Coach Al Golden said after Tuesday's practice that "a lot" of the young players forced into action as freshmen and redshirt freshmen last year "have grown up."
"We're learning a lot about our team," Golden said.
* Golden said that Duke Johnson wore down a bit at times last season.
"Starting with Notre Dame there was a three-game stretch there that he really hit the wall," Golden said. "He finished really well."
Golden said he hopes Johnson avoids wearing down at any time this coming season.
"He's working in the weight room, is stronger," Golden said. "He's carrying more weight. I anticipate him being a guy that can go the distance this year."
So could Johnson wind up getting 20-25 touches per game?
"Sure he can, absolutely," Golden said. "We just have to be smart. He's a guy that's very versatile. So you can get in a routine where you keep drawing plays up for him because he can catch the ball in the slot, catch screens. He can run plays on the perimeter. You just have to be really careful that you don't overdo it with him, but he's really responded nicely so far."
Golden said Johnson will continue as a kick returner, calling him "a stick of dynamite."
Golden named other returners as Malcolm Lewis once he's healthy, Cornelius Elder, Jamal Carter, Herb Waters, Dallas Crawford, Antonio Crawford and Artie Burns, the latter of home Golden called "a superb kick returner."
"We should have a good group of kick and punt returners," Golden said.
* Golden said of DT Curtis Porter that "He's had a good off-season. Very good effort now in the first three practices. If he stays on task he's going to have a great year, do all the things he wants to get done."
* Of the hoops team, Golden said, "It's one of the greatest stories in college athletics right now. They're playing with such a confidence, poise, maturity about them. Watching that game (at Duke) I kept saying `We have a better team.' (Duke) had a hot shooter and lost. We're all excited to be out supporting them tomorrow night. We're so thankful for the students doing their part. They're excited about the atmosphere the last few weeks."
* Asked about DL Jelani Hamilton, Golden said, "He's long, stronger than he was. He was probably playing prematurely (last season), but we needed to do that. Now he's responded really nicely. We're hoping he'll grow a lot this spring."
* Of LB Raphael Kirby, Golden said, "He missed the first five games with an ankle, really responded nicely. Those guys learned a lot from last year and should grow up fast."
WR Rashawn Scott said after Tuesday's practice that he's learned from the experience of being suspended the final three games last season.
"I learned a lot, became a bigger person," Scott said. "You have your ups and downs, you have to get past that and not look back on it.
"It was hard (missing the final games). ... It was rough going home, seeing the family. You've got people in the area looking up to you, then that happens. You don't want to go out. It took me a couple of weeks before I could go out and talk to people. I got over it, did a little community service, see things that I have more than others."
Scott says he's learned to "eliminate the distractions I had, not partying ... calming down, more into football-wise."
- What has Scott improved most since last season?
"Working with my hands and my feet," he said. "Right now I have to get better at trying to get back on top, not having to be in a footrace."
- Asked to describe how he feels he did last season, Scott said, "It was okay, I could have done better. I had some dropped balls, some good plays. I want this year to be better, am not going to think about last year."
- Scott says the difference between last year's receivers coach, George McDonald, and Brennan Carroll is "he gets on us more and more, isn't going to let us slack. If he wants to do something he'll work with us. It's just a different type of coaching style."
- Scott says QB Stephen Morris' timing with the receivers is even better this spring than it was last season.
- Scott played last year at 205 pounds. He said he's "around 210" right now.
"That's where I want to be," he said.
* DT Curtis Porter said of last year's line not getting enough QB pressure that "It's going to be different (this year). The off-season, this is the time to get bigger, faster and stronger. This is what we're doing, getting stronger so everyone can contribute in a good way."
Asked if this is the best condition he's been in, Porter said, "I'm not there yet, but it's still progress and something I'm still working on."
Porter said his bench has gone up from 385 to 405 pounds since the end of last season.
"My reps are going up, to 33 now (of 225 pounds)," Porter said. "Everything is getting better."
* Safety Rayshawn Jenkins said after Tuesday's practice that he's trying to learn from the older players on defense. He summed up the limited experience he got last season, saying "I'm glad I played last year because I really know what to expect. As far as tackling, reading certain formations - I can do that now."
Jenkins is currently wearing a black jersey as a defensive leader. Asked about that he said, "It means everything. Because here in this program, how coach (Al) Golden and the other coaches set it up, you really have to work for a black jersey. It just is a sign that I've been working, that I'm one of those guys they trust. I'm just here to get the job done."
Jenkins said this off-season he increased his bench press 50 pounds (to 325) and 40 in his squat (390). He did 17 reps of 225 pounds.
* DT Corey King says he "surprised myself" by earning the unofficial title of Strongest Hurricane when he benched 40 reps of 225 pounds in pre-spring testing. The next highest: Malcolm Bunche with 36 reps.
"I learned how to move the weight as fast as possible," King said. "That's one of the things I'm proud of, but I'm trying to get better on the field."
King currently weighs 280 pounds; he says he played at around the same weight last season.
His goal for this year?
"I'm working (to get in the rotation), am just competing," King said. "It's a whole bunch of competition out here."
* RB Danny Dillard admits now that he didn't show up to camp last year in the best shape.
"In high school I was a 4.4 guy, and I gained too much weight," Dillard said. "I came in and ran a 4.7."
Now Dillard says he's shed 25 pounds and rededicated himself in the weight room.
"It's working out for me - I'm faster now," he said. "I think I'm 4.4 now. I'm ready. I'll do whatever it takes to help the team."
* LB Raphael Kirby says Hurricane coaches have "pushed me" this off-season. He's gotten his weight up and is currently in a black jersey as a first-teamer.
Kirby is looking to make a big impact this year after missing the start of last year due to injury.
"When I got hurt my head kind of got down a little bit," he said. "When I got back they wanted me to get a feel for the speed of the game, and when I got in there I tried to execute.
"This year I'm looking to put everything together, be fast, physical, be able to line the defense up and be very vocal."
His evaluation of how he played last season: "I played okay, could have played better. Missing the first six games kind of threw me off because I had to come in against some pretty good teams. As a freshman to get hurt and then come in and play, I had to get over that hump. But I feel like I'm over the hump now, settled down. I'm just ready to make some plays and line the defense up right so we can play ball."
It's hard to imagine a 6-foot-8, 345-pounder "growing up."
But, in all seriousness, that's what OT Seantrel Henderson says he's done over the last several months.
It was a tough 2012 season for him. In fall drills he dealt with a car accident and injury that kept him out. There were even rumors he was considering leaving the program.
Fast-forward to this spring, and it's a focused and determined big man. Henderson says he's worked hard this off-season "trying to get better."
The past questions about his work ethic and consistency? He says they are all in the past.
"I've been doing a lot of growing up here," Henderson said. "I felt that other things I may have thought are important aren't important anymore as far as just little off-field things. Just growing up, you know? I pretty much am all the way in with our team now. It's football first. I know my time is running out here as far as eligibility. I feel it's either go hard or go home. And there isn't any going back home for me."
Golden said of Henderson today that "I'm excited about him, a different look about him right now. Had a good off-season program, is staying off lists (of players in trouble), is doing a good job."
* After last season Henderson gave some thought to going pro early. But he said today it never was seriously under consideration.
"I wasn't going to go unless I knew for a fact I had a good chance to go in the first round," Henderson said. "Me personally, I didn't think I had a good enough chance to go first round this year ... I don't think I was ready yet. Take this last year - we haven't won anything here yet and I'm not the type of guy to start something and then quit it. I'm going to stay with my team through thick and thin no matter what it is.
"I want to win, point blank, period. ACC, national championship - I have to get something out of this before we leave."
Brennan Carroll is making the transition from tight ends coach to wide receivers coach this season.
He's never coached receivers before but certainly has a talented group.
"It's been a blast transitioning," Carroll said after Tuesday's practice. "I've always worked with the pass game ever since I started this coaching career. It's an easy transition. Guys have been great to work with. Having a relationship with them the whole time that we've been here has helped the transition a ton."
Carroll said the move came about after coach Al Golden asked if he'd be interested in making the switch.
"We had a long talk about it," Carroll said. "I'm excited to be part of it. This is awesome."
Carroll said his father, NFL coach Pete Carroll, gave his blessing when asked about the move to receivers coach.
"(He said) it's diversifying my portfolio, so to speak, and it's good to have an overall knowledge of the offense," Carroll said.
The biggest transition for Carroll?
"Moving lockers," he said to laughs, adding "really the only hard part was changing my focus in recruiting - I was recruiting the tight ends and right at the end there had to switch over and jump in recruiting receivers. But it worked out."
Asked about the tremendous WR talent on this team, Carroll smiled and said, "Great players make great coaches."
Carroll said the focus right now is simply on competition among the receivers in practice.
* Asked about the progress of D'Mauri Jones, who redshirted last year, Carroll said, "Big body, a big, physical receiver who can go up and get it. He's got good speed. He just has to find a way to beat out some of those guys ahead of him right now."
Of Jontavious Carter, who also redshirted, Carroll said, "Similar body type to D'Mauri - big, long, explosive. Extremely competitive, physical. He's got a good core set of attributes."
* The Hurricanes signed three receivers in this class - Stacy Coley, Derrick Griffin and Cornelius Elder, who could also play RB or DB. Carroll spoke about each of them.
Of Elder, Carroll said he'd been in "light contact" with him since November - UM offered him a scholarship after signing day.
"When signing day passed and (he didn't sign) and we had a spot available, we said `Alright, let's go to work,'" Carroll said.
Carroll said of Elder that "He's a point guard by trade (as a two-sport athlete) and we'll bring him out here on the football field. He may be a tailback, may be a slot guy. I'm excited. He has great C.O.D. (change of direction), is really quick. Our basketball guys that scout him said he was really fast. I like it when a basketball guy says he's really fast.
"He was Mr. Basketball and Mr. Football in Tennessee."
Carroll said Elder will play whichever position needs the most help and where he can get on the field earliest.
Asked about Griffin, who still has a way to go in order to qualify, Carroll said, "He's 6-6, 215 pounds. He's good. I like watching his basketball highlights and then his football highlights. He's got an explosive skill set on the basketball court. He's a big, physical receiver out there, loves to mix it up, will go up and get it like you would expect a basketball guy to go do."
* While still the tight ends coach, Carroll recruited Beau Sandland and Standish Dobard, who are early enrollees.
Asked about Sandland, Carroll said, "He has a great skill set. He's still working to develop his knowledge of our offense right now, which is typical (for a new arrival). He's got good size, is in the 250s, runs well, catches well, blocks well. He's an all-around guy."
Of Dobard, Carroll said, "Beau is a couple of years older but (Dobard) is already the size where he can play now, good height, physical, kind of gritty. He's got a good skill set too."