A six-pack of Hurricanes notes on a Friday:
▪ Scrimmages on the next three Saturdays should begin to lend some measure of clarity to the quarterback position, though this race easily could extend into mid-August. At the moment, the competition is close, coach Manny Diaz indicated this week.
A UM official who has seen all the practices said there remains inconsistency at the position, though each of the three challengers has had his moments and Tate Martell has improved after a slow start.
“Every day a different guy pokes his nose in front,” Diaz told WQAMs Joe Zagacki on Hurricane Hotline. “I know why coach [Dan] Enos has a great reputation of developing guys. [In Enos’ offense], there is always a right decision for the quarterback, always a place to go no matter what the defense does. You just need to do it.”
Diaz continues to emphasize that the quarterback will be selected who most excels in three areas: avoiding critical errors, making smart decisions and throwing the ball accurately.
Jarren Williams’ strength is his accuracy, but Martell has come on strong and N’Kosi Perry has had his moments.
The perception has been — and remains — that Martell is the front-runner because of his pedigree; he was considered the most gifted of the three coming into college and he’s UM’s most ballyhooed transfer in years. But he’s going to have to earn the job.
Saturday’s scrimmage is the only one closed to fans and media.
▪ UM is doing something creative before and during its Hurricane Club event from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday night at the Wharf on the Miami River.
The creative touch before the event: Diaz and his coaching staff will be arriving by yacht.
“We have a very nice vessel,” said Jesse Marks, UM’s senior associate athletic director. “It’s a special boat to make a grand entrance. They will be coming in from Biscayne Bay on Miami River.”
During the event, UM will try something new and smart: All of the coaches will be available to chat with fans.
“Whoever purchases tickets can get to know the coaching staff, mix and mingle, take pictures, get autographs,” Marks said. “Casual fun, Miami vibe. The event is meant to be inclusive with coaching staff and get everyone a chance to meet them and see the energy they bring to the program.”
Diaz will address the audience as a group.
Cost is $60 for Hurricane Club members and $75 for nonmembers, and includes two beer/wine/soft drink tickets, hors d’oeuvres stations and a cash bar.
“It’s a celebration of Miami football, The New Miami and new passion and spirit everyone is feeling behind the Hurricanes,” Diaz said.
▪ Diaz has loved his first spring practice as UM coach.
“It’s been fun; I am really enjoying it,” he told Zagacki. “It has been more natural than even I would have thought the first day. It’s been fun watching our coaches. Man, we’ve got some great coaches. Watching the way we teach and how guys respond to that…. My job is to keep track of what wins, mentally where we understand what it takes to win a football games.”
Diaz, incidentally, said it’s critical that coaches don’t give players mixed messages.
“You want to create a staff where the staff is very unified and has the exact same answers to the exact same questions,” Diaz said. “They play much better when they have that. We’re in a position of authority. If authority ever questions authority, it’s hard for someone in a submissive position to honor that. [If not, players say] I don’t know what to believe. When we talk to the team, it has to be gospel, like the man in the white beard....
“You look at what’s made the Heat and Spurs and Patriots [succeed over long stretches besides talent]: It’s they have a unity of thought.”
▪ Diaz, on the thinking behind keeping the final scrimmage in Orlando on April 20 instead of moving it to Hard Rock Stadium amid the cancellation of a concert scheduled there that day:
“We wanted to stay in same hotel, stay on same sideline,” he said. “You’re mentally positioning your team to have a great night on Aug. 24 [against the Gators]. Everything is done to prepare their mind to have their best day on Aug. 24.”
▪ Safeties coach and co-defensive coordinator Ephraim Banda said through three weeks of spring ball, “technique stuff is where we really need to clean it up [with the safeties]. That’s what I would like to see us do better.”
He said on Hurricane Hotline that Gurvan Hall, Amari Carter, Derrick Smith and Robert Knowles “are big and physical guys. But I need their brains to be big and their mental side to match what they look like. What I want to be when we walk out there in Orlando [against UF] is have mental giants, as big as they are, I want their brains to be as dominant and big and physical. This isn’t checkers; it’s chess.”
▪ Hall is wearing deceased UM legend Sean Taylor’s No. 26, but Banda said that comes with a warning: “I will take that number right off of you if you don’t play fast and physical. If you are not going to be that guy, that thing is coming off of you.”
He said he also gave that message to former UM safety Rashawn Jenkins when he played for the Canes and asked to wear No. 26..
Banda on some of his other safeties:
“Amari Carter is starting to put it all together. Has an ability to play multiple positions. To know how to blitz, he has a natural knack. He has a confidence of what’s about to happen; that allows him to play faster. My standard for him is to not miss a check, not have a bust, not be surprised by [what’s thrown at him].
“[With] Robert Knowles, there is always a value having a senior in your program that’s been through a lot. He knows multiple positions, really stepped up his game mentally.
“Derrick Smith; we are challenging Derrick to learn the safety position. He started there, then moved to striker, then moved him back. We’re trying to find opportunity for him to play. He’s big, he’s long, he’s rangy.”
Transfer Bubba Bolden arrives this summer.