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SOTU Awards: Unsung Hero — CB Trajan Bandy

Through the mud, Trajan Bandy emerged as one of the Hurricanes’ stingiest defenders in 2018.

State of the U Illustration by Mike Meredith

Gaining recognition for your work is no easy task. You can be good at your job or the best in the field and still go unnoticed by the masses. That’s no different when a recruit signs a letter of intent to attend the University of Miami to play football. You may have tons of followers on Twitter, but what you actually do on the field from the time you sign until the day you graduate will determine your legacy at The U.

The Hurricanes’ defense was stacked with stars before the 2018 season even began. Linebackers Shaq Quarterman and Michael Pinckney were some of the headliners. Along the defensive line, Gerald Willis III received All-American attention and was bookended by a formidable edge rushing tandem in Joe Jackson and Jonathan Garvin. Miami’s secondary featured safeties Jaquan Johnson and Sheldrick Redwine. At cornerback, the group was led by Michael Jackson, a senior who held off from declaring for the NFL Draft the year before to help bolster the Cane defense, as well as his own draft stock.

NCAA Football: Notre Dame at Miami Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Yet, emerging from Jackson’s shadow was 5’9”, 188 pound sophomore cornerback Trajan Bandy. The man who goes by the moniker of “Muddy” or “Muddy B” proved that his freshman season in 2017 was the start of a promising career. Muddy secured 25 total tackles, broke up six passes and had a memorable pick-six return against Notre Dame — he’s got the makings of the next great DB for the Hurricanes. As a freshman, Bandy primarily worked as a slot corner for the Hurricanes, tasked with defending smaller, shiftier receivers who tend to thrive out in open space. With no help from the boundary, Bandy excelled at playing in space in the Hurricanes defense.

However, with a few graduations following his first year, Bandy would see his role on defense expand entering 2018. During spring practices, Bandy spent time working in what became his familiar role as the slot or nickel corner position. He also saw some time working as a traditional corner that lines up close to the boundary. Bandy had the skill set needed and was capable of taking on the challenge — yet, at 5’9”, there were concerns that moving the DB to outside CB would prove to be a mismatch in his opponent’s favor. When the dust had settled and the the Hurricanes took the field in their season opener, Bandy proved that he would be up to the task of handling the outside corner position.

Regardless of the challenges placed before him, Trajan Bandy has overcome every hurdle put in his path. Manny Diaz doesn’t stutter when he demands that his corners be sound in their run defense. So when people evaluate Muddy as a “dog” against the run, understand that they mean that in the most endearing way possible. With 4.5 tackles-for-loss and 36 total tackles, Bandy proved to be a force against both the run and pass.

The young CB was a pitbull each game, fighting and clawing in coverage to allow no easy receptions. While there were moments of humility, Bandy ultimately got the upperhand against opponents in coverage. Specifically, Bandy illustrates a knack for batting down passes on in-breaking routes to the middle of the field. Based on his play in year two, Bandy blossomed into a favorite of the analytical community. He allowed just 19 receptions for a catch rate 45.2% against opponents last season, according to Pro Football Focus. Tied for the team lead with three interceptions and a team-high eight passes broken up, it’s fair to summarize that Trajan Bandy was the best player in coverage for Hurricanes in 2018.

Some people noticed and have given Bandy his due, perhaps. Outside of the Canes Familia, the fine folks of PFF recognized Bandy’s value in coverage. However, other organizations have been reluctant to buy stock in Bandy’s 2018 production, namely his own conference. Does Bady deserve to be named higher than a Third-Team All-ACC member? We believe he does. The disconnect between No.2’s production and recognition in ‘18 is real, but the slight should just fuel the competitive fire that burns within the feisty individual. We’ve seen Bandy confront everyone from the receivers to much larger offensive lineman with zero hesitation. So as a future warning, don’t expect any sign of fear from a corner who frankly doesn’t know how to lay down.

NCAA Football: Savannah State at Miami Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

In 2019, expect Muddy B to assume the leadership role of a young defensive back group. This year, Bandy proved his ability to lead through his play. Fans will see Bandy become a more vocal presence and face of the Canes’ defense in the coming year. If the Hurricanes had 11 players like Trajan Bandy on the field, we would already have the answer to the question: Is The U back?