Barry Jackson

Gators player says he doesn’t see UM ‘as a challenge.’ Here’s UM’s response

A six-pack of Hurricanes notes on a Thursday:

The UM-UF opener is more than four months away, but the Gator trash talking has begun.

Gators redshirt freshman defensive lineman Andrew Chatfield on Tuesday was asked about the challenge of facing the Hurricanes, especially with the talent retuning in Miami’s front seven.

“Well, I don’t really see them as a challenge,” Chatfield said, via The Tampa Bay Times. “I just see them as another team really, because I feel like my whole team, we face SEC teams, big-boy teams. They faced one SEC team, and they got smashed by LSU last time I checked.”

That was a reference to UM’s season-opening 33-17 loss to the Tigers in Arlington, Texas, last year, a game which Miami trailed by 30 after three quarters.

LSU then lost to the Gators by eight points later in the season.

“But it’s whatever though,” Chatfield said. “It’s just another game.”

So what do UM players think about Chatfield’s comments?

UM defensive tackle Nesta Silvera, who started three years alongside Chatfield at Plantation American Heritage, had a succinct response:

“Aug. 24,” Silvera said. “That’s just it. That’s all I have to say on that.”

Do Chatfield and Silvera have a close relationship? “Yes,” Silvera said. “That’s my boy. The football side is the football side. We separated it.”

So is it Chatfield’s character to stir the pot like he did with his comments this week? “I mean, Aug. 24,” Silvera repeated.

Asked if they have spoken since Chatfield made those comments, Silvera said: “Possibly.”

UM redshirt freshman Greg Rousseau took Chatfield’s comments in stride.

“I’m not speaking on it,’ he said.

UM defensive coordinator Blake Baker spoke earlier in spring ball about Silvera needing to reel in his aggressiveness at times.

“You can’t come out here and fight every single snap,” Baker said. “All that does is hurt us on Saturdays… He’s become more coachable.”

Asked if he’s conscious of playing with a controlled anger, Silvera said: “I don’t think it’s a temper. I just think I play with an edge. If you look at all the great ones who have been here — [Vince] Wilfork, [Warren] Sapp, Cortez [Kennedy] — they all played with an edge, and that’s what I play with.

“I didn’t get any penalties last year when I played, and I don’t there’s ‘too aggressive’ in this sport.”

Backup linebacker has emerged as a concern, with Waymon Steed out for the balance of spring and potentially beyond with a knee injury and De’Andre Wilder’s career in doubt because of a neck injury.

That leaves B.J. Jennings as the only experienced linebacker behind senior starters Shaq Quarterman, Mike Pinckney and Zach McCloud (who’s now listed as a striker, with Romeo Finley and Gilbert Frierson).

At the moment, walk-on Darian Stephenson would be UM’s fifth linebacker and walk-on striker Colvin Alford would be the sixth. The good news is that two freshmen — Sam Brooks and Avery Huff — arrive this summer.

And Baker said he and coach Manny Diaz have discussed possibly adding a grad transfer linebacker.

“Darian is doing some really good things,” Baker said. “Colvin is doing some really good things as well at our striker position. If we move someone, that’s who it will be. Shaq and Pinckney, you would like to try to back off some reps from them, which now we’re not able to with the depth situation. It’s been great for B.J. Jennings. He’s playing mike and will and looking to fill that Mike Smith role, the swing role. You wish you had a little bit more.” (Smith has graduated and has no remaining eligibility.)

As for a possible transfer addition, Baker said: “You are looking for guys who can help you come in and win this season. We have discussed it, but there are a lot of positions on the team, if the right guy pops up, we would take. It’s still early in the transfer game.”

Asked if Steed will be recovered by fall practice, Baker said he hadn’t thought that far ahead.

Baker said the three-way competition to start at cornerback opposite Trajan Bandy is “extremely close” among Al Blades, D.J. Ivey and Nigel Bethel.

“D.J. Ivey is really starting to stack good days on top of good days which is what you want to see,” Baker said. “It’s going to go all the way into fall camp with those three. All three have different skills sets.”

Special teams coordinator Jonathan Patke, who is also UM’s outside linebackers coach, said he does not believe it would be too much on receiver Jeff Thomas’ plate if he handled kickoffs and punt returns, as opposed to only one. He said Thomas would be in favor of that.

“Really like having Jeff back there,” Patke said. “I don’t think it would be too much. I think he can do both. Obviously we would like to have a few that we’re comfortable with putting back there and we’re at that point where we have a couple guys that can do both.

“I think [Thomas] would [embrace doing both]. He is looking for the field as much as possible. Getting a heavy load on offense I would imagine we have to protect him in some regards. He’s dynamic and he’s done it and he has shown he can secure the football.”

Among other being used on kickoff and punt returns, according to Patke: Receivers K.J. Osborn and Mark Pope, running back DeeJay Dallas and cornerbacks Trajan Bandy and Nigel Bethel.

“Any guys that have the ability to take it to the house, we want back there,” Patke said. “The most important thing is to secure the football.”

Quick stuff: The start time of the UM-FIU football game Nov. 23 at Marlins Park has been set for 7 p.m. TV coverage of the game hasn’t been determined… What UM players are most improved on offense from a year ago? Jennings point to Cam Harris (“his vision is way better than a year ago”) and tight ends Michael Irvin and Will Mallory…. New punter Louis Hedley arrives on campus, via Australia, in early May, a week earlier that expected, Patke said.

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