The Canes were full of energy when they hit the Greentree Practice Fields for their second of 15 spring practice sessions and wasted little time working on individual and team fundamentals.
“It feels great to be back out here,” linebacker Shaquille Quarterman said. “We have been working since we got back from winter break. It is just exciting to be back out here bonding with the teammates and everything.”
Quarterman and fellow linebacker Zach McCloud are two rising sophomores going through their second spring with the Hurricanes and both feel like they have an opportunity to take a big step forward before their second college football season.
“We get to be more comfortable, because we are familiar with the calls and everything,” McCloud said. “We get a chance to pay attention to more of the details, the small things we couldn’t focus on as much last year.”
“It’s a really big difference,” Quarterman said. “First spring I didn’t know what to expect, I had just got here. I had to adjust to a lot. Now having the experience from last spring and the season I kind of feel like I know the guys. Especially with the freshman coming in, even though I may not be a senior, I still have to help them and give them insight on stuff and how we operate here.”
Quarterman and McCloud teamed with Michael Pinckney to form a stellar trio of freshmen starting linebackers in 2016. Defensive coordinator Manny Diaz is excited to see how much his young linebackers and the rest of the defense has progressed since last spring.
“The biggest thing that stands out is just how much further ahead we are than this time last year,” Diaz said. “Going back and looking at some of those clips, it’s almost comical where we were starting from. I think the guys have picked up from where we left off in December and have a good spirit about them. The guys are wanting to compete. But all that being said, when contact is not involved in the game, there is not a whole lot that you can evaluate other than the fact that we know how to get lined up.”
While the Hurricanes’ defense will look to build off an outstanding 2016 campaign that saw the unit record 108 tackles for loss, Miami’s offense is also looking to see what players stand out in the spring. Offensive coordinator Thomas Brown has been impressed with a pair of veterans on the offensive line, as well as 2016 team MVP Mark Walton, but he cautions that it is difficult to truly highlight players after just two practices.
“Mark Walton is a really good football player and I would say he has improved even more because he is even more detailed then he was in the past,” Brown said. “Which is pretty impressive since I think he was already a pretty detailed guy. I think [senior offensive lineman] Trevor Darling has done some really nice things so far, just from a fundamental standpoint. [Senior offensive lineman] Kc McDermott is really good up front, from a technique standpoint. But again, it is two days in shorts, with guys with great effort. Everybody is excited for football right now. [There are] A lot of guys that would like to help us win, but we will find out more moving forward with the pads going on and when adversity hits.”
Brown has also been encouraged by the competition on the offensive side of the ball, with players looking to distinguish themselves among their position group.
“Yeah, I’m really excited,” Brown said. “Obviously, people think it may be scary at times, but it is a great opportunity for a lot of guys to come in and compete. I think competition makes you better. I think it is harder sometimes to go all out and compete, when you may think you never have a chance to beat a guy out. But when it is an open competition, you will figure out who wants to play and who doesn’t want to play. I think guys will continue to go out and separate themselves. Every single position, not just the quarterback spot. It is going to be a long process to the rest of spring ball, throughout the summer and into fall camp, before we figure out who is going to be able to win football games.”
Rising sophomore Ahmmon Richards is one of several weapons Miami’s quarterbacks can look forward to throwing to this spring and the 2016 freshman All-American is looking forward to catching passes from all the Hurricane signal callers.
“They all have improved and know the system pretty well,” Richards said. “They all can throw and put the ball on the money. They all have touch. It’s going to be a good competition.”