While the 2016 Miami Hurricanes come in loaded at certain positions such as tight end and quarterback, others may provide cause for concern for most fans. Out of all the unproven positions on the field; however, cornerback may be the most troubling. Earlier this spring, I broke down the cornerback position player-by-player, so in this breakdown, I will analyze how the unit looks overall going into the Fall.
What Miami has lost from last season
The cornerback position is undergoing a dramatic change from years past, as Mike Rumph comes in to coach the unit, and the cornerbacks go from one of Miami’s strong suits to a position of need. For the past three to four years Miami's secondary has been represented by four and five star talents such as Artie Burns and Tracy Howard. But now in 2016, instead of having an embarrassment of riches, the ‘Canes are simply looking for experienced starters. Tracy Howard graduated last season, and once Artie Burns moved into the NFL draft, Miami
How did Miami enter this situation?
After multiple years where cornerbacks were the least of Miami’s concerns, many may wonder why the ‘Canes now find themselves in this predicament. Once Al Golden took over as Miami’s head coach in 2010, he made it a point to recruit a good secondary. Whether it was sleepers such as Ladarius Gunter, or top prospects such as Tracy Howard and Artie Burns, Golden brought in reliable assets to the program. Once on-field production declined; however, recruits started to ask questions. Top prospects such as Tracy Howard never seemed to reach their potential under defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio, and high school athletes considering Miami began to jump ship. Golden began to bring in less players in the secondary every year, and according to 247sports.com, the ‘Canes did not bring in any four star cornerbacks in 2014 or 2015. Golden was coach during the 2015 regular season, but once Mark Richt took over, the hole at cornerback remained for him and his staff to fill.
What returns for the Hurricanes in 2016
Despite the uncertainty in 2016, Miami does bring back a top flight cornerback this season; Corn Elder. In his junior year last season, Elder stepped into his own opposite Artie Burns. From the first game of the year, Elder made an impact with his playmaking ability, and the 5’10" defensive back made clutch plays when it mattered most against schools like Nebraska and Duke. After Elder, Miami’s unit gets thin, but still wields talent. Although many incoming players may get a shot at the second cornerback position, the expectation is that rising sophomore Sheldrick Redwine will step up in 2016. Coming out of Killian High School, Redwine joined the 'Canes in 2015, and saw most of his playing time last season through special teams. At 6’1" 195 pounds, Redwine has a lanky frame that should allow him to use length to his advantage. Redwine must not only play better for Miami’s immediate success, but he must also show consistency for the ‘Canes future at that position. Other than Elder and Redwine, the door is wide open for the rest of Miami’s returnees. Redshirt sophomore Ryan Mayes has the most experience out of the remaining players, but athletes such as Michael Jackson and Terrance Henley are expected by many to get more playing time.
Incoming cornerbacks in 2016
Once Mark Richt and his staff entered the fold in the offseason, they immediately began addressing the need for cornerbacks. Although they lost top prospect Tyler Byrd late in the process, Richt brought in as much help as possible through recruiting and graduate transfers. Richt reeled in Coconut Creek cornerback Malek Young in January, and brought in immediate help through graduate transfer Adrian Colbert for the Spring. Colbert has been known in the past as a safety, but is expected to be seen at cornerback throughout the season. Due to the fact that many of Miami’s young cornerbacks need time to develop, during the offseason, Richt and his staff have continued looking for help. In late June, a report was released by touchdownalabama.net stating Miami "has just about closed the deal" to land Alabama graduate transfer Maurice Smith. Smith was a four star prospect out of High School in 2015, and if he does indeed enter the program, the ‘Canes will attain a talent who can perform on day 1.
Overall Unit outlook
In their first year under Mark Richt, Miami’s cornerbacks have boom or bust potential. The Hurricanes' young players could either steady the unit and keep it from hindering Miami’s success, or they could falter under the pressure and let opposing receivers get the best of them.
Regardless of what happens, there is no doubt that entering fall practice, all eyes will be on how Miami’s cornerbacks will develop.