Romeo Finley has come a long way since his days at Niceville High School. The former HS defensive back and wide receiver’s role at Miami was relegated to special teams in his early years. A boost in production came in the 2018 season when Manny Diaz opened up the defense to include a striker position. His new role as a defender blossomed. Finley was able to show off his coverage ability as a slot defender and his ability to trail the run game from the backside of plays. Left off the All-ACC selection list in 2018, this underrated baller has been a consistent tackler and cover guy for the Canes. He plays with great intensity, passion, and constantly shows up around the ball.
Life Before The U
Finley was rated as a was four-star prospect by ESPN and Rivals. 247Sports and Scout had him tabbed as a three-star talent. The Fort Walton Beach native was ranked as the number 12 safety by ESPN and the 244th overall prospect on the ESPN300. During his junior year, Finely registered 60 tackles, 10 pass breakups, 1 interception, and two forced fumbles. He totaled 60 tackles, 6 pass breakups, and 1 interception during his senior season at Niceville. When Finley finished his time as a Niceville Eagle, he garnered enough attention to receive offers from the Michigan Wolverines, Clemson Tigers, Florida Gators, Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, South Carolina Gamecocks, and several other schools. He chose to be a Cane over each one.
Life as a Cane
As a true freshman, Finley saw action as a core special teamer. He tallied 7 total tackles (3 solo). His best game of the season came against the Florida A&M Rattlers. Finley recorded all three of his solo tackles in that game. As a sophomore, he matched his tackle total from the previous season. However, all seven tackles were solo. He notched four solo tackles against the Toledo Rockets. His breakout season came in 2018 after he beat out Derrick Smith to be the starting striker. His downhill mentality and athleticism allowed him to more than triple his tackle total last season. He finished with 28 total tackles, 18 of which were solo. He also had a forced fumble, 5 tackles for loss, and 2 interceptions. Against the North Carolina Tarheels, Finley tied Miami’s longest play of the season when he returned an INT for a TD. The 83-yard interception return was one of his many standout plays of the season.
Against Virginia Tech, he had a career-best five tackles. Named as the State of the U most improved player at the end of his 2018 season, Finley’s versatility and skill primed him for a great year in 2019. Against the Florida Gators, Finley had an interception and a 6-yard tackle for loss. The 19 yards gained on the INT return in the fourth quarter helped in the Canes’ comeback efforts. He matched his career-high high in solo tackles (5) against the North Carolina Tar Heels. The energetic and forceful tackler is eclipsing his tackle total this season. He already has 43 total tackles, 28 of which are solo.
Before the season started, he spoke on his focus for the season, “I’m just trying to build on and get better. It’s the last go ‘round for me and four or five seniors. So we’re just trying to do what we’re going to do, bring everybody with us and be the best that we can be.”
Romeo Finley on fellow striker Gilbert Frierson being one of the guys on the team that gets most hyped up during games pic.twitter.com/DsAY6jSyGP— David Furones (@DavidFurones_) November 5, 2019
The senior striker also understands his ability to impact and mentor the underclassmen on the team. He recently praised redshirt freshman Gilbert Frierson. Frierson will get the first crack at succeeding Finley on the defense next season:
“He’s coming along really well...He’s really smart. At the beginning of the season, he was getting a lot of burn and just fading a little bit because I’ve been playing more and haven’t been tired. He’s understanding that, and he doesn’t get in his feelings. When he does get in, he’s making plays, doing what he’s got to do...Future is bright for him. He can have two, three years at this position so he can really excel.”
Finely plays his last home game as a Miami Hurricane this Saturday against the Louisville Cardinals. He’s come a long way from being a young special teams cog. The elements and skills he’s brought to this team has made him not just impactful but essential.