A six-pack of Canes notes on a Tuesday:
▪ With Lorenzo Lingard still wearing a knee brace and not yet immersed in team drills, there’s not a lot of healthy depth for the Hurricanes at running back. Even the No. 3 back, Robert Burns, has a history of injuries.
But the top of the depth chart is very good. Not only has Cam’Ron Harris continued to emerge in spring and summer drills after a strong close to last season, but DeeJay Dallas - aside from a fumble Monday - has done good work and rounded into better shape.
Dallas, who has been running with the starters, said Tuesday that he’s back to his freshman weight of 213 -- down from more than 220 last year - and has dropped his body fat from 17 to 9.3.
“I’m back to being who I was before,” Dallas said. “I didn’t feel like I lost a step but felt I was behind a little bit [with more weight]. I think this year is going to be a big one, one to remember.”
Dallas, who averaged 5.3 per carry as a freshman and 5.7 last season, could turn pro after this season if he has a big year. His son, DeeJay Jr., was born June 30.
With Burns also coming on strong, “one of the strengths on our offense right now [is running back] just from experience,” Dallas said. “The guys that have played in a season, in a game, that experience will help our offense down the road in a positive way.”
Burns has impressed everyone early in camp, and Dallas notes that “Rob is a big dude; people don’t know. Rob is like 230, running a 4.4. Rob is big, downhill, shifty. That man is shifty.”
Conversely, the strength staff had Harris increase his weight, from 190 to 205.
▪ Manny Diaz likes what he has seen from his three freshman defensive tackles.
“If anybody signed three more athletic tackles than we did, I would love to see them,” he said. “[Jared] Harrison-Hunte, [Jason] Blissett, [Jalar] Holley, they can do some things. [UCLA transfer] Chigozie Nnoruka [too]. We have some guys we think are going to be special.”
▪ Mark Pope, who has done a very good job on deep balls in camp, stepped in for injured Jeff Thomas with the starters on Tuesday. Dee Wiggins worked with starters Thomas and K.J. Osborn on Monday.
It’s going to be difficult to choose among Pope, Wiggins, Mike Harley Jr., Brian Hightower and Jeremiah Payton for the third through fifth receiver jobs.
▪ New defensive coordinator Blake Baker has made only “minor tweaks” to the striker position, according to Romeo Finley, who excelled in the role last season.
Former safety Gilbert Frierson is Finley’s new backup and Derrick Smith has shifted from striker to safety.
Smith “is looking really good,” Finley said. “To me he’s the most improved. He as got a turnover every practice. I told him he didn’t get one yesterday, told him to get two today [and he] got three. He just keeps getting better. He always tells me he’s going to get that safety spot” held by Amari Carter.
▪ If Scott Patchan remains ahead of newcomer Trevon Hill and Gregory Rousseau for the starting defensive end job opposite Jon Garvin, UM could have one of the best sets of third and fourth ends in the country.
Baker said Rousseau will “definitely” be in the end rotation and that “he’s got a lot more comfortable” off last September’s season-ending ankle injury. “You can see the confidence coming back. He’s like a big avatar out there. He just covers so much ground. I feel good with our defense end position. That can be a strength of this defense.”
▪ Players have been studying Gators tape in advance of the Aug. 24 opener. Finley and others have looked at tape of their bowl game against Michigan.
Host Greg Likens of WQAM-560 and 790 The Ticket recently noted that UM was originally scheduled to play Alabama in Atlanta in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game to open this season on Aug. 31. UF wasn’t supposed to be UM’s 2019 opener.
But then the Gators reached out to UM about playing a game in Orlando to open this season. To accommodate the UM-UF game for 2019, UM then reached out the Chick-Fil-A bowl organizers and arranged for the UM-Alabama game to be held to open the 2021 season instead. And Alabama will open this season against Duke in Atlanta on Aug. 31.