This blog is a re-post from LAST Spring just to see how some predictions turned out...
No partnership has meant more to Canespace or been more productive to date as the one we established early on with Manny Navarro of The Miami Herald. Manny is the ultimate professional who also just so happens to be a hard core Hurricane fan who bleeds orange and green. Once again Manny took time out of his busy schedule to answer your questions. Here is the news according to Navarro...
Cat5 Cane asks: My Question, although possibly premature...Does Manny think Jacory is ready to be let loose and what is his assessment of him as compared to other past great UM QB's? I think we all know the answer as to ability and having the coconuts, but what about the intangibles?
> I've said this from the day I first saw Jacory Harris start throwing footballs -- he's the second coming of Ken Dorsey. He's such a cerebral quarterback who knows exactly where to place to the ball and how to be a great leader. This spring you can see how much he's matured in one year. Physically, he finally doesn't look like a beanpole anymore. He's got meat on him. His arm is stronger too. He's not going to throw firecrackers all over the field, but he's not Chad Pennington either. What impressed the most in the first spring scrimmage was how patient and cool he was scrambling in and out of the pocket, the way he waited for his receivers to get open or make adjustments. And when he was pressured, he made the right decisions. He stepped up to avoid the rush or flushed himself out wide and didn't look rushed at all. He also hit just about everyone he threw to between the numbers. He looks like a different quarterback this spring. And I thought he already looked good last year. I think with the set of receivers he has, the new playbook, he's going to thrive. I think this Miami offense might end up being the best in a defensive minded ACC. If his offensive line stays healthy, I believe he'll lead the ACC in passing yards and touchdowns this coming season.
86Cane asks: What should we look for in the first public scrimmage this Thursday at Traz Powell Stadium? What positions are the ones to watch?
> You should be watching all of them. Seriously, no jobs are going to be won and lost this spring. Randy Shannon doesn't work like that. He's going to need something to hold over the guys' heads this summer and fall. So, don't look for guys to be winning any battles. What I would like to watch (even though I won't be there because I'll be with the basketball team in Atlanta for the ACC Tournament) is how the offensive line, linebackers and defensive backs and backup quarterbacks are doing. Those are the real weaknesses of this team.
Taylor Cook is better than Cannon Smith. But that's not saying much. He needs to make tremendous strides in the next several months and look like a quarterback who if needed can at least get the ball in the hands of UM's talented receivers. Right now, he looks like Jacory did his senior year of high school. Cannon Smith looks like a JV quarterback.
The offensive line -- outside of Jason Fox, Orlando Franklin and A.J. Trump -- is loaded with question marks. I thought the defensive line outperformed them Saturday and got a lot of pressure on the quarterback in simple one-on-situations. Jermaine Johnson looked out of place. Brandon Washington looked slow. The other veterans weren't that much better. I want to see guys like Matt Pipho and Harland Gunn start moving guys off the line.
At linebacker, Sean Spence looks just as good, if not better than last year already. But I want to see some consistency from the guys around him. I want to Darryl Sharpton, Jordan Futch, Ramon Buchanon, Arthur Brown and Kylan Robinson actually win a one-on-one battle with a running back in the flat or off tackle. Lee Chambers and Mike James danced around them in the last scrimmage. We all remember what Georgia Tech did to Miami in November.
And in the secondary, I want to see who is going to emerge at cornerback. Chavez Grant has to show me he can do more than play nickel. DeMarcus Van Dyke needs to take that step up this spring. Brandon Harris has to show me he's not going to get dominated by Laron Byrd and Aldarius Johnson. I thought Vaughn Telemaque, Jojo Nicholas and Randy Phillips did a good job at safety on Saturday against the run and with a few big hits. But when are we going to see them deflecting passes away?
SolarCane asks: I have been impressed with Authur Brown and his maturity and perspective in answering reporters questions. Will his move to MLB be the key to him seeing the field in 2009 and displaying the type of talent that made him the #1 high school LB recruit in 2008?
> Sadly, I think we all kind of know now Arthur was a little overrated coming out of high school. While some of his raw skills may be very good (and that hit Saturday on Lee Chambers was impressive) there are just too many times when this guy looks lost on the field. His reaction in pass coverage is extremely slow. Now we know why he was moved inside. He has to be a middle linebacker because there is no way he can defend the pass. While he did a good job making some plays last Saturday, he's got to wrap up more consistently. I think if we leave expectations aside, Brown could end up being a very good middle linebacker by the time he leaves Miami. But folks have to be patient with him. Right now, he's still very raw.
MattinNY asks: Hey Manny, don't go to sleep on the Canes baseball team! Even after losing a ton of major league talent after last year, the Canes just swept the Gators in Gainesville. Are you going to give the team some much deserved coverage and how about an interview with Coach Morris sometime soon?
> Once basketball season and spring football ends, I'm going to have a lot more time for baseball. I actually was hoping to catch up with Coach Morris after the Gators sweep for a feature story I'm planning to right on left fielder Jonathan Weislow. Unfortunately, we played phone tag a couple times and weren't able to hook up for an interview. Be patient. We'll get to them soon. By the way, David Gutierrez gets my early vote for team MVP. He's been outstanding in his first few starts and a big reason UM is 10-2 right now.
Esteban and bg1906 ask: Mike James, Mike James, Mike James! We have been following him since the first grade. OK, we know that's not a question but this is: What are his chances of seeing playing time this year?
> Honestly, I think he's got a great shot. I know some people are going to think Graig Cooper and Javarris James are going to get the majority of the carries, but there's something very special about this kid. Physically, he's already built to take a pounding. Without question he's been the most exciting newcomer on the team so far. If Javarris James goes down again with an injury (I'm certainly not trying to jinx him), Mike James (seen here playing for Ridge HS in 2008) is the next best pound-for-pound between the tackles running back UM has. Randy Shannon won't be afraid to play him either.