CORAL GABLES — In spring football at Miami, the defense is typically ahead of the offense. But entering today's game, that might not be the case.
Not after three freshman quarterbacks, including Plant High's Robert Marve, displayed impressive accuracy during a scrimmage March 6. Marve, Jacory Harris and Cannon Smith combined to complete 26 of 36 passes for 236 yards and no interceptions.
Marve and Harris — the two most recent Mr. Florida winners — were especially good, combining to complete their first nine passes. In addition, Marve, recovered from a left wrist injury that caused him to redshirt last season, looked comfortable, flashing speed when the pocket broke down.
"We had a lot of completions," coach Randy Shannon said of the scrimmage. "It was great to see."
In last year's spring game, veterans Kyle Wright and Kirby Freeman — both now gone — struggled to move the ball. They combined to complete just 15 of 33 passes for 177 yards, one interception and one touchdown drive.
This year's group also must work on getting into the end zone. In the scrimmage, Miami managed one touchdown and one field goal among 14 drives.
"We feel like if we can give our quarterbacks time, we can move the ball down the field," Shannon said. "But we have to score more points."
Helping the quarterbacks will be a group of receivers that appears to be much improved. The most notable is freshman Aldarius Johnson, rated the No. 1 receiver in Florida by Rivals.com.
He graduated early from Miami Northwestern and has looked outstanding. Six more freshmen arrive in the fall, including Tommy Streeter, the state's second-best wideout, according to Rivals.com.
Then there is touted Jermaine McKenzie, who redshirted last season after a car crash and has been hurt again this spring.
The running backs will be led by sophomore Graig Cooper and junior Javarris James, both of who have bulked up from last season. And the offensive line, keyed by NFL prospect Jason Fox at left tackle, appears set except for center.
Put it together, and second-year offensive coordinator Patrick Nix figures to have many more options.
"He has a lot more weapons," recruiting analyst Larry Blustein said. "Aldarius Johnson is a No. 1 receiver, and Nix will have a lot of talented players to choose from for the No. 2 and No. 3 spots. Miami won't be lacking for playmakers, which has been the case for the past three or four years.
"Based on the scrimmage, the 'Canes were able to use different looks with one-back sets, three or four wide receivers and sometimes a running back split wide. They ran the spread offense perfectly."