Lineup notes and observations from Miami’s first full-pad practice, with alumni watching

·4 min read

The Miami Hurricanes’ sixth practice of training camp was eventful. It was the first fully padded practice of fall camp, and coach Mario Cristobal invited a group of alumni down to Coral Gables to watch.

Miami also opened up the full practice to reporters for the first time this preseason, providing an extended glimpse at just how the 2022 Hurricanes might look.

It all made Thursday maybe the most insightful day of camp so far.

Miami Hurricanes Defensive Coordinator Kevin Steele, at center, works with players during practice drills at Greentree Practice Field at the University of Miami in Coral Gables on Thursday, August 11, 2022.
Miami Hurricanes Defensive Coordinator Kevin Steele, at center, works with players during practice drills at Greentree Practice Field at the University of Miami in Coral Gables on Thursday, August 11, 2022.

Miami alumni watch Cristobal’s practice

Players from different generations of Miami teams crowded the sidelines at Greentree Practice Fields on Wednesday to watch Cristobal in action.

The impressive group of former players included Vernon Carey, Jeremy Shockey, Gino Toretta, Tolbert Bain and too many others to count — and this doesn’t even include the alumni on staff, including Ed Reed, Roland Smith and, of course, Cristobal himself.

“We look good!” said Carey, who played for the Hurricanes when Cristobal was starting his coaching career as a graduate assistant. “He’s the perfect man for the job. He’s always had a passion for the offensive line, even when he was a GA.”

Said Shockey, who was also at Miami when Cristobal was a GA: “A lot of people are excited about him. Absolutely it’s a good feeling to have someone in the building that you’re really familiar with.”

One of the alumni-related highlights came at the very end of the day. After practice wrapped up, everyone headed into the Carol Soffer Indoor Practice Facility, including a group of children in attendance, and then Reed showed his face. The biggest star in the building, Reed drew a crowd of excited kids, who swarmed him right around midfield while the team was shuffling back into the locker room.

Miami Hurricanes wide receiver Michael Redding III (83) catches a pass during practice drills at Greentree Practice Field at the University of Miami in Coral Gables on Thursday, August 11, 2022.
Miami Hurricanes wide receiver Michael Redding III (83) catches a pass during practice drills at Greentree Practice Field at the University of Miami in Coral Gables on Thursday, August 11, 2022.

A look at Miami’s lineup

With a full practice open to reporters, the Hurricanes tipped their hand a little bit about what the depth chart looks like after about a week of camp.

To start, a major caveat: Miami is still rotating a ton of players everywhere, and there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of difference between the so-called starters and backups at just about every position. Still, here’s what the Hurricanes looked like, because it gives a sense of who’s involved in every competition, rather than who necessarily leads:

Quarterback: Tyler Van Dyke is the clear-cut starter, obviously, and Jake Garcia is No. 2. Freshman Jacurri Brown had a good day of practice, too, and is No. 3.

Running back: Jaylan Knighton got most of the work as the No. 1 running back. Thaddius Franklin Jr. also seems to be much-improved as a sophomore after dropping some bad weight.

Wide receiver: Xavier Restrepo seems to be locked in as the starter in the slot, but the outside spots remain wide open. Frank Ladson and Michael Redding III got most of the work with the first-team offense Wednesday, but Key’Shawn Smith rotated in a ton. Redding drew high praise from Smith, who said, “Mike knows everything. If anybody in the receiver room has any questions and we can’t ask coach, we’re going to ask Mike. ... Mike knows the playbook the best.”

Tight end: Star senior Will Mallory wore a red noncontact jersey for the second half of practice, so he didn’t participate in 11-on-11s. In his absence, Elijah Arroyo and Kahlil Brantley were the top two tight ends. Arroyo had a great day, making a one-handed catch and undressing safety Avantae Williams with a nasty route in the middle of the field.

Offensive line: From left to right, the Hurricanes went with John Campbell Jr., Jalen Rivers, Jakai Clark, Justice Oluwaseun and DJ Scaife Jr. as the first-team offensive line. The second-team line, from left to right, was mostly Matthew McCoy, Laurence Seymore, Jonathan Denis, Ousman Traore and Anez Cooper. Star junior Zion Nelson remains sidelined by a left knee injury, but wasn’t wearing a brace when he walked out to Greentree Fields near the end of practice. He will almost certainly start at left tackle once he’s healthy. Chris Washington, Michael McLaughlin and Ryan Rodriguez, who wore a boot on his right foot and is out long-term, all did not practice.

Defensive line: The most competitive position group on the roster fittingly shuffled the most. Miami’s 11-on-11 action started with Jahfari Harvey, Leonard Taylor, Jared Harrison-Hunte and Chantz Williams on the field, but Mitchell Agude, Akheem Mesidor and even Darrell Jackson Jr. — for a red-zone situation — all rotated in.

Linebacker: Corey Flagg Jr. and Waynmon Steed worked as the first-team linebackers with Gilbert Frierson playing the new “star” position as a linebacker-safety hybrid.

Secondary: Williams and star sophomore James Williams started out as the first-team safeties, but Kamren Kinchens got in, too. At cornerback, DJ Ivey was the most consistent first-team corner with Te’Cory Couch and Tyrique Stevenson also getting a ton of first-team action. When they started out with two cornerbacks on the field, the Hurricanes went with Ivey and Couch, even though it meant playing Couch on the outside.