It’s pretty clear after watching the Hurricanes in spring practice that they are loaded with talented receivers. With Jeff Thomas coming back, K.J. Osborn coming in as a transfer, Mike Harley and also touted freshman Jeremiah Payton, Miami has options.
Then there’s the three sophomore receivers that Miami has. Brian Hightower, Mark Pope and Dee Wiggins make up a trio all entering their second year with the Canes. Plus, you can also add redshirt sophomore Evidence Njoku in there as well. They also had Marquez Ezzard, until he decided to transfer to Georgia Tech.
Between Hightower, Pope, Wiggins and Njoku, there’s obviously a lot of talent in that group. However, the pressure is on in 2019 for them to actually show why they were recruited so heavily in high school. It also adds the pressure that the Hurricanes will be without Lawrence Cager, who decided to transfer to Georgia following last season. Cager caught six touchdowns in 2018, and these sophomores all combined for just one score all year last season.
Hightower showed glimpses of this potential at parts last season. In spring practice in 2018, Hightower surprised a lot of people and played great, making it look like he’d be a valuable target that year. Against LSU, he had a great touchdown grab late in the game that a lot of people forget because it was such a blowout. I’m a big Hightower guy, and I think with his big 6-foot-3 210-pound frame, he’s perfect to become the Canes third receiver.
Then there’s Mark Pope, who a lot of people are high on, and expect to be the next big thing at receiver for Miami. When he signed to Miami in 2018, people were considering Pope to be one of best high school receivers in the nation, so no wonder there’s a lot of hype. This spring, Pope was quiet at first but then was more involved in the offense, including a 52-yard end-around in the one of Miami’s scrimmages.
Jarren Williams (far side) hitting Mark Pope in stride pic.twitter.com/AqXND8tJPA— Gaboowins (@GabyUrrutia22) March 22, 2019
Wiggins is someone who I still think has star potential. You look at him on the field and he just looks the part of an NFL receiver.
Dee Wiggins gets involved on the end around pic.twitter.com/UyU4kLcSqU— DSFB (@gregminnick_) April 20, 2019
Last season, Wiggins was plagued by the drop-bug, and probably ended up dropping as many passes as he actually caught in 2018. However, especially against FSU, Wiggins showed that he can create separation from defenders, he just needs to secure the ball.
Evidence Njoku has the talent, and the genes, meaning David Njoku’s brother, but the fame hasn’t been the same for him, amassing just one career catch.
This Miami receiver group has loads of talent, but they can’t just rely on the playmaking ability of Thomas and Osborn. I mean, take a look at some of the classic Canes teams. In the early 2000’s, yes you had Andre Johnson, but you also had guys like Kevin Beard, Ethnic Sands and Roscoe Parrish who you could count on.
We know that Thomas and Osborn are going to step up, but when they’re drawing double teams and increased coverage, whoever the Miami quarterback is going to need to count on the sophomores to make a play. While they were just freshman last year, many people expected more, but then you don't have Pope making his first catch until November. So, yeah, we need more.