Following a brief intermission, the Miami Hurricanes football team returned to GreenTree for the second week of spring practice.
The 'Canes held two workouts during the week, shaking off the rust after an 11-day break from official practices. Al Golden and his coaching staff worked to get their players mentally ready for the next four weeks, reminding them the extended break was over.
Young players are competing with veterans and returning starters for top positions on the depth chart, and sophomore Al-Quadin Muhammad certainly made Taylor Gadbois feel his presence.
Fired up for football season yet?
News and Notes
Dallas Crawford is practicing as the placeholder, something he had previously done in high school and also "just for fun" to help his roommate and starting kicker Matt Goudis.
Christy Cabrera Chirinos of The Sun Sentinel notes Crawford said, "Goudis is my roommate and I'd come out here with him last year, just to play around in the summer. But with Ryan [Williams] being a quarterback, we needed a holder. I just said, 'I'll do it. I did it before.'"
Reserve offensive lineman Hunter Knighton, who was hospitalized due to unspecified reasons, is "doing great," per Golden. Knighton will be catching up on academic responsibilities before talking to the media.
Al Golden said Hunter Knighton is getting caught up on school, first, & "When he's ready to talk, he'll talk. But he's doing great." #Canes— Matt Porter (@mattyports) March 18, 2014
With starting center Shane McDermott and Knighton sidelined, Alex Gall and Hunter Wells have taken first- and second-team reps, respectively.
Though spring practice is predominantly serious business, senior offensive lineman Jon Feliciano still found a way to lighten the mood. Feliciano picked up junior cornerback Tracy Howard and held him upside down for a few moments.
But the 'Canes weren't allowed to have too much fun, because...
We're Not on Spring Break Anymore
The Miami coaching staff repeatedly stressed the importance of focus—especially defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio, it appears.
Mark D'Onofrio's gonna jump in a drill and hit someone. "SPRING BREAK IS F---ING OVER!" he shouts.— Matt Porter (@mattyports) March 20, 2014
No, really, he meant it.
This now marks the third time I've heard Mark D'Onofrio tell his defense today that spring break is over.— Christy Chirinos (@ChristyChirinos) March 20, 2014
Following Tuesday's practice, Chirinos noted that Golden called the group "more physical and tougher than the offense," saying defenders were "way ahead" of their counterparts.
Whether focus truly was a factor or not, the Hurricanes defense was dominated during the final six games of the 2013 campaign. The defense collectively rose to D'Onofrio's challenge, though, staying focused and being the more dominant unit again on Thursday, per Chirinos.
Of course, that means the offense must respond next week. The Miami D was heralded as a much-improved unit last spring, but we all know how well that turned out during the regular season.
Position Battle Updates
Throughout the entire session, the quarterback battle between senior Ryan Williams and freshman Kevin Olsen will continue to rage on. Following a redshirt season where his focus was questioned, Olsen is impressing this spring.
#Canes coach Al Golden said yesterday that QB Kevin Olsen has been "really mature" this spring, putting in extra work with OC James Coley.— Christy Chirinos (@ChristyChirinos) March 19, 2014
However, according to Manny Navarro of The Miami Herald, Golden currently has Williams ahead of Olsen. "Kevin is having a good spring, he is. But as I said going in, Ryan is experienced, smart and he's doing a good job with the football right now."
Starting safety Rayshawn Jenkins is currently unavailable, so sophomore Jamal Carter is getting extra burn in the secondary. He made one of the more impressive plays so far this spring, shedding a block, sizing up a much-bigger Gus Edwards, wrapping up and driving his teammate into the ground.
Along with Crawford, Carter is expected to be an important reserve in the defensive backfield, playing behind Deon Bush and Jenkins. And making a play like that certainly helps Carter's odds of getting on the field more often.
It's not the prototypical position battle, but Howard and wide receiver Stacy Coley line up opposite each other. Per Navarro, the duo push each other to get better every day.
'3-on-3 is how I look at it,' Howard said referring to the jersey number both players wear. '[Coley is] fast, shifty. He’s mainly always my matchup. We just go out there and make each other better every day. He’s becoming more of a talker. I’m a big talker so I think I bring it out of him most of the time. ...When he makes a play he definitely makes sure you feel his presence.'
Coley and Howard are two of the ACC's best players, let alone at their respective positions. This season, the 'Canes are expecting more explosive plays from Coley and lock-tight coverage from Howard, so the daily competition is important for both athletes.
Highlight Video, Twitter Follows, Upcoming Schedule
Matt Porter of the Palm Beach Post edited together a 3:51 video, highlighting the Hurricanes practice on March 18. If you have a few minutes, it's definitely worth the watch.
The 'Canes will practice on on March 22, 25 and 28 before the first scrimmage takes place on March 29. According to UM, practices are open to the public, but the scrimmage is not.
Follow Bleacher Report CFB Writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR.