allCanesBlog guest columnist Scott Alan Salomon chimes in regarding the first week of Miami Hurricanes football practice at Greentree. Fifth-year head coach Al Golden and the Canes will be back in action this week, gearing up for the September 5th home opener against Bethune-Cookman.
The Hurricanes blasted shoulder pads and heard the cracking of helmets against the body as they took to the Greentree Practice Field for the first time this fall in full gear. The practice marked the third of the five-day acclimation period before teams can transition into full pads which will happen for Miami on Monday.
The Canes are getting ready for the season-opening tilt on September 5 against Bethune-Cookman which took to social media to taunt the Hurricanes, who will be heavily favored in the game. The Wildcats said on Twitter that they are coming after the Canes.
The Canes worked on tackling drills early on in the practice and head coach Al Golden was pleased with what he saw.
“I think it’s a team right now that is bending really well. We’re trying to do the little things when we’re not in pads, which you can really develop bad habits and I think they’ve made a commitment to that and when they consistently do that you can give them trust and you don’t have to bang them as much,” Golden said.
“We’re tackling a lot in compartmentalized situations so we’re safe but the tackling isn’t where it needs to be after our first day on the field.”
Golden took time out to praise offensive lineman Trevor Darling, a sophomore from Booker T. Washington High School in Miami. Darling will compete at right tackle with K.C. McDermott and could also see action at guard.
“He’s leaner. We have to challenge him to stay lean and stay quick. He’s stronger than he was a year ago,” Golden said. “He played a lot of football for us, sometimes we glance over that, but he played a lot of football and he’s a returning starter and a returning veteran for us and he just has to stay lean and do the little things right. I’m pleased with him and we got a good competition over there right now with him and K.C. [McDermott].”
Darling is confident in his abilities and his work ethic and believes that he will be a solid protector of Brad Kaaya this season and that he will keep his quarterback clean, as will the rest of the offensive line.
“I feel good my weight is down. I’m just taking care of business, watching film trying to get better every day,” Darling said “I feel like we’re working good together. We’re doing well as a unit, coach is pushing us and as a unit we’re pushing each other. I feel like the chemistry is already there. It’s important because everybody has to be able to play everything so we can switch around guys and get a rotation going.”
Fellow line mate Danny Isadora, who figures to be the left guard and a competitor for taking over for the other tackle spot vacated by Taylor Gadbois, who was dismissed by Golden after the spring, agreed with Darling.
“Everything is going good. We’re working hard. Today was the first day of pads, so we got after it today. The offense had a good mindset and so did the defense. We got after it today and we were excited that today was the first day of pads,” Isadora said. “[It has been] Pretty much the first team just working together. We mix and match a little bit just for the sake of reps and stuff like that. But mostly it’s just the first team working together and then we have the second team working together.”
Isadora likes the mix that Miami has upfront.
“Well I like the guys that we have now. We’re going to be really good. We’re working to get better individually and as a unit. We’re all just iron sharpening iron trying to get each other better.”
Isadora likes the freshman that have stood out on the offensive line for and likes the combination that Art Kehoe has to work with this fall.
“Yeah, I like Tyree [St. Louis]. All of them are working hard like Tyree [St. Louis], Tyler Gauthier, and Hayden Mahoney. But all of the freshmen are just working hard. They are all out here just grinding.” Isadora said. “We got a lot of our installs already. They know some of it already, so in our meetings we are just reviewing and going back over stuff that we’ve done already. They know most of it, but we just have to sharpen them up a little bit.”
Isadora also praised Hunter Knighton, who missed last season with a serious illness.
“Hunter Knighton is doing good. He’s never looked better. He looks really good,” Isadora said. “Our athletic training staff and everybody did a good job with him. He’s doing really well.”
Finally, McDermott was also in sync with what Isadora said and echoed his statements.
“We’re doing great. The offensive line this year is playing as one unit. One thing I love about our offensive line is the fact that we’re together. We really enjoy each other’s company,” McDermott said. “We’re all focused on one mission, one goal and that’s winning the coastal.”
McDermott said that the limited exposure that he got last season will help him tremendously this season, as is the help from his brother who currently plays for the Dallas Cowboys.
“The experience I had last year was great. Being able to play with my brother [Shane McDermott] was unbelievable, but unfortunately, the season ended early for me. Playing at that level, at my age last year was a humbling experience,” McDermott said. “When you’re in high school you’re used to being the big man, killing everybody, but when you get to this level everyone’s equal. It really showed me what I needed to improve on.”
Coach Golden also said that the team was making progress at the safety position. He was quick to talk about the infusion of Rayshawn Jenkins, who was out a season ago, and what he adds to the team’s dimension in the secondary.
“Rayshawn [Jenkins] makes a big difference. His health, his explosion, his range and he’s just so much more mature than he was a year ago I’m really proud of him. Dallas [Crawford] can’t say enough about him as a leader,” Golden said. “Deon [Bush] is the most experienced. Jamal Carter] and [Jaquan Johnson], it’s a good group and they take a lot of the pressure and burden off each other and they work really well together they communicate well and it’s a tight group.”
One member of the secondary who was silent last season was former four-star corner back Tracy Howard, who could emerge as the team leader this season. Howard spoke after practice and was quick to point out that he will be an emerging force this season and that he credits Miami conditioning coach Andreu Swasey for his presence as a major cog in the secondary wheel this season.
“I feel like [Andreu] Swasey and those guys did a great job on me in the offseason and my coaches did a great job on honing me on my techniques,” Howard said. “Individual improvement is great but I’m really looking forward to the team’s success. At the end of the day everybody makes individual progress and that’s what we need for the team to win.”
Howard also praised freshman corners like Sheldrick Redwine from Miami Killian High School.
“Those two young guys are doing a great job. They’re listening to the older guys and taking everything in stride,” Howard said. “They have the whole defense supporting them, as long as they lean on us they’ll be alright.”
One additional thing that Howard said rings true. If the front seven puts pressure on the quarterback, the secondary can make more plays in the defensive backfield.
“It makes everybody job easier not just me, it makes the team job easier. When those guys are honing in to what they need to do and they’re getting the offense the ball back and they’re helping the DB’s and the linebackers.”