As Hurricanes prepare for first scrimmage of fall camp, here are the freshmen who have impressed so far with feedback from coaches, teammates


After starting his first two seasons as the Hurricanes’ head coach with openers against Florida A&M in 2016 and Bethune-Cookman in 2017, this year begins very differently for Mark Richt and his players.

Miami starts the season on Sept. 2 with a showdown against LSU in Arlington, Texas as part of the AdvoCare Classic. And with a list of talented freshmen on the roster who could be asked to contribute immediately, Richt is trying to fast track the Hurricanes in their preparation for the Tigers.

With three scrimmages scheduled for fall camp, each one is especially important this year with a tough opponent up first on Miami’s schedule. After going through six practices since the Aug. 4 start of camp, the Hurricanes will hold their first scrimmage – closed to the public and media -- Saturday night at Hard Rock Stadium.

Richt’s plan is to simulate the usual gameday routine leading up to the scrimmage, which will feature first-string units playing against the second-team and the third-team units facing each other. The Hurricanes were off Friday.

“This is the closest thing that we have to a game,” Richt said following Thursday’s practice. “And we’re going to go ahead and do it at night, and we’re going to actually have our pregame meal like we normally have for a game. We’re going to have our pregame warmup as we do for a game. We’re going to try to make it as much like a game as possible. The night before and even the day off. So just see who is close enough to say he’s either on the plane or he’s going to play or he’s a starter.”

There will be a lot of freshmen on the field Saturday night trying to prove they deserve playing time right away. And many of them could actually end up playing against LSU in a few weeks, as the Hurricanes’ incoming group of freshmen was rated the eighth-best 2018 class in the country by 247Sports (the program’s highest recruiting ranking since 2008 when 247 had Miami first overall).

Here are the true freshmen who have received positive reviews during the first week of camp and could strengthen their campaign for playing time with a breakout scrimmage performance …

K Bubba Baxa: Who is going to replace Michael Badgley as Miami’s starting kicker? The Hurricanes hope it’s Baxa. That’s what coaches had in mind while recruiting him. Rated as the top kicker in the 2018 class by Kohl’s Kicking ranking, Baxa enters with high expectations. He wasn’t enrolled at UM for spring practices, so fall camp has been the first opportunity to evaluate Baxa in a Hurricanes uniform. So far, Baxa hasn’t disappointed. Special teams coordinator Todd Hartley said “he’s everything that we thought he would be.” According to Hartley, the longest field goal Baxa has made in practice was “in the 50 range,” adding: “He’s got the leg. Don’t worry about that, he’s got that.”

“Strong leg, kid that’s very composed,” Hartley went on say Wednesday regarding Baxa. “He doesn’t falter in the moment. We’ve put him out here live against the defense in front of the head coach and he’s answered the bell. Only five practices and we only do about six kicks a day in front of the head coach — they work on their field all day long — but through five practices, he’s shown everything that we thought that he would show. He’s doing a nice job.”

CBs Al Blades Jr., Gilbert Frierson and DJ Ivey:  With Michael Jackson and Trajan Bandy practicing as the Hurricanes’ starting cornerbacks at the moment, Frierson and Ivey are competing with senior Jhavonte Dean for that third spot in the rotation as an outside corner. Jackson is considered one of the top cornerbacks in the country, so don’t expect him to be beat out by Frierson or Ivey. Bandy’s spot, though, is more realistic. Although Bandy (5-9, 188) is playing on the outside right now, he will be lined up as a slot corner, too. That opens things up for Frierson and Ivey to earn playing time on the outside. Frierson (6-1, 192) and Ivey (6-1, 194) have better size than Bandy to play as a boundary cornerback. 

“I still think ‘Tay’ [Jhavonte Dean], Gilbert [Frierson] and DJ [Ivey], I think the wheel kind of spins,” defensive coordinator Manny Diaz said earlier this week. “I think it might be a period where this guy is on top or that guy is on top. They all have their different pluses and minuses, but again, it’s Day 3. We’ve got three weeks to really set in stone, assuming that Mike-Jack and Trajan are number one and two, who is number three and beyond that.”

As for Blades (6-1, 185), he has been playing as the slot cornerback behind Bandy. If Bandy does indeed primarily play on the boundary, Blades could be in for more playing time than Frierson and Ivey this season. Blades is the son of Al Blades, the standout former Hurricanes safety who died in 2003.

TEs Brevin Jordan and Will Mallory: We are putting these two talented freshmen together because they’re both going to need to play meaningful snaps right away at tight end after Michael Irvin II’s injury. Irvin is expected to miss four months after undergoing surgery Wednesday to repair an MCL injury in his right knee. Jordan and Mallory, who are known for their pass-catching skills, are expected to be the Hurricanes’ answer to replace him. Sophomore Brian Polendey, who has been practicing as the second-string tight end, is also an option. But the belief is that Jordan and Mallory will get most of the playing time once the season starts on Sept. 2. Jordan, from Las Vegas, was rated by Rivals as a five-star prospect and the second-best tight end in the country for the 2018 class. Mallory, from Jacksonville, was rated as a four-star prospect and the eighth-best at his position. Jordan will likely play in front of Mallory because he’s more physically prepared to handle college football at 6-foot-3 and 245 pounds. But Mallory (6-5, 230) is expected to make an immediate impact, too. Running back DeeJay Dallas refers to Jordan and Mallory as a “two-headed monster.”

“I like them guys,” Hurricanes sophomore wide receiver Mike Harley said of the young duo. “Brevin is like a big body guy. He’s making the tough, contested 50-50 balls. Them two guys, Will Mallory, he’s like a route runner. You get him in the slot, in space, but, I like both of them guys. They’re going to play this year and they’re definitely going to be ready this year.”

RB Lorenzo Lingard: As the highest-rated prospect in the incoming freshman class, Lingard (6-0, 202) figures to play some snaps just based on his talent. But the reality is there are two running backs ahead of him on the depth chart, and it’s going to be very hard for him to pass them this season. Lingard is currently working as the third-string running back behind starter Travis Homer and backup DeeJay Dallas. Still, Lingard, who did enroll early to participate in spring practices, will get some carries as a freshman. And if he can showcase his talent and growth in the fall scrimmages, he could make himself a must-play running back when the Hurricanes face LSU.

“Obviously, Lorenzo has been here already,” offensive coordinator Thomas Brown said. “He continues to work himself into a more prominent role as he’s learning what to do. He’s always a super try hard guy and gives phenomenal effort every day.”

WR Mark Pope: It’s probably too much to expect Pope (6-1, 180) to be one of the Hurricanes’ starting wide receivers in the opener. But later this season? That’s definitely possible. Pope should at least be in the receiver rotation to receive some snaps against LSU. While Pope wasn’t enrolled at UM for spring practices, he’s already impressed over the first week of camp. Offensive coordinator Thomas Brown called him “very talented” and wide receivers coach Ron Dugans said he’s “done some really good things.” Pope is currently practicing behind Lawrence Cager as the outside receiver lined up opposite of Ahmmon Richards.

“Mark Pope, definitely,” Hurricanes cornerback Trajan Bandy said when asked which of the freshman receivers have impressed him. “He’s fast, he’s quick and he blocks. After practice, he talks to me and he asks me questions about what he did wrong in practice. I tell him and the next day he fixes it. He comes out and he runs his route harder and he blocks harder.”

DE Gregory Rousseau: This freshman opened eyes with dominant play in the spring – nine sacks in three scrimmages – and fall camp has proven to be a continuation of that. It will be interesting to see how Rousseau fits in to the defensive line rotation, but he’s expected to play meaningful snaps with Miami’s lack of defensive end depth. It will probably be in a pass rushing role, though, as junior Joe Jackson and sophomore Jonathan Garvin are expected to be the starters at the two end spots. But at 6-foot-6 and 250 pounds, Rousseau has all of the upside you could ever want in a newcomer.

“Greg Rousseau, he’s one of those freak of natures,” Jackson said. “He’s got the height, the get-off, the speed. He’s got everything. His first step is maybe at least two yards, so he’s got everything. So, when he gets that first step, he’s already most likely beating the tackle and he just picks up everything quick. He knows the plays and he just picks up everything quick. So, he’s very impressive.”

OL DJ Scaife: The Hurricanes hoped at least one true freshman on the offensive line would be ready for playing time this season. It sounds like Scaife, a four-star prospect out of Miami-Southridge, is that guy. Scaife (6-3, 300) has earned positive reviews from coaches and teammates since the start of fall camp, and could be playing his way into a spot in the Hurricanes’ regular rotation at offensive guard behind starters Hayden Mahoney and Jahair Jones. Offensive coordinator Thomas Brown said Scaife “is definitely pushing behind those guys to possibly be the sixth guy in that rotation.” Mahoney said Scaife is “grading out well” and “is going to be a good player.”

“Just his aggressiveness, speed, his arm length,” Jones answered when asked what Scaife does well. “He’s able to lock out a defender real fast. He’s good for a freshman.”

DT Nesta Silvera: The four-star recruit isn’t practicing with the starters yet – Gerald Willis II and Pat Bethel are the Hurricanes’ starting defensive tackles right now – but he’s probably going to play a lot this season because of Miami’s lack of depth and proven players at defensive tackle. Silvera is also just talented, maybe too talented to keep on the sideline. Defensive tackle isn’t always the easiest position to transition to from the high school level, but he’ll be on the fast track with last year’s starters at tackle – Kendrick Norton and RJ McIntosh – now in the NFL. 

“He’s a lot of power,” defensive end Joe Jackson said when asked about his first impression of Silvera. “He’s got to learn to do different moves, but he’s got a lot of potential. So when he comes off the ball, his initial punch is very strong. But once he learns the plays better and he gets a few more techniques to his resume, he’s going to be a very hard guy to stop.”

Noteworthy: Other freshmen like quarterback Jarren Williams, wide receiver Brian Hightower, safety Gurvan Hall and defensive tackle Jordan Miller have also impressed during camp. Williams is currently fourth on the depth chart behind returning quarterbacks Malik Rosier, N’Kosi Perry and Cade Weldon. Hightower is competing for a spot in Miami’s regular rotation of receivers. Hall is hoping to earn consideration for playing time, although Jaquan Johnson and Sheldrick Redwine are the starters and that won’t change unless there’s an injury. And Miller is hoping to crack a spot in the defensive tackle rotation, which he’ll probably do because of the Hurricanes’ lack of depth at that position.

COVERAGE FROM DAY 6 OF FALL CAMP

[Bubba Baxa ‘everything that we thought he would be,’ and other Hurricanes special teams stuff to know]

[ Michael Pinckney dealing with minor ankle injury, and other updates from Mark Richt on Day 6 of camp]

COVERAGE FROM DAY 5 OF FALL CAMP

[ Hurricanes have a lot of talented WRs competing for playing time. A look at where the group stands]

[TE Michael Irvin II expected to miss four months with knee injury. What is Miami’s plan to replace him?] 

[UM names playing surface of new indoor practice facility after receiving $3 million donation]

[CB Trajan Bandy is ‘a little guy,’ but he’s ready for big role with Hurricanes]

COVERAGE FROM DAY 4 OF FALL CAMP

[Offensive coordinator Thomas Brown says Hurricanes have ‘more talent than we’ve ever had’ on offense]

[Hurricanes practice notes: WR Evidence Njoku back working in drills, and other Day 4 updates]


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