Passers shine at spring scrimmage
Miami Hurricanes quarterbacks N’Kosi Perry and Jarren Williams had solid performances during Miami’s scrimmage at Traz Powell Stadium in Miami.
MIAMI — There were plays that looked promising and seemed to prove Manny Diaz’s point that the Miami Hurricanes have made progress through three weeks of drills.
Running backs DeeJay Dallas and Cam Harris, for instance, both showed their ability to break tackles and find open holes.
Quarterback Jarren Williams, who appeared in just one game last season, was poised and confident as he led a pair of touchdown drives.
Linebacker Mike Pinckney showed he can still deliver bone-crushing hits and DJ Ivey, who is pushing for a spot in the secondary, had an interception — which, he promptly pitched to Pinckney in an effort to get more yards.
But there were moments that reminded the thousands of fans that attended the Hurricanes’ open scrimmage at Traz Powell on Saturday afternoon that Miami still has a lot of work to do and a lot of depth to try and build if it wants to contend for another Coastal Division title in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Tate Martell, who transferred from Ohio State with the hope of competing with Williams and N’Kosi Perry for the starting quarterback job, struggled, throwing several wobbly-looking passes before finishing the day just 4 of 11 for 78 yards with an interception. Miami’s makeshift offensive line — which has been hit by injuries — now features former tackle/guard Navaughn Donaldson at center. And the Hurricanes’ linebacking corps — already thin after injuries to Zach McCloud and Waynmon Steed — took another hit Saturday when Bradley Jennings got hurt.
There were the overthrown passes, missed assignments and procedural mistakes that seem par for the course during spring football, and so, when it was over, Diaz didn’t seem overly concerned. But he likely echoed the sentiments of college football coaches across America this time of year — there is still lots of work to be done.
“We’re better than we were a Saturday ago, but if we let anything that happened — good, bad or indifferent — make us feel like we’ve arrived or that all of our problems are solved, we’re fooling ourselves,” the first-year head coach said. “We’re just a little bit better. We need to get a little bit better. We really need to get a lot better by the time August rolls around.”
For Miami, the biggest question entering the spring came, of course, at quarterback. Malik Rosier, who in 2017 helped lead the Hurricanes to the Coastal Division title but then struggled last season, is gone, paving the way for Perry, Williams and Martell to compete for the starting job.
That trio has endured its shares of struggles learning a new system and new techniques under offensive coordinator Dan Enos during the first three weeks of spring drills. But on Saturday, both Williams and Perry showed they’ve made progress. Perry, who started the scrimmage with Miami’s first offense, was 3 of 5 on his first series and engineered a scoring drive that was capped by a 27-yard field goal from Bubba Baxa.
He’d finish the day 9 of 15 for 78 yards, while Williams — meanwhile — went 7 of 12 for 79 yards with a late touchdown pass to Jeremiah Payton, a mid-year enrollee who has been one of the surprises of the spring. Williams also led the offense on a scoring drive on his first series of the day, with the Hurricanes capping a 75-yard drive with a
3-yard touchdown run by Dallas.
Dallas and Harris were two of the top performers in Saturday’s scrimmage, Dallas finishing with 13 carries for 108 yards and three touchdowns, while Harris had 10 carries for 61 yards. Receiver K.J. Osborn, a transfer from Buffalo, had an impressive showing, finishing the day with three catches for 67 yards and Payton had three catches for 60 yards. Sophomore Mark Pope, who was used infrequently last season, showcased his speed on a
52-yard run and added two catches for 34 yards.
Those were all steps up from last week’s scrimmage, when Miami’s offense struggled to even get plays off against a defense that was among the nation’s best last season.
Still, Diaz wasn’t inclined to say any quarterback had taken the edge in the race for the starting job and Dallas — one of the Hurricanes’ more vocal leaders — said he, too, saw progress — and room to grow.
“We kind of analyzed last week and what we didn’t like about last Saturday and what we talked about today was just coming out here with a competitive spirit, playing with some passion,” Diaz said. “There were a bazillion execution errors still evident, a lot of penalties, a lot of pre-snap things that would have killed [plays]. We just kind of let it play today, let it rip. We wanted to see if they’d compete. [At] our alumni dinner last night, a lot of the former players talked about [that]. That was kind of the standard that we put for today. I thought it’s been a while since we had a scrimmage that looked like this.”
Added Dallas, “As a unit, I feel like we’ve jelled a lot better this week. If we can keep jelling and meshing together and get our chemistry up, we’ll be fine come August. The last scrimmage, everybody was kind of sluggish and didn’t know what to expect. This scrimmage felt more like a game. We came out and competed. That’s what I like to see.”
The Hurricanes will wrap up spring drills this week with two closed practices at the Carol Soffer Indoor Practice Facility before traveling to Orlando to host another open scrimmage at Camping World Stadium — site of their Aug. 24 season opener against Florida — next Saturday.