Miami QB Van Dyke back in fine form at Hard Rock scrimmage. RBs, WRs, newcomers shine

UPDATED AUGUST 12, 2023 1:42 PM
Miami quarterback Tyler Van Dyke can still heave it long, Xavier Restrepo is the same dependable slot man, outside receiver Jacolby George picked up where he left off in the spring and several running backs — including breakout Nebraska transfer Ajay Allen and freshman Mark Fletcher — looked sharp.
Van Dyke’s 50-or-so-yard missile to a diving fourth-year junior Xavier Restrepo was among the plays that elicited huge cheers from the Hard Rock Stadium crowd that gathered on the lower level of the South sideline for UM’s open fall scrimmage. Restrepo, who had a foot injury for much of 2022, popped up and pumped a fist to the fans.
Toward the end of the scrimmage during situational red-zone play, 6-5, 215-pound starting wide receiver Colbie Young leaped over defensive back Daryl Porter, with a flag flying for defensive pass interference, for another tremendous touchdown catch that drew plenty of cheers. Porter also intercepted Van Dyke earlier in red-zone action.
The best news of all: No one was injured Saturday.
UM coach Mario Cristobal acknowledged the early big offensive plays in a video after the scrimmage, noting the defense “counterpunched’’ as the scrimmage progressed.
“They got downhill in the running game, made some big plays in the passing game,’’ Cristobal told former Canes offensive lineman and WQAM color analyst Don Bailey Jr. “In protection we looked a little bit different up front with our size and power and really controlled the line of scrimmage, marched down and did a nice job early.’’
Here are more observations from the Hurricanes’ first preseason scrimmage on Saturday, as part of the annual fan festival CanesFest.
▪ Allen appears to be as good as projected. He took backup quarterback Jacurri Brown’s handoff during the second drive for about a 50-yard gain and had another 25-yard run several plays later. He probably topped 100 yards, although there were no official stats.
▪ Fletcher, out of Plantation American Heritage, mixed in with the first team much of the time, scoring on two rushing plays and running through contact. He caught at least one short pass. Fellow running back Henry Parrish Jr. didn’t play much, giving the Hurricanes and their fans a chance to get an extended look at two new tailbacks, instead.
▪ Fourth-year redshirt sophomore Don Chaney Jr., who has been injured almost all of the past two season, had a nice run in the first half with freshman Emory Williams the quarterback. Chaney broke tackles for about a 10-yard gain.
▪ Kicker Andy Borregales continues to be in fine form, hitting a 57-yard field goal in the first half.
▪ Huge Louisiana-Monroe defensive lineman Anthony Campbell, listed as 6-7, 300 pounds, sacked Williams on fourth down. Other sacks were from cornerback Te’Cory Couch, freshman linebacker Marcellius Pulliam, defensive end Nyjalik Kelly and defensive tackle Jared Harrison-Hunte. The latter two both got sacks on Van Dyke later in the day, as the defensive line started to build some momentum. Freshman defensive lineman Rueben Bain Jr. also had a sack late in the day once the scrimmage shifted to situational drills.
▪ The Canes started the scrimmage with 7-on-7 drills, first by Van Dyke, followed by Brown (pick by linebacker Keontra Smith) and Williams.
▪ Among those not dressed in full uniform and not competing in the scrimmage: running back Chris Johnson, offensive lineman Zion Nelson, defensive tackle Jake Lichtenstein, defensive end Akheem Mesidor, cornerback Demetrius Freeney (in boot), running back TreVonte’ Citizen, defensive lineman Acheampong Collins, tight end Riley Williams, offensive lineman Jonathan Denis and freshman offensive lineman Frankie Tinilau. The only one we didn’t expect was Mesidor. Tight end Elijah Arroyo dressed, but did not play.
▪ Former LSU coach (and UM assistant coach back in the day) Ed Orgeron was on the sideline. We saw him chatting with Tinilau.
▪ Miami’s first-team offense appeared to be about what the Hurricanes are going with right now: Van Dyke at quarterback; Parrish at running back; George, Young and Restrepo at wide receiver, with tight end Cam McCormick; and, from left to right, Jalen Rivers, Javion Cohen, Matt Lee, Anez Cooper and Francis Mauigoa on the offensive line.
▪ The starting defense in the scrimmage appeared to be a mix of first- and second-team players: defensive linemen Leonard Taylor III, Branson Deen, Kelly and Bain; linebackers K.J. Cloyd and Francisco Mauigoa; and Kamren Kinchens, Damari Brown, Davonte Brown, Markeith Williams and Jaden Davis in the secondary.
▪ Wide receiver Brashard Smith returned the initial kickoff, with Restrepo next to him and pumping up the crowd before the scrimmage began.
▪ Brown’s accuracy was an issue throughout the day, but Emory Williams was good while running with the third team. Miami gave the freshman a ton of situational work, letting him run a hurry-up offense in his first snaps and a fake two-minute drill later in the day. He had a particularly strong connection with Michael Redding III, who made a number of good sideline catches.
▪ Safety James Williams did get some work at linebacker, as promised. Most of his time in the box came in red-zone situations and as a third linebacker.
▪ Note that the scrimmage was opened to the public, and neither fans nor the media were allowed, per UM, to take any photos or videos during the event. We’ll know by the end whether everyone followed the guidelines. The media viewed the scrimmage from the stands, as the press box was closed.
The Hurricanes got their first commit for the recruiting class of 2025 on Friday night, when quarterback Luke Nickel of Alpharetta, Georgia, pledged his allegiance to Miami.
Nickel, 6-2 and 200 pounds, is entering his junior season at Milton High. Last season, according to Max Preps, Nickel played in 14 games and completed 197 of 337 passes (58.5 percent) for 2,507 yards and 24 touchdowns, with eight interceptions. He rushed for 208 yards and three touchdowns.
Nickel’s older brother Jack is a 6-4, 225-pound redshirt freshman tight end who enrolled at Michigan State in January 2022.
Nickel told 247Sports that Miami “was the best fit for me’’ after visiting Miami in late July and meeting the players, Cristobal and offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson. “I want to be part of that and win championships there.’’ He chose UM over several offers that included Florida State, Penn State and Ole Miss and Stanford.
The Canes already have three-star quarterback Judd Anderson, of Jones County in Gray, Georgia, committed to the class of 2024.
This story was originally Published August 12, 2023, 11:36 AM.

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