ACC: Ufomba Kamalu

Miami spring wrap

April, 29, 2014
4/29/14
8:00
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Three things we learned in the spring about the Miami Hurricanes:

1. Dallas Crawford will help on D. Miami surprised many when it decided to move Crawford from running back to safety. But the switch should end up benefiting both the Canes' D and Crawford in the long-term. Initially recruited to play safety, Crawford made himself at home in the defensive backfield and impressed coaches. He was named most improved player on defense for the spring.

2. Bulked-up Duke Johnson. While Johnson was held out of contact drills as he rehabbed a broken ankle, he did participate on a limited basis this spring. But bigger than that was the way he transformed his body. Johnson put on 10 pounds and is now up to 205. The hope is that more weight translates into better durability. Miami will need to rely on him more than ever in 2014.

3. Depth at linebacker. Coach Al Golden said one of the biggest accomplishments his team made this spring was building depth at linebacker. Miami hopes to count on all-ACC performer Denzel Perryman (now in the middle), along with Alex Figueroa, Raphael Kirby, Thurston Armbrister, Jermaine Grace, JaWand Blue and early enrollee freshmen Juwon Young and Darrion Owens.

Three questions for the fall:

1. Who will cut it at QB? Miami caught a tough break when projected starting quarterback Ryan Williams tore his ACL during a scrimmage and underwent surgery. Though there is some hope Williams could return before the season ends, Miami has to prepare Kevin Olsen and Gray Crow for the starting job. Olsen, the favorite to win the starting job, did not impress in the spring game. Neither did Crow.

2. Improvement on D? Coaches insisted this spring that they saw a better, more cohesive defensive unit, one in which leaders emerged in Perryman and Tracy Howard, among others. Will the progress coaches saw in the spring translate into more consistent performances during the season? Chief on the list of improvements is a better four-man rush and improving on third downs.

3. Pass rush. Speaking of pass rush, Miami was pleased with what it saw out of hybrid rush ends Al-Quadin Muhammad and Tyriq McCord this spring. Their emergence will be a huge key toward improving the Hurricanes’ pass rush. Ufomba Kamalu and Jelani Hamilton also started playing better as the spring went on, so Miami feels better about its depth across the line headed into the fall.

One way-too-early prediction:

Miami will take a step back this year. The Hurricanes go into the season with question marks at quarterback and continued questions on defense. Couple that with a difficult schedule -- featuring perhaps the most difficult crossover games in the ACC against Florida State, Louisville – and it will be tough for the Canes to match their nine-win total from last season.

ACC's lunchtime links

March, 27, 2014
3/27/14
12:00
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Here are Ernest Hemingway’s recommended readings for aspiring writers. I’ve never read any of them, but I’ve seen a few of the movies. That counts, right?

Breaking down the spring in the ACC Coastal division:

Duke

Spring practice over

What we learned:
  • Momentum rolls on. It's hard to believe the Blue Devils are already done with spring ball, but coach David Cutcliffe opted to open practice in February to capitalize on the momentum that was created last season. After the spring game ended Saturday, he praised the way his players handled the practices. There was a great deal of retention and not a lot of re-teaching, so coaches were able to get much more out of their players this spring.
  • Max McCaffrey emerges. Jamison Crowder had a spectacular 2013 season, but it was essentially him and then everybody else in the receiver group. That may not be the case this season. McCaffrey earned praise from coaches and teammates for the way he improved during the spring. Offensive coordinator Scottie Montgomery said McCaffrey made as many plays as anybody else on the offense this spring.
  • Stepping up on the line. The Blue Devils lost three starters on their defensive line -- both ends in Kenny Anunike and Justin Foxx, and defensive tackle Sydney Sarmiento. But it appears as if the players behind them are ready to step up and make a seamless transition. Defensive ends Jordan DeWalt-Ondijo and Dezmond Johnson each had two sacks in the spring game. Kyler Brown also made the switch from linebacker to defensive end and had a sack in the spring game as well.
Georgia Tech

Spring start: March 24

Spring game: April 18

What to watch:
  • Justin Thomas takes over. After Vad Lee announced his transfer from Georgia Tech, the quarterback reigns fell to Thomas, who played in 10 games this season. The Jackets had their share of highs and lows under Lee, but what the staff is going to be looking for first and foremost is Thomas’ ability to hold on to the football. Georgia Tech had 24 giveaways and ranked No. 12 in the ACC in turnover margin.
  • Defensive line questions. The Jackets lose three starters on the defensive line, including All-ACC defensive end Jeremiah Attaochu -- who had 22.5 sacks over the last two seasons. Who will step up and fill that type of production? The most experienced backups returning are sophomores Tyler Stargel and Patrick Gamble. Also, Travin Henry will get a look at defensive end after playing wide receiver last season.
  • Offensive line questions. Georgia Tech also loses three starters on the offensive line -- tackles Ray Beno and Will Jackson and center Jay Finch. The trio combined to start 117 games in their careers, so there is no doubt this is going to be a much less experienced unit in 2014. The good news is All-ACC guard Shaq Mason returns to help anchor the new-look line.
Miami

Spring start: Started March 1

Spring game: April 12

What to watch:
  • Quarterback derby. Stephen Morris is gone, but the Canes do have at least one experienced quarterback on the roster in Ryan Williams, a Memphis transfer who has served as Morris’ backup the last two seasons. As a true freshman with the Tigers, Williams started 10 games -- all the way back in 2010. Challenging Williams is redshirt freshman Kevin Olsen, who had a bit of a rocky first year in Miami, along with Gray Crow.
  • Defensive improvements. Perhaps more than what happens at quarterback, Miami must see improvements out of its defense this season. Embattled defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio kept his job but the status quo cannot persist. Every single area of the defense must be upgraded. Ranking No. 13 in the ACC in total defense just can’t happen again.
  • Defensive improvements, Part II. To try and help the secondary, Miami already moved Dallas Crawford over to safety, where the Canes could use the help. But Miami must be stronger on the defensive front. The Canes only had 12 sacks in eight conference games. By comparison, BC led the way with 25 sacks in conference games. This is a big opportunity for guys like Al-Quadin Muhammad, Tyriq McCord and Ufomba Kamalu to really step up.
North Carolina

Spring start: Started March 5

Spring game: April 12

What to watch:
  • The quarterbacks. Marquise Williams took over as the starter when Bryn Renner was gone for the season and ended up helping the Tar Heels make a bowl game after a 1-5 start. But coach Larry Fedora said the competition is open this spring. Look for Mitch Trubisky and Kanler Coker to give Williams a major push.
  • Defensive line questions. Kareem Martin and Tim Jackson are both gone, leaving big holes in the North Carolina front. Martin ended up notching 21.5 tackles for loss to rank No. 3 in the ACC. So who are the next guys up? At end, Junior Gnonkonde and Jessie Rogers are the top two contenders, while Shawn Underwood, Devonte Brown and Justin Thomason will compete for one of the tackle spots.
  • Replacing Ebron. Eric Ebron was dynamic at tight end for the Tar Heels last season, leading the team with 62 receptions for 973 yards, while adding three touchdowns. Will the Tar Heels be able to replace that type of production with just one player? Jack Tabb would be next in line among the tight ends, but this is a huge opportunity for the North Carolina receiving group as well. We saw plenty of promise out of young guys like Bug Howard, T.J. Thorpe and Ryan Switzer.
Pitt

Spring start: March 16

Spring game: No spring game. Last day of practice April 13

What to watch:
  • The quarterbacks. Chad Voytik played really well in relief of an injured Tom Savage in the bowl game, but coach Paul Chryst said the competition to win the starting job is open headed into the spring. At this point, Voytik and Trey Anderson are the only scholarship quarterbacks on the roster. So you can bet the biggest goal of all is to keep them both healthy.
  • Replacing Aaron Donald. One of the biggest surprises in all of college football this past season was the emergence and utter dominance of Donald at defensive tackle. Donald swept every major defensive award after notching 28.5 tackles for loss, 11 sacks, 16 quarterback hurries and four forced fumbles. Darryl Render is the next man up.
  • Complementary receiver. Devin Street is gone, leaving Tyler Boyd as the only standout receiver on the roster. Not only do the Panthers have to develop a consistent No. 2 receiver, they also have to develop some depth. Watch for Manasseh Garner, a former H-back who moved to receiver late last season when Street got hurt. He is more physical than Boyd, and has some extended playing experience.
Virginia

Spring start: Started March 1

Spring game: April 12

What to watch:
  • The quarterbacks. David Watford is not guaranteed to win his starting job back after last season, when he threw eight touchdown passes to 15 interceptions. Greyson Lambert and Matt Johns are also in the mix and reps with the first team will be split. In fact, Lambert got the first-team reps when the Hoos opened spring ball last weekend.
  • Andrew Brown. The highly-touted freshman will have every opportunity to win a starting job at defensive tackle, and it all starts in spring ball. The No. 3-ranked player in the ESPN 300 comes in with tons of hype; now can he translate that into on-field success? He, Donte Wilkins and Chris Brathwaite will be competing to start next to David Dean.
  • Mr. McGee. Jake McGee was the best player the Hoos had among the group of tight ends and receivers a year ago, leading the team with 43 catches for 395 yards. This spring, McGee has now moved over to receiver so the Hoos can take advantage of his athletic ability. Plus, Virginia is lacking playmakers at the position, so we’ll see how much this move benefits both McGee and the offense.
Virginia Tech

Spring start: March 27

Spring game: April 26

What to watch:
  • Quarterback. Mark Leal heads into the spring with a leg up in the quarterback competition but make no mistake, there is no set starter. He will get competition from freshmen Andrew Ford and Brenden Motley in the spring, with freshman Chris Durkin and Texas Tech transfer Michael Brewer arriving in summer. This competition will likely drag on into the fall.
  • Front seven. The Hokies are losing five terrific players up front, including ends James Gayle and J.R. Collins, and linebacker Jack Tyler, who racked up 100 tackles in back-to-back seasons. There is no doubt a major priority this spring is finding their replacements and building depth along the line and at linebacker. Who will step up as the leader of this group with Tyler gone?
  • Skill players. This has been an ongoing theme over the last two seasons and will continue to be a theme until the Hokies have consistently good players at running back and receiver. Offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler is excited about the return of tight end Ryan Malleck, and his entire tight end group for that matter. A healthy Malleck and improvement from Kalvin Cline means the Hokies could simultaneously improve their run and pass game.

Miami season preview

August, 15, 2013
8/15/13
10:30
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Today we take a look at Miami, the preseason favorite to win its first Coastal Division title.

Miami Hurricanes

Coach: Al Golden (13-11 in two years at Miami; 40-45 in seven years overall)

2012 record: 7-5 (5-3 in ACC)

Key losses: RB Mike James, CB Brandon McGee, K Jake Wieclaw

Key returnees: QB Stephen Morris, RB Duke Johnson, LB Denzel Perryman

Newcomer to watch: LB Alex Figueroa. Figueroa turned some heads in the spring and continues to practice well in the fall. He was listed as one of the starting linebackers on the preseason camp depth chart.

Biggest games in 2013: vs. Florida, Sept. 7; at Florida State, Nov. 2; vs. Virginia Tech, Nov. 9

[+] EnlargeDuke Johnson
Cal Sport Media via AP ImagesStar RB Duke Johnson is a major reason why expectations are rising at Miami.
Biggest question mark heading into 2013: Defense. This has been a continuing storyline since last season, when the defense struggled week in and week out -- ranking No. 116 in the nation in total defense and No. 82 in scoring defense. The Hurricanes relied on a lot of freshmen and sophomores and had major injuries to contend with as well, which helps explain some of the below-average numbers. But Miami also was missing a feisty leader and aggressive defensive front, two hallmarks of the traditionally strong Hurricane defenses of the past.

Forecast: Experts seem to agree that this is the season for Miami to finally make it to the ACC title game, and perhaps back into the Top 25 on a weekly basis. The Hurricanes were the preseason choice to win the Coastal for two main reasons -- quarterback Stephen Morris and running back Duke Johnson return, and 20 starters are back from a year ago.

Johnson, who broke school freshmen records a year ago, is the best running back in the league; Morris is one of the best quarterbacks in the league; he set the school record for total offense. There is no better QB-RB duo in the league going into the season. Miami also has depth at receiver and returns its entire starting offensive line, a group that should be one of the best in the ACC as well. The questions with this team are not centered around the offense.

As discussed earlier, it is the defense that has all the question marks. First and foremost, will Miami be able to better establish itself up front? The Hurricanes simply could not get after the quarterback last year, and bumping up its sack numbers has been a major priority. Watch for tackle Curtis Porter, who is healthy and could have a major presence inside. Miami also signed transfers David Gilbert and Justin Renfrow from major FBS programs, hoping the two veteran linemen can help, especially with depth. The Hurricanes also have added junior college transfer Ufomba Kamalu, a pass-rush specialist. Posting 13 total sacks again is simply unacceptable.

There are still a lot of question marks in the secondary as well, though there is some promising young talent in guys like Tracy Howard and Deon Bush, still recovering from an injury. Miami only has one senior listed on its two-deep in the secondary -- safety A.J. Highsmith -- and there are no guarantees he will start. Bottom line: the Miami defense must be miles better for this team to live up to the growing expectations.

"We have a lot of guys coming back, so we better be better," Highsmith said. "We’ve put pressure on ourselves to take that step forward and to move on and we’ve got a lot of guys coming back, so there’s a lot of leadership there and a lot more experience, so we should be a lot better."

Miami adds transfers

August, 10, 2013
8/10/13
12:27
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Defensive line transfers David Gilbert (Wisconsin) and Justin Renfrow (Virginia) have been added to Miami's roster, the school announced Saturday. Junior college transfer Ufomba Kamalu, who signed with Miami in February, was also fully cleared to participate in practice.

Gilbert and Renfrow each have one year of eligibility remaining and are eligible to play in 2013. Gilbert, Renfrow and Kamalu all practiced on Saturday.

From the release:
Gilbert, a 2012 honorable mention All-Big Ten defensive lineman at Wisconsin, is slated to compete at the “rush” position for the 2013 Hurricanes defense. In April, Gilbert announced he would not return to the Wisconsin football team for the 2013 season due to recurring injuries in his right foot.

The 6-foot-4, 247-pound product from Coral Springs, Fla., recorded 42 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss and 4.0 sacks in 14 games (13 starts) as a redshirt junior in 2012 for the Badgers, who lost in the Rose Bowl. His 2011 season was cut short after four games due to a season-ending foot injury. Over his final 18 games for the Badgers, Gilbert recorded 52 tackles, 13.0 tackles for a loss of 73 yards and 7.0 sacks for a total loss of 47 yards. Gilbert started 17 of his last 18 games for Wisconsin.

Gilbert was a member of three Wisconsin bowl teams – 2009 (Champs Sports Bowl), 2011 (Rose Bowl) and 2012 (Rose Bowl). In 42 career games with the Badgers, he tallied 79 tackles, 14.5 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks.

Renfrow appeared in all 12 games for Virginia in 2012, making 11 tackles on the season. As a redshirt sophomore in 2011, he appeared six of the Cavaliers’ 13 games, seeing playing time against William & Mary, Indiana, North Carolina, Southern Miss and Maryland. In 2010, he saw limited action on defense in four games as a redshirt freshman for the Cavaliers.

Kamalu, a native of Fayetteville, Ga., signed with the Hurricanes in February out of Butler Community College in Kansas. As a sophomore at Butler in 2012, he recorded 54 tackles, 7.5 sacks, 14 tackles for loss, three forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries.

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