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LifeWallet Sports Insight: What to Expect Position-By-Position in Miami’s Spring Game

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Photo Credit: Luke Chaney // LifeWallet Sports

LifeWallet Sports’ Geo Milian also contributed to this story.

For the first time in almost four months, Miami football will play in front of fans.

The Hurricanes will hold their annual spring game on Friday at 7:30 p.m. at DRV PNK Stadium in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. This game is the culmination of their 14 previous spring practices, which have been used to install the systems run by new offensive coordinator Shane Dawson and defensive coordinator Lance Guidry.

LifeWallet Sports has compiled exclusive intel from these practices, along with insight from quarterback Tyler Van Dyke and head coach Mario Cristobal to offer a position-by-position preview of the game.

Quarterback

Van Dyke has taken well to Dawson’s system, which has given the quarterback freedom to change plays and alignments pre-snap.

“There’s so much freedom at the quarterback position. The defense does this, you can change the play, change routes, change the run scheme so it’s good,” Van Dyke told LifeWallet Sports on Thursday about Dawson’s offense. “It’s quarterback friendly. You just put the ball in the right guy’s hands at any moment. Put your team in the right position at the time to get the right yards at the moment.”

This trust that Dawson has instilled in his quarterback is important to Van Dyke, who says that it prepares him to play professionally.

“That’s what every quarterback in the league does,” Van Dyke said. “Just getting ready for that and just getting your team in the right position to win is really the best thing that Coach Dawson’s offense really brings to the table so it’s definitely a huge thing for the team as a whole.”

Behind Van Dyke, sophomore Jacurri Brown and true freshman Emory Williams have also stood out.

Brown has made significant improvements as a passer. He’s still very dangerous in the running game, as he scampered for a long touchdown in one of Miami’s spring scrimmages.

Williams has shown off the arm talent and pocket passing that he was recruited for coming out of high school.

Running Back:

Henry Parrish Jr. and Don Chaney Jr. have shouldered a large chunk of UM’s running back reps, given that the two are the only scholarship backs that have been available to participate this spring.

Parrish has built off the 617-rushing yard season he had last year, while Chaney has made strides in returning to his pre-injury form. 

Chaney rushed for a long touchdown in one of Miami’s scrimmages. Walk-ons Terrell Walden II and Mike Peraino also had touchdowns in these scrimmages.

Van Dyke noted that “the run game has greatly improved.”

Wide Receiver:

Miami’s wide receivers were plagued by injuries and inconsistencies in 2022, but with talent both returning and being added to the position, the wideouts have been impactful throughout this spring.

Third-year junior Colbie Young has stepped up into a leadership role and has continued to exhibit the talent he showed during the middle parts of last season. 

“Colbie has been really dominant this spring, making so many plays, going up and getting the ball. It’s been fun to watch and been fun to throw to. He kind of made his mark last year mid-season,” Van Dyke said. “He’s really looking to having a 1,000-yard season and I’m ready to see. He’s taking that next step as a leader, been more vocal so it’s good to see.”

Jacolby George has also stood out. The third-year wideout caught multiple touchdowns through two of the scrimmages and is developing into a vertical big-play threat for the Hurricanes’ offense.

“I feel like everyone’s just more locked in. Jacolby, he texts me all the time and he just wants to get better all the time, sends me clips of him and his film, of practice that day and asks me what he can work on to get more open or something like that, so it’s been good,” Van Dyke said. “[Xavier Restrepo’s] always gonna make those plays in the slot. Brashard [Smith has] been good.”

Van Dyke has also been impressed by the speedy duo of freshman receivers Nathaniel Joseph and Robby Washington. Joseph, notably, had three touchdowns during a practice, with one of them coming against the first-team defense.

“They’ve been making plays,” Van Dyke said. “They got serious speed, good hands, very good separation.”

Isaiah Horton has also played well throughout the spring, establishing himself as a reliable second-team option behind Young.

Tight Ends

Miami’s tight ends offer a blend of experience and youth.

Eighth-year Oregon transfer Cam McCormick is the veteran of the group, but he isn’t the only tight end that has taken on a leadership role. Sophomore Jaleel Skinner has taken it upon himself to help mentor freshmen Riley Williams and Jackson Carver, according to Van Dyke.

“I think Jaleel has been really good. He’s one of the older guys now, I guess. I mean he’s only in his second year but there’s two freshmen behind him that they’re learning from him.”

Elijah Arroyo is expected to compete for a starting spot once he returns from injury after the spring.

Offensive Line

The Hurricanes feature a mostly new-look offensive line after the unit struggled for much of the 2022 season.

Transfers Matt Lee and Javion Cohen have stepped up as leaders in their first spring with the team, which is something that Van Dyke says was lacking in last year’s offensive line.

“[Lee and Cohen] have a lot of experience and a lot of leadership skills, and I think that’s something we lacked last year up front, just to have that leadership up there. Guys that really take control, make sure everyone aligned is playing physical, doing the right thing,” Van Dyke said. “Matt and Javion will get our guys if they’re not doing the right thing and they’ll get on each other for not doing the right thing so it’s definitely something we were missing up front. I’m definitely more comfortable with guys like that up there.”

Highly-touted freshman Francis Mauigoa has been an impact player from the start, emerging as a first-team offensive tackle within the first few practices. His rare blend of size and athleticism make him a unique player who is expected to contribute early and often in his freshman season.

“[Mauigoa has] really stepped up, taking [first-team] reps at right tackle,” Van Dyke said. “He’s really impressed me, taking on guys like Chantz [Williams], Nyjalik Kelly. He’s battling as a freshman.”

Defensive Line:

UM’s defensive line has been plagued by injuries this spring, but there have been players who’ve impressed.

Sophomore Nyjalik Kelly has totaled multiple sacks in the scrimmages, and freshmen Rueben Bain Jr. and Jayden Wayne have received quality reps because of the injuries and unavailabilities that have affected the unit. Bain is expected to contend for early playing time in his freshman campaign.

Purdue transfer Branson Deen has brought pass rush and a high football IQ to the group, while second-year defensive lineman Ahmad Moten has made an impact as a run stopper.

George State transfer Thomas Gore and seventh-year South Florida native Jacob Lichtenstein have rounded out the quality depth of the defensive tackle position.

Van Dyke noted that the pressure schemes installed by new defensive play-caller Lance Guidry has helped prepare him for the season.

“[Guidry] brings a lot of pressure, a lot of difference looks. It’s actually really good. Going into the season, there won’t be a look that I haven’t seen yet, so there’s a lot changing plays, changing protections right now that will help us in the season based on what Coach Guidry does.”

Linebacker:

The competition at the starting linebacker positions have been some of the most competitive on the team throughout this spring.

Washington State transfer Francisco Mauigoa and veteran returnee Corey Flagg have been battling to be the team’s starting middle linebacker. Mauigoa’s size, athleticism and instincts have made him a threat in both the running and passing games. He caught multiple interceptions throughout the spring.

Sophomore Wesley Bissainthe, whose playing time increased throughout the 2022 season, has established himself as a first-team weakside linebacker. Veteran Keontra Smith has worked at both outside linebacker positions, and Bobby Washington has flashed potential, even taking some first-team strongside linebacker reps as a true freshman.

Defensive Back:

Another ensuing position battle is at cornerback, where Daryl Porter Jr., Davonte Brown, Chris Graves Jr., Te’Cory Couch, Terry Roberts and Malik Curtis have all competed for first- and second-team reps.

Three of these cornerbacks have especially stood out to Van Dyke.

“Daryl Porter, he’s looking really good. He’s really tough to throw on sometimes. And then Davonte Brown, Te’Cory Couch, those guys have been really good, especially Te’Cory in the slot. He’s done a really good job of getting deflected passes, just making it tough on me to fit the ball into the tight window. Definitely those three guys are up there,” Van Dyke said.

Sophomore Jaden Harris has worked at both nickel cornerback and safety, a position that has been commanded by Kamren Kinchens.

The junior safety and All-America First Team player has impressed Cristobal with his leadership of the team.

“He’s never stopped. For him it’s a daily thing. A ton of pride that goes into it. I don’t think it ever leaves him. I don’t think he ever stops thinking about the team, how he could get better, how the entire organization could get better. He’s that kind of a guy. He asks for opportunities to get better,” Cristobal said to reporters on Thursday. “He asks for things that he can do to be a better leader. He approaches his teammates with confidence, and he will confront and demand from those that maybe aren’t getting to that standard on a consistent basis. He’s not afraid to do that. That’s critical for us. If we don’t hold everybody accountable to a certain standard, the whole organization can suffer from that so he’s doing a good job.”

With James Williams still recovering from a shoulder injury, Markeith Williams has stepped up in place of the junior safety, who has been a limited participant this spring.

Special Teams:

Junior Andres Borregales has remained Miami’s starting kicker, while Will Hutchinson and Dylan Joyce have competed for the starting punter position.

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