Sophomore wide receiver Brian Hightower enters the 2019 season with high hopes to emerge as a top receiver on Miami’s depth chart. The 6’3”, 210 lb receiver had an excellent high school career, as he graduated from football hot-bed IMG Academy. Hightower led IMG in receiving during his senior season, tallying 35 catches for 445 yards and five touchdowns. His breakthrough season came in 2016 during his sophomore year at Calabasas High School, where he recorded 71 catches for 1,344 yards and 14 touchdowns. The Leimert Park, California native was able to attend the prestigious event, The Opening in 2017, and was able to play in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in 2018. Both events showcase the best recruits in the country, and give them an opportunity to compete against one another.
247Sports, Rivals, and ESPN all ranked Hightower as a four-star prospect coming out of high school. ESPN included Hightower in their rankings of the best 300 prospects for the class of 2018. He signed with the Canes in March of 2017, and he chose UM over schools such as Alabama, Clemson, UF, FSU, Nebraska, Georgia, etc.
Here’s 247 Sports evaluation on Hightower:
“Hightower is a long strider that really does a nice job of adjusting and tracking the football over his shoulder, and possesses a frame that should have no problem expanding once he arrives on the collegiate level. He maintains concentration when operating in congested area, especially in the red zone, but must continue to work on taking advantage of his physical makeup and high-pointing the football. The sure-handed Hightower is also an intelligent young man that would fit in nicely in any locker room.”
Hightower came on to campus as a member of a loaded wide receiver depth chart, and couldn’t really make an impact during his freshman season. He only posted four catches for 60 yards with one touchdown. That touchdown was one of the lone bright spots in an otherwise bleak game against LSU. Hightower really couldn’t get going in what was a frustrating year for Miami, especially for the offense. Miami’s offense ranked 110th in total yards per game, while also ranking a dismal 112th in total passing offense. Between that and what was a revolving door at the starting quarterback position, the offense could never get a rhythm going at all throughout the year.
The good news for Hightower and Miami’s offense is that new voices are joining Miami’s offensive coaching staff. New OC and QB Coach Dan Enos will introduce a more complex and creative offensive system, while new WR coach Taylor Stubblefield can help guide Hightower and the other receivers forward. Stubblefield was an All-American in 2004 while playing at Purdue, and he also spent some time in the NFL and CFL as a player. He’s also coached at several different schools, including Utah and Wake Forest, and at the professional level for the CFL’s Toronto Argonauts. His last stop was at Air Force. Stubblefield’s wealth of playing and coaching experience should benefit Hightower greatly.
When the season gets going, Jeff Thomas, KJ Osborn, and Mike Harley Jr., the most experienced receivers on the team, will get the most playing time. However, someone in the sophomore trio of Hightower, Mark Pope, and Dee Wiggins, or freshman Jeremiah Payton will have the chance to break through and get fairly significant playing time next season. Only time will tell to see who steps up and earns the right to get more playing time.
Stats Prediction: 23 catches, 211 yards, 4 touchdowns