The last line of defense on the field, the Safety position is one that holds a great responsibility. Luckily for Miami, this is a position that is blessed with both depth and talent across the board.
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Plenty of talent
The Safety position is, in my mind, the most talented group of players on this year's roster for the Canes. From the first man to the last, all of the scholarship players at this position have the ability to start, and positively impact games for the Canes' defense.
The headliner of this group, Bush is a player with NFL size, skill, and athleticism. A U.S. Army All-American coming out of Christopher Columbus Catholic School, Bush also earned Freshman All-American honors for a strong campaign in 2012 (6 starts, 34 tackles, 3 forced fumbles, 3 PBUs). Bush has since struggled with injuries, most notably a sports hernia in 2013 that kept him from displaying his full array of skills. Once again healthy and looking to catch the attention of NFL teams, Bush should be the best player at this position for Miami.
But, don't expect him to only be seen 15 yards off of the ball. Due to the lack of quality depth at Cornerback, the staff will be playing Bush at Nickel DB in certain sets. This is basically the inverse of what was done with Ladarius Gunter in 2014 (a Cornerback who flexed to Safety at times). If it keeps Bush on the field for more snaps, it works for me.
Another talented player who has struggled with injuries, Jenkins returns to the Canes in 2015 after having missed the entire 2014 season with a back injury. In 2013, Jenkins was a starter at Safety, and he has shown good ability on the field. He, like Bush, has nearly prototypical size for the position, and as a 4th year player should have a very good grasp on the defensive scheme.
Last year's team clearly missed Jenkins' playmaking ability (3 INT in 2013), and adding him back should be a major bonus to the defense. Hopefully he's fully healthy and able to recapture his past level of performance, and exceed it this season.
A 2-time All-State player at Safety in HS, Dallas Crawford is back for his senior year, and is a steady, intelligent player in the secondary. He's not as big as some of the other players at this position, nor is he as fast. But, he's a very very good player who does his job, and does it well.
Crawford, who stood in for an injured Duke Johnson at RB in 2013, plays with a controlled aggression that the defense needs. He also excels on special teams, both covering kicks, and holding for FGs and XPs. He has a prominent role in 2 of the 3 phases of the Hurricanes' game, and has been featured in all 3 phases in his time at Miami. He's the kind of "program player" that every team needs.
The most physically gifted player at Safety, Jamal Carter is still looking to turn to his impressive physique into premium performance. Many Canes fans, myself included, have waited for 2 years for Carter's light to go on and for him to assert himself as the dominant factor in the secondary.
The main thing that has reportedly held Carter back are the many mental mistakes he makes. With Miami trying to employ an advanced NFL-style defensive scheme, the mental strain on the players can sometimes be the thing that keeps from realizing their potential. As a 3rd year player who has mainly seen the field due to his incredible athleticism, it's time for Carter to follow Bush's and Jenkins' lead and begin to show that he's grasped the scheme, and has the ability to be an elite level player.
I've doted on Johnson at length, and I'm going to do it again. This kid, a 4-time 1st Team All-Dade county performer in HS, is absolutely, completely, and totally the real deal. He played his HS ball with fellow 2015 signee Sheldrick Redwine, and will 100% be a factor at the Safety position for Miami this season.
Johnson, whose nickname is The Franchise, is just that. He's an elite Safety with decent size, average athleticism and INCREDIBLE technique and AMAZING instincts. I would fully expect to see Johnson on Special Teams early in the year, as well as some snaps in base defense as well. As the season wears on, it would not surprise me one bit if this ultra talented freshman steals PT from the other, older players at the Safety position.
The Safety position has a great amount of talent, with 5 players who all have the ability to be the best player at this position. With NFL talent Deon Bush leading the way, and superstar recruit Jaquan Johnson pushing for playing time, the Canes figure to have a solid season from the guys who will patrol the middle of the defensive secondary.