This spring, we saw an offense that appeared to be completely revamped with motions, new formations, and a much higher level of competitiveness than the one we saw under the last regime. A lot of that is due to the addition of offensive coordinator Dan Enos.
He came to Miami with the intentions of finding ways to get the ball into the hands of his best playmakers — however that may be. Enos isn't the type to run his offense and force his team to adapt and execute it. He is the type of guy that is willing to be multiple in his offensive approach, allowing the strengths of his players to dictate the style of offense he is going to run.
In 2018, the Hurricanes only had seven players catch over 10 passes. Two of the seven were running backs Travis Homer and Deejay Dallas. Two more are no longer on the team —Lawrence Cager had 21 catches and transferred to Georgia and Darrell Langham graduated. That leaves just three returning Miami Hurricanes pass catchers (Jeff Thomas, Brevin Jordan, and Mike Harley) that brought in 10 or more receptions. I would expect that number to rise drastically in 2019 based on the style of play I saw throughout spring practice and in the scrimmages.
And it has to if the Hurricanes want to be successful.
Here are five players that I believe can breakthrough and make a serious impact for the first time in their Miami Hurricanes career.
TE Will Mallory
The sophomore out of Providence School in Jacksonville came into his freshman year at Miami with high expectations, as did his classmate Brevin Jordan. Many thought the two of them together created the best tight end class in the entire country and right now it is starting to look like that claim is accurate. We saw what Jordan could do last year when he brought in 32 catches for 287 yards and four touchdowns as a true freshman and now Mallory is in line to potentially exceed Jordan as the Hurricanes leading tight end.
The 6-5 230 pound tight end looked impressive all spring long, especially in the absence of Jordan who sat out most of the spring with a left knee issue. In the spring game in Orlando, Mallory made a diving catch in the back of the end zone on a Jarren Williams throw for a touchdown. Watch it here:
Jarren Williams with a nice touch throw for a TD to TE Will Mallory.— Brett K. Seelig (@BSeeligonthemic) April 20, 2019
Mallory and Irvin combined for 5 catches for 96 yds and 2 scores.
Williams finished 4/6 for 44 yds, a TD and an INT (nice defensive play by James Murphy) #CanesSpringGame pic.twitter.com/zfkg5vVMEO
He finished the game with three catches for 63 yards and a touchdown. It would not surprise me one bit to see Mallory step up and potentially have a better year than Jordan in Enos’ offense that is extremely tight end friendly. And that's not a knock on Jordan, who has proven that he's a walking mismatch. I believe that the both of them together is an elite 1-2 punch at the position, regardless of where you rank them among each other.
WR Jeremiah Payton
The 6-1 true freshman wide receiver is the second coming of Ahmonn Richards in my opinion. In practice, he would get coached up and make some mental errors to the point that Enos took it into his own hands to speak to him and show him exactly what he expects. But that is nothing out of the ordinary.
But at no point during the spring game or the scrimmage at Traz Powell did he look like he belonged in a high school classroom. When the lights are on and its time to ball, nobody looks more natural than Payton does.
During the first open scrimmage at Traz Powell, the freshman caught three balls for 60 yards and a touchdown. Then in Orlando he went for three catches for 51 yards and a touchdown. Those numbers from two scrimmages would've placed him ninth in receptions and seventh in reception yards on the 2018 Miami Hurricanes. The kid is flat out special.
And hiding him in an offense featuring Jeff Thomas, Jordan, Mallory, Deejay Dallas, and many other weapons could benefit the young pass catcher greatly. With the focus on the plethora of other player makers, Payton could slip in and find success early and often for the Hurricanes as Richards did in his record-breaking freshman campaign.
WR Mark Pope
The former five star wide out had an unexpectedly quiet true freshman season. From an outside prospective, that sounds like a bad thing. The truth is that coming into college with the borderline unreachable expectations that come along with being labeled as a five star is tough to manage. Despite catching just one pass for 11 yards in 2018 and not getting on the field as often as he hoped, he says he never thought about transferring from the Hurricanes.
And that decision is likely going to pay off under Enos. Already we have seen a new and improved Mark Pope. He may not ever be a record breaking receiver, but throughout spring practices and scrimmages, he showed why the Hurricanes need him in this offense. He is explosive with the ball in his hands, which he showed when he took an end around 52-yards during the Canes second scrimmage. He also showed that he a reliable pass catcher during the spring game when he snagged a Tate Martell pass that was behind him and turned it into a 14-yard gain.
FB Realus George
George was rated as the number two fullback in America by 247Sports coming out of high school and was another guy that was expected to come in and play right away. But fullback is probably one of the hardest positions in football to learn and George didn't see the field much in 2018.
This spring George earned praise from Enos and Manny Diaz as a guy who's improved drastically from last year till now and has proven his worth not only as a blocker in the backfield, but as a reliable special teams guy. Doing the dirty work on special teams is a great way to get your coaches attention and to earn more opportunities and though it may not be the sexiest way to earn playing time, it certainly makes an impression.
This offense that Enos is building has a special place for a guy like George and so far he has been up to the challenge of being the lead blocker for the Hurricanes loaded backfield. Watch for him to become a regular and probably underrated component of the Hurricanes offense moving forward as he continues to get bigger, stronger, and grow as a blocker.
WR K.J. Osborn
Last, but certainly not least is the graduate transfer from the University of Buffalo, K.J. Osborn. Osborn is a guy that might lead the team in receiving yards and receptions. We saw all spring that he was the leader in the receivers room, which is filled with young and talented players.
After practice, you could guarantee that Osborn was getting on the jug machine and getting extra reps. His hard work has paid off as he’s made quite the impression among people inside the program and among fans, especially after his 105 yard performance in the spring game. He also brought in six catches for 67 yards in the Canes scrimmage the week before.
For a team that struggled greatly with drops and consistency at the receiver position in 2018, Osborn was a dream come true. I expect him to be an absolute force going forward.
And if he can produce anything close to his 53 receptions 892 yards and seven touchdowns junior year at Buffalo, the Hurricanes and Dan Enos are going to be in a very, very good position to have a successful 2019.