Feedback on UM’s new skill position players from coaches. And Van Dyke, Larranaga weigh in

UPDATED AUGUST 04, 2023 5:12 PM
A six-pack of Miami Hurricanes notes on a Friday:
▪ One of interesting subplots of this season will be seeing which of the seven new running backs and receivers can crack the rotation.
I would give the best shot to receiver Tyler Harrell (the Louisville transfer) and freshman running back Mark Fletcher. Harrell has played with the second team early in camp, and both are candidates for major roles.
We should see snaps for Nebraska running back Ajayi Allen and speedy freshmen receivers Nathaniel Joseph and Robbie Washington, with Allen having a chance to seize a significant role, depending on whether he outplays Henry Parrish Jr. and Don Chaney Jr. in the weeks ahead. For now, neither Joseph nor Washington has cracked the top six at wide receiver, but it’s early.
Receiver Shermar Kirk, from Reedley Community College in California, has a chance to claim a back-end receiver spot. Running back Christopher Johnson is an underdog to get a lot of playing time early, though his speed gives him a chance to earn some work at some point this season.
Allen, who averaged 5.8 yards on 33 carries as a Nebraska freshman last season before an injury, is a “very mature kid,” running backs coach Tim Harris Jr. said. “His approach is very good. He comes with a workman’s attitude every day. He’s a kid you really have to scale back some because he always wants to do more. I’m very pleased with him.
“He has a little bit of both [speed and power]. He has really good contact balance, can make jump cuts, very sudden. His lower body is one of his strengths. He runs through tackles. He has a good mixture of different characteristics to his game that is going to help him excel here.”
Asked if Fletcher is good enough as a freshman to have a major role, provided he can handle pass protection, Harris said: “We have a lot of competition in the room. Mark, from the moment he’s gotten here, hasn’t shied away from that. He’s a freshman that doesn’t act like a freshman. With his size and gifts, he has a chance.”
▪ Here’s how receivers coach Kevin Beard sized up the transfer receivers:
On Harrell: “Very fast. Tyler Harrell has come here with eight months to invest in his career. This first month and a half, he’s done an excellent job. Really developing catching the football, running routes, understanding he’s really fast and doesn’t have to run really fast all the time. [He’s] learning how to control his speed and giving himself a chance to be effective not only with the deep balls but the intermediate and short games.”
Beard said Kirk is a “a YAC [yards after catch] guy. Once he gets the ball in his hands, he’s a running back. He has really good quickness, good vision. He doesn’t lack confidence one bit. Believes in himself.”
▪ One key to upgrading a 5-7 team is replacing incumbent starters with different players, with the hope that they’re better.
At least three players who started on defense during at least some of the past two seasons have been with the second team early in camp (Jahfari Harvey, Jared Harrison-Hunte, Corey Flagg Jr.).
Those players have been replaced on the first team with Nyjalik Kelly, Branson Deen and Francisco Mauigoa. Of those three changes, it would be stunning if Flagg overtakes Mauigoa. But Harvey and Harrison-Hunte still have a chance in their starting competitions against Kelly and Deen, respectively.
▪ Tight end Elijah Arroyo, who is being worked back cautiously after last September’s season-ending ACL injury, sounded optimistic about being ready for the season.
“I’m doing well,” Arroyo said Friday. “I’m ready, ready to be out there. The leg feels good.”
He said he might play with a brace on the leg.
“I gave myself a day to be mad [about the knee injury],” Arroyo said. “After that it was `I have to attack this rehab so I can come back as healthy as possible.’”
He said Will Mallory, who’s now with the Colts, “pretty much did everything right, left the blueprint printed out for me. Everything he did I’ll try to do.”
▪ QuarterbackTyler Van Dyke, on some of the newcomers: “Some of those guys are monsters. [Freshmen offensive tackles] Samson [Okunlola] and Francis [Mauigoa], oh my God, 20 percent body fat, 340 pounds. Insane. Those guys will contribute right away.”
Freshman defensive lineman Reuben Bain “is a monster,’ Van Dyke said. “He’s going to be an elite player for us.”
▪ UM basketball coach Jim Larranaga has two remaining scholarships and isn’t certain he will use them. He left open the possibility of adding a transfer if an impactful one enters the portal and has interest in Miami.
Larranaga, speaking last week about some of his key returning players:
On Norchad Omier: “His three-point shooting is improving, his driving is improving, his handling is improving. But, quite frankly, the things that he does really, really well — scoring around the basket, offensive rebound, play with a relentless attack — that’s going to continue.”
On Wooga Poplar: “I think he’s headed toward a great season. We’ll encourage him and the media to pay attention to his defense. I think he’s become a truly outstanding defender on the ball, off the ball. His offensive game is really complete, and can take the three. He can take more pull-up jumpers off the bounce, does more utilizing ball screens. We’ll play him a little bit at the point, letting him run the offense. We like him to be a little more versatile.”
On Matthew Cleveland, the guard who transferred from FSU: “Matt Cleveland has made a nice transition, fits in very well. He’s a heck of a player.”
On guard Christian Watson, who is skilled defender: “He has a good feel for the game. On offense the biggest thing is what shots he should take and what he should pass up, because we have a lot of really good shooters.”
On center A.J. Casey: “A.J. has a lot of physical talent – his size and athletic ability. His offense has a lot of potential, but it’s not been realized quite yet. He needs to become a more efficient offensive player, a little more of a plan of attack of what shots he’s going to shoot.”

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