Practice Report: 8/10

CORAL GABLES, Fla. - The Hurricanes practiced in pads for the first time this fall.

Practice started at 8:30 today and it was a very warm day, but the guys held up well. The coaches elected not to have conditioning drills following practice like they have done in the past.

"The offense did some good things and the defense did some good things. I think that was very encouraging. It is exciting to see things that we can be good and is exciting as coachesto press on. The players have to decide how good we are going to be and if we want to be good, then we have a chance to be very good."

"There is not a lot to get excited about--we have only had five practices. If we had just won a game I would be a little bit more excited. I have seen some good things and I like this team."

"I think without a doubt the defense is ahead of the offense. The thing I was excited about last night was the receivers and quarterbacks. They were throwing and catching the ball well. These receivers were running as crisp routes as I have seen here. I am really excited about that."

· LB Jon Beason was the star of practice today. He intercepted two passes and was constantly in on run support. Beason is currently playing on the first team as a weakside linebacker. His best play of the day came when he leaped to pick off a pass. Last season Miami linebackers did not record an interception. In fact, the last Miami linebacker to have an interception in a game was Jerrell Weaver on August 31, 2002. Beason, a former safety, could break the trend this season.

· CB Devin Hester is struggling this week and it continued today. Hester dropped a relatively easy interception and did the same thing yesterday. He also was having a hard time staying with his man without holding. Hester has excellent speed, but is having some troubles being the all-around cornerback the coaches are looking for. He is still currently a second-team cornerback behind CB Kelly Jennings and CB Marcus Maxey.

· DE Bryan Pata returned to practice today after missing last night's practice due to "taking care of something physically" according to Coker. Pata is currently the first-team right defensive end and is listed at 6-foot-4 and 270 pounds. He has the potential to be a difference maker for the 'Canes this year and should improve on his 6 tackles for loss-season from a year ago.

· S Brandon Meriweather had a tough time today in pass coverage. Meriweather is a 6-foot-0, 190-pound junior with ideal cornerback size, but lacks cornerback cover skills. He is at his best when he can sit back and watch everything in front of him. Meriweather remains the strong safety on the first unit alongside S Anthony Reddick.

· P Brian Monroe has been continuing to practice as a wide receiver--something he started in the spring. Monroe has great athletic ability and made a nice leaping grab over a defensive back. At this time it is still unlikely Monroe will play wide receiver this fall because of depth and how much he is needed at punter.

· WR Terrell Walden had a nice day today. Walden has taken a lot of heat from receivers coach Curtis Johnson since moving to receiver from cornerback in the spring. He caught a long touchdown pass after avoiding a bump from CB Tanard Davis. Walden also beat a defensive back during a one-on-one drill, but the ball was overthrown.

· WR Khalil Jones has vastly improved from where he was at this point a year ago. Jones battled through an ankle injury in 2004 while on the scout team, which hampered his progress. Now he is playing with more confidence and looks more polished. The redshirt freshman from Northwestern High is still behind five other receivers, but could see some significant playing time. His best play today came on a one-on-one drill against CB Rashaun Jones, when he caught a short pass, spun, then accelerated across the field outrunning Jones.

· DT Antonio Dixon was praised by Coker for how he "practices so hard". He's a talented 6-foot-3, 340-pound tackle from Miami who has an opportunity to be on the two-deep this season. He is competing with fellow freshman Joe Joseph for the fourth spot in the tackle rotation behind Orien Harris, Baraka Atkins, and Kareem Brown.

· TE Buck Ortega is still showing toughness on the practice field and is making his catches. Ortega did well in practice a year ago, but only managed eight catches on the season.

· CB Kelly Jennings has improved in looking for the ball while it is in the air. Jennings has just three career interceptions in 37 career games. Today he picked off a pass and broke up another saving a touchdown.

· DT Baraka Atkins, a converted DE, is playing undersized at 265 pounds, but does well when he runs stunts with Pata. Atkins can be neutralized in the running game, but is still learning the aspects of playing tackle. If DT Orien Harris gets double-teamed it will be up to Atkins to make a play.

· OL Alex Pou had off-season shoulder surgery and has been held out of contact drills this fall. He expects to be back in 1-2 weeks.

· DT Antonio Dixon went down with an undisclosed leg injury. His status is unknown at this point.

· OL Tony Tella did not practice today due to a sprained ankle. He is still wearing a hard cast while using crutches. Coker does not anticipate this injury to keep Tella out for a substantial amount of time, but it is hard to say.

· LB Roger McIntosh was again held out of practice due to recovering from an arthroscopic knee surgery to remove a bone chip in what Coker described as a "simple surgery". He had the operation last week and is expected to be out at least a week.

· LB Tavares Gooden did not practice in team drills due to a sore knee. He is being guarded a bit this fall, but will be ready for the season opener.

· LB Eric Houston is still bothered by a pulled hamstring.

· RB Andrew Johnson is practicing, but not participating in any contact drills. He appears to be running well and a return this season still remains questionable despite his prediction of playing.

· DT Teraz McCray, CB Carlos Armour, and CB Glenn Sharpe are not practicing and are still recovering from ACL injuries.

Thursday, August 11 at 8:30 a.m.

The practice is open to the public and is the first practice of the day. The team will have another practice at 3:30 in the afternoon tomorrow.

Christopher Stock is a Senior Writer & Assistant Editor for CanesTime and can be contacted by emailing him at stock@canestime.com


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