You would be hard pressed to find any player on the UM roster in the past 2-3 seasons that improved all facets of his game more than Clive Walford.
Whether run after catch, consistency with catching the football, and especially as a blocker, Walford really elevated across the board.
The 6'4 258 pound Belle Glade product has the NFL scouts drooling, after a season where he led the team in catches with 44, adding 676 yards and 7 scores.
And many Miami fans would argue he was under utilized, despite that production.
So which players will QB Brad Kaaya now look to when he scans the middle of the field?
Let's take a look at their options.
#1 Standish Dobard Jr. - Dobard got a lot of PT this past season, mostly as an extra blocker, and he showed he was solid at the point of attack. He also flashed some ability in the passing game (7 receptions, 147 yards), especially late in the season after Walford was injured. He has similar physical attributes at 6'4 255 and pretty good speed. Only time will tell if he develops into the same type route runner with the same hands. His development is going to be paramount to the passing game, so this is a storyline that bears watching. For now he seems like the logical choice to inherit Walford's work load.
#2 Christopher Herndon IV So. - Herndon only saw action in 3 games and did not record a catch this past season. Playing him that little seems like another odd decision by the staff in terms of a player they could/should have redshirted. Hopefully the cup of coffee he received in game time helped him get ready for 2015. At 6'4 245 he is another physical specimen. We have no idea at this point how polished he is or if he can block. But on talent/experience (albeit limited) alone, he figures to get a crack a lot of reps next season.
#3 David Njoku RS Fr. - During the spring, the staff experimented with moving him to LB, a move we assume was more a statement on the lack of depth in that area than what type of H-Back/TE he is. Njoku was a WR in H.S. and is probably working right now as you read this to bulk up his 6'4 220 or so frame. As a former track star in HS he is an intriguing prospect because of the athleticism he could bring to the position. The question is, can he block or play inline at all? Or is he just a poor man's Tyre Brady who ends up moved to TE out of necessity?
Other possibilities - Jake O'Donnell Jr. (almost exclusively a blocker), Someone from the Hoops team (Joe Thomas) - you never know.
2015 Verbal Recruits:
Jerome Washington - The #1 rated JUCO tight ends in the country, actually will come to Miami with 4 years of eligibility (don't ask me how). He's a raw but gifted prospect, who may be pressed into playing time earlier than expected depending on how the others on the list above perform. At 6'5 255, he looks like a behemoth of a man on film, but we have no idea whatsoever what type of competition he has faced. If you believe in such things, it is a good sign perhaps that Alabama and Nebraska were also after his services.
Other possibilities - Perhaps a last minute flip on NSD that comes from left field? I read all of Cam's recruiting updates and I am not seeing much in the way of TEs considering the U.
Summary - Replacing Walford has to be one of the biggest areas of concern for the 'Canes headed into 15'. Dobard is intriguing, as is Herndon. And Washington looks like a potential star down the line. But none of these players figure to give UM what they got from Clive in 2014. Miami just has to hope that the drop off they figure to see at the TE spot does not impact the growth of Kaaya, or one of these players makes a huge leap.
Stay tuned for more updates between now and NSD and beyond as we preview the 2015 Miami Hurricanes.