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Miami Hurricanes Football 2017 Position Preview: Tight End

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Chris Herndon is ready to step out of the shadow of David Njoku and shine, but a lack of depth is cause for concern at tight end.

Florida State v Miami
Chris Herndon says “Get off me” to a Seminole.
Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Projected Tight End Depth Chart

TE
TE
Chris Herndon
Michael Irvin II
Malik Curry
Brian Polendey

Key Departures

David Njoku (NFL Draft), Jovani Haskins (Transfer - WVU)

The Man

After seeing a first round tight end in David Njoku leave the program early, one might think the Miami Hurricanes will be in for a drop off at tight end in 2017. However, the position is in more than capable hands with Chris Herndon, who had 28 receptions for 334 yards with 2 TDs as Njoku’s backup in 2016, and he will look to improve on those numbers with the full-time job completely to himself this year.

Herndon is the complete package at TE and may be the most crucial player on the offense this season. While Herndon is not quite as athletic as Njoku (nobody really is), he has soft hands that can catch anything thrown his way and, at 6’4 252 pounds, is an adept blocker both in the run and pass game. Herndon is also extremely versatile, and the coaches like to take advantage of that, moving him around formations like a chess piece to try to exploit various mismatches throughout the defense; he often lines up on the line, out wide, in the slot, and even at fullback. All these qualities and more are reasons why he was named to the Mackey Award preseason watch list in 2017.

The most important quality that Herndon brings, though, is his vast playing experience, which is especially valuable in a position group that is sorely lacking in that aspect.

NCAA Football:Miami at Florida Atlantic
Herndon breaks free of an FAU defender.
Robert Duyos-USA TODAY Sports

The Cavalry

Behind Herndon, there is some scary thin depth: nobody else on the roster has ever appeared in a college game as of yet. Michael Irvin II is basically the backup by default, after Jovani Haskins spent time in Mark Richt’s doghouse and transferred to WVU in the spring. As a UM legacy, Irvin II hopes to come even somewhat close to his famous father’s career at Miami, but he’s had to overcome some early hiccups. As a freshman last season, Irvin II got himself suspended for Miami’s bowl game against WVU, and then showed up to spring ball overweight and out of shape to begin his redshirt freshman campaign.

Despite the setbacks, Irvin II has come on strong in fall camp, cutting weight and flashing his prodigious talent. Tight ends coach Todd Hartley named him the clear backup behind Herndon, saying the two were “head and shoulders above the rest” and that Irvin II has increased maturity to thank for that.

“He’s matured and [is] really focused,” said Hartley on Irvin II. “He missed some time early on with a little deal and it was tough because he needs those reps – just from an experience standpoint, he needs reps. Coming back, he’s a very intelligent kid and just getting out there and getting into condition has been beneficial because he was out of shape. He’s done a nice job the last couple of weeks.”

Michael Irvin II
Getty Images

Previously, sophomore walk-on Malik Curry played ahead of Irvin II and showed he is capable when called upon, catching a few nice balls during the spring scrimmages. If nothing else, he can be an extra body to throw in there for blocking purposes.

That leaves true freshman Brian Polendey, a 3-star recruit from Guyer, Texas. Polendey enrolled early at UM for spring ball and is Miami’s biggest target at the position at 6’6. However, all Polendey has showed thus far is that he almost certainly needs a redshirt, which, if it comes to fruition, would say a lot with the lack of depth here. He has struggled to acclimate to the college game and must add weight to really become a contributor at the position, but he may not get that luxury with the Canes, as they just doesn’t have many bodies at TE.

Bottom Line

With first year starting QB Malik Rosier at the helm, Herndon will often operate in the role of “security blanket” for the inexperienced QB and could become Rosier’s favorite target by the end of the season. Herndon may be the best returning TE in the ACC this season; he’s that good and is in line for a first-team, All-ACC nod when it’s all set and done.

For everthing great that Herndon does, though, there are extreme question marks immediately following him; an injury to Herndon would spell disaster for Miami. Michael Irvin II has shown flashes but must become more consistent and prove the coaches can rely on him. Making plays in practice with nobody really pushing behind you is one thing, but we want to see Irvin II produce in games before we feel more confident in his prospects. Having a second TE step up is key for a Miami program that traditionally favors two TE sets, and Irvin II is really the only player in line for that role. If Curry or Polendey are getting significant reps this season, something has gone horribly wrong.