CORAL GABLES — Sight unseen, Mark Walton likes any Miami running back who wears No. 1. Seeing his old jersey in action brings back warm feelings.
Lorenzo Lingard is making him proud.
“He’s going to be a hell of a player. A hell of a player,” Walton said Wednesday at UM Pro Day, a day after he studied Lingard on Greentree.
“He’s still new to the offense, but once he gets a hang of everything, he’s going to be a very special talent.”
Lingard, the five-star freshman from Orlando, has been taking third-string reps behind returning starter Travis Homer (966 yards, eight touchdowns) and backup DeeJay Dallas (468 and five).
“He’s does a great job with his cutbacks, finding open lanes,” Walton said. “He’s got some vision. [Tuesday] he was hitting the hole very well.”
Lingard, 6-foot and 195 pounds, looks to have the frame to carry 20 more pounds. He was a track star in high school, running a personal best of 10.7 seconds in the 100, according to track results website Milesplit. The Florida Gatorade player of the year in football, he was a Class 4A state champion in the 300 hurdles with a time of 36.624, which at the time was tied for seventh nationally among high school boys.
Walton expects to see a “four-headed monster” once four-star recruit Camron Davis joins the group this summer. Miami will at least have proper depth, with the aforementioned four, redshirt freshman Robert Burns and redshirt senior Trayone Gray.
UM hopes Realus George, listed at 6-foot-2 and 250 pounds, becomes an early contributor. The Hurricanes wanted to run more of a two-back, two-tight end system last year, but never found a fullback (freshman offensive guard Corey Gaynor and walk-on Michael Parrott saw brief game action). In 2016, Mark Richt had fifth-year transfer fullback Marquez Williams and often put tight ends David Njoku (slot) and Chris Herndon (attached) in the game at the same time.
* Mark Richt and Michael Irvin II seem to disagree on this point: Irvin’s development.
Asked if the junior tight end has developed as he hoped, Richt said: “Ah, no. Not yet. I see Irvin getting better, but he’s not where he needs to be yet.”
Irvin felt differently. “He’s starting to praise me a lot more,” he said. “I’m ready to make something happen.”
Irvin, suspended twice in his first two seasons for off-the-field issues, said last year “went well. I had a lot of experience.” Thrust into a starting role after Herndon was hurt before the regular season finale at Pittsburgh, he feels he “saw that I can compete with everybody.”
He and sophomore Brian Polendey, who has shown an inconsistent pair of hands thus far, are UM’s only scholarship tight ends. Irvin denied feeling extra pressure with blue-chip recruits Brevin Jordan (6-3, 250) and Will Mallory (6-6, 210) set to arrive in the summer.
“I don’t have anything to prove because of it, but competition makes everybody better,” he said. “Me and Brevin and Will, we’re all real good friends. Will was out here the other day. We all know we’re going to push each other. Brian too, and the walk-on, (Nicholas) Ducheine.”
* At pro day Wednesday, former defensive tackles Kendrick Norton and RJ McIntosh said Miami should be fine at their position.
McIntosh said redshirt senior Gerald Willis “can be a great player. He is a great player. He has his head on right. I was just with him two days ago. He’s enjoying the new coach and working hard. He’s got his weight back up. He’s 295, looks good for his weight. They are some big guys. They are looking good right now, even seeing them in some one on one drills.”
Since transferring in 2014, Willis has been referred to as unblockable by two Miami coaching staffs, and looked good in a reserve role in 2016. He is expected to be a starter next to sophomore Jon Ford.
“Huge kid,” Norton said of Ford, 6-5 and 300 pounds. “He’s athletic for his size. [If] he gets everything locked in, he can be another great one to come out of Miami. [Richt] has a lot of young guys who are going to surprise some people.”
* Two leftover notes from pro day:
InsideTheU reported that former defensive tackle RJ McIntosh did not participate at the NFL combine because medical staff there discovered a thyroid issue. McIntosh (6-4, 293) didn’t have all his testing numbers when he spoke to reporters after his workout, but told us his broad jump was “8-4, 8-5” and his vertical jump was 27.5 inches.
Former defensive end Trent Harris took an impromptu, written aptitude test for NFL scouts on the top of a trash can (no desks available inside the Dolphins’ practice bubble). He was also asked to perform linebacker drills.
* Freshman safety Gurvan Hall (Palm Beach Gardens) was seen after practice wearing a wrap on his left leg. InsideTheU reported he has a knee injury.
* Offensive lineman Tre Johnson (personal reasons, according to Mark Richt) remains absent from practice.
SPRING FOOTBALL 2018
[McCloud out for spring; OL, DL, DB, WR battles]
[Miami QB transfers to Charlotte]
[FIU athletic department hires Ken Dorsey]
[Don’t sleep on QBs Weldon, Williams]
[Larranaga comments on FBI situation]
[Yes, Mark Richt can still throw a football. Here’s proof]
[Recruiting: Sean Taylor’s cousin decommits from Miami]
[Saturday notes: QB mobility, RB change, OL absent, DE ‘problem]
[A look at Miami’s expected depth chart through three practices]
[7 talking points with Blake James, incl. UM-FIU at Marlins Park]
[Video: The most interesting quotes from UM spring practice]
[UM Sports HOF ceremony date; Mark Richt spring speaking tour]
[Rosier: If UM isn’t ‘dominating ACC, something’s wrong]
[Perry stepping up as a leader, teammate says]
[Lingard a ‘freak,’ two other freshmen stand out]
[Early observations from Miami practice]
[10 important storylines to follow]