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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.

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

Check out the 5 Rings Canes podcast for exclusive Canes content all season.

 

Related:

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 

Latest UM Hurricanes Recruiting Outlook

We are still a little more than half a year away from the first opportunity for many high school senior football players to put pen to paper and decide which school they look to advance their athletic and academic careers. Hurricanes coach Manny Diaz and the rest of the University of Miami staff find themselves in a very fortunate position as of now as they currently carry a lot of momentum on the recruiting trail and more success could be on the way should they accumulate the victories on the field. UM currently holds the 5th-best recruiting class in the nation for the class of 2020 and currently sit at 16 commits.

Here’s a look at the current state of Miami’s recruiting efforts:

 

Quarterback

At quarterback, Miami is set with Tyler Van Dyke, who hails from Suffield Academy in Glastonbury, Connecticut. Newly-hired quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator Dan Enos is considered a quarterback guru due to his work with Tua Taigovailoa and Jalen Hurts at Alabama last season and was very impressed by Van Dyke’s arm. According to 247 Sports, he’s rated as the 9th-best pro-style quarterback in the country.

 

Running Back

Even with an already loaded running back room, Miami is still insistent on recruiting elite players at the position. Currently on the roster, Cam Davis and Deejay Dallas are interchangeably 1-2 on the depth chart with 2018 five-star recruit Lorenzo Lombard still recovering from injury. Miami also has former Auburn RB Asa Martin, who will sit out the 2019 season and has three years of eligibility remaining. As for recruiting, it only took three weeks on the job for running back coach Eric Hickson to secure the commitment of Don Chaney, the local five-star back from Belen Jesuit in Miami. Hickson is also competing for the services of Deerfield Beach’s Jaylan Knighton (considering UM, FSU, and Clemson) and Colombus’ Henry Parrish Jr. (considering UM, FSU, Utah, FAU, and Pitt.)

 

Wide Receiver

Without a doubt, wide receiver may be Miami’s best position depth-wise.  The future looks bright with the return of Jeff Thomas as well as guys like Dee Wiggins and Mark Pope, the two high-rated recruits they brought in during the 2018 cycle. Miami is still recruiting hard at the position and it has been reported that they’ve evaluated around 30 receivers nationwide. They currently have three commitments in four-star recruits Bryan Robinson (Palm Beach Central High/West Palm Beach), Marcus Fleming (Miami Northwestern), and most recently Xavier Restrepo (Deerfield Beach) but it is highly possible they add a couple more before it’s all said and done. Former Miami commitment and four-star receiver Leonard Manuel just listed Miami in his top 7 and the Canes also made the top 5 of high four-star athlete Mookie Cooper.

 

Tight End

Miami brought in Brevin Jordan and Will Mallory in 2018 and are set to have even bigger sophomore seasons, but that has not stopped the staff from pursuing elite targets at the position. Dominic Mammarelli, who hails from Naples, has been committed to the Canes for more than a year and seems solid in his commitment. The staff is looking to add one more tight end to the fold, and the big fish they hope to reel in is five-star Darnell Washington. Miami is competing with all of the big boys for Washington’s services but on top of Miami’s rich tradition with the position, one thing Miami has working in their favor is that Washington hails from the same city (Las Vegas) as Jordan and two other players on the team.

Offensive Line

The work and persistence of new OL coach Butch Barry paid off in the recruitment and commitment of Jalen Rivers, an offensive tackle from Oakleaf High in Jacksonville. Rivers is an athletic specimen at 6’6”, 330 lbs. and he also plays basketball and track. After one of Miami’s junior camps earlier this year, the Canes extended an offer and received a commitment from Vanguard (Ocala, FL) center Antonio Smith. There’s still many questions for the offensive line, including who the starters are when August 24th comes about but also the depth. It’s looking like Miami will probably take about 2-3 more linemen and their biggest target right now is Issiah Walker from Miami Norland. Walker is currently committed to South Carolina but he has been a frequent visitor to Coral Gables. His most recent visit was on Monday and it looks as if Miami’s biggest competition outside of the Gamecocks will be Florida and Florida State.

 

Defensive Line

Manny Diaz’s defensive lines have always rotated often as this keeps fresh legs in crucial games. Even with the departure of Jess Simpson to the NFL, newly-hired DL coach Todd Stroud has been able to keep all three of Simpson’s commitments: Trevon Riggins (St. Petersburg, FL, Lakewood High), Samuel Anaele (Miami, FL, Carol City High), and Willie Moise (Hollywood, FL, Chaminade-Madonna). Coincidentally, they are also Miami’s longest tenured commitments and all three seem very solid in their commitments.

 

Linebacker 

Linebacker may be Miami’s most important position for the 2020 recruiting cycle. Miami is looking to replace three seniors at the position and currently has one commit in three-star recruit AJ Mathis from Largo, FL. The Canes lost out to FSU for four-star Jayion McCluster, who happens to reside in the same city as Mathis, but Miami has not stopped its pursuits. Most recently, NJ-based Tirek Austin-Cave was on campus on an official visit and reports are that he was blown away, but he currently has a slate of four other official visits planned for the next few weeks. Miami is looking to take two more linebackers after bringing in two in 2019. This weekend, there will be two official visitors at the position in Texas-based Corey Flagg and Romello Height from Dublin, GA.

Defensive Back

Last but not least, most of the damage has been done reloading on cornerbacks and safeties. Depth and experience are factors affecting both positions, more so with cornerback. Miami only has four cornerbacks on the roster so it is imperative they add at least 2-3 this cycle. The Canes currently have South Dade four-star Jaiden Francois in the fold, who was arguably the best cornerback in Miami-Dade County in 2018. Cornerbacks coach Mike Rumph in also landing the commitment of Justin Hodges from Western High in Davie. And thanks to the work of defensive coordinator Blake Baker utilizing his Louisiana ties, Miami also received a verbal commitment from Daran Branch from Amite, LA and there is a small possibility that Branch could get moved to safety. One big target at corner is Keyshawn Lawrence, who hails from Nashville, TN and has a big UM connection with former Cane CB Corn Elder as his cousin. Lawrence is slated to take his official visit to Miami the weekend of Paradise Camp on June 22nd.

It’s important to note that Miami did lose two very dependable safeties in Jaquan Johnson and Sheldrick Redwine. At safety, the Canes have two commits. Francois’ teammate Keshawn Washington recommitted to the Canes not too long ago after decommitting in December. It is very likely, if not certain, that the 6’3” 190lb. Washington will get moved to the striker position, which is essentially a hybrid linebacker/safety.

An important thing to note is that in recruiting, attrition is inevitable. Miami is still after a lot of highly-rated recruits and one thing to look out down the road is a lot of lower-rated commits possibly getting “dropped” in favor of the former should the higher level recruits wait until later in the process to announce their decisions. Miami is holding their annual invite-only Paradise Camp next Saturday and there will be a plethora of recruits, both committed and uncommitted, on campus and we will provide updates as to who are the important visitors.

Paul Austria (@PaulAustria_) also contributes to Canes Insight. 

Jalen Rivers signing could be Hurricanes turning point

Those that follow college football closely know that Florida is one of the top states year in and year out for elite recruits.

Programs such as Clemson and Alabama have disregarded our home field advantage in their pursuit of their top prospects.

Recent National Championship rosters are littered with athletes from the 305 and 954 area codes.

In better times locally those rosters resided in the Orange Bowl on Saturdays.

Back when Howard Schnellenberger established the unofficial “State of Miami”, which extended through most of Florida, the path was inevitable.

Is wasn’t so much the players choosing Miami, it was the Hurricanes choosing them.

Now with another key signing Miami continues their efforts to reverse the trend of interstate defection.

The Miami Hurricanes scored a major coup this week by landing five-star offensive tackle Jalen Rivers from Orange Park, just outside of Jacksonville.

Right in Dan Mullen’s backyard.

Down the road from Willie Taggart’s place.

Rivers had offers from the usual suspects in Tuscaloosa and Clemson among many others but decided to take his talents to Coral Gables instead.

On the surface one signing does not imply greatness or contention is to follow, but looking deeper at the offers Rivers had to debate it gains significance.

Besides the aforementioned teams, Rivers had offers from Florida, Florida State, and USF among many other Power 5 programs.

To land a player of this caliber against this competition shows there is some swagger in our recruiting efforts.

Rivers wants to be here.

For that to translate to consistent roster depth full of four and five star players is one step.

Getting them to buy in is next.

Manny Diaz and his staff have begun the process of establishing a solid foundation to build upon.

Even prior to the Rivers signing.

Now they must avoid it becoming an outlier.

 

David Eversole runs the site MiamiSportsWave.com and will be contributing stories on the University of Miami here, as we expand our Hurricanes coverage.  Illustration by Beau Bradbury.