Leftover observations from Wednesday’s scrimmage from defensive coordinator Manny Diaz, coach Mark Richt and others:
* Diaz said he liked what he saw from freshman linebacker Shaq Quarterman — who continues to draw praise from everyone in the program — in addition to safeties Jaquan Johnson, Rayshawn Jenkins and Jamal Carter. Corn Elder had an interception and returned it for a touchdown. Up front, Diaz said Kendrick Norton was “solid,” Gerald Willis had five solo tackles. RJ McIntosh “might have had four or five” solo tackles.
* Bad news: Diaz said UM’s tackling performance was “probably at the lowest level” of the five scrimmages this new staff has conducted, going back to the spring. (Richt, interestingly, said it improved from the first scrimmage to the second.) Diaz was most unhappy with the second unit, praising the first-stringers for playing at a high level. “The encouraging and discouraging thing is that our ones are playing more like ones and our twos are playing more like twos,” Diaz said. “It’s going to be hard for us to be above average if we can only rely on our first-level starters. … Game week is two weeks away. It’s crucial for us to find some guys that we can put into games to spell our starters.”
* More honesty from Diaz: In these “dog days” of camp, he said UM’s lack of “leadership” and “experience” is showing. “Sometimes, we don’t have the guys that have the wherewithal to grab the guys and say, ‘Let’s not just try to survive this drill, let’s attack this drill.’ We are trying to foster that with the group that we have,” Diaz said. “It might be a freshman that has to lead us,” such as Quarterman. Diaz said Carter, for example, is “one of our toughest guys we have,” but the senior “doesn’t understand he has to lead, because he’s one of our toughest guys.”
* Diaz mentioned the first-team defense allowed 4-for-17 passing completions. Richt said UM will release scrimmage stats on Friday. “Late news, but it might be interesting to the fans,” he said.
* Richt said he would reveal the two quarterbacks contending for the backup job tomorrow, after he informs those players.
* Jenkins, who was praised by Diaz for being “more dedicated” than he has been in the past, as well as “super gifted” physically, predicted Quarterman and Johnson will be “future leaders of this defense.”
* Darrion Owens is still limited as he returns from last September’s severe knee injury. Owens, who still has some of the 10 pounds he gained while sitting out, said UM won’t let him take full contact. He has not scrimmaged. Will Owens play in the opener? “I hope so,” Richt said, sounding like he was less than sure. “I don’t know what [Darrion] used to look like. But he looks, still, he doesn’t look like he’s flying around, 100 percent full speed every snap. Maybe just kind of getting to trust it again. I don’t know.” Richt sounded more hopeful about freshman Michael Pinckney, who sat out the scrimmage with a hamstring injury: “I would hope, yes.”
* Jamie Gordinier remains the first-teamer at weakside linebacker. Diaz said he is “physically gifted” but “at-bats, that’s all it is, and persistence will turn him into a good player.”
* Freshman cornerback Malek Young had an interception in the scrimmage (off Kaaya, who threw an ill-advised pass). Diaz’ take: “He’s fast, and fast players know they’re fast, so that affects their confidence in terms of how they cover. And he’s tough. He’s a willing tackler. The arrow is pointing up on Malek Young.”
* Richt on Dionte Mullins, who has yet to enroll: “Nothing to report, other than that we do expect him to be this team this year.”
* Diaz said Willis, who has been praised for his aggressiveness and energy, sometimes overpursues his assignment and as such, is still trying to earn the trust of coaches. “Sometimes, your playing time in a way is not dependent on how much good you can do, it’s dependent on how little bad you can do,” Diaz said (this is one reason coaches love Trent Harris). Diaz, who has a knack for metaphor, said Willis is “trying to focus on not burning the house down.”
* Wide receiver Lawrence Cager, out for 2016 because of a torn ACL, was spotted catching machine-fed passes after practice.