Barry Jackson

One area where this UM staff has made a difference. And Canes, others pursue FSU recruits

A six-pack of University of Miami Hurricanes notes on a Monday:

Say this about this UM coaching staff: There has been clear improvement from several young players, with defensive end Greg Rousseau, defensive tackle Jordan Miller, receivers Dee Wiggins and Mark Pope and cornerback D.J. Ivey among those.

Coach Manny Diaz wants player development to be a hallmark of the program. And several things have been done to improve that, starting with hiring a skilled teacher as an offensive coordinator (Dan Enos), overhauling the strength and conditioning program (by adding David Feeley), and teaching receivers to “sell their routes” and deceive defensive backs more than they have in the past (receivers coach Taylor Stubblefield has been a big help in this area).

UM wanted coaches to be detailed with players in exit meetings this spring and throughout the season, telling them in great detail where they need to improve.

“I’m a big believer in constant feedback and communication back and forth so guys always know where they stand,” Diaz said.

But in talking about player development, the first player Diaz cited Monday was a senior — Rob Knowles, how he stayed here and learned — instead of transferring — and made himself into a reliable player.

“I don’t know how many wins we would have without Rob Knowles,” he said. “The way he’s played is a testament to player development.”

Diaz then cited development with others. “DeeJay Dallas didn’t come here as a running back. Greg Rousseau didn’t know a lot about playing defensive end… Where Mark Pope is as a receiver now compared to August is night and day.”

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Diaz said “coaches like to beat their chest” about first-rounders, but there’s importance in developing players who aren’t, such as former one-year transfer Adrian Colbert, who became an NFL player after transferring here [for one year] from Texas.

Enos also has made a big difference with development. His footwork drills with the quarterbacks has made them better players. “All these footwork drills we’re doing every day are slowly becoming part of your DNA,” Enos told his quarterbacks.

Miami will try to seize on FSU’s misfortune — lots of losing and a coaching change — by pursuing a couple of Seminoles nonbinding commitments.

The Canes continue to recruit Deerfield Beach running back Jaylon Knighton, who decommitted from FSU on Monday. Ohio State and UF are also in the mix there.

And UM also is after four-star Venice-based receiver Malachi Wideman, an FSU commit.

Meanwhile, Diaz said the recruits’ response after the FSU game was encouraging.

“There is no doubt the feedback after the game is very positive,” He said. “We’re impressed with this class being strong. [But] they want to see it. These guys believe in what we’re doing here but you want to have it show.”

UM’s biggest individual story nationally is Rousseau, whose 12 sacks are tied for second nationally behind Ohio State star Chase Young’s 13.5.

What NFL players do UM coaches compare him to?

“Players from the past here; Calais Campbell comes up with the height and reach,” defensive coordinator Blake Baker said. “Not too many people possess those things.”

When did Baker see something from Rousseau that made him know he was special?

“You always saw the ability,” Baker said. “He has some really God given talents he does a great job utilizing. The way he can bend, his motor, not a lot of things in college football he can’t do.”

His sacks are coming “through effort plays, or reaching out like Inspector Gadget,” Baker said. “I’m proud of that guy. He’s come a long way in a short period. He’s getting national recognition and still the same Greg. Always smiling, yes sir, no sir.”

Enos said freshman receiver Jeremiah Payton played Saturday for the first time since the Central Michigan game in mid-September because he has really come on in practice. Payton has played in three games and can redshirt as long as he doesn’t exceed four game appearances.

“Defensive coaches have raved about how hard it is to cover him [on the scout team],” Enos said. “He’s done the same thing [when not on the scout team]. He’s got a very bright future.”

Meanwhile, Enos said Wiggins “played his best game” Saturday:

“We ran an out route; he stuck the route at the top. Caught an arrow route on third down. The way he’s blocking on the perimeter [is strong]. You can see the growth and comfort level he’s starting to have in the offense. When you break the huddle and you’re not sure where to line up, it’s hard to play. He’s doesn’t have to [think about that] any more. He’s got a bright future. Mark and Dee have improved significantly.”

Quick football stuff: Diaz said punter Louis Hedley has been a “massive weapon.”... Baker said linebacker Shaquille Quarterman has been “a different monster” since the Virginia Tech game, “has done everything with a purpose from that point on.”..

Baker said freshman safety Keontra Smith’s role will increase after Bubba Bolden’s season-ending injury resulting from Gurvan Hall hitting him during the celebration against FSU... Enos said DeeJay Dallas “is a complete back” and done well with blitz pickup... Baker said linebacker Avery Huff “has a chance to have a special career here.”

Quick basketball stuff, with UM’s basketball team opening at home at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday against fifth-ranked Louisville (ACC Network)... It should be interesting to see this well-regarded group of UM freshman basketball players - freshman Isaiah Wong, forward Anthony Walker and Harlond Beverly. Beverly and Wong are rated four-star prospects by with Walker a three-star. Wong can play both guard spots and attack the basket. Jim Larranaga calls Beverly “a multidimensional guard with great athleticism and is one of the most rapidly improving players in his class.”...

UM last season allowed opponents to shoot 45 percent and score 71 points per game -- the worst numbers in Larranaga’s eight seasons. “We’re not a great defensive team,” Larranaga says. “It has been an area of concern actually since we lost Bruce Brown the middle of his sophomore year. We dropped statistically from being one of the better defensive teams in the ACC to one of the worst, and we haven’t been able to get back.”...

Point guard Chris Lykes, the 5-7 sparkplug who averaged 16.2 points last season, said “I want to show people I’m a winner. I’m not just an exciting player and a highlight guy.”

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