The Miami Hurricanes are set to open their first spring practice on Monday March 2nd, officially kicking off the 2020 season.
One of the most critical positions on the Hurricanes defense is Mike Rumph’s group, an already thin room looking to replace NFL-bound Trajan Bandy.
In 2019, Miami’s defense finished 18th nationally in passing yards allowed, but were ranked 50th in passing yards per completion.
The rotation generally ran just three-deep with Bandy, Al Blades Jr. and DJ Ivey.
This spring, two rising sophomores are expected to take the step forward from special teams regulars to contributing corners who will be relied on heavily to keep this rotation fresh and slightly deeper in personnel.
As a true freshman in 2018, Blades Jr. starred mostly on special teams and was named captain of the unit twice. Last year, the sophomore got his first taste of defensive action and saw seven starts opposite of junior Trajan Bandy.
Blades Jr. developed into one the highest-graded corners in the country when it came to passer rating when targeted.
Lowest passer rating when targeted, FBS CBs (min. 225 cover snaps):— Cam Mellor (@CamMellor) December 9, 2019
1 Corey Straughter, ULM: 13.5
2 Lavert Hill, Michigan: 21.5
3 Al Blades Jr, Miami: 28.8
4 Caleb Farley, Va Tech: 29.2
5 Darmarri Mathis, Pitt: 30.4
6 Luq Barcoo, SDSU: 36.1
7 Derion Kendrick, Clemson: 36.5
He finished the year with two interceptions and six pass break ups in what was a strong campaign for the Hurricanes legacy. This spring, Blades Jr. should not only be one of the leaders of the cornerback room, but of the defense entirely.
If healthy, Blake Baker and his defense should feel good about their CB1 in 2020.
Al Blades Jr. days away from spring practice pic.twitter.com/ggqZLYla9O— Mamba Marsh (@hurricanesmarsh) February 22, 2020
Ivey held his own as well. The 6-1 rising junior started six games and lead the team with three interceptions. Two of his three takeaways came in a crucial ACC road game at Pittsburgh which the Hurricanes won with a last minute touchdown reception by K.J. Osborn from Jarren Williams.
It was the first of the Hurricanes longest winning streak of the year.
Ivey also had his struggles. In Miami’s loss to three-win Georgia Tech, Ivey had one of the biggest blunders of the game, essentially cementing himself and letting a Yellow Jacket run right passed him on a fake punt that led to a long touchdown. It was a major momentum swing and it resulted in the score that separated Tech from Miami.
But you’re going to get beat at this position. With another year of experience under his belt, Ivey should take a strong step forward in his development as a junior and that begins on Greentree next Monday.
Up and comers
Christian Williams and Te’Cory Couch both saw action in every game last season, mostly on special teams, and it seems like they’re on the same developmental route as Blades Jr. and Ivey. Both should both be impact guys in the secondary as sophomores.
Neither Williams nor Couch had the luxury of participating in spring practice a year ago, so this process should be huge for them as it was for Blades Jr. and Ivey a year ago.
With the early departure of Bandy, the positions depth took a huge hit. Now Williams and Couch, both consensus four-star prospects and Under Armour All-Americans, need to fill in the holes left by contributing in the rotation and pushing the two juniors ahead of them.
Blades Jr. spoke about the two young corners during the week following the Hurricanes 63-0 victory over Bethune-Cookman.
“I love the fact that they’re both coachable,” Blades Jr. said. “I love that they see the way the older cornerbacks, how we just listen and we try and go out and correct because you go from the meetings to the field. I like how they came in and preserved — saw how we worked, saw how we learned and they just fell right in line.”
The stage is now set for Williams and Couch to do more than just fall in line — they can become leaders in this defense and help set the standard for Marcus Clarke and Isaiah Dunson, two freshman corners that will make their way onto campus this summer.