After a disappointing 7-6 season in 2018, the Miami Hurricanes will be looking to bounce back in a big way during Manny Diaz’s first season as head coach.
Spring practices and scrimmages gave us a glimpse of what Miami’s areas of strength will look like for the 2019 season.
Here is a breakdown of Miami’s top five positions of strength and who can be expected to make an impact on the field in each spot.
Projected Starters: Sr. Shaquille Quarterman, Sr. Michael Pinckney, Sr. Zach McCloud (when UM plays 3 LB), Sr. Romeo Finley (when UM plays a striker)
Other Names to Know: RS Fr. Gilbert Frierson, RS Soph. DeAndre Wilder, RS Soph. B.J. Jennings, RS Fr. Patrick Joyner
Longshots to Contribute: Fr. Avery Huff, Fr. Sam Brooks, Rs. Soph. Waynmon Steed
Analysis: This would arguably be UM’s best position group if we were only evaluating starters. All four players who will see the bulk of the playing time depending on what defensive formation Miami lines up in this season figure to have a shot at making an NFL roster. Quarterman and Pinckney enter their fourth years impacting this group while Finley moving to into this position from defensive back rejuvenated his UM career prior to the 2018 season. McCloud was working through a wrist injury during spring football but is expected to be fully healthy for fall camp. It is what lies behind those four on the depth chart that has some Canes fans worried for this season. Frierson has made the same move Finley did from defensive back to striker and his length and athleticism projects well to the position, but he is unproven after only appearing in two games during 2018 and redshirting. Joyner played defensive end last season for Miami and was moved to linebacker this spring after leg injuries to Steed and Jennings. Joyner adjusted to the position change and tweeted after the conclusion of spring ball that he was “officially a linebacker”. There is optimism that Wilder and Jennings can return for fall camp but UM announced in April that Steed would undergo surgery on his knee. He will likely miss extended time. Huff and Brooks may be relied upon to make an impact in their true freshman seasons depending on the health of Wilder, Jennings and Steed and how fast Joyner can adjust to his position change.
4. Running Backs
Projected Starters: Jr. DeeJay Dallas, RS. Fr. Realus George
Other Names to Know: Soph. Cam’ron Harris (formerly Cam’ron Davis), Soph. Lorenzo Lingard
Longshot to Contribute: Rs. Soph. Robert Burns
Analysis: It’s hard to believe that this group can lose a talent to the NFL like Travis Homer and not skip a beat, but here we are. DeeJay Dallas leads this group into fall camp as he is the returner with the most experience but I am not so sure that we won’t see a breakout sophomore season from Cam’ron Harris in 2019. Harris could slide in and take the bulk of Homer’s carries as he had six or more carries in UM’s final three regular season games in 2018 and that was with Homer and Dallas splitting the majority of the reps. The challenge that new offensive coordinator Dan Enos and running backs coach Eric Hickson will have is fitting Lorenzo Lingard into this puzzle. Lingard, a former 5-star recruit, missed the last seven games of the 2018 season and the 2019 spring because of a torn MCL. You could argue that Lingard is the most talented (but raw) player of this position group and getting him in-game reps to develop will be essential this season. Dallas, Harris and a healthy Lingard give Miami three extremely good options out of the backfield. If Robert Burns can stay healthy, he figures to slide in as UM’s fourth-string running back in 2019. When UM uses a fullback, Realus George will likely get those reps.
3. Wide Receivers
Projected Starters: Jr. Jeff Thomas, Rs. Sr KJ Osborn
Other Names to Know: Soph. Brian Hightower, Soph. Dee Wiggins, Jr. Mike Harley, Soph. Mark Pope, Fr. Jeremiah Payton, RS. Soph Evidence Njoku
Longshot to Contribute: Jr. Marshall Few
Analysis: Jeff. Thomas. Is. Back. Any Canes fan not in a cave for the past two seasons knows how important that is for Dan Enos’ 2019 offense. Thomas is an electric playmaker who can score anytime he touches the ball. UM can line him up at any wide receiver position to exploit a matchup and Thomas has proven over the past two seasons that he can work from that spot and succeed. Thomas will draw a lot of attention from defenses that will work to the benefit of Buffalo transfer KJ Osborn. Osborn is a bigger Braxton Berrios who can work himself open against a multitude of coverages and make tough catches in traffic. Osborn will establish himself as a security blanket for whichever UM quarterback wins the starting job this season because of his ability to get himself open and his hands. Figuring out which wide receiver will consistently compliment Thomas and Osborn in three wide receiver sets is a bit of a mystery at this point. It could be Mike Harley, but UM may not want three receivers 6-feet or smaller on the field at once. Brian Hightower and Dee Wiggins both showed flashes last year but Hightower fought injuries and Wiggins had some issues with drops. Mark Pope has struggled to grasp the offense in his time at UM thus far and Evidence Njoku hasn’t planned out as some have hoped. That leaves true freshman Jeremiah Payton, who impressed during his first spring at UM and will get every opportunity to earn playing time this fall. With UM having two tight ends seemingly set for breakout seasons in Brevin Jordan and Will Mallory, Enos may elect to play less wide receivers on the field at once to better play to the offense’s strengths.
2. Tight Ends
Projected Starters: Soph. Brevin Jordan, Soph. Will Mallory
Other Name to Know: Rs. Jr. Michael Irvin II
Longshots to Contribute: Rs. Soph. Brian Polendey, Fr. Larry Hodges
Analysis: Two great things happened at tight end for UM this spring: Will Mallory had a breakout spring and Brevin Jordan’s injury was not serious. Jordan was injured during a spring practice and missed the rest of the spring but he is expected to be ready to go for fall camp. Jordan’s absence showcased Mallory and the former 4-star recruit from Jacksonville didn’t disappoint. You could argue no player upped his stock this spring more than Mallory and that no player should be more excited about Dan Enos’ new offense than Mallory. He will shine in his role alongside Jordan regardless of who starts at quarterback for Miami. Jordan’s absence also thrust Michael Irvin II into a more prominent role. Irvin redshirted last season after missing most of the season with a knee injury but showed this spring that he can contribute in Enos’ offense when given the opportunity. After scoring the go-ahead touchdown against Florida State and making a career-high eight catches against Boston College, Jordan cooled off as UM’s offense did down the stretch. He figures to be a prominent weapon again this season and as Mallory’s game improves, that figures to only create more room for Jordan to work in the middle of the field. Tight end depth was obviously an issue at times last season as UM did not have a tight end participate in the 24-3 season-ending victory over Pittsburgh because all four were injured. With Brian Polendey back healthy and true freshman Larry Hodges in the fold for fall camp, UM is hoping to avoid depth issues at that position during 2019.
1. Defensive Ends
Projected Starters: Jr. Jonathan Garvin, Rs. Sr. Trevon Hill
Other Names to Know: Rs Fr. Gregory Rousseau, Rs. Sr. Scott Patchan, Fr. Jahfari Harvey
Longshot to Contribute: Fr. Cameron Williams
Analysis: It’s no secret that Miami loves to play aggressively and rush the passer in Manny Diaz’s attacking defensive scheme and that won’t change with Blake Baker calling the defense this season. That pressure all starts with the defensive end position and Miami has plenty of horses to make that happen again this season. Jonathan Garvin is coming off a sophomore season in which he racked up 60 tackles and 5.5 sacks in 13 starts and he will lead this group. Who will replace Joe Jackson, now with the Dallas Cowboys, will be a question answered in fall camp but it figures to come down to Virginia Tech transfer Trevon Hill and redshirt freshman Gregory Rousseau. Hill, a redshirt senior, is the more veteran presence as he had 11.5 sacks in three seasons played with Virginia Tech but many have been wowed by Rousseau’s length and ability in spring practices and his few game reps. Both will get significant reps for the Hurricanes this season regardless of who starts against Florida. Redshirt senior Scott Patchan figures to again be steady for Miami in his backup role while true freshman and early enrollee Jahfari Harvey will be fighting for playing time as well. The Hurricanes got 16 sacks from four different defensive ends during the 2018 campaign, nine of which came from Jackson. Can that number be exceeded in 2019? With Garvin leading the way and the solid mix of freshmen and seniors behind him, there’s plenty of reasons to think Miami’s defensive ends can be even better than the group Jackson led last season.
Which position group is the strongest entering the 2019 season?
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