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Canes coaches dish on veteran additions at WR, CB and looming battles. And personnel notes

Miami Herald - 8/3/2022

A six-pack of Miami Hurricanes notes on a Wednesday night, less than 48 hours from the start of camp:

When veteran receivers transferred to UM in the recent past, they quickly assumed prominent roles, including KJ Osborn and Charleston Rambo.

With the two "veteran free agent" wide receiver additions this year - Frank Ladson and Colbie Young - there are jobs still to be earned.

Ladson - who had 31 catches for 428 yards and six touchdowns in three years at Clemson - had some good moments in his UM debut this spring but didn't especially stand out.

Young, who played at Lackawanna Junior College in Pennsylvania, was signed to compete at Ladson's position.

Virginia Tech, Pittsburgh and Tennessee all offered Young a scholarship after one junior college season in which he caught 24 passes for 472 yards and nine touchdowns.

"The first thing you saw about his tape was a guy with tremendous ball skills and a big catch radius," UM offensive coordinator Josh Gattis, who also coaches the wide receivers, said Tuesday of Young. "He's done a great job coming in getting acclimated, being able to thrust himself into our strength program and getting into South Florida shape."

Young, 6-4, and Ladson, 6-3, are the tallest receivers on the roster and both are red zone threats. That should be an interesting battle.

Xavier Restrepo, who thrives in the slot, took a significant step toward nailing down a major role in the spring.

But the competition for high-usage rotation spots among Key'Shawn Smith, Jacolby George, Romello Brinson, Young, Ladson, Brashard Smith and Michael Redding III should be intense.

Key'Shawn Smith, George and Restrepo were with the first team for most of spring ball.

"Obviously, it's a very young inexperienced group," Gattis said. "The whole key with that group coming out of camp is consistency. There may not be a signature name going into camp, but we want production as a unit this year. That is how we measure success."

Asked if Smith - who had 14 catches and six rushing attempts as a freshman - is a wide receiver or better described as a multi-purpose weapon like former NFL player Percy Harvin, Gattis said:

"He's a receiver. All of our receivers we find a way to use in a lot of different ways, whether it's in the run game or pass game. We have different type of creative mismatches that we can use to our advantage. Brashard has to continue to come a long way."

Tyrique Stevenson is the heavy favorite to start at one cornerback spot, and James Williams, Avantae Williams and Kamren Kinchens will assuredly be the top three at safety.

The leaves the No. 2 and No. 3 cornerback jobs wide open among DJ Ivey, West Virginia transfer Daryl Porter Jr., Te'Cory Couch (who looked much better this spring after a disappointing 2021), Al Blades Jr., Isaiah Dunson and Marcus Clarke. Four-star freshman Khamauri Rogers continues to work his way back from a knee injury.

New defensive backs coach Jahmile Addae said it's extremely close among that group of cornerbacks.

"It's not my first time I've had to make a tough decision," he said. "It's good when you have to make tough decisions. What we've done, including bringing in a guy like Daryl Porter, is create competition. It brings out the best of whoever is competing. We have enough of those guys to win with if we execute."

Porter had a 99.2 passer rating in his coverage area for the Mountaineers last season (34 for 53 for 416 yards, 3 TDs, 1 pick).

Other passer ratings against: Stevenson (69.1), Couch (104.6), Ivey (123.2), Clarke (124.2) and Dunson (135.4). Blades barely played because of injuries.

The thinking here: Porter will get into the top three, with Blades, Couch and Ivey battling for two other rotation spots behind Stevenson.

Redshirt freshman Malik Curtis and first-year freshmen Jaden Harris and Chris Graves also will compete.

Addae, who came over from Georgia's staff, recruited Porter to West Virginia when he was an assistant there. So he knows what he's getting, just as running backs coach Kevin Smith knows what he's getting in Henry Parrish, whom Smith coached at Mississippi.

"Daryl's skill set is one that most coaches are going to like," Addae said. "He has short area quickness, twitch, physical ability. Played top talent in high school [at Plantation American Heritage] and at the college level. There's a lot to like about Daryl Porter. Very quiet, cerebral kid who understands the game. A coach's kid, comes from a great pedigree, comes from a great high school program, won state championships. I enjoyed coaching him when I was at West Virginia, truly enjoyed coaching him because he was a really coachable kid."

Can UM play James Williams, Avantae Williams and Kamren Kinchens much together much?

Addae doesn't rule it out, but said "we can only have two on the field at the same time in terms of safeties. All of those kids have redeeming qualities about them and different strengths.

"We're going to try to spotlight all those things and put them in the best position to make plays on what we're doing schematically."

Defensive coordinator Kevin Steele said he wants the best 11 on the field, with offense/defense matchups helping determine that.

Couple things from Gattis heading into Friday:

He said of the offensive line: "We're not as deep as some teams in the country but we are as talented. They're going to allow us time to throw the ball and create creases to run the ball."...

Of the five-man competition for running back rotation roles, he said: "Separation needs to happen. We didn't have Don Chaney, Jaylen Knighton, TreVonte' Citizen in the spring. We've got to keep those guys healthy."

Parrish and Thad Franklin also are competing.

"The days of having one running back have 50 carries and 200 yards is over," Gattis said. "One thing I've always had in my past is playing multiple backs. What number that will be, whether it's three or four or whether that's two, we have to find creative ways to split carries and touches."

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