Brad Kaaya was disappointed to see sophomore Lawrence Cager suffer a season-ending knee injury last week, a malady that leaves Miami with seven scholarship receivers entering fall camp (Aug. 4).
“It is tough,” Kaaya said last Friday at the ACC Kickoff. “This summer he was doing really good. He was awesome. He was almost unguardable. He was catching eight or nine passes [a day]. For him to go down is a huge blow.”
However, Kaaya said the Hurricanes “still have some good, fast dudes that can go over the top and get in and out of their breaks.” That means he’s confident.
His thoughts on a few of his pass-catchers …
The first man Kaaya name-checked in replacing Cager, who played the X-receiver (outside), is freshman Ahmmon Richards (6-1, 192)
“He should be pretty good. He was backing up Stacy [Coley] at Z, but now he’s got to step up [at X] and he’s got to learn fast,” Kaaya said. “He’s a smart kid. I think he’ll get it. Just playing X and playing Z, there are different releases, different routes. On the back side is where you get more press coverage, big cornerbacks, guys like Artie Burns, Mackenzie Alexander who can really press a wide receiver, so he’s got to work on his releases. We’ll see if it’s Ahmmon or someone else, but someone will step up.”
Kaaya on freshman Sam Bruce (5-8, 180): “He’s just quick. He’s really quick. He’s got good routes, and he’s hard to cover. It’s hard for a linebacker to cover. You can’t cover him with a linebacker. You need a [defensive back].”
Junior Braxton Berrios (5-9, 185) isn’t just limited to the slot; he played inside and outside in the spring and since then has been lining up “everywhere,” Kaaya said. “Sam’s been doing a bit of both.”
Is this a potential breakout year for Malcolm Lewis (5-10, 190), a fifth-year senior who hasn’t made much of an impact since his 2012 ankle injury?
“I think Malcolm should be good,” Kaaya said. “We’ll see if Malcolm ends up at the X, right now it’s Ahmmon and Malcolm at X. Malcolm’s always a consistent dude. He’s a hard worker. Really hard worker. I think we can win with anyone in.”
Kaaya on junior college transfer Dayall Harris, a 6-foot-3 redshirt sophomore: “Pretty good. He’s a smooth route-runner. He’s between the X and Z right now. He runs some different routes, timing routes. Slot too. Harris X/Z, timing routes.
On redshirt sophomore Darrell Langham (6-4, 230) the only wide receiver as tall as Cager (6-4, 215): “We’ll see how he steps up in fall camp. We’ll see.”
Kaaya said redshirt sophomore tight end David Njoku, whom he referred to as “basically a freshman All-American,” may not necessarily alter his role, playing more wide receiver than tight end. “We haven’t thought that far ahead yet,” Kaaya said.
When a reporter suggested he would be in good shape at tight end, throwing to Njoku, Chris Herndon and Stan Dobard, Kaaya warned them not to overlook freshman Michael Irvin II.
“He shocked me with how athletic he is,” he said of Irvin (6-3, 230). “He’s really quick. He’s fast, man. And he’s got his dad’s hands — huge hands. His catch radius, for a tight end, I think he has one of the best catch radiuses on the team. I can throw him a ball, he can one-hand it, he can lay out for it. He’s a good athlete. I think he’s going to be really special. Maybe even just as good if not better than his dad was, at some point, at his position. At tight end, I think he can be just as much as a legend as his dad.”
One last thing. Kaaya, on the pressure of winning the ACC Coastal in his junior season:
“It is pressure, and it’s a good thing. An 8-4 regular season is average for people here,” he said. “A 10-win season should be the standard at Miami. I commend the people of South Florida for that. They should hold us to a standard of excellence. Look at the guys who came before us.”