With Miami losing its two starting safeties to the NFL, the Hurricanes were tasked with finding two new starting safeties for the 2017 season. Jaquan Johnson had been taking meaningful snaps since his freshman year, and was the obvious choice to take over one of the spots. The other went to Sheldrick Redwine who was mainly a corner his first two years, but made the transition to safety to start alongside Johnson. Robert Knowles and Romeo Finely were also returning from last year, but they mostly made an impact on special teams. Knowles did get one start against Georgia Tech due to an injury to Redwine. The incoming safeties in the class were Amari Carter, who was used as a blitz and QB spy specialist by Manny Diaz, and Derrick Smith. Now let’s take a look at the MVP, MIP, and ROY for the 2017 Miami Hurricanes Safeties.
Most Valuable Player: Jaquan Johnson (Jr.)
2017 stats: 54 Solo Tackles, 3 TFL, 1 Sack, 3 FR, 4 Int, 4 Pass Break ups
It is an understatement the kind of impact that Jaquan Johnson has on this team. He took a huge leap as a leader of this team, and he made his impact felt in every game this season. He accounted for 7 “turnover chains” and was always flying around the field making big plays. While he may not be as physically gifted as some former great Miami safeties, he has the same knack for making plays as the greats do. His biggest play came against Virginia where he read the QB on a short throw, and took it to the house. This was a game in which Miami was asleep for 3 quarters, and Johnson woke them up. Johnson has a knack for making big time plays, and if he can build off this season and improve as a senior, we will be seeing him on Sundays.
Most Improved Player: Sheldrick Redwine (Jr.)
2016 stats: 18 Solo Tackles, 2 Pass Break ups
2017 stats: 37 Solo Tackles, 2.5 TFL, 0.5 Sacks, 1 FR, 2 Int, 6 Pass Break ups
While I was very tempted to pick Jaquan Johnson as most improved, I’ll give the nod to Redwine for his improvements despite the position change. Redwine spent his early career in Miami as a special teams player and a rotational corner. This year he was asked to take on the role of starting safety, and boy did he deliver. Most people take position change with a grain of salt, but switching positions half way through your college career doesn’t usually work out. This is usually for guys who will never see the field at their position, and depth is needed at another. While Redwine wasn’t perfect this year, he stepped up his game and made plenty of big plays in the secondary. With another year learning the position, Redwine should improve even more and become a force in the back end of the defense.
Rookie of the Year: Amari Carter (Fr.)
2017 stats: 21 Solo Tackles, 2 TFL, 2 Sacks, 1FF
Amari Carter came in day one and earned snaps on defense, his versatility was on display early on. Carter saw playing time at safety, linebacker, special teams, and even defensive tackle. While Carter is a safety by trade, he did not see a lot of playing time in the secondary. Carter spent most of his time as a specialist for Manny Diaz. Carter was used as a blitzer from the linebacker position and as a QB spy specialist from the DT position. Carter is fast and isn’t afraid to lay the boom, and Diaz used those strengths to get the most out of Carter during his freshman season. While the two safety positions are set in stone, Carter could push Redwine for some playing time if Redwine struggles with his coverage as he did a bit this year. Carter was even named a Captain in the regular season finale against Pitt which shows that this kid is for real and will push for playing time. I am excited to see the development of Carter and I believe he could be a star for the Canes defense one day.