Prior to the season expectations were high for Miami, but after poor recruiting classes under Al Golden, Mark Richt and his staff were forced to deal with large depth issues at multiple positions.
One position that embodied Miami’s depth concern was cornerback, where the ‘Canes brought back little experience aside from senior Corn Elder. During spring football, I wrote an article previewing the position, 2016 Miami Football Position Preview: The Cornerbacks.
Nine months later; however, Miami’s outlook on their cornerbacks has changed, with key players stepping up in large spots.
2016 Individual Cornerback Reviews
A fan favorite and recent senior bowl invitee, Corn Elder has made an impact from his first interception in game one against FAMU, to his cornerback-leading 6 tackle performance in his last game of the year.
Elder was an all-conference first team selection by the ACC coaches, and put together a jaw-dropping 14 tackle game against coastal division rival North Carolina.
Corn Elder... Nuff said #Bull pic.twitter.com/2Vnx7CdTlU— David Perez (@dperez_23) October 15, 2016
Elder was a veteran in every sense of the word this season, and will be someone Miami fans cheer for at the next level. Elder was up for every challenge this season, and put an exclamation point on a career this past week after a lockdown performance in the Russell Athletic Bowl.
Although Colbert was injured for six games in 2016, the graduate transfer was a pleasant surprise playing alongside Corn Elder. Colbert was a safety at Texas, but after transferring to Miami he became a pivotal cornerback under Manny Diaz’s scheme.
Colbert’s marquee performance of the season came on the road against Notre Dame, where the senior reeled in 6 tackles, a beautiful pass-deflection in the end zone, and a spectacular play behind the line of scrimmage on a screen pass.
Colbert brought in his lone interception in the first game of Miami’s season, and provided a veteran presence at a position where the ‘Canes desperately needed experience.
Miami will need another transfer like Colbert to immediately contribute in 2017, and the ‘Canes will look to bring in a JUCO transfer like Jhavonte Dean to fill that role.
In my spring football cornerback preview I wrote that Redwine’s development will be pivotal towards the unit’s success. Although the unit as a whole performed much better than expected in 2016; however, Redwine had a roller coaster of a season.
After filling in nicely for the injured Adrian Colbert versus FAU and Appalachian State with 2 pass deflections, Redwine was plagued by inconsistency. The sophomore put forth a 6 and 7 tackle performance against ACC rivals Virginia and Florida State, but could not maintain that success in other games.
At 6’1” 195 lbs, Redwine’s frame is what draws fans to his potential, but it became clear this season that he must continue to develop with cornerback coach Mike Rumph for his last two years. Redwine should continue to have an important role moving forward, and another offseason of development will be vital towards his future success.
A freshman and U.S. Army All-American in high school, Malek Young grew as much as anyone on the defense as the season went along.
Thrusted into the spotlight after Colbert’s injury against Notre Dame, Young took a stranglehold of the cornerback spot, and combined for 19 tackles in the last four games of the season to go along with his first career interception versus NC State.
Young’s emergence was not only a large part of Miami’s four game winning streak this season, but also allows ‘Canes fans to breath a sigh of relief as they look towards the future at the cornerback position. Young will be a vital part of the unit moving forward, and should play alongside whichever cornerback Miami starts on the edge, whether it is Redwine or an incoming recruit.
Young flipped to Miami once Mark Richt took over, and his improvement brings about yet another freshman who stepped up to the challenge in 2016.
Michael Jackson, Ryan Mayes, Terrance Henley, Tyler Murphy
Out of this group, Michael Jackson and Ryan Mayes saw the most time on the field despite limited snaps behind Miami’s top four. The group as a whole was solid for the ’Canes this season, with the goal of providing depth.
Most of the group’s contributions came in regards to providing depth and helping on special teams, although Michael Jackson had a couple of highlight plays in 2016. No one from the group emerged as one might have hoped, but they did what was asked of them throughout the year.
Overall Group Report Card Grade
B+: The group was not perfect this season, but the year was much closer to a best-case scenario than a worst-case scenario. Corn Elder cemented himself as an elite ACC cornerback, and the emergence of Adrian Colbert and Malek Young were vital towards locking down the other end. The unit bent, but did not break throughout the year, and fit Manny Diaz’s scheme to a tee throughout the season.