UM defensive coordinator dishes on Bain, Canes’ new pickups, role for James Williams, more

A 10-pack of Miami Hurricanes notes, on the eve of the start of training camp:
▪ During his two years at UM, some have wondered whether former five-star safety James Williams would be better suited to play linebacker.
Defensive coordinator Lance Guidry wants to see him at both positions.
“If we go big personnel, we may put him at outside linebacker,” Guidry said Monday. “When they go smaller, we’ll probably put him back there as a safety. He will play a little bit of both - outside linebacker and some safety this year. We’re excited to see all the things he can do.”
Williams is a skilled tackler, but quarterbacks had a passer rating topping 100 in his coverage area last year. He has three interceptions in two seasons.
▪ Guidry raved about Kamren Kinchens’ “awareness” and anticipation and playmaking skills. “He learns from things that other people make mistakes on; that probably separates him from other guys.”
Guidry said his system is “a safeties-driven defense. They’re the quarterbacks of the defense. They have to make all the checks.”
Guidry concedes “we’re a little bit worried about” depth at safety behind Kinchens and Williams.
“But we’ve got some young guys in there. If we have got to move a couple corners inside to play there, we will. Out of all the groups, your numbers are lower there than you want.”
Markeith Williams and Brian Balom could enter camp as the third and fourth safeties. Balom said Mario Cristobal and coach Jahmile Addae convinced him to stay after he briefly entered the portal.
▪ During an offseason when the Canes generally did very good work in the transfer portal, UM never found a 300-pound behemoth to replace Darrell Jackson, who left for FSU. Branson Deen and Thomas Gore, the new veteran additions, are 280.
Does UM have enough run-stuffers at defensive tackle (beyond 305-pound Leonard Taylor)?
“It’s always good to have a really, really, really big sucker,” Guidry said. “When you don’t have it, you don’t have it. You have to create ways to make up for that.
“A lot of times, it’s through movement of your defensive line or different techniques you play. We feel we have enough big guys. We just don’t have a big, big anchor. It is what it is. We’ve got a good front, some good depth, some backers that can play.
“I think the d-line is the strength of the defense. We’ll see how this thing goes. If we stay injury free, I think we’ve got a good chance to be a good defense.”
▪ Guidry said he wants to “platoon” a lot on his defensive line.
“You want to be two-deep at each spot, with a fifth guy at defensive end/defensive tackle,” Guidry said. “But your top guys are going to get the most reps. We kind of categorize how many snaps can a guy play and how much do we need him to play.
“It just depends on how good they get, but you want to play numbers on the D line because in the fourth quarter you need some fresh guys up front.”
Does this defense have the level of physicality he wants?
“I think so. I think we’re good up front. If we stay injury free at backer and safety, we’ll be a good defense. And then it comes down to the outside, the corners playing the deep ball. I like where we’re at.”
▪ Purdue transfer Deen and veteran Jared Harrison-Hunte are the top contenders in what Guidry called an “open competition” for the starting defensive tackle job opposite Taylor.
▪ Guidry on his the transfer defensive back pickups:
He said former Vanderbilt corner Jadais Richard “has length and he can run. A big kid that runs really well. He’s got a really good skill set with that. He’s a good blitzer. He plays corner, plays nickel. Might even move him to safety a little bit. He was a high school safety. Vanderbilt had him at safety and moved him to corner and he played a little bit of nickel. Right now, he have him as a corner or a nickel, the STAR.”
He said ex-Oklahoma cornerback Jaden Davis “looks really good. He disguises a lot of things. He can play corner. He can play nickel.”
He said former UCF cornerback Davonte Brown “can really run, has some length. He can climb receivers when they get past him.” Unlike Richard and Davis, Brown was at UM for spring ball and was a starter throughout the spring.
Guidry said returning veteran Daryl Porter Jr. “had a good spring, good summer. And the little brother of Davonte, [freshman cornerback] Damari Brown – both of the Brown [brothers] can really do some things. I’m excited for the competition and see who can maneuver their way into the starting role.”
Junior college transfer Demetrius Freeney, the fourth veteran cornerback addition, “was a high school quarterback,” Guidry noted. “He went to JUCO and played corner and needed to get some film out there. He put out some really good film. They played some really good wide receivers in that league. We were able to see enough to say, ‘That’s a kid that is really past the freshman year.’ He’s a kid that already has some experience in college. We feel he can make an impact and help.”
Guidry likes to blitz and needs corners that can hold up in man coverage. That was a part of the evaluation of all the cornerbacks added this offseason.
“At corner, the first thing you look at is what kind of cover skills does he have. Can he play man to man? Is he a good off guy? Is he a good press guy? You try to watch as many downfield throws as you can to see if they can defend the deep balls.... It’s a crapshoot. You really don’t know until you know.”
▪ At the STAR position, Davis, Richard, Te’Cory Couch and the freshman Brown are the key figures, Guidry said. “There are four different guys we can mix in there. We’re going to get the best five DBs on the field when we go nickel.”
▪ Miami Central High’s Rueben Bain is the one freshman that Guidry already knows will play in his first season here. He had 28 sacks in high school last season and three in UM’s spring game.
“He’ll play a lot this year,” Guidry said. “Don’t know if he’ll be a starter. But he will definitely be in the mix. I can see him on third down doing a lot of pass rushing.” In practice, “He goes against the ones all the time.”
Does he project as a defensive end or defensive tackle?
“I would like him to kind of be what James Williams is; James is a safety/outside backer. I think [Bain is] a defensive end and a tackle,” Guidry said. “He can play both. As long as he’s athletic enough to play outside, we’ll play him outside. Inside, he creates havoc on those guards because he’s more athletic than them. I think he’ll make money inside in the future; he’ll be a three-technique in the NFL.
“Right now, the more we play him outside, he’s going to stay athletic. He has a unique skill set.”
Any other freshman on defense that Guidry expects to play this season? “I don’t know yet,” he said. “Bain is the only one that has proven to me he can play against the ones right now.”
▪ Offensive line coach Alex Mirabal said the starting unit at practice on Tuesday will be the same group that started spring practice:
Jalen Rivers at left tackle, Javion Cohen at left guard, Matt Lee at center, Anez Cooper at right guard and five-star freshman Francis Mauioga at right tackle.
▪ Any thought to moving Rivers to guard if Zion Nelson returns to health or five-star freshman Samson Okunlola takes a major jump quickly?
Rivers “will be our starting left tackle until somebody beats him out,” Mirabal said. “When we ended our season last year, Jalen had been playing on the left side. So that’s why I wanted to keep him here. Francis was a little ahead of those [other] guys, so that’s why he went to the right side.”
As for Nelson, Mirabal said he’s close to being ready to participate in full practices. And at the start of camp on Tuesday, he’ll “be doing individual drills. He’s got to cleared by the doctors from a contact standpoint with defensive guys. He can do individuals because it’s a controlled environment. In a team setting, it’s not a non controlled environment. He’s close.”
He said Nelson can “absolutely” help this season. “The most important thing with Zion is he’s got to get healthy.”
Here’s what Nelson said Monday about the situation with his knee.
One other question for Mirabal: Was there a big gap between Rivers and Okunlola at left tackle coming out of spring? Mirabal said no.
“Experience is experience. That experience obviously benefits Jalen… The one thing I will say about Samson is every day in spring ball was his best day. He progressively got better and better. His future is really bright.”

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