By now Miami Hurricanes fans have seen former five-star prospect James Williams, a true freshman safety, get promoted to starter.
They have also seen struggling fourth-year junior safety Gurvan Hall, a former starter, get demoted and watch his snap counts fall to 19 last game against North Carolina — while Williams, according to Pro Football Focus, had 40 snaps and fellow freshman safety Kamren Kinchens played 42 snaps.
The other UM starting safety, redshirt junior Bubba Bolden, who played his freshman year at Southern Cal and transferred to Miami before the 2019 season, spoke Wednesday about the veterans vs. youngsters situation that began percolating around UM’s Sept. 30 loss to Virginia before the bye week. Young guys wanted to play more. Older guys felt they had earned the right to play.
Bolden, named to the 2020 All-ACC second team last season when he was a Thorpe Award semifinalist, played 60 snaps last week and leads the Hurricanes with 41 tackles. He has 2 1/2 tackles for loss and two pass breakups.
UM (2-4, 0-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) meets NC State (5-1, 2-0) at 7:30 p.m. Saturday (ESPN2) at Hard Rock Stadium.
Old vs. young
“The young guys have been there from the get-go,’’ Bolden said during a Zoom videoconference, addressing the fine line of being a veteran team leader and having to relate to older and younger players. “I was a freshman at one point of time. There are some guys that could be more athletic than the older guys. But football, especially at the college level, is so complex in understanding some of the little things that maybe a freshman doesn’t know.
“I think that was the reason to the start of Coach Diaz kind of holding out on freshmen because of situational football and such things like that. But as time goes on, guys start progressing and start to get better, so I’m happy for the young guys. They’re getting to play more. I would say we need it for this team to rotate and get guys in. We’ve got some very talented young guys.
“But me as a leader, I just keep it real with everybody. You gotta keep it real with people, especially in college and at this point of the season and the way things are going. If you’re a guy that’s messing up, like Coach Diaz says, you gotta cut down some reps and get some younger guys opportunities. And that’s what he’s doing. But as a leader I keep everybody in a good mindset, good spirits, and just say, ‘Go out there and just work for your job and keep going. We need everybody on this team to keep winning.’’’
Meanwhile, Diaz wouldn’t divulge how UM coaches have graded Bolden, who has not been graded well by Pro Football Focus, especially in coverage and run defense. Bolden said he’s playing well but knows he has missed some tackles and would particularly like to be there to make interceptions and “big plays.’’
UM only has four interceptions this season, one apiece by end Jahfari Harvey, safety James Williams, striker Amari Carter and linebacker Corey Flagg Jr.
I think Bubba has played well,’’ Diaz said. “There have been some situations where the ball hasn’t found Bubba.’’
Sam Brooks update
Linebacker Sam Brooks, who had offseason toe surgery and has played in two games this season, was not seen at media practice viewing Tuesday. When asked Wednesday about his status, Diaz, like inside linebacker assistant Jon Patke earlier this week, said that “Sam is still with us.’’
“He’s still part of the team,’’ the coach said. “As we know it’s been taking Sam awhile to get back up to full speed. Sam loves being here. We’re fully supportive of Sam. It hurts Sam to watch us because Sam was recruited to be here in this moment at this time. This is important for him. So it’s hard. It’s hard for those guys when they’re not 100 percent and feel that way. So we’re super supportive of Sam and his future here at Miami and he’s part of us.”
Freshman kicker Andy Borregales did not practice Tuesday because UM said he was “feeling under the weather.’’ He also missed his scheduled Zoom appearance Wednesday. “We still have a few that are dealing with a little campus flu that has been going around,’’ Diaz said. “But right now, other than [running back] Cam [Harris], who [is out with a season-ending knee injury, there are some bumps and bruises...but I think we’re planning to have everybody on Saturday.’’