MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — Miami’s spring practices will still last another week, but the Hurricanes had their most public showcase Saturday at Hard Rock Stadium with the annual spring game.
It was our best chance to check out the Hurricanes this spring, and there was quite a bit to learn. Here are some of the biggest takeaways from the day in Miami Gardens:
- The quarterback job is Malik Rosier’s to lose. The incumbent starting quarterback took almost all the reps with the first-team offense and performed relatively well given the opportunity. Rosier completed 6 of 7 passes in the first half despite some shaky offensive line play. He took too many sacks, but the senior is clearly the most steady option and did well against a potentially great defense.
- Brian Hightower was the most impressive early enrollee. The wide receiver is a 4-star prospect from IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. He was sometimes overlooked playing on a loaded high school roster, although whenever he found himself in a big situation, he tended to make plays. It was the case again Saturday, as Hightower made an impressive touchdown grab on a goal-line fade and made a diving catch for a big gain in the seam. In the first half alone, the wideout racked up 61 yards.
- N’Kosi Perry might be ready soon. While Rosier was far and away the most steady quarterback, no one on the field flashed raw talent like Perry. After redshirting as a freshman in 2017, Perry hoped to compete for the starting job in 2018, and at some point, he may push Rosier out. He missed too many easy throws, but possesses the “wow” factor. The quarterback used a nifty spin move in the pocket to evade pressure more than once and connected for both of Hightower’s big first-half completions. His legs are the weapon they are hyped up to be, too, although he didn’t have to deal with contact.
- Gilbert Frierson and DJ Ivey can push Jhavonte Dean. This has been a running theme throughout the spring. Cornerbacks coach Mike Rumph hasn’t been particularly complimentary of Dean, and Frierson and Ivey both bring higher upside. Dean missed an easy interception Saturday, while Frierson was the first player to wear the turnover chain for the first time in 2018. He hauled in an overthrow by Perry at the end of the first half.
- Miami’s run defense should still be great. Losing three starters on the defensive line will hurt, but returning two potentially elite linebackers will help make up for some of the losses. Linebackers Shaquille Quarterman and Michael Pinckney were as steady as ever in the second level and defensive back Derrick Smith, playing the Hurricanes’ new “striker” position, made a tackle for a loss. Meanwhile, the defensive line situation doesn’t seem as dire as it once did. Defensive lineman Gregory Rousseau, an early enrollee, played with the second-team defense and flashed the massive upside coach Mark Richt raves about.
- The offensive line is an issue. Maybe this is part of why the front seven looked so good, too. The spring game featured 9 sacks. As good as Miami’s defense may be, this isn’t encouraging for an offensive line that has struggled all spring. The unit will be a work in progress all offseason.