Takeaways from Miami’s spring football game

Miami Hurricanes quarterback Jake Garcia (13) sets up to pass during spring game at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens on Saturday, April 17, 2021.
Miami Hurricanes quarterback Jake Garcia (13) sets up to pass during spring game at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens on Saturday, April 17, 2021. Photo credit: Miami Athletics

Miami fans got a glimpse of their future Saturday morning when the Hurricanes wrapped up the spring football season with the annual spring football game.

A 27-19 scrimmage win for “Team Hurricane” over “Team Ibis,” the biggest storyline of the game was the quarterback battle between Tyler Van Dyke and Jake Garcia, both competing for the backup spot behind guaranteed QB 1 D’Eriq King, who is rehabbing from an injury.

Van Dyke, a second-year freshman from Connecticut, started with the first team offense and threw one touchdown, completing 12 of 17 throws for 102 yards. Van Dyke did not play in the second half of the scrimmage.

“I feel like that was my best scrimmage of the spring,” Van Dyke said. “I liked where my eyes were, I knew where to go with the ball and how I handled protection issues.”

Garcia, a true freshman, completed 19 of 25 passes for 252 yards and two touchdowns. As an early enrollee, Garcia should still be in high school right now, and looked exceptionally poised for someone so new to the college landscape. Garcia credits the fact that he moved around to so many different schools during his high school career.

“The future of the Miami Hurricane quarterback room is in good hands,” Miami head coach Manny Diaz said after the game. “What you saw today has been there this spring. Jake gets into a game and looks very comfortable. They have a great understanding of where the wide receivers are and they have the arm strength to get there. This will be a battle that everyone will want to declare early winners in, but this is going to be a long developmental process.”

Diaz also noted that after just 15 spring football sessions (practices and three scrimmages), there is no way he would be able to determine who would be ahead of the other in the depth chart.

“It would be impossible to say there’s a pecking order or a ranking because we really are not into that for any position right now. This spring was about guys putting together a 15-game resume and now the summer is where the secret sauce comes in.”

Another position group that impressed in the spring game was the wide receivers, all though we did see some of the same mistakes made during the 2020 season.

Charleston Rambo, a redshirt senior transfer from Oklahoma, looked so flashy and will for sure be one of King’s go-to receivers. Rambo finished with seven receptions for 74 yards and looked really in-synch with both Van Dyke and Garcia. Second-year freshman Xavier Restrepo, a slot receiver, impressively managed to sneak a toe tap into the corner of the end zone for a touchdown thrown by Tyler Van Dyke. Restrepo caught four passes for 42 yards and the touchdown.

Miami Hurricanes wide receiver Charleston Rambo (11) gains yardage after a pass reception during spring game at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens on Saturday, April 17, 2021.
Miami Hurricanes wide receiver Charleston Rambo (11) gains yardage after a pass reception during spring game at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens on Saturday, April 17, 2021. Photo credit: Miami Athletics

But we did see a little bit of the same-old from Mark Pope and Dee Wiggins, who both dropped passes, Pope’s a wide-open pass with 25 yards of separation between the corner. But both veteran receivers finished the game on a stronger note, with a 50+ yard catch each.

Finally, Keyshawn Smith, a second-year freshman, had three receptions for 63 yards and two touchdowns.

Although Miami threw the ball, intentionally, the majority of the game, running back Jaylan Knighton had a 27-yard touchdown run and 43 yards on seven carries. Cam’Ron Harris, who barely played, had four carries for nine yards.

As a whole, the defense had four sacks in the scrimmage, which all came against Garcia, but Diaz thought the defense played just “okay.”

“I thought it was okay, we threw the ball a lot and defensively we only lined up in two coverages,” Diaz said. “We were gonna be vanilla on purpose. You are looking at a secondary missing a lot of key parts. Baptism by fire for them.”

With a lot of guys in the secondary not playing in the scrimmage (Bubba Bolden, Al Blades Jr, Brian Balom and Te’Cory Couch and Marcus Clarke), Miami played a lot of younger guys.

“They flash, they make a lot of plays, but they are also a little wild,” Diaz said on the young players on defense. “Our offense makes it tough. Getting the adjustments checked, tackling…just because you can drive the car 120 mph doesn’t mean you can always have it 120 mph. They are learning, but this spring has been great for them because the number of guys we’ve had out in our secondary.”

Safety Avantae Williams and Georgia transfer cornerback Tyrique Stevenson each had two pass breakups and Kamren Kinchens had six tackles and one interception. Defensive end Deandre Johnson, a transfer from Tennessee, recorded a sack and two and a half tackles for loss.

Already without 16 players in the game, cornerback DJ Ivey, defensive end Cam Williams, receiver Michael Redding and Dante Johnson all left the scrimmage with injuries, though Johnson did come back towards the end of the game. Johnson, a walk-on redshirt junior, had an impressive five catches for 58 yards.

The Hurricanes will have time off before they report for summer camp and begin preparing to open the season on Sept. 4 against Alabama at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia.