Thoughts on UM spring game
My longtime colleague Jimmy Cefalo used to always say that a football game has a good, bad and ugly. Well, the Canes spring game seemed to have a lot more bad and ugly.
I had a bird's eye view of the action while doing the TV play-by-play for CSS, and at times, my eyes were hurting.
Yes, it wasn't pretty.
In Miami's defense, a handful of key players were out because of injuries, and some key recruits won't get to campus until the fall. Still, the lack of play-makers was easy to spot and is concerning.
Since I'm an optimistic guy, I'll start with the good.
The defense was swarming to the football and gang tackling like we haven't seen in the last couple of years. Denzel Perryman may not be the biggest guy in the world. but he's constantly making plays as the new middle linebacker.
The veteran safeties Ray Ray Armstrong and Vaughn Telemaque each got an interception, and corners Ladarius Gunter, Thomas Finnie and Brandon McGee all showed talent in fighting for starting spots.
While the secondary could be a concern in the fall, the additions of highly touted freshman Deon Grant and Tracy Howard should help with depth.
The defensive line looked very deep. Miami seems to have enough bodies to have a really nice rotation on the d-line. Anthony Chickillo looks every bit the part of an up and coming star.
Now let's talk some bad. The offensive line had all kinds of issues with the snap counts, and the holes were few and far between for the running backs. Remember, this unit was supposed to be a strength for Miami last season and they really disappointed. That can't happen again. The spring game wasn't very encouraging, but they still have the experience and depth to be improved in the fall.
Back-up quarterback Ryan Williams had the entire spring to make a real case for the starting job, but I don't really think he'll have a chance to beat out Stephen Morris.
Williams has shown some ability, but he finished the spring game with two interceptions and few big plays. Morris, if healthy, should be the starter come the fall.
As for the receivers, Rashawn Scott was the talk of the spring, but he had a very inconsistent spring game. He showed some signs of being a big play guy, but he failed to help out his QB on a couple of passes that were a little behind him. If he's going to be Miami's top threat in the passing game, he needs to make those tough plays.
At running back, Mike James and Eduardo Clements were both very average. Each runs hard and has ability, but neither has the game breaking ability that Lamar Miller takes to the NFL. The good news is, incoming freshman Duke Johnson should have a legitimate chance to be that big play guy. Quite frankly, Miami needs him to be.
Finally, let's talk about the ugly. I already mentioned the penalties, and that really was an issue from the start for the Canes. Offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch talked about wanting to have a good pace and tempo on offense. Instead, UM kept shooting themselves in the foot.
It's hard enough to move the ball without explosive players all over the offense. It's even more difficult when the offense is in 2nd and 3rd and long situations.
Turnovers were also ugly. Williams threw the two picks I mentioned, and freshman Gray Crow was also picked off. Scott made a big play on a deep pass and seemed ready to take it into the endzone. Instead, he had the ball stripped and turned it over. It was really hard to watch.
The ugliest moment of the game came when the Canes first team offense decided to go for a 4th down and one from it's own 40 yard line.
Williams did a great job of getting away from a pass rusher after a play fake and threw a perfect pass to a wide open Clive Walford. The tight end proceeded to drop it. In the process, he let a potential 60 yard touchdown slip right through his hands.
As a former Canes alumni told me after the game, "man, that was ugly." He didn't only mean that play, but the entire game. Another alum told me it was one of the worst spring efforts on offense he'd ever seen at UM.
The silver lining here is that the regular season is still months away. Morris will be ready and those aforementioned highly recruited freshman will make a difference.
How good will Miami be? It's very hard to say right now, but if you watched the spring game, you're not feeling too confident. I'm willing to be patient.
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