Passers shine at spring scrim­mage

South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Sunday) - - Sports - By Christy Cabr­era Chiri­nos ccabr­[email protected]­; On Twit­ter @ChristyChiri­nos.

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.

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