The Hurricanes football team started their second week of spring practice on Monday and Tuesday, while coaches tried to evaluate the many position battles developing this spring.
The biggest battle for the Hurricanes comes from the four quarterbacks fighting to replace Ken Dorsey and lead the Hurricanes offense next season.
Although coaches insist that all four quarterbacks have an equal chance at winning the starting job, head coach Larry Coker acknowledged the fact that juniors Brock Berlin and Derrick Crudup know the offense better than redshirt freshman Marc Guillon and true freshman Kyle Wright. The fierce battle between these four young men could become a lot clearer during today’s open-public scrimmage at Lockhart Field in Ft. Lauderdale.
Both defensive end positions remain open, but Coker pointed out a couple of players, along with two senior leaders, who impressed him after Tuesday’s practice.
“The defense was pretty dominant for the entire day,” Coker said. “D.J. Williams and Jon Vilma especially, and the ends, John Square and Thomas Carroll had outstanding days today.”
Square had had trouble gaining weight throughout his career, but this off-season differs from the past. Square has gained 14 pounds since last season and now weighs 216 pounds. He eats about five meals a day and he hopes to get up to 230 pounds before next season.
Despite coming into spring practice with a full plate of wide receivers, a rash of injuries has thinned the position down to only three healthy bodies.
Senior Kevin Beard tore his ACL towards the end of the season and sophomore Sinorice Moss had surgery on his ankle after the season. Redshirt freshman Ryan Moore won’t return for spring practice because of a nagging hamstring injury that held him out for most of the last season. Sophomore Akieem Jolla also has a nagging leg injury but wide receiver coach Curtis Johnson hopes to have him healthy soon.
With those four injuries, senior Jason Geathers, who played running back most of last year, sophomore Roscoe Parrish, and freshman Darnell Jenkins, have taken most of the wide receiver reps.
Monday and Tuesday, however, Buck Ortega impressed coaches when they tried him out at wide receiver and H-back. Ortega previously played quarterback but moved to linebacker in the middle of last season.
“He’s smart, he’s athletic, and he’s got great hands,” Coker said. “If we played Saturday and he knew what to do he would play.”
IN THE BACKFIELD
If Frank Gore stays healthy he will almost definitely start at tailback next season, but the picture at fullback does not look so clear.
Senior Talib Humphrey has impressed coaches in the last two weeks. With junior Kyle Cobia out with an injury, and last years starting fullback Quadtrine Hill getting more work at tailback, Humphrey could emerge as the starter this spring.
“The main thing is being consistent,” Humphrey said. “I can’t have three good practices and then one day have a bad practice.”
The Hurricanes have three practices next week before the Spring Game on April 5 at the Orange Bowl, which is open to the public.
Nate Johnson can be reached at NPJ44@aol.com.