State of the U continues to preview players for the upcoming 2017 college football season. Summer camp inches closer, and that itch for football grows with each day. Today we preview a player who promotes himself on social media as @56_nightmares. While Michael Pinckney’s been a nightmare for opponents since his days at Raines High School, his freshman season at Miami can only be described as a dream come true.
Pinckney, a Miami native before his family moved to Jacksonville, was a Hurricane supporter for much of his youth. In fact, he was a solid commit to Miami since the nineth or tenth grade. He grew up in the same town as Shaq Quarterman, and the two standouts envisioned a day when they would wear the green, orange, and white of the Hurricanes and earn their way to being starters on the defense. Those unfamiliar with the program probably think it absurd for two freshmen to start at linebacker, let alone three. Yet Pinckney, along with Quarterman and Zach McCloud, seized the opportunity and lived up to the high standards pressed upon those who suit up for Miami. It’s fair to say they exceeded their modest expectations.
For his part, Pinckney finished fifth on the team with 61 total tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, 1 forced fumble, and 2 pass break-ups. He was recognized as a freshman All-American by ESPN. Having spent time in a 3–3–5 defense in high school, Pinckney felt as though he had more space transitioning to Miami’s 4–3 defense. Among his other accomplishments, Pinckney was placed in the top one percent of freshmen in the country at various points in the 2016 season by Pro Football Focus.
What makes Pinckney one of the best linebackers in the country? One aspect of his game that pops out to viewers is his tackling. He wraps up well, especially when he’s near the line of scrimmage, and usually takes the ball carrier's legs away from them. He’s also relentless in his pursuit. When he gets blocked, he has the moves to disengage quickly and the ability to keep track of where the play is going.
The media like to question Pinckney regarding the source of his self-confidence The response has become standard: his confidence comes from knowing what he is supposed to do, along with having teammates who not only know their responsibilities but trust him to fulfill his duties.
After just one season it’s ambitious to make comparisons between Pinckney and some of the ’Canes legends he grew up idolizing. That said, Pinckney excelled in his first collegiate season. With a year of experience under his belt, there is real potential for Pinckney to exceed his 2016 benchmarks. Duplicating and surpassing those marks in his sophomore season will organically open the conversation to comparisons of legends such as Ray Lewis, Michael Barrow, and Jon Beason.
’Canes fans can expect Pinckney and the rest of the linebacker corps to pick up where they left off. Complacency is an attribute that no one in the linebacker room is familiar with. Consistency is the magic word: can the defense be more consistent on a series-by-series and game-by-game basis? Each Hurricane, from defensive coordinator and linebacker coach Manny Diaz to the players, has the expectation that they’ll elevate their game before their college career is complete. Some feel that Pinckney’s game will mature in 2017. Let's say that the linebacker will be more organized when he brings chaos to opponents this fall.