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Miami Hurricanes Football: Reese’s Senior Bowl Preview

The Grand Daddy of the college all-star circuit provides a significant opportunity for ProCane hopefuls.

NCAA Football: Miami at Toledo Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

The crown jewel of the college football all-star circuit resides in Mobile, Alabama. This weekend makes the 70th year that the Reese’s Senior Bowl has been played. The game operates as a showcase some 2019 Draft hopefuls looking to improve or cement their places in the coming draft. It should be said that, as with most all-star contests, the game is not the end-all be-all of the week for the prospects. This is one time where practices do matter — Sorry AI —, with scouts and GMs attending throughout the week to see how players hold up in one-on-ones and drill situations. Saturday serves as the final audition for these future NFL hopefuls, an opportunity that presents a life-changing financial impact on both player and family for generations to come.

As you can imagine, the Hurricanes will be well represented in this edition of the game. S Jaquan Johnson and S Sheldrick Redwine will participate in the showcase. DT Gerald Willis was set to join his teammates, but unfortunately did not make the trip due to injury.

You could make the case that this trio formed the foundations for the Hurricanes’ defense in 2018, considering that Gerald Willis III was named team MVP and Johnson was awarded the Defensive Player of the Year award by the Hurricanes at the team banquet last weekend. Each member had plenty to gain from this week, which we’ll go into detail right now.

Sheldrick Redwine earned an invite to the game somewhat late in the process, but getting an invite is what you strive for. Coming off a season where he posted career-best stats of 64 total tackles, 3.5 TFL, three interceptions and three sacks, Redwine assuredly deserved some postseason recognition. This week of practice should show scouts Redwine’s read-and-react ability in coverage, how fluid the safety can be as a play develops, and finally his discipline in pursuit of making a play. There’s little doubt that Redwine possesses the physical capacity to be excellent in run support, but as draft season unfurls, the conversation will gravitate towards players’ weaknesses than their strengths. This week was a chance for Redwine to illustrate the nuance of his game.

For fellow safety Jaquan Johnson, the week will be a redo of the season. Although he started off 2018 at a torrid pace, there’s concern among the pro ranks that Johnson flamed out towards the end of the 2018 season. The biggest knock against Johnson is the one aspect that he has no control over: His size. Miami’s website lists Johnson at 5’11”, 195 pounds. Concerns have arisen regarding Johnson’s size as a strong safety and whether extended durability will mesh well with his style of play in the NFL. Johnson has missed fewer than a handful of games during his UM career. So those initial concerns seem like a stretch, but Johnson could surely put teams at ease with a solid showing throughout the week. Johnson should win over a few teams in interviews based on his college resume and mindset to the game.

Last but not least, we come to the man named G. Some of you have to be wondering how a defensive tackle who finished the 2018 season second in the ACC with 18.5 tackles-for-loss (despite missing the bowl) is projected to draft outside of the first round. Based on his exit from UF and missing the entire 2017 season, Gerald Willis III is on the outside looking in. Believe it or not, Willis’ decision to transfer as well as stepping away from school at UM are questions that he’ll have to answer for during the draft process. Keep in mind that Willis transferred from the University of Florida to Miami after just one season. That means scouts will be looking into what caused the transfer and his being in Gainesville before his arrival to Coral Gables. Then there’s the leave of absence in 2017 that wiped out the entire season, even though he would end up playing on scout team for the majority of the year for the Canes. The production of 2018 was more than anyone could have expected in his final year of eligibility, but is that an anomaly or a reflection of what could be in the NFL? Now, these questions become compounded with the news of his injury.

This puts more pressure on Gerald Willis III entering the NFL Scouting Combine in March. We’re hopeful that the hand injury that kept him out of the Pinstripe Bowl last December will be fully healed by then. A healthy Gerald Willis should test well in Indianapolis, but more importantly will need to provide answers to inquiring employers.

The Senior Bowl is an all-star showcase that serves as the Super Bowl before the actual Super Bowl. Can the Hurricanes safety duo sway some favor and propel themselves up a few draft boards? We’ll just have to wait and see. You can watch Johnson and Redwine represent the South Team in the 70th Reese’s Senior Bowl on the NFL Network, beginning at 2:30 PM EDT on January, 26th.