Every year around this time you read quotes from UM Head Coach Randy Shannon of how certain UM football players are "flying around" in practice.
Or you might read media reports of how so-and-so is "lighting it up" on offense. Or you may get a tip from an "insider" who says that some guy is "simply unblockable" on defense.
Some times these players hit, stick and even make a huge impact during the following season. Two years ago MNWHS stars and true UM Freshmen Sean Spence and Jacory Harris (seen below) were examples of this type of player.
But it was Damien Berry who tore it up in the actual 2009 spring game at Lockhart Stadium and looked like "The Man" to beat going into Fall ball. Berry (seen below with Mike James) carried 14 times and rushed for over 100 yards and a 54 yard TD as he looked dominant against the Miami defense.
That was before Randy Shannon relegated Berry to spot duty in favor of Senior Javaris James and Junior Graig Cooper. Berry never started a game and basically sat the bench until seeing sporadic playing time late in most games last season.
It took thousands of Hurricane fans shouting "Berry, Berry, Berry" in unison at the Virginia game at then Landshark, now SunLife Stadium, to get Shannon to give Berry the ball. And when he did it was a beautiful thing to watch!
But many times these players, who often come out of no where, hit the headlines like a ball of fire but flame out way before Fall rolls around. Sure, some players look impressive in shorts. Some even appear spectacular when the pads go on. But many of these practice super stars that glow so brightly during Spring practice only go on to fail miserably when the games really count in the Fall.
The ultimate King of Spring was none other than recent Canes All-World QB Kyle Wright. So nicknamed "The King of Spring" by Canespace blogger CanesGirlNC, Kyle would throw lasers around and look the part of the leader all Spring long. Wright was always going to have his "breakout season" and at one time he even convinced some Canes fans that he would go on to have a great career in the NFL.
Well, not so much. Fall would eventually come around and somehow the magic of Spring would completely disappear. It got so bad that Kyle managed to let Kirby "1 for 14" Freeman put him on the bench! Who could ever forget the heated Spring battle that produced the lethal QB combination of Kylby Wrightman. Even hardened and experienced Canes fans clamored: "Where was ol' Frankie Costaverde when U needed him?"
Last year the new flame during Spring ball appeared to be RS Freshman WR Tommy Streeter. In early practices he was catching "everything thrown his way", and was "stretching the field vertically", and even insiders reported that he was "making UM cornerbacks look silly and scoring at will."
Streeter was proclaimed to be a combination of UM greats Randall Hill and Michael Irvin combined. Rumors out at Green Tree Field were that he was certain to make all other Canes WRs bow down and sit the bench as soon as he donned the uniform and had that magical "U" on his helmet.
Uh, not so much. "Mean Streets" did not live up to his early Spring hype, and by the time Fall arrived he was no where to be found in the two deep line-up. He finished 2009 with 5 catches for 114 yards and no TDs on the regular season (1 catch for 47 yards in the bowl game). He finished the year out of the top 10 in catches on the team and only WR Kendal Thompkins caught fewer passes (3) but more TDs (1) than Streeter. Not exactly Micheal Irvin type numbers.
This year Spring has sprung and the new Kings on the block have once again been annointed. This year they are RS Freshman RB Lamar "The Truth" Miller (seen above on NSD 2010), MLB Shayon Green and possibly based simply on his name alone new fan favorite Storm Johnson.
Miller (seen below second from R at the 2008 State track meet) scored two TDs in the Hurricanes first closed scrimmage of the Spring, Green is starting at MLB where UM is desperate to find a playmaker and Johnson has the name and the talent to potentially make an impact this season.
Fall, and the games that really count, will be here soon enough.