Miami has been plagued for years with players turning pro too early, which has kept the Canes relatively young and inexperienced instead of having upper-classmen to lead the team. My theory has always been that if you are promised a grade where you will be drafted in the 1st three rounds of the NFL draft, then you should go pro. NFL shelf life is very short, so players need to strike while the iron is hot. The issue for Miami is guys have turned pro too early and left school to be drafted late, or not drafted at all, which leaves the Canes short on depth and the player out of the NFL very quickly. If Manny Diaz wants to change the culture he will need to convince some upper-classmen to stick around and help build the future. He had that happen with Shaquille Quarterman, Michael Pinckney this year and with Zach McCloud redshirting and staying for 2020. Let’s examine players who could potentially turn pro or leave the program.
DeeJay Dallas- Deejay is the type of old school Miami player who is needed to help cultivate a new culture around Coral Gables. The problem is DeeJay is now dealing with a season ending injury, a new born child, and a stacked RB room. Dallas averaged 6 YPC, while running for 693 yards, 8 TDs and caught 14 balls for 2 TDs. Playing RB is not a guarantee in the NFL, and DeeJay won’t have the highest draft grade, but with his circumstances, going pro seems the best option.
Verdict: Turn Pro
Jeff Thomas – Jeff is a supremely talented player who has been grossly under used at Miami. Thomas should be a guy who routinely gets 10 plus touches per game, yet he only garnered 31 catches in 2019. His yards per catch dropped from 16.1 in 2018, down to 12.2 in 2019. There’s also the little issue of Thomas being suspended multiple times during his Miami career, and the team basically begging him not to transfer to Illinois. This experiment has run its’ course, and the time seems right to part ways.
Verdict: Turn pro, or Transfer somewhere else
Navaughn Donaldson – Big 55 is Miami’s most highly decorated offensive line recruit currently on the roster, but he could use another season before heading to the NFL. The biggest issue for Donaldson is he hasn’t lived up to his freshman billing, when he made multiple Freshman All-American teams. Navaughn probably needs to drop some weight and get into the best shape of his life before his senior campaign. The talent is there, but more effort needs to happen to live up to those expectations.
Verdict: Return to Miami
Tate Martell – One of the great mysteries of 2019 is why Miami couldn’t find some way to use Martell on offense. Our offense was horrible, and there is no way to sugarcoat that, so getting one of your most explosive players on the field should’ve been a must. Martell is currently on a “leave of absence” and I have to believe he is trying to figure out what is next. If Manny Diaz is serious about rebuilding the offense, then Spring and summer should once again be an open competition at Quarterback. Martell was 45-0 in High School and played some at Ohio St, so his moxie and competitiveness could be the shot in the arm Miami needs on offense. I’ve had numerous people tell me he can’t throw at all, but I would give the kid a look.
Verdict: Leave Miami and find a system that will use his skill set.
N’Kosi Perry – Much like Tate Martell, N’Kosi Perry didn’t win the QB job in 2019. The difference was he did get playing time and a couple of starts. Perry looks best when he is in the shotgun, running a spread offense, much like we saw in the 2nd half of the Virginia Tech game. Perry has the best arm of anyone on the team, but can be very inaccurate with his throws as well. If he were to leave, a smaller school could use his talents better, but for now he should be in the mix to start in 2020.
Verdict: Stay at Miami and compete for QB job
Jonathan Garvin – We all remember Garvin coming up huge as a freshman in back to back weeks vs. Virginia Tech and Notre Dame and thinking he would be the next great pass rusher for the Canes. He has been good, but never great at Miami totaling only 12.5 sacks for his career. If he looked at Joe Jackson, and where he fell in the draft last year, the answer should be clear for what Garvin should do.
Verdict: Stay at Miami
Trajan Bandy – Bandy is another Cane, much like DeeJay Dallas, who carries that Miami attitude on his chest like a badge of honor. Bandy was better as a sophomore than he was a junior, and his size may limit how high he will be drafted. With that being said, Bandy needs to come back to Miami, be a leader on defense and have a huge senior season.
Verdict: Stay at Miami
Lorenzo Lingard – Mystery number 2 is why Lingard was never given any carries in 2019. Lorenzo played in 2 games, but only on special teams and a blocking back vs. Duke. Lingard is the most highly decorated player currently on the Canes roster, so the talent is there. He is coming off a major knee injury, and was said to be redshirting this year. The new rules allowed for him to play in 4 games, so the coaches should’ve taken advantage of those rules to see if he could be the explosive change of pace that this offense sorely needed. Much has been made via social media and message boards as to what Lingard will do, but Miami needs to do everything in their power to convince him to stay.
Verdict: Stay at Miami and play a big role in 2020
Many of these kids should take my advice and not take the easy path of leaving the program and starting over. Manny Diaz has some major recruiting to do on his own team as he tries to eradicate the “me first” attitude that seems to be prevalent on this squad. If some of these guys decide to stay, the Canes could then have some experienced leaders in 2020 to hopefully lead them back to respectability.
The Canes may see some others leave due to lack of playing time or general unhappiness, but their loss will not be felt much by the program. Work needs to be done, and the 1st step is to start keeping the right guys around for the rebuild.