With spring practice for the Miami Hurricanes beginning next on March 2nd, one of the more interesting positions in 2020 for UM will be their wide receivers.
This unit has lost two starters from the 2019 season in Jeff Thomas and K.J. Osborn, and also will be led by a new WR coach with Ron Likens, with Taylor Stubblefield having left go coach the receivers at Penn State.
Barring something totally unforeseen, Rob Likens is expected to be named UM WR coach, per source. Was Arizona State's offensive coordinator and QB coach past two seasons. Has extensive experience as college WR coach (ASU, Temple, elsewhere)— Barry Jackson (@flasportsbuzz) February 1, 2020
So, with Thomas and Osborn gone, Miami will now look to other receivers to step up and take their place.
The three receivers who have started in the past is senior Michael Harley, and then juniors Mark Pope and Dee Wiggins. Harley is a guy that saw his best season for the Hurricanes in 2019 with 38 catches, 485 yards and 3 touchdowns.
Mike Harley balled out yesterday. 6 catches, 116 yards, 2 touchdowns. pic.twitter.com/rhvElscVR6— Mamba Marsh (@hurricanesmarsh) November 10, 2019
Because of younger receivers who receive more of the hype, a lot of people tend to forget about Harley, which I simply don’t understand. Though, I think the senior will provide both quality leadership for the WR room, and also continue to showcase his dazzling speed in Rhett Lashlee's spread offense.
Mike Harley’s speed is really something. So happy for him scoring his first touchdown pic.twitter.com/bpQ16mv0Ij— Mamba Marsh (@hurricanesmarsh) September 17, 2019
Pope is the next guy I wanted to talk about. Coming out of high school as one of the best wide receives in the 2018 cycle, Pope is someone who the Hurricanes fanbase has been hyping up since day one. Picked by many to the breakout receiver in 2019, Pope failed to meet lofty expectations, ending the year with 18 receptions, 266 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Play action under center and going deep to Mark Pope. Hope Mark’s injury isn’t too serious because he’s starting to become more comfortable out there pic.twitter.com/kyf18IIeGz— Mamba Marsh (@hurricanesmarsh) September 17, 2019
Pope dealt with injuries in 2019 which definitely slowed him down, and now with a clean bill of health, many are expecting the Miami native to become the Hurricanes go-to receiver. With his athletic build and obvious playmaking abilities, I don't blame everyone for believing in Pope so much. The junior will definitely be one of the players that I watch very closely for the Hurricanes in the spring.
The last returning starter at WR is Dee Wiggins, someone who I’ve been a big fan of ever since he was a freshman. Towards the end of his sophomore season, Wiggins really became an integral part of Miami’s offense, finishing 2019 with 20 catches, 335 yards and 4 touchdowns.
My 2020 offensive breakout player for the Canes: Dee Wiggins pic.twitter.com/n9sYQWrnV6— Mamba Marsh (@hurricanesmarsh) January 15, 2020
Heading into 2020, I predict Wiggins to be Miami’s top receiver. Now matched with Lashlee’s offense, I think we’ll see Wiggins emerge as a true deep-ball threat for the Hurricanes, using his tremendous speed that often goes unnoticed.
Lashlee’s SMU offense last year was 3rd in the nation with 50 plays over 30 yards. Just bomb it deep to Dee Wiggins pic.twitter.com/4lALh005RW— Mamba Marsh (@hurricanesmarsh) January 15, 2020
With Wiggins, just like it is with every Canes receiver, it’s going to come down to consistency. If he can produce every week for Miami like he did during the second-half of last season, I truly think we can have a superstar on our hands.
I’ve always been a big Dee Wiggins fan, this play shows his speed that we haven’t seen too much of pic.twitter.com/mPvA5JYtXJ— Mamba Marsh (@hurricanesmarsh) September 17, 2019
Up and comers
Miami has three receivers with at least a couple years of experience, then there's a plethora of youngsters, waiting to showcase their abilities, and the first is redshirt freshman Jeremiah Payton. In the spring of 2019, Payton started to make plays and impress many, though he wasn’t used much at all in the regular season, which is still unknown to basically every Miami fan. Now, he’s become the popular pick by many, myself included, as the breakout player on the Canes offense.
DeeJay Dallas calles the final play of today’s scrimmage — a Jeremiah Payton 45-yard TD catch on a pass from Jarren Williams — “The Miracle at Traz.” pic.twitter.com/CxKhRAT1Ld— Manny Navarro (@Manny_Navarro) April 13, 2019
With good size and quality hands, Payton looks like your prototypical wide receiver. And though scouting reports may not be bragging about his speed, his on-field quickness is an X-factor to his game. I believe we’ll see Payton come out of spring practice as one of the Canes top receivers, meeting early expectations.
Last video of the day. Tate to Jeremiah Payton pic.twitter.com/PkNxG36LX1— Gaboowins (@GabyUrrutia22) April 4, 2019
Then finally, the Hurricanes have four true freshman at the WR position, all of which are early-enrollees and at UM now; Xavier Restrepo, Michael Redding, Dazalin Worsham and Keyshawn Smith. It should be noted, Redding will miss spring practice due to an injury. Still, those four are all receivers I really liked coming out of high school, and love that they’ll be with the Canes in the future. As far as their production in spring practices go, I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see at least one of them make an impression on people.
"If you cut him open, orange and green comes out," Manny Diaz says about Xavier Restrepo.— Josh White (@_JoshRWhite) December 18, 2019
Diaz compares Restrepo to former Hurricane standout Braxton Berrios.
Restrepo reminds me a lot of former Hurricane WR Braxton Berrios, because of his leadership and dog-like mentality as a receiver, and the fact that he makes big time plays. There’s no doubt in my mind that ‘X’ will be one of the leaders for Miami in the coming years.
Former St. Thomas wide receiver Xavier Restrepo hauls in a 54-yard touchdown pass to give @DB_BucksFB a 7-0 lead over the Raiders with 7:19 left in the first half. @SSHighSchools @FlaHSFootball pic.twitter.com/UbHG30oEJa— Adam Lichtenstein (@ABLichtenstein) October 18, 2019
Worsham may not have the speed of Harley or Wiggins, but he might have one of the better pair of hands on the Hurricanes. A true possession receiver, ‘Daz’ will be a reliable target for any Miami quarterback.
Keyshawn Smith was a late addition to the 2020 recruiting class for Miami, but a steal no doubt, as I’m very excited to see this California native develop. With quality height and track speed, Smith is the type of receiver that can make a play out of a screen pass, but also burn a defensive back deep downfield.
Watching film on Miami’s WR they landed on Tuesday, Keyshawn Smith out of San Diego. Great awareness as a receiver, plus has track speed. Canes got a steal here pic.twitter.com/19MVg7Pcaa— Mamba Marsh (@hurricanesmarsh) January 23, 2020
Like I've said earlier in this article and throughout this off-season, Miami’s wide receivers is a group that have the potential to be dangerous, but the actual production needs to match the hype they get from fans. That all starts next week when spring practice starts, and these WR’s put on the pads.