Five things we learned from 2016 Miami Hurricanes spring game

FORT LAUDERDALE — Brad Kaaya can sling it. We knew that, though. Here are a few noteworthy developments from Miami’s spring game:


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Gus Edwards (7) holds off cornerback Michael Jackson in UM's 2016 spring game. (Miami Herald)

Gus Edwards (7) holds off cornerback Michael Jackson in UM’s 2016 spring game. (Miami Herald)

Miami’s depth remains worrisome. It was one of the things on Mark Richt’s mind afterward: the Hurricanes have some horses, but not enough of them. At receiver, Braxton Berrios had a nice day and has looked good this spring, and there are four promising young talents arriving this summer, but a significant injury to Stacy Coley, Jermaine Grace or Corn Elder injury would be trouble for the receivers, linebackers and cornerbacks. UM seems to be a couple stellar recruiting classes away from competing on the national stage.

“I think our biggest issue is depth, really,” Richt said. “When you’re playing two- and three-teams in the fall, you’re always so thin, but if all you have to do is get one team out there, then your depth all of a sudden feels a little bit more comfortable. So, right now, we felt super thin because we got the team split in half and we’re going at a pretty good tempo, not many timeouts, and even when we did it was just to kind of reset and go. [We had a] quick little halftime. It’s hard to say, but I think if we stay healthy and guys take care of business in the offseason, we’ll be okay, but if we get a couple injuries in a couple spots, it would hurt us. We’re not as strong as we need to be as far as numbers.”

Coley, who sustained a pulled hamstring in UM’s scrimmage last Saturday, did not participate. Others who missed the game because of injuries: offensive linemen Nick Linder (shoulder), Sunny Odogwu and Alex Gall; defensive end Scott Patchan; linebacker Darrion Owens (knee) and fullback Gage Batten (foot). Richt said Gall, who was injured this week, likely would not require surgery.

Newcomers better be ready. Miami needs its four summer arrivals at receiver to push Coley, Berrios and Lawrence Cager (disappointing day with a pair of drops), Malcolm Lewis and Darrell Langham (both quiet). Freshmen Sam Bruce, Ahmmon Richards and Dionte Mullins and junior college transfer Dayall Harris will “have to play for sure,” Richt said. “If they can function well, they don’t have missed assignments and they’re not afraid to compete, they’re not afraid to play major college football, then they’ll be in the game.” It would help if cornerback Malek Young made a big leap as a freshman, given UM’s issues there.

The good news: UM’s tight ends proved to be a formidable unit; while David Njoku dropped two passes and Stan Dobard departed with what appeared to be a left foot or ankle injury, Chris Herndon had a strong day. Also, UM’s running backs, Mark Walton in particular, continue to impress.

No separation among backup quarterbacks. Because the roster was split in half Miami is so light at receiver — “there was just a lack of guys who were able to make plays out there,” Richt said – he reserved judgment on his corners and backup QBs. The latter group, which included Evan Shirreffs, Malik Rosier, Vincent Testaverde and Jack Allison, combined to go 4-for-20 for 42 yards and an interception – and unlike Kaaya, they weren’t often victims of dropped passes. The race will extend well into the summer.

“There weren’t many opportunities to have guys open,” Richt said. “There weren’t many opportunities to be [able to] stand in the pocket and make a throw. We did have the one really nice drive to start out with Malik [it consisted of eight Gus Edwards carries and one Rosier completion], which was nice for that two-unit. After that, it was tough sledding for all of them.”

Protection is improving. Richt said his first-string offensive line, which included 6-5, 300-pound sophomore Tyler Gauthier as first-string center in place of Gall, was “not bad” after allowing three sacks and a few pressures (it surrendered seven sacks in its previous scrimmage). “We moved the ball well at times, we ran the ball well at times, we threw the ball well at times. I’m talking about the one-unit. When you get to the second unit, it’s just really tough. It was just tough sledding with that group.” The Hurricanes improved their blitz pickup – on a drive ending with a Chris Herndon touchdown catch, Walton handled a rushing Chad Thomas to buy Kaaya the time to move the chains. The fullbacks and tight ends blocked well (and were used often). Another encouraging thought: one UM staffer expressed his excitement that Gauthier and right tackle Tyree St. Louis were challenged to step up in the absences of Linder and Odogwu.

Manny Diaz had a strange complaint. The defensive coordinator said he liked the play of freshman linebackers Shaq Quarterman, Michael Pinckney and Zach McCloud – “they have certainly made a mark” – and said his defense is “starting to get it.” Allaying one concern, he said tackling in the secondary improved from the last scrimmage, aside from “one occasion” – likely Jamal Carter’s missed tackle on a Chris Herndon touchdown. What Diaz thought was strange: his team didn’t celebarate enough.

“If I still had to lobby a compliant for us – it’s the craziest thing – but when we do something good, we just don’t get excited about it,” Diaz said. “I still want us to play with more passion. I mean the first drive of the game, I think we stopped them on fourth down and the guys walked off like they were going to detention. We’re still trying to get the Canes to play with more passion and get our guys more energized when good things happen, but I think that will come.”

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