Barry Jackson

Diaz likes play of a ‘criminally underrated’ UM defender. And NCAA late with UM decision

A six-pack of Hurricanes notes on a Tuesday:

▪ Through the first month of the season, we might only be seeing one scholarship linebacker who will be on the team next season.

But that young linebacker, freshman Sam Brooks, is convincing UM he’s going to be a quality player in a post-Shaquille Quarterman/Mike Pinckney era.

Coaches have been impressed how Brooks has looked in practice and during the second half of the Bethune Cookman game. He has a sack and five tackles this season.

“To see him run, chase the ball, made us think he has a really bright future here,” Diaz said this week, in comments in a press conference and on WQAM’s Hurricane Hotline.

“He was criminally underrated by the rankings. He had played a lot of defensive end at [Miami] Northwestern. Standing up his speed from sideline to sideline is exactly what we want. Wait until [strength coach] David Feeley gets done with him. He’s going to be something special.

“When he was wearing the number one jersey at Northwestern playing defensive line, when they give it to a 10th grader that means he has the respect of the entire program. That tells you all you need to know.”

Rivals called Brooks a three-star recruit and ranked him 91st among recruits in the state last year, but UM believes that seriously undersold him.

“Before I played for UM I used to always see [Miami linebackers] and looked up to them, especially Shaq [Quarterman] - he doesn’t even know it,” Brooks said Tuesday. “I was in high school, would go to the game, watch the linebackers. Now that I’m finally playing behind them, it’s a great experience for me. They’re four-year starters, so they know everything.

“For next year I have to put on some more weight. As far as instincts about linebacker, I’m doing well. I have the speed, everything else, just have to put on about 20 more pounds.”

▪ UM’s 2020 future at linebacker is beginning to crystallize.

Patrick Joyner Jr. and Waymon Steed will be back from longterm injuries, and Joyner impressed late in spring ball after moving back from defensive end.

Brooks and Avery Huff will be in their second year in the program, with Huff redshirting this season for academic reasons.

Four senior prep linebackers are committed: AJ Mathis, Tirek Austin-Cave, Romello Height and Corey Flagg Jr. And adding a grad transfer - if a rotation-caliber one becomes available - would be helpful.

▪ Diaz revealed that safety Bubba Bolden didn’t learn from the NCAA that he wouldn’t play in the UF opener until the day before and didn’t learn he wouldn’t play against North Carolina until the day before. That made it particularly “tough” on him, Diaz said.

It’s outrageous, but not remotely surprising, that the NCAA surprised Miami with the decision 24 hours before the opener.

But UM was given clarity on Sept. 6 that he will be eligible beginning with the Oct. 5 Virginia Tech game.

▪ At least against the run, UM has done as well as could possibly be expected in a post-Gerald Willis era.

“People are not running the football on Miami,” Diaz said on Hurricane Hotline. “That’s where it all starts. We’re fifth in the country in third down defense. When you are really good at stopping the run, you are going to create third and longs. Jon Ford, Pat Bethel, Jordan Miller, Chigozie Nnoruka have been super solid.

“There’s athleticism Miami defensive tackles should have that maybe other schools don’t want. Miami isn’t built on pluggers. It’s built on guys who get in the backfield and wreack havoc when they get there.”

Defensive coordinator Blake Baker said freshman defensive tackle Jason Blissett was the other scholarship player that most impressed him, besides Brooks, in the second half of the Bethune game.

▪ Diaz has been thoroughly impressed with how N’Kosi Perry handled losing out on the starting quarterback job. Diaz loved how he celebrated a touchdown by a teammate on Saturday.

“I’m sure he’s under tremendous pressure ,after he didn’t get the job, to leave,” Diaz told Joe Zagacki and Don Bailey Jr. on Hurricane Hotline. “But for a guy to stick it out, be at Miami, be with his teammates and have joy on the sideline [is great]. He’s a newer version of himself.”

▪ According to a UM official, running back Lorenzo Lingard didn’t play Saturday because he didn’t pass a concussion test, though UM has stopped short of calling it a concussion.

“We were excited to get him going against Bethune Cookman,” Diaz said of Lingard on Hurricane Hotline. “You have to have start somewhere” after last year’s knee injury.

Diaz spoke again, on Hurricane Hotline, of trying to get more work for Robert Burns: “He could provide us a big hammer back. He’s a guy in the fourth quarter you don’t want to see.”

▪ John Campbell, who started at right tackle in the opener, got work at guard against Bethune Cookman and Diaz liked how he did. “He’s an excellent player,” Diaz said. “We want to have a bunch of guys that can play and roll guys.” Campbell got 17 snaps Saturday.

Mark Richt had thought Cleveland Reed would become a high-impact guard, but he’s still waiting to crack the lineup. Reed got six snaps Saturday, the fewest of 10 offensive linemen to play, per Herald data correspondent Daniel Gould.

Tommy Kennedy, who transferred from Butler expecting to be the starting left tackle, didn’t play at all, per Gould. The other offensive line transfer, Ousman Traore, played 15 snaps.

Related stories from Miami Herald

  Comments