Transfer Portal Shuffles Hurricanes Secondary

The Miami Hurricanes secondary approaches their season opener against Florida with some dissent within their ranks.

Miami lost not one but two members of that group in the past week.

Transfer portal giveth, transfer portal taketh away.

 

The departure of Smith will hurt the depth at safety, but the Hurricanes still have plenty of talent left to fill the void. The 6-foot-2, 220 pound Smith was the biggest safety on the team but did not perform up to expectations.

Amari Carter and Robert Knowles were both ahead of him for the strong safety spot. Carter enters his junior season ready for a leadership role, having played 25 games for the Hurricanes already.

USC transfer Bubba Bolden is also in the mix for playing time. Bolden was a teammate of Tate Martell at Bishop Gorman in Las Vegas and the redshirt sophomore has tremendous upside but will need to get up to speed being a late arrival to the program. Once he settles in his talent is too great not to get extensive run.

At free safety Gurvan Hall  appears to be the front runner to start the season. The highly recruited Hall is a sophomore from Palm Beach Gardens who saw action in 12 games last year and is poised for a much larger contribution this year.

Besides Smith the Hurricanes secondary depth took another hit, losing cornerback Nigel Bethel. Miami is a little thinner at the corner spot, Bethel was battling for the fourth cornerback position with Christian Williams and Te’Cory Couch.

 

The freshmen Williams and Couch, along with sophomore DJ Ivey will be key rotational pieces throughout the season.

Leading the way in the Hurricanes secondary is junior cornerback Trajan Bandy.

The Muddy Badger is one of the top corners in the ACC and owns one of the best recent moments for The U.

 

Bandy really broke out in his sophomore season, notching career highs in just about every important defensive category.

His five “Turnover Chains” also led the team and Bandy earned a spot on the Jim Thorpe Award watch list.

Across from Bandy at the opposite corner will likely be Al Blades, Jr. who enters his sophomore season as a player on the rise.

Blades looks to continue the incredible family tradition at Miami and has all the physical and mental makeup to do so. He served as special teams captain twice last year and like his family who played here is a great vocal and emotional leader.

Ivey is another defensive back to watch, he played in 11 games last year mostly on special teams. With the departure of Bethel he slots in as the third cornerback on the depth chart.

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Tate Martell working at wide receiver

First, we find out who was named the starting quarterback, then two players who would have seen significant playing time (CB Nigel Bethel, Jr. is the latest) decide to enter the transfer portal. What’s next, Tate Martell moving to wide receiver? 

Well, yes.

When the Canes’ announced Jarren Williams as the starting quarterback on Monday, the first thought for a lot of fans wasn’t to say congratulations to Williams on winning the battle. It was, “so what does Tate do now?” On the College Football Daily podcast, 247 Director of Scouting Barton Simmons said Martell should give take a shot at wide receiver. 

It seems as though the idea may have been on Martell’s mind as well. 

The New Wide-Out in Town

W.G. Ramirez, a Las Vegas-based sports writer sent out a tweet on Thursday that said Martell “former Gorman QB and three-time national HS champion Tate Martell is expected to try his hand at wide receiver.”  

Nothing was confirmed at that point until yesterday evening when The Athletic columnist and Miami Hurricanes beat writer Manny Navarro sent out a tweet that said: “Have been told by a #UM source today was the first day Tate Martell experimented with playing wide receiver at Miami.” Thursday’s practice was completely closed to media by Miami.

Minutes after the Navarro tweet, Miami Herald columnist Barry Jackson tweeted this, “Martell taking WR snaps in tonight’s scrimmage, am told.” The Canes’ held a scrimmage last night at Hard Rock Stadium (pray for no injuries).

None of us know yet if the move is permanent or if it is just an experiment, but this could be a great move. 

He Looks the Part

Martell has posted some pretty fast 20-yard shuttle times in the past and is very athletic. He has even been seen in the past running routes and catching passes from other quarterbacks. 

I can see Coach Enos drawing up some special packages with Martell playing both quarterback and wide receiver. 

It’s almost like Ryan Tannehill is back again. But not really.

Although, guys seem to have a bit more success switching from quarterback to receiver. Some notable names: Julian Edelman, Antwaan Randle-El, and more recently guys like Josh Cribbs and Terrelle Pryor. Could Tate Martell be next?

In just 7 days on August 24th, Miami opens up its season against the Florida Gators at Camping World Stadium in Orlando. It’s showtime! 

 

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Go Canes!

Canes Junior, Derrick Smith enters transfer portal.

Surprise News: Smith Enters the Portal! Depth at Safety Not a Concern.

The portal strikes again. Yet this time, this one was a bit of a surprise. With just 11 days away before the week 0 game against that team up in Gainesville, junior safety Derrick Smith tweeted yesterday that he is no longer a member of the Canes football program and has decided to enter his name in the transfer portal. Smith was thought of as a significant contributor this season in the secondary.

Smith was Showing Out!

Smith started his career at safety and then made the move to striker last season. With Romeo Finley’s return and the emergence of Gil Frierson, Smith made the move back to safety. He showed tons of promise in camp and was on track to get plenty of playing time. That looked even more apparent after a strong showing in the Canes first scrimmage. 

 In a recent article by Susan Miller Degnan of the Miami Herald, safeties coach Ephraim banda was quoted as saying “You know, I think he did a really good job in the off season of spending a lot of time in the meeting room and just getting extra work”. Coach Banda also went on by saying “I think he improved in the weight room and really dedicated himself in that area and really bought into [strength and conditioning] Coach Feeley.” 

 Why the Sudden Change?

With all that being said, Smith was going to have a hard time unseating Amari Carter and Gurvan Hall as the starter. Those two have had really good training camps and have solidified their starting roles. That ultimately may have been the deciding factor in Smith leaving. 

 The other factor may have been the recent arrival of USC transfer Bubba Bolden. The highly touted transfer and former high school teammate of Tate Martell and Brevin Jordan, comes in late, but with high expectations. It seems as though Bolden has been able to come in and catch on quickly. 

My final theory could be, the strong push this fall by the infamous Robert Knowles. Could he have been threatening Smith for his playing time? I have a feeling we will be seeing him on the field a lot (biting my nails as I write that). 

 The Future Looks Bright!

Although the transfer comes as a surprise to all of us, especially the timing of it, many do not seem to be too concerned. With guys like Bolden and even freshman Keontra Smith, the depth at safety looks promising. Look for Keontra to now play a bigger role as a backup and on special teams. 

What does concern me, however, is that more and more kids are transferring at the first sight of adversity. Sure, the Canes have benefitted from the transfer portal, but it has also hurt them. One thing is for certain, entering the portal does not guarantee you a starting job anywhere. Chances are, you will have to fight for your spot anywhere else you go. What the portal giveth, it can also taketh away. 

 

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Manny Diaz leading the culture change

On December 30, 2018 the Hurricane program was flipped on top of its head.

The head coach, Mark Richt, retired abruptly after 3 seasons and a 26-13 record. The 2018 season of his tenure was very dark, coming off a 10-3 season the previous year.

The Hurricanes had high expectations that they could not meet. Many factors went into this such as; bad QB play, the offensive coordinator’s play calling was terrible, and the team stopped believing in Mark Richt.

Miami then turned to Manny Diaz 18 days after he had taken a head coach job at Temple. The job Diaz has done is already exceeding expectations. He’s bringing back the Miami culture and has rejuvenated it.

The main reason why is because Manny Diaz understands what it takes to coach the Hurricanes. It is by far one the hardest jobs. It comes with many expectations, as well as distractions for the players who go to the University Of Miami. Diaz has brought new energy, swagger, and belief in the program, hence his hashtag in recruiting #TNM ( The New Miami) .

Players committing left and right shows that they believe in the Diaz culture in Miami. This is a real turnaround that brings back the Miami Hurricanes every fan loved in the 80’s, 90’s and early 2000’s. I think Miami has the right guy, a young coach with energy.

Most importantly he understands the Miami culture, because he’s born and raised here. He also went to the U so it’s  a match made in heaven in my opinion. Hurricane fans gear up and watch Manny Diaz culture change. Let him work his magic through the good and bad during his coaching tenure.

Miami Hurricanes – Is Offensive Line Biggest Question Mark?

It has been an exciting and clarifying week for the Miami Hurricanes football team.

Thankfully the clarification has kept Hurricanes social media, especially Twitter, in mid-season form.

 

Manny Diaz named Jarren Williams the starting quarterback on Monday to much celebration and debate.

Now that QB1 is finally out of the way, the focus shifts back to other position battles.

Hopefully offensive line coach Butch Barry can find the right formula before August 24th. Barry is in his first year in Miami after being on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers staff last year.

With the regular season set to open in less than two weeks, an important group is still coming into focus.

 

The once dominant offensive line at Miami has been mired with inconsistency for several years it seems.

Plenty of talent has been available, but cohesiveness and stability in the group has been an issue.

Corey Gaynor will be the starting center and developing chemistry with Williams will be crucial.

Gaynor improved as last year progressed and hopefully the redshirt sophomore can continue to grow and anchor the line.

Donaldson Moving Left?

Navaughn Donaldson impressed in 2018 and was asked to do a lot by the previous coaching staff.

He showed versatility as he started multiple games at both right guard and right tackle.

Standing at 6-foot-6 and listed at 345 pounds, he helped lead many massive gains on the ground last year.

His strong work continued in pass protection as well and Miami was better in the six games he started at right tackle to start the campaign.

Donaldson’s ability and willingness to shift along the line gave him valuable experience and he will need to be a force inside again this season.

He may end up at left guard which will be important since the blind side spot is still a question mark. The former freshman All-American is perhaps the most talented of the group.

Shuffling Deck Continues

Left tackle is an interesting spot to predict to say the least.

Freshman Zion Nelson from Sumter, SC has put himself in the mix for a starting role.

After putting on over 50 pounds, Nelson has transformed from a low rated prospect to a contender for the most important spot on the line.

His path to the Miami Hurricanes program was not direct, only a last minute de-commit from Appalachian State sent him to Coral Gables.

The fact he is in consideration for starting left tackle shows his dedication and ability.

Nelson will have to hold off Tommy Kennedy, Jr., a redshirt senior grad transfer from Butler University.

Kennedy signed with the Hurricanes in December, 2018 and was at the time projected to be the future starter at left tackle.

However after a lackluster spring his role is uncertain.

The step up in competition may be a factor for Kennedy.

Need the Right fit for Right Side

On the right side of the line the tackle spot there is also a question. Kai-Leon Herbert and John Campbell have both been getting reps with the ones.

Campbell, a redshirt freshman, was a highly rated recruit from Orlando and is listed at 6-foot-5 and 310 pounds. He appeared in four games last year for the Hurricanes.

Herbert is a redshirt sophomore who played at American Heritage in Plantation. A consensus four-star prospect out of high school, the former Michigan commit changed course. He could slot in as a swing tackle or backup at the guard spot as well.

Cleveland Reed is another to watch in the guard race, the 6-foot-3, 313 pound bruiser was another highly coveted prospect out of Fort Meade, Florida. He had offers from top programs such as Clemson and Ohio State.

Scaife Adds More Versatility

Rounding out the candidates on the right side is sophomore DJ Scaife. Like Donaldson, Scaife played extensively at both guard and tackle in the 2018 season as a freshman. He projects more as a natural tackle which would allow Reed or Herbert to drop inside to guard.

Scaife was the starting right tackle in the Pinstripe Bowl and is the frontrunner to hold down that spot again this season. Given the lack of experience at other interior positions his versatility may be needed as the season wears on.

 

Predicted Week Zero Offensive Line

LT: Nelson

LG: Donaldson

C: Gaynor

RG: Reed

RT: Scaife

 

The Hurricanes really struggled to score points last year.

It will be imperative that Barry and OC Dan Enos get this talented group to be a cohesive unit. Especially with an inexperienced quarterback under center.

Follow us on Twitter @SportsWaveDave and @5ReasonsSports for more great Miami Hurricanes news.

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It’s all about The U!!!

 

Miami Hurricanes name Jarren Williams QB1

Is Williams the Best Choice as Canes’ QB1?

The dust has settled, just a bit. We all know by now that Jarren Williams has won the starting quarterback position for the Canes. He beat out the once thought to be the next big-time quarterback in N’Kosi Perry and the highly anticipated Ohio State transfer Tate Martell.

“We believe we can win with all three guys, however, we feel like Jarren has the greatest upside due to his passing ability, his instincts and his determination.” – Coach Manny Diaz on new Canes QB1, Jarren Williams.

Williams will see his first real action as a college quarterback on August 24th in Orlando against the top ten ranked Florida Gators. That’s a tall order for the redshirt freshman out of Central Gwinnett High School in Georgia.

Coming out of high school, Jarren Williams was a standout quarterback ranked as the 77th overall prospect and #5 Pro-Style Quarterback in the country. He improved every year at the high school level as a passer, culminating in a senior year that saw him throw for over 3,000 yards and 28 touchdowns. He also ran for over 500 yards.

Under the Radar?

So why was it such a surprise to many that he got the nod? Maybe it was all the hype surrounding Tate Martell that made people forget about Williams? Maybe it was some saying that Perry has the most experience and needs to start? Was it the bad taste he left in everyone’s mouth when there were rumors swirling of him wanting to transfer? Either way, make no mistake about it, Jarren Williams, in terms of pure passing ability and skillset, is the best quarterback on this roster. He can make all the throws with precision and is very accurate on the deep ball.

Personally, I believe it was always a two-quarterback race: Williams and Martell. I think Williams ultimately won out because of his accuracy and because he took care of the football a little better than Martell. My conspiracy theory is that people closest to the program may have seen N’Kosi as part of the problem regarding last year’s team. Too many antics on and off the field may have cost him a legitimate shot at QB1. Oh, and don’t count Martell out just yet. I still expect to see him on the field in some role this year.

At the end of the day, the question still remains. Did the Miami Hurricanes make the right decision at QB1? Will we find out in 12 days? Maybe. But when the dust clears and those pads get crackin’ on August 24th, I don’t care who is behind center, just win!

Regarding the backup situation, Coach Manny Diaz said the competition is still going on to see who serves as QB2 behind Williams. Now all that’s left is for Jarren Williams to show them why they chose him as the starter.

Jarren Williams named QB1

Jarren Williams is the Hurricanes’ QB1

Well, that was suspenseful.

Manny Diaz, the new coach of the Miami Hurricanes, hadn’t revealed much about the quarterback competition between holdovers Jarren Williams and N’Kosi Perry, and transfer Tate Martell.

But a day before Media Day, Diaz spilled the goods.

The winner is Williams, who nearly left the program last season, a couple of times.

This wasn’t a total surprise, since the chatter has been trending that way of late. Word was that Williams has been most consistent in practices, and he has the most pure arm talent of the trio.

Reaction on Twitter was mostly positive.

Here’s some context…

Now we wait to see how he plays against Florida.

Can’t be worse than Malik Rosier, right?

3 Things We Want to Know After Tonight’s Canes Scrimmage

With just 14 days remaining before the Canes head up to Orlando to face Florida, many questions still surround this team’s roster. I break down what I feel are 3 major roster questions we want to be answered by the time tonight’s scrimmage is over with. 

Question #1: The Big Uglies

Let’s start with one of the biggest surprises in camp so far. Offensive lineman Zion Nelson was once thought of as a redshirt project with good skills that would need a few years to develop, especially at a very thin 240 pounds. Fast forward a few months and that 240-pound project is now weighing 290 pounds(reported by Nelson himself) and starting at LEFT TACKLE! Yes, you heard that right, LEFT TACKLE. I said to myself, Coach Barry(Offensive Line Coach) must be challenging his guys and we will see the real starting left tackle after the first scrimmage. But I was wrong. Nelson kept his job as LT1 and it seems as though it may stay that way. That means one of two things to me – this kid is really special – or we are incredibly screwed. 

Two other guys to keep your eye on that could possibly get some playing time if Nelson can’t hold it down: Kai-Leon Herbert and John Campbell. Herbert was getting a lot of first-team reps at right tackle along with Campbell, who ended up starting on the right side during the first scrimmage. Look for one of those two to get the nod August 24th at right tackle. 

Question #2: It’s the Muddy Badger and who?

We all know that Trajan Bandy is the leader in the Canes secondary. Bandy has the opportunity to be one of the best cornerbacks in the ACC. The question is, who will emerge as the other starting cornerback? Al Blades Jr. seems to be the front runner right now to start. He took first-team reps during last week’s scrimmage and has been atop the depth chart for some time now. However, I would not put sophomore DJ Ivey too far behind. Look for today’s scrimmage to be the one that helps solidify that spot. 

The concern what’s behind those three. Young players like Nigel Bethel, Jr., Te’Cory Couch and Christian Williams will have to step up and be ready to play when their name is called. The key to this group being successful is health.

The safeties seem to be shaping up nicely. Yesterday was the first day of practice for USC transfer Bubba Bolden. The addition solidifies what is already looking like a strong group. Right now it looks like the Canes will start with Amari Carter and Gurvan Hall. Don’t be surprised if you see Junior, Derrick Smith get a lot of playing time after moving back to safety from the striker position. I’m tempted to mention Robert Knowles…nevermind.

Question #3: Who’s My Quarterback?

Who will be the Miami Hurricanes starting quarterback? I am just going to get right into it. Offensive Coordinator Dan Enos is installing a brand new offense. None of the three have played in this system before and have all had growing pains. Some days Tate Martell does a few things better than the rest. Another day N’Kosi Perry and Jarren Williams make some really nice throws and Tate can’t hit water if he fell off a boat. All three are doing good things and not so good things. Let’s take one thing off the table right away, experience. Those making the argument that one should get the start over the other because of experience need to stop. None of them have experience! This is a new scheme, that none have played in before. And honestly, why do fans care so much about experience? Let me know how that worked out for Tua and Sunshine. I know these guys are not Tua or Lawrence, but there are plenty of young quarterbacks in college football that help their team win. 

 

3 Canes QB's vying for the starting role.

Who wins the battle at QB? (Left to Right) Jarren Williams, Tate Martell, N’Kosi Perry.

Jarren Williams is the most accurate according to many and throws with great touch. His knock was that he wasn’t very quick on his feet until Coach Manny Diaz said he was one of the guys that ran 20 mph in testing. Can he read and dissect plays quickly? 

N’Kosi Perry can spin it. He has great arm strength, can run and escape the pocket and does like to chuck it down the field. His aggressiveness has also gotten him in some trouble before. He tends to take too many risks and makes dumb throws. Has he learned the playbook? 

Tate Martell is a leader. His leadership and moxie, I think, are what make Martell stand out. He doesn’t throw the prettiest ball but can get it there. In my mind, he is the best runner of the three. His lack of accuracy at times could be a cause for concern. However, his rapport with former Bishop Gorman teammate Brevin Jordan and Buffalo transfer KJ Osborn are definitely a good thing. 

I have a feeling Coach Diaz already knows who his guy is at quarterback. If he doesn’t, he will know tonight. The question is, will he tell the rest of us? 

 

My picks: 

Tackle   

LT- Zion Nelson

RT- John Campbell

Cornerback

Al blades, Jr. or DJ Ivey (They will split reps)

2 Deep Safety

FS- Gurvan Hall, Bubba Bolden

SS- Amari Carter or Derrick Smith (Let’s see how tonight plays out)

Quarterback

1- Tate Martell or Jarren Williams or N’Kosi Perry 

A fan’s view of Canes Fest

Highlights and photos from today’s annual CanesFest held right on the campus of the University of Miami:

Fans starting rolling in at around 11:30 am to catch a glimpse of ‘The New Miami’. While most of the festival activities were outside in the parking lot right behind the Carol Soffer Indoor Practice Facility, it was inside that practice facility where all the action took place. If you ask me, it was unbearably hot…but that did not stop everyone from waiting over an hour and thirty minutes or more in line to get in for the player autograph session.

It was a great opportunity for fans to experience the new indoor facility and get up close to this year’s team. I was able to catch a few former Canes enjoying themselves as well. Some of the guys I saw were Tracy Howard, Tommy Streeter, Jacory Harris, and Bryant McKinney. McKinney and Harris also had their own signing tables. McKinney had a longer line than Harris. No surprise there. Even musical artist and big-time Canes fan Solo D made an appearance. We were even able to stick around a bit longer inside due to a torrential downpour right before they shut down the autograph session. Head Coach Manny Diaz was due to speak to the fans that came out to support outside in the parking lot. Thankfully we did not have to endure that terrible heat and were able to stay indoors to hear what Coach Diaz has to say.

To be quite honest, it was the best thing about the whole event. It’s almost as if it was the only thing the fans really came for. Biggest thought I came away with was the way in which Coach Diaz carries himself. He’s the CEO. He’s not the Defensive Coordinator or the Linebackers Coach. He’s the CEO. Whether that’s a good or bad thing is yet to be determined. Some of the best coaches thrive in that role. Others, not so much.

He mentioned changing the mentality from within the program first, and then the outside will follow. And I know it’s cliche to say this but, there does seem to be a different feel to this team, the coaches and everyone around the program.

The question is, will it translate to wins?

While it’s great that he wants to change the mindset on what it is to be a Miami Hurricane – what it means to play like the Miami Hurricanes – the play on the field will have to talk the loudest. That’s the only way things will change. As fans, we all know it’s always been, us against the world. I think I speak for all Canes fans when I say, we wouldn’t want it any other way.

A few fun tidbits: I asked kicker Bubba Baxa if he had a name for his leg yet and man, he ate that question up. He said, “yeah, it’s Boomstick”. From now on, he’s Boomstick to me. Well, as long as he proves it on the field. I think he’s poised for a big sophomore season. And of course, the fan-favorite, Deejay Dallas was seen sprinting up and down the row of fans leaning up against the fence, high-fiving them all and showing love. Hard not to like that kid.

Miami Hurricanes: Thomas, Osborn Lead Dynamic WRs

The Miami Hurricanes continue their first full week of Fall camp and competition across the roster is heating up.

That competition is exactly what Manny Diaz is looking for if pictures tell a thousand words.

 

In the sweltering South Florida sun the smile on Diaz says a lot.

The pads came on Tuesday and the competitive tone has been set.

Among those competitors are the wide receiver corps, a group with a mix of established performers and exciting prospects.

Thomas Brings All-Purpose Productivity

Jeff Thomas comes off a sophomore season where he began to put it together.

And then it all fell apart.

Thomas was dismissed from the team at the end of 2018, but Diaz brought him back for a reason.

His next-level speed separates him in the open field, whether on receptions or returns.

 

Consistency at quarterback hurt his productivity in terms of touchdowns late in the season.

After making house calls in two of his first three games, he only found the end zone once via reception the rest of the season.

Despite that, Thomas was still second on the team with a healthy 16.1 YPC average and led them with 563 receiving yards.

If someone can get him the ball in space and on time, he is poised for a breakout junior season.

Another Exciting Transfer

Tate Martell isn’t the only high profile transfer making his way to Coral Gables.

Redshirt senior KJ Osborn joins the Hurricanes after four seasons at Buffalo, where he was one of the top receivers in the MAC.

He and his fellow transfer Martell seem to be starting off well.

 

 

His experience will help a young receiving corps and his productivity hit career marks in receptions (53), yards (892) and touchdowns (7) last season.

Who Will Break From the Pack?

Beyond Thomas and Osborn is a group of exciting playmakers fighting for an opportunity. Junior Mike Harley was tied for third on the team with 21 receptions last year, while Dee Wiggins showed promise as a freshman in limited action on offense.

Sophomores Brian Hightower and Mark Pope will also be fighting for reps and touches during the season. The wide receiver group is one of the deepest on the team, it will be interesting to see who steps up among the second tier.

Make sure to follow us on Twitter @SportsWaveDave and @5ReasonsSports.

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