This week we’ll take a look at the Wide Receiver position group. This is a relatively deep position for the Miami Hurricanes with 9 scholarship receivers on the roster. When you factor in the Tight Ends in space, and Running Backs out of the backfield, you’ll have a lot of places you could go with the ball, but limited snaps to go around.
As we speed towards Fall camp later this week, let’s look at how, and why, I ranked the receivers and their projected contribution this coming season.
1. K.J. OSBORN
Before you scoff, you should know that everything about KJ makes him WR1 in my book. Allow me to explain. Osborn redshirted as a freshman, and then saw action in 38 games over the next three seasons at the University of Buffalo. He was one of the Bulls’ top playmakers the last two seasons, and last season he saw his contribution skyrocket with 53 catches for 892 yards and seven touchdowns. Osborn was ranked #1 in the MAC for punt returns AND punt return yards last season. That was good enough to earn second-team All-MAC honors, and a spot on the Biletnikoff Award midseason watch list.
Not enough to make him your #1 receiver yet?
Osborn also has proven big play abilities. He had catches of 30-plus yards in 10 of the Bulls’ 14 games last season. Add to that his 80yd TD in Miami’s Spring Game in Orlando and you can see why he finished his career in Buffalo with 96 catches, 1,490 yards and 12 touchdowns.
To put that into perspective, those numbers are better than all 8 of our other Wide Receiver’s career totals…COMBINED.
Osborn also has jets. He set school records in both the 100m and 200m while at Lincoln high school. He was named pound-for-pound strongest player for Buffalo following their summer 2017 conditioning, and his work ethic has been mentioned by several coaches since he arrived at Miami.
Diaz says Osborn would call him late at night to get the lights in the IPF turned on so he could do extra work on the JUGGS machine— StateOfTheU.com (@TheStateOfTheU) July 18, 2019
If that isn’t enough for you, Osborn was named as one of six ACC standout wide receivers who made the cut for the preseason Biletnikoff Award.
Representing The at #ACCKickoff ☑️ @biletnikoffawrd watch list ☑️— Canes Football (@CanesFootball) July 18, 2019
Congrats, @KJ_Osborn! pic.twitter.com/AkYDpNFy5A
And last, but most importantly not least, KJ was chosen to represent the 2019 Miami Hurricanes at the ACC media day in Charlotte along with Shaquille Quarterman. This speaks volumes to his leadership on and off the field, and was enough for me to list him as my WR#1.
Couldn't have two better representatives of the Miami Hurricanes than these young men at the podium today. pic.twitter.com/gCQitNmZMe— Canes Football (@CanesFootball) July 18, 2019
1a. JEFFERY THOMAS
Despite missing Miami’s final regular-season game and the Pinstripe Bowl, Thomas finished as Miami’s leading receiver with 35 catches for 563 yards and three touchdowns last season. We all know that Jeff is one of the most dynamic athletes on the field on any given snap, and he’s getting well-deserved attention from notable analysts such as Phil Steele (who listed him TWICE in the Top 20 punt returners in the nation).
Jeff Thomas is so good, Phil Steele listed him twice. pic.twitter.com/N6k32jXUgS— Big Kahuna (@DomWorld_Peace) July 22, 2019
While that was likely a typo, no one will argue Thomas’ worthiness to be on that list. After a tough season last year, I’d love nothing more than to see Jeff continue to dominate DB’s week in and week out and earn himself a nice spot in the 2020 NFL draft. With legit competition for who’s slinging that pill, improved offensive line play, and an offensive scheme setup around his talent Thomas has a legitimate chance to set personal records in every category this season.
3. MIKE HARLEY
Production wise, Harley is the next in line to make an impact. Entering his third year at Miami, Harley has played in 24 games and had mild success with 30 catches for 331yds. Mike has been an asset as a blocker, and is a solid worker in the weight room and on the field. He suffers from being undersized, and has had some key drops in his time as a Cane.
Our Jon Somma did a player profile on Harley recently that mentioned “He has spent some offseason time training with All-Pro receiver Antonio Brown, who in an Instagram post, raves about how ready Mike Harley is to step up for a bigger role.” Harley is one of those kids you love to root for, so here’s to him having a productive season.
4. MARK POPE
Pope has been a fan favorite since before he signed with Miami. As a highly ranked recruit, he came in with big expectations, but had minimal production as a Freshman making only 1 catch for 11 yards. Now entering his Sophomore campaign, Pope will need to step up this season or risk being lost in the fray of another highly ranked recruiting class coming in early 2020.
Accounts out of Coral Gables after Spring ball were that Pope has become more focused on his role in the offense, and on learning the playbook. I expect Enos to draw up some plays for Pope early on in the season, and depending on his production, his role could grow as the season wears on. I am ranking him this high based on his potential, and the feedback the staff has given the media about him this Spring.
5. JEREMIAH PAYTON
Payton is the top ranked signee from Miami’s 2019 recruiting class, and as an early enrollee he was able to take advantage of the weight room, spring ball, and off season workouts to work his way up the depth chart. He had surprising success in the spring, and will likely see action late in games this season. His combination of size and speed are going to be problematic for opposing defenses because their top DB’s will be focused on Osborn and Thomas, which will benefit Payton and the other receivers on the field. I have Payton pegged to win the Newcomer of the Year Award.
6. BRIAN HIGHTOWER
Having played in 11 games last season, Hightower was able to grab four catches for 60 yards and one touchdown. Also 6’3, Hightower has a slight weight advantage of 15 pounds over Wiggins. Hightower has shown a knack for consistently catching contested balls, and that will serve him well in tight games. I gave him a slight edge over Wiggins based on his hands even though Hightower was injured last season and was less productive.
7. DEE WIGGINS
Wiggins played all 13 games last season and caught seven passes for 73 yards. He was able to get a couple of critical pass interference calls last season to keep drives alive, but suffered from unforced drops throughout the season. I’m hopeful that Coach Stubbs can help Wiggins sure up his hands because his 6’3 frame shouldn’t go to waste.
8. EVIDENCE NJOKU
Njoku has had a rough go at the U. He suffered a season ending injury his Freshman year and was Redshirted, then saw action in 8 games last season, but only recorded 1 catch for 11 yards. With talented younger players coming in and push him down the depth chart, it’s going to be difficult to see the field. He’s a great kid that comes from an athletic family that loves The U, so you hate to see him not be as productive as expected for a kid with his talent and 6’6 frame. He may find new opportunity in Enos’offense, so I’ll keep my fingers crossed for him.
9. MARSHALL FEW
Few has a unique story coming to the University of Miami as a walk on in 2017. He played in seven games his freshman year, mostly on special teams, and was an integral member of the practice squad. He continued working and saw action in 4 games last season and ultimately earned a scholarship from coach Manny Diaz.
“Welcome to the new Miami.” - @Coach_MannyDiaz— Canes Football (@CanesFootball) January 14, 2019
Here’s a sneak peek: pic.twitter.com/54kpfAPo7r
That wraps up my review and ranking of the Wide Receiver position group.
How did my rankings compare against yours?
Let me know in the comments below.