Throughout most of his career, cornerback coach Mike Rumph has enjoyed success. A star defensive back from his days at Atlantic Community High School in Delray Beach, Florida, Rumph enjoyed a stellar career playing as corner for the University of Miami from 1998 to 2001. His satisfying collegiate career was highlighted by three All-Big East selections, including a first-team in his junior year, and being a integral member of the 2001 national championship team. Production at the U helped to make Rumph into a first-round selection by the San Francisco 49ers in the 2002 NFL Draft, where he would play for five seasons. In his post-playing career, Rumph became one of the more successful head coaches in South Florida football, leading Plantation-American Heritage to a 39–6 record in three seasons and winning the state titles in both 2013 and 2014.
After being hired to as the CB coach by Mark Richt, Rumph’s roll of success continued to grow. Inheriting a cornerback group in 2016 that consisted of Corn Elder, Sheldrick Redwine, Malek Young, Michael Jackson and a graduate transfer in Adrian Colbert, Rumph quickly got to work tutoring his pupils on what it means to play DB for the U, and the best techniques to accomplish that. His teachings paid dividends immediately, as Miami finished the 2016 season allowing only 35 plays of 20 yards or more, the second–fewest in that category in the ACC. With 51 passes broken up during the season, Miami’s defense allowed just 28 touchdowns to opponents all season, the lowest total since the 2011 season. His first year on campus was deemed a success after the ’Canes won their first bowl game in 10 seasons and finished the campaign with a 9-4 win-loss record.
With the departures of both Colbert and Elder, there was plenty of concern entering the 2017 season in regards to how well Miami’s corners would adjust based on some personnel changes. For Rumph, the challenge was not only to figure out the starters, but to have the players behind the starters ready to go as well. Going back to the graduate transfers, Miami brought in FCS CB Dee Delaney and JUCO CB Jhavonte Dean to compete for the spots in the rotation. Adding freshman Trajan Bandy out of high school to a group that still had Malek Young and Mike Jackson, each receiving valuable snaps during the 2016 season, Rumph had an ideal blend of talent and experience at the position that projected to see his guys shine. In fact, UM corners accounted for 8 of Miami’s 17 interceptions a season ago, with Mike Jackson leading the group with four picks, followed by Malek Young’s two. UM corners also contributed to 27 of the team’s 55 passes defended in 2017. After overcoming communication issues and finally settling on a starting group, Rumph seems to have turned that 2017 off-season concern into a formidable group where everything is clicking.
In just two seasons, it has become evident that the former ’Cane-turned-position-coach has a knack for helping develop corners. From grad transfers to freshmen, Rumph has molded those young men into stars at the position. Mike Jackson was a special teams contributor and rotational player during his first couple seasons on the team. Coming off a stellar season in which he was named a second-team All-ACC member, there is serious consideration that Jackson will be a preseason first-team member and has a case to become an All-American. Before an unfortunate neck injury derailed his football career, Malek Young was viewed as an undersized outside corner listed at 5’9” and 180 pounds. Despite that, through the teachings of his position coach and his own experience and determination, he soon became one of Miami’s most complete players as a sophomore.
What’s In Store for 2018
This season, or year, for Coach Rumph is a tale of two sides for the UM coach: personnel and development. As far as the personnel aspect is concerned, the Hurricanes have at least two of their starting three cornerbacks settled entering training camp. As we alluded to earlier, Mike Jackson will man one side of the field as he did so eloquently before. Sophomore corner Trajan Bandy is likely to start at either nickel, where he played the majority of his freshman year, or slide over to the other outside corner. With Rumph having experience trotting out sub-six foot corners on the outside, it would be an adjustment that the coach would be comfortable with.
The looming question that Rumph and defensive coordinator Manny Diaz will need to answer is who will be that third starting cornerback, as well as figuring out the rest of the depth chart. By all appearances and interviews, Rumph seems to want senior Jhavonte Dean to grab that starting spot. Touted as the fastest player at the position and gifted with impressive measurables at 6’2” and 185 pounds, Dean still struggles with some of the basics—a characteristic that Dean will need to address before camp and Rumph will continue to coach up.
While Dean serves as a restoration project, the true indication of Mike Rumph’s capabilities will come down to the play of a few freshmen. Both Gilbert Frierson and DJ Ivey got a head start by enrolling early and participating in spring ball. Rumph has praised his new additions for their compete level as they try to grasp the transition from high school ball to the FBS variety. As Manny Diaz stated, these young corners have no choice but to learn and get better since the team will be leaning on them this season. One emphasis for any corner is that they secure the tackle, even as a cornerback. It’s not just about coverage, but being a well-rounded player when you step onto the field with U on your helmet. Just when and how often they contribute remains a mystery, yet it will fall on Coach Rumph to put them, as well as fellow freshman Al Blades Jr., in a position to thrive this fall.
An incredible teacher, having played as a Hurricane and circled back to teach the next generation, Coach Rumph certainly leads an interesting life. Rumph will be judged by the production of his position group. Fair or not, he will continue to be scrutinized on the recruiting trail for the 2019 cycle. If Rumph can get the freshman on the roster to be strengths as opposed to liabilities this season, it may force fans to put their pitchforks back in the shed.
IT’S ALWAYS ABOUT THE U!