N’Kosi Perry stepping up as a leader, Miami Hurricanes teammate says

In December, N’Kosi Perry (left, seen in this 2017 photo) said he gained 10 pounds and a lot of knowledge as a freshman. (Matt Porter/The Palm Beach Post)

[Rosier: If Miami isn’t ‘dominating ACC, something’s wrong]
Early observations from Miami practice]
[10 important storylines to follow]

CORAL GABLES — Tyler Gauthier, Miami’s center, doesn’t care who receives his snaps. He trusts the coaches to make the right decision on Miami’s starting quarterback.

Gauthier wasn’t stumping for anyone when he gave this review of redshirt freshman N’Kosi Perry, who opened the spring as the No. 2 to redshirt senior Malik Rosier:

“It seems like some first-year quarterbacks, they’re not vocal because they don’t want to say the wrong thing,” Gauthier said. “Now, you can tell he’s more assertive. He’s going to walk in there and he wants eyes on him in the huddle. He’s going to make a play call and we’re going to run it and that’s the way it’s going to be. It’s definitely good to see him step up as a leader like that.”

Offensive coordinator Thomas Brown was similarly encouraged.

“Obviously a lot more relaxed,” Brown said of Perry. “He’s been a year in this system.  When he came in as a freshman there were high expectations for him, as there should be. … Playing quarterback is different. Like, Lorenzo [Lingard] coming in playing running back, it’s easier to play at that spot than quarterback. He looked pretty good today.”

And then, a note of caution.

“It’s day one, now,” he said. “I don’t get too excited (when they’re) in shorts.”

Miami will be in full pads next week. Their first scrimmage could be March 31, though UM hasn’t released information on any scrimmages other than the April 14 spring game (at Hard Rock Stadium).

Rosier, who started 13 games last year but will have to battle Perry and others for his spot, is “determined,” Gauthier said.  “Coming to work every day. He tries to be first in the sprints. He tries to be the best in the weight room. He’s always in the film room trying to get better. Malik has a chip on his shoulder this year and I think it’s going to be good to see.”

Here and there

* Freshman Jarren Williams, who enrolled in January, “handled it pretty well” on his first day,” Brown said.  “I think he’s a very confident guy, very smart football player, very smart guy in general. I think he’ll be fine.”

* Gauthier doesn’t believe there will be a “that much of a drop-off” from departing defensive tackles Kendrick Norton and RJ McIntosh to new potential starters Gerald Willis and Jonathan Ford. Willis, he said, is “an amazing athlete, a heck of a player.” Ford, listed at 6-foot-5 and 300 pounds, is “a big dude,  he can definitely stuff the middle. Pat Bethel, he’s one of the stronger kids (we have) in the weight room. I wouldn’t say there’s much of a drop-off. Maybe more of a playing time drop-off, but that’s not going to be a big deal after these 15 practices.”

* Willis, incidentally, has changed his jersey number from No. 91 to No. 9 (formerly worn by Chad Thomas).

* Former cornerback Malek Young, whose career was cut short by a beck injury, watched practice standing next to cornerbacks coach Mike Rumph.

* Former wideout Braxton Berrios and kicker Michael Badgley were at practice. Both are training for Miami’s March 28 pro day and the upcoming NFL draft.

* Richt said safeties Derrick Smith and Romeo Finley are training at strong-side linebacker (Sam; covering the slot) in Miami’s nickel defense. They will remain safeties.

* On redshirt junior George Brown, who will get a look at right tackle with senior Tyree St. Louis getting first shot on the left side: “You can tell he’s a different kid from the fall. He got in the weight room this year. He got a little heavier, a little stronger, and his footwork looks really good. I’m impressed with him.” Brown transferred from LSU in 2015, sat out the following season and played sparingly last year. “George is a big, athletic man,” Thomas Brown said. “He needs to be more consistent.”

* Sophomore right guard Navaughn Donaldson, has lost weight and “is able to move a little quicker,” Gauthier said. “After playing a full season, he’s got the playbook,” Gauthier said.  “He makes calls with me when we’re getting ready to run a play. It’s definitely good to see.” Donaldson is listed at 6-6 and 350 pounds.

* Gauthier said he’s starting at center, but believes he could play guard. That would likely happen if Corey Gaynor, the sophomore from Parkland-Douglas High, is ready to replace him at center.  Gaynor was UM’s backup center and left guard last season.

* Redshirt senior Jahair Jones opened the spring as the starter at left guard. Brown said that was a “combination of” his performance in mat drills and on-field development. “Jahair is one of the strongest guys we have up front,” Brown said.  “Does a really good job with his hand placement and moving his feet. Just trying to give him a chance to win a job.”

* Zalon’tae Hillery, the second-team right tackle, impressed Gauthier with his acumen in the film room. “He’s quick,” Gauthier said.  “You can tell he’s been studying a lot.” He added that redshirt freshman Kai-Leon Herbert, the second-string left tackle, “got a lot better in the weight room.”