hard to really evaluate those guys.”
But he said he’s not worried about the position overall because “the defense is in year four of their system. We’re in week four.
There’s a big difference. They got all sorts of blitzes in. We’re seeing the gamut as far as an offense, and we’re trying to learn a whole new offense.”
So Enos, who welcomes those blitzes, said he’s “not worried at all.”
And this is also a positive, he said: “The competition is good. Whoever wins the competition is going to benefit from being in the competition. When things are handed to guys in my experience, sometimes they have a tendency to get complacent and don’t push themselves as hard. The competition will ultimately make each of them better players. The cream rises to the top, so may the best man win.”
Perry had the best statistics in numbers distributed by UM. But asked if that meant if Perry was the best quarterback Saturday, coach Manny Diaz said:
“I don’t know that there was a best. They all know they have to play a lot better for us to win games. To crown somebody from the
performance on Saturday would be effort in futility. The numbers are not going to reflect the decisions, and the biggest thing is are we
getting the ball out and are we finding the guy that’s open?
“One of the great things about this offense is there’s going to be an answer for the quarterback. Because of a lack of at-bats, we’re having a hard time finding the answer in terms of where the ball should go. There is going to be a place where the ball needs to go. When we have that, then we will be in a position to really evaluate we have.”
How much of an impact will Saturday’s open scrimmage at Traz Powell Stadium have in determining the starting quarterback?
It “will have some weight,” Enos said. “I can’t speak for the head coach. But I’m certain we’re probably not going to name a starter after the scrimmage this Saturday. Obviously, you can help yourself or hurt yourself. Just like every time they come out here is [like] a game.”
▪ Running back Robert Burns, who has just two carries for 10 yards in two injury-plagued seasons at Miami, is out again — this time with minor knee surgery that will sideline him for the rest of spring.
But Diaz said he will be ready for football activities long before the start of fall camp and praised his improvement.
“He has put together good offseason… good spring practice,” Diaz said. “He is a guy that guys aren’t real excited on defense to jump in front of and tackle.”
▪ Meanwhile, fullback Realus George “has really made a jump, has really, really has,” Diaz said. “He has been a physical presence in our downhill running game. If you want to be a downhill-running offense, you’ve got to have a fullback who can move some bodies out of the way.”
George knows Enos likes to use a fullback at times and “when we watch film and see a lot of plays that come up, it motivates me to come out and play a lot harder than I did last year. This spring has been about proving to myself and my coaches that I can be a guy they can depend on.”
He played at 277-280 last season and is now down to 251, which is “helping me move a lot quicker, a lot more explosive.”
▪ Enos said the team has been “very inconsistent on the offensive line. We’ve been shuffling guys in and out of there. We’ve had some injuries. We had to move [guard Navaughn] Donaldson to center [in last Saturday’s scrimmage]. He hasn’t played center all spring but did a tremendous job.
“There’s been no continuity because we’re just trying to figure out who’s who, who’s a guard, who’s a tackle, who’s a starter, who’s a two. We had a true freshman playing left tackle in the scrimmage [Zion Nelson]. As I told him, he should be getting ready for the senior prom right now. We have him out here blocking one of the best defenses in the country. Coach [Butch] Barry is doing a tremendous job with these guys; he’s technician, a fundamental, detailed coach.”
▪ In Waymon Steed (out for the spring with a knee injury) and De’Andre Wilder (missing all spring with a neck injury), UM is without two of the linebackers who it hoped would be developed behind senior starters Shaquille Quarterman, Mike Pinckney and Zach McCloud.
So where does UM stand at the position?
Diaz said Bradley Jennings Jr. “is doing great. Jennings will be able to play the role [that departing] Mike Smith played a year ago. He will be able to train at that mike, which will increase his value to our team and put him on the field more.
“We think he has a great future. Our starters are pretty doggone good. He’s a guy we can push in the game more.”
Diaz also said he believes walk on Darian Stephenson, from Miami Westminster Christian, can help at linebacker and special teams.
Freshmen Sam Brooks and Avery Huff arrive this summer.
▪ Quick stuff: Diaz said UM turned off the air conditioning inside the practice facility on Tuesday and turned on the humidity machine: “They felt it, which is good. This is what we needed and we will do this again Thursday, and that will get them ready for getting outside again on Saturday.”…. As we wrote last week, receivers coach Taylor Stubblefield confirmed that Evidence Njoku must play with more “urgency.”… Diaz said center Corey Gaynor remains “day-to-day” with an undisclosed injury, adding that “Corey has had a good spring, really asserted himself as a guy we can count on the offensive line.”
Our Susan Miller Degnan will have a story on Jeff Thomas and Mark Pope a bit later.