Losing a player to injury remains a dark staple of the sport of football. Unfortunately, injuries are as much a part of the game as crossing the goal line for a touchdown. However, all losses aren’t equal. Losing a fullback for most teams is not the same as losing a linebacker. Does losing a middle linebacker have the same impact on defense as the starting QB being taken off the field?
Who’s to say?
In a given season, the answer to who is Mr. Irreplaceable is most often the starting quarterback. Given the talent disparity between starter and backup, the command of the playbook, as well as subtleties such as cadence, overall timing and presence on the field makes it difficult to replace QB1. However, this hasn’t been the typical offseason for University of Miami Football.
With training camp just days away, the separation between starter and backup at signal-caller sets up to be a photo finish. Since we can make a case for any one of Tate Martell, N’Kosi Perry or Jarren Williams to be a starter, I don’t consider one indispensable over the rest based on how close the competition is.
So if quarterback isn’t the answer for Mr. Irreplaceable on the Hurricanes in 2019, then who is?
You could make the case for numerous men on the roster.
If cornerback Trajan Bandy posts similar numbers this season as he did last year, then he should be a finalist for the Thorpe Award come the end of the season. What you notice about the 5’10” DB is not his lack of size, but his tenacity both in coverage and in run support. Shadowing receivers on any route, “Muddy B” swats away any threats in his direction. With reckless abandon, he explodes through contact as a run defender, helping fortify the outside perimeter of the Canes’ run defense. Running mate CB Michael Jackson Sr is now a Dallas Cowboy, with a host of unproven candidates vying to take his place. Bandy has become a veteran of a young secondary unit. While UM boasts plenty of talent at CB, concern about experience and depth remain. Bandy is easily the most recognizable star in the secondary, one that Miami can’t do without.
This offseason, UM had to face a dreadful scenario that could possibly see all three of its linebackers walk away from the program. Miami’s coaching staff, along with its fan base, took a sigh of relief when senior linebackers Shaq Quarterman, Michael Pinckney and Zach McCloud turned down an opportunity to enter the 2019 NFL Draft. Their return for one final ride on the Orange and Green ride was greeted with much applause. The trio have started a combined 116 games — Pinckney missed one due to suspension in 2018. If you consider the group production in a three-year span (581 tackles, 73 tackles-for-loss, 24 sacks, four interceptions, two forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries) and you begin to understand their importance to a vaunted Hurricanes’ defensive unit. Their impact is not limited to the field, as each has shown leadership during the highs and lows of their Canes’ career. If you checked the injury report exiting spring practice, you likely noticed that linebacker was decimated by injury. Even with the addition of Patrick Joyner and incoming freshmen Avery Huff and Samuel Brooks, Miami remains thin behind its do-it-all trio of ‘backers. If one of these staples of the No. 4 college defense in 2018 is unable to go, it would be a doomsday scenario that Canes fans fear.
Could the man who has come into his own at striker be the answer to this query? We’ve talked all offseason about Finley being severely underrated in the college football circle. One part safety, another part linebacker — and with a healthy head of hair — Finley has served as the solution to the plague of spread offenses the Canes come across. From underappreciated to defensive strength, the striker has become a welcomed addition to the Canes D. Entering his senior year, Finley is more than a contributor. He has become a mentor among his peers. Despite the addition of Gilbert Frierson and Zach McCloud to the striker position, the skillfulness of Finley is unmatched on the roster.
Outside of striker, no position illustrates versatility quite like the tight end position. Sadly, the Hurricanes found themselves down to a walk-on late in 2018, with a barrage of injuries decimating the position. Whether you believe that Brevin Jordan, Will Mallory or Michael Irvin II all deserve equal or separate billing is a debate unto itself. What’s not debatable is how different the Canes’ offense looked without a tight end to lean on down the stretch last season.
Are you buying into a position outside of starting QB being the most indispensable position this year? We want to hear who you believe is irreplaceable this season in the comment section.
IT’S ALWAYS ABOUT THE U!