By Jazz Santana
Fall Camp is finally here! This is arguably the most anticipated Canes football season we have had in quite some time. There is so much excitement surrounding the 2021 Miami Hurricanes football program. However, there are still many questions that need to be answered. Is D’Eriq King ready? Who can replace Phillips, Roche, Rousseau? Do we have enough at Linebacker? Can Gurvan Hall cement his spot at Safety? Who starts opposite of Tyrique Stevenson and is the OL finally ready to dominate? That and so much more still remains to be answered.
Now is the time for those questions to be answered. Can the Miami Hurricanes live up to expectations? Will there be an epic “UNC” meltdown again?
Head Coach Manny Diaz seems to have all his guys now ready to go! This is potentially the best staff Miami has had in almost 20 years. The Canes will field the best offense they have had in many years and now with Coach Diaz calling the shots once again on Defense, that side of the ball should take a step up as well. This is what is so exciting about this years team…the potential to be great!
Let’s answer so if those questions and break down this years Miami Hurricanes:
This is D’Eriq King’s team! Make no mistake about it. The question is, will he be ready? King injured his knee in the lost in last years Bowl game against Oklahoma State. Since then he quickly had surgery and began his rehab. His rehabilitation has gone so well, that Manny Diaz himself has said that King will be a full go and ready for the September 4th opener against defending national Champion Alabama. If he stays healthy this can be an absolutely lethal offense.
So who’s his backup? Is it Tyler Van Dyke or highly touted freshman Jake Garcia? The good news is, both has shown to have the skills to be QB2. Right now it’s too close to call and that’s exciting! We haven’t had this level of talent in our backup quarterback since, well, put it this way…Mark Richt was playing! If I had to give one the edge right now, in my opinion, it’s TVD. He has shown high IQ, has one year under Rhett Lashlee’s offense and has shown the arm strength and accuracy to compete at this level. However, Jake Garcia is the heir apparent for the Canes and is the more talented skill wise. There is very little separation of any between the two, if any. Chances are we will see them both on the field this year.
QB1: D’Eriq King
Too many injuries for any one running back to really take over as the lead back. Cam Harris comes in as the starter, but not necessarily the best back on this team. For me, that guy is Don Chaney, Jr. Chaney’s first year was slowed down by injuries that kept him off the field a bunch, but when he was on it, he was the clear cut lead back. Jaylan Knighton, better known as “Rooster” also showed explosiveness and great hands out of the back field. With the addition of Thad Franklin and Cody Brown, this looks to be one of the deepest and best running back cores in the ACC.
RB1: Don Chaney, Jr.
RB2: Cam Harris/Rooster
Sleeper: Cody Brown
At the top, this one is easy…
Mike Harley, coming off his best year, is poised to have an All-ACC type season. The transfer portal was good to us again, with the addition of former Oklahoma Sooner, Charleston Rambo. He has cemented himself as WR2 and could challenge Harley for WR1. WR3 was up in the air for quite some time, but the emergence of Keyshawn Smith has been absolutely exciting! His ability to take the top off defenses and create separation has been impressive. He can play inside or outside. Equally as impressive, has been the play of the X Man, Xavier Restrepo. He is a smaller guy, prototypical slot receiver that can get lost in the defense and create big plays. His is quick, strong and has very good hands. Those are my top 4 guys. There are a bunch of guys that can emerge as that 4th or 5th WR and push for playing time. But lookout for the incoming freshmen class of Brashard Smith, Romello Brinson and Jacolby George. This is an exciting and talented group.
WR1: Mike Harley
WR2: Charleston Rambo
WR3: Keyshawn Smith
WR4: Xavier Restrepo
Sleeper: Romello Brinson
Will Mallory may be the biggest weapon and game changer for this Hurricanes offense. Last year he was able to show what he could do in this offense when Brevin Jordan went down with an injury. Mallory is an All-ACC/All-NCAA caliber TE. The biggest battle is for TE2. Larry Hodges comes back as the guy with the most experience and Dominic Mammarelli can also come in and get some playing time. But for me, Elijah Arroyo is the next man up. The scary and exciting thing is, he may be the most talented TE of all. I can even see him pushing Mallory for significant playing time. This one will be fun to watch.
TE1: Will Mallory
TE2: Elijah Arroyo
I’ll keep this one short. Depth is the name of the game here and the Canes finally have it! This biggest battle I believe is on the right side. This is where quality depth comes in to play. It will be interesting to see who gets the nod to start at both Right Guard and Right Tackle. Here’s how I see it:
LT: Zion Nelson
LG: Navaughn Donaldson
C: Corey Gaynor
RG: Jalen Rivers
RT: Jarrid Williams
Depth: DJ Scaife, Jakai Clark, John Campbell, Jr., Issaih Walker
Sleeper: Zalontae Hillery
The biggest question remains: who replaces the production from Jaelan Phillips, Quincy Roche, and Greg Rousseau? It will have to be a true team effort. The addition of transfer portal newcomer Deandre Johnson(via Tennessee) looks to have solidified his spot on one side. Jahfari Harvey is the player all Canes fans thought would be the next big time DE. The jury is still out. But if there is a time for him to breakout, it’s now! Zach McCloud in my opinion is a very nice addition to the Edge position. I truly believe this may be his best opportunity to be productive and make a big impact. His ability to rush the QB I think will earn him significant playing time. After that, Coach Jess Simpson will have to do what he does best and develop these kids. It’s not to say the talent is not there, but u believe with Simpson coming back, players like Cam Williams, Jabari Ishmael, Elijah Roberts, Chantz Williams and others.
The interior line is undoubtedly our strength. As the interior goes, the whole defensive line goes. It starts with Nesta Jade Silvera. He will anchor that interior along with guys like Jared Harrison-Hunte, Jon Ford and 5 Star Freshman Leonard Taylor. This will be an exciting group to watch!
DE: Deandre Johnson & Jahfari Harvey
DL: Nesta Jade Silvera & Jon Ford/Harrison-Hunte
Sleeper: Jordan Miller
The biggest question mark on this defense remains, what are we doing at Linebacker? Simple answer is, everything and anything!
Corey Flagg has been the biggest and brightest spot at linebacker and will continue to anchor this group. Last year was rough, to say the least. Good news is, everyone is back! There will be a ton of competition and the addition of Keontra Smith moving over to WLB I believe will start to solidify this position even more. This is an ever-changing and developing story and the most important one to watch throughout fall camp. Look for guys like Sam Brooks, Jr., Avery Huff, Bradley Jennings, Jr., Waynmon Steed and others to make some noise. Here’s how I see it:
MLB: Corey Flagg/Sam Brooks/Bradley Jennings, Jr.
WLB: Keontra Smith/Avery Huff/Waynmon Steed
Sleeper: Tirek Austin-Cave & Tyler Johnson
The secondary could arguably be the most talented group on the Canes defense. But that doesn’t come without it’s questions…
The Safety position may be the best in the ACC, as it returns on e of the top players in the nation, Bubba Bolden. Bolden has shown he can be potentially a 1st Round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. However, the talent does not fall off much from there. We have seen glimpse of what Gurvan Hall has been able to do along side Bolden at the safety, although he has had his bouts with inconsistency along the way. Can he win the starting role against the likes of very talented players like Keyshawn Washington, Brian Balom and Amari Carter, who will most likely play both the Safety and Striker position?
In my opinion his biggest competition will not be from those guys, but from the two young bucks. 5 Star incoming superstar Freshman James Williams and stud Kamren Kinchens are the future at Safety for the Canes…and the future might be now! Look for those two to be a force and make some noise early on.
The transfer portal strikes again! This time bringing in big time help from Georgia. South Florida native Tyrique Stevenson transfers back home and immediately takes a hold of one starting cornerback spot. The other is still up fro grabs. Will it be DJ Ivey? Can he bounce back and play like the corner we all thought he would be? Is Al Blades, Jr. healthy enough to contribute? Should we give Te’Cory Couch a shot outside? For me, if Blades is healthy, he may be the most talented of the group. But if not, the emergence of Isaiah Dunson could be one to keep a close eye on. This will be a great battle all throughout camp.
I have to admit, early on I was not sold on Gil Frierson at Striker, but he has proven me wrong time and time again, to the point where I believe he may be the best player on this defense. He has developed into one of the nations best Outside LB/Strikers and I am very excited to see him play this year. He will be pushed for playing time by the aforementioned Amari Carter and legacy Chase Smith. Smith has already made some noise this year during Spring football. Ultimately Smith’s future is at Linebacker in my opinion but he will make his mark early on at Striker.
CB: Tyrique Stevenson & Isaiah Dunson(if Blades can’t start)
Safety: Bubba Bolden & Gurvan Hall
Striker: Gil Frierson
CB Sleeper: Malik Curtis
Safety Sleeper: Kamren Kinchens
Striker Sleeper: Chase Smith
Doesn’t get easier than this. The best punter in the land, Lou Hedley comes back for more. The Aussie has a chance to be one of the best to wear Orange and Green.
Lose one Borregales, no problem, get another. Andres Borregales replaces his brother, who is off kicking field goals for Tom Brady in Tampa Bay!
The returner competition is another to follow. Lots of players in the mix.
P: Lou Hedley
K: Andrés Borregales
KR: Xavier Restrepo & Malik Curtis
PR: Xavier Restrepo
Returner Sleeper: Brashard Smith
Stay tuned for updates throughout Fall Camp.