From big to small, fast to, uhm, “possession,” Miami has a great receiver corps this year. The depth in this group is among the best of any position on this team and could be the thing that propels their QB forward, no matter who it is. Here are the guys who figure to be contributors this season.
Richards will no doubt be the Canes’ go-to wide receiver and, hopefully, he will show more consistency and confidence in a fully healthy season. Richards’ game-breaking ability was never on full display in his injury-marred sophomore year like it was as a freshman. After pulling his hamstring in August and then injuring it again against Duke, it was clear that the Wellington product never really got over his injury and regained his confidence. He dropped multiple passes against Florida State the next week and then sat out against Georgia Tech.
He soldiered on, showing his toughness in gutting it out to play in a total of seven games before a crushing practice injury, a torn meniscus, ended his season fully on November 29, just days before Miami’s ACC Championship debut.
It’s hard to say what Richards’ needs to improve; his sophomore season was very much a lost year and he didn’t have the same speed that he showed off week after week in 2016. He will need to continue to refine his routes, like any receiver, and get better at catching the ball before it gets into his pads. But just another season without injury should work wonders for the junior and remind everyone why he broke Michael Irvin’s freshman receiving record.
Joining a long line of Miami burners, Thomas had the biggest and earliest impact of the 2017 freshman WR class. Thomas caught 17 passes for 374 yards and two touchdowns last season and could see much bigger numbers with, not only a larger role, but better downfield accuracy from the Quarterback position.
Thomas has big shoes to fill with Braxton Berrios gone, but while he won’t fill the same type of role, he will likely see a lot of time in the slot and be in direct competition for the no. 2 receiving job. If he can continue to improve the intricacies of his game, such as making his route running sharper, then he should blossom into more than just a deep threat, one-trick pony.
A junior this season, Cager will have first crack at the starting lineup once more, but will see stiffer competition as well. Anyone who watches him can tell you how much potential there is for the 6’5” wideout but getting him to reach it has been the biggest issue. Injuries and inconsistency has kept Cager from making a bigger impact and last year, while playing in only eight games, he had less receptions than Jeff Thomas.
You can’t teach height, and it’s his combination of size and solid athleticism that continues to make Cager an intriguing prospect. He has all the tools to be not only the best complement to Ahmmon Richards, but a true 1B option that would keep defensive coordinators up at night. If Cager can finally put it all together, he could have a career year. If not, he’ll be another example of potential not fully realized.
The Rotational Players
Langham will always hold a special spot in my heart for what he did against FSU and Georgia Tech. That being said, the possession receiver’s lack of speed hurt him toward the latter part of the season as Miami tried to stretch the field. Langham should continue to make plays and might be a bigger red zone option this coming season, but his inability to consistently separate from the defense will see him take a back seat to other receivers.
If Cager falters, Harley could definitely see a starter-esque role this coming season. Harley had just nine receptions and 91 yards last year but the speed demon could give the Canes a track speed threesome of himself, Richards and Thomas. In order to do so, he will have to show enough polish to get starter-quantity reps. Again, the deep ball accuracy at QB will need to improve to take full advantage of the field stretchers that the Canes’ have at receiver.
The New Guys
It’s hard to determine what kind of role the new guys will get or if they will even see playing time. Miami’s depth at receiver could mean that some really good recruits get the redshirt in 2018. Regardless, here are the young guns that could sneak onto the field.
The unquestioned star of the spring game, Hightower grabbed four receptions and gained over 100 yards and two touchdowns. If he can keep it up in spring camp, the coaching staff will have no choice but to see what the 6’3” wideout can do in real-game reps.
Wiggins is another early enrollee and big-body receiver who got involved in the spring game, grabbing two passes for 20 yards. Wiggins will likely be a redshirt recipient but could see some playing time in 2018 if he shows off his combination of size and speed and has enough polish to be a situational asset.
Pope may see the field early with his elite speed, although his playing time might be special teams-focused, utilized as a returner more so than a WR. Regardless, if he makes an impact early while returning kicks and punts, a job vacant with Berrios gone, the coaching staff should see what he can do on offense as well.
The four star from Georgia isn’t the biggest or the fastest of the Miami wideouts. But his ability to win the 50/50 ball and be an enticing target for his QB with his large frame should give him a chance in the summer. He could be another redshirt recipient as he continues to improve his overall game.
David’s brother is sort of a receiver/tight end tweener at 6’6” and only 196 pounds. He was redshirted last year after injuring his knee in practice and will probably have an uphill fight to see significant playing time on a team that is loaded at WR. However, with as many towering receivers are on this roster, Njoku could make a difference if he proves to be the best red zone specialist in practices.