Throughout the 2016 recruiting cycle, multiple players were in the spotlight. Star prospects Ahmonn Richards and Zach McCloud both let go of their commitments before signing back with the program, and four star linebacker Shaquille Quarterman made an impact in the U.S. Army All-American bowl.
And while all these prospects were creating noise nationwide, linebacker Michael Pinckney practiced a more silent approach. He was not an ESPN 300 athlete, and did not waiver his commitment since his announcement in June of 2014. But despite his recruiting ranking and relative silence, Pinckney found himself as the starting linebacker in the spring after Darrion Owens' injury.
"Every day I've been out here I've been comfortable," Pinckney said after a scrimmage this spring. "I mean the scheme is not that hard. I know my job, I know my assignment, and I just try to execute it to the best of my abilities."
From day 1 Pinckney has been an underrated prospect. Out of Raines High School in Jacksonville, Florida, Pinckney was an aggressive player at 6'0, 213 pounds. During his senior season Pinckney became the athlete Miami had hoped for, and led his team to a state championship appearance against Booker T. Washington High School.
"My parents moved to Jacksonville when I was younger, but it's always been my school. I love the University of Miami," Pinckney said in an interview on National Signing Day. "I've been committed since like 9th, 10th grade, so I already knew in my mind where I was going at since middle school."
In December, Head Coach Mark Richt took over at the University of Miami, and made sure Pinckney was not forgotten. After his fall semester in High School, Pinckney became an early enrollee at the University of Miami, and joined what fans are calling "The New Bermuda Triangle" of freshman linebackers. Along with Shaquille Quarterman and Zach McCloud, Pinckney brought depth to a position that had been stripped down by departures and poor past recruiting classes.
Despite the football team's recent downside; however, Pinckney still believes in the principles of the program. Coming into the university, Pinckney said he views a Miami Hurricane as someone who is "hard working" and "dedicated," showing the type of mentality coaches admire. With a golden opportunity at the starting job this spring, Pinckney showed coaches those exact principles. After being thrusted into the starting job after Owens' injury, Pinckney made a couple of tackles, one of which a tackle for loss, in the spring game this past month.
"I see greatness, every time I think about it. Since 9th grade I've been visualizing myself in one of those uniforms and now I got an opportunity to play in one," Pinckney said regarding his vision of the upcoming season. "I'm sideline to sideline, I have a lot of speed for a linebacker. I know how to fill gaps, holes, and overall I got a lot of work to do but overall I'm a great player, I feel like. "
And as time passes, Pinckney is looking to make it known that he is a great player. The coaches see his potential in practice and he sees his potential on the field. Pinckney will battle against Owens for the starting job in the fall; and although Owens has more experience with the team, Pinckney has proven one thing: when nobody expects him to make an impact and the odds are against him, he proves the doubters wrong.