The Hurricanes enter 2018 with a lot of questions and not as many answers as they may like for their DB corps. Right now the position is headlined by Jaquan Johnson and Michael Jackson, two of the best defenders on the team who really stepped up and became leaders last season. Jackson in particular broke out and showed he was ready to be a CB1.
Behind them are some intriguing players, promising young guys and vets who we really aren’t sure what we’ll get from them. Nevertheless, we will break down what the best, worst and likely scenarios are for this group in 2018.
Best Case Scenario:
Jackson and Johnson are dominant all season long. Jackson follows up last season’s breakout with prolonged excellence, shutting down the best of the best in the ACC week after week. He forces QBs to stay away from his side of the field lest the turnover chain be brought out. Johnson is a force in the run and pass games and his leadership means the secondary has less coverage breakdowns.
Trajan Bandy has a spectacular year two and thrives as a starter. He looks ready to step into the CB1 role when Jackson graduates. Jhavontae Dean is solid as the third CB, playing capably on the outside while Bandy mans the slot in nickel situations. The freshman find their way on the field and look ready to play significant minutes in 2019. Sheldrick Redwine has his best season to date and the secondary is vastly improved in their coverage ability.
Worst Case Scenario:
Jackson’s growth stagnates and, while still damn good, isn’t quite as dominant as Miami may need him to be. Johnson gets hurt and Miami is left razor-thing at safety, especially with Redwine a very average starter, exposed as such when Johnson is gone. Bandy doesn’t make the necessary leap and is up and down in his sophomore season. Dean simply isn’t very good and the freshman aren’t ready.
There isn’t enough depth and without a clear starter across from Jackson, likely Bandy by default, the defense struggles mightily. Miami can’t shut down passing offenses, even middling ones, and find themselves playing in more shootouts this season.
Jackson and Johnson are great. Jackson doesn’t make a huge jump but remains steady as a CB1 and an All-ACC type of player. Johnson is one of the best safeties in the nation and is able to make plays all season long.
Bandy looks better as a sophomore and has a solid season but still goes through growing pains. Dean is very average and at times is simply toasted by opposing receivers. He gives way to Richt and Diaz trying out the newbies. The young, lean and long freshmen show some flashes, maybe enough to give one or two of them consistent playtime, but they will likely need more seasoning to be ready for 2019.
The pass defense is better than last year but still not of the shut-down variety. Miami manages to overcome this by forcing turnovers again this season and constant pressure from the relentless front seven.