The Miami Hurricanes will enter the 2020 season and especially spring practice at the end of February with high expectations. They have an elite offensive coordinator in Rhett Lashlee, a proven QB in D’Eriq King, plus two of the best defensive ends in college football, Gregory Rousseau and Quincy Roche. Simply put, the talent and the coaching is there.
One of the things that will be most interesting to watch is how the true freshmen will play for the Canes, and who from that new group of players will have an impact on the 2020 season. Miami is bringing in 24 new Hurricanes that will try and rebuild this program, and some of them may be asked to contribute their first year.
For me, the true freshman that I believe will have the biggest impact year-one will be running back Jaylan Knighton out of Deerfield Beach. Back in December, the RB room for the Hurricanes didn’t look to be an issue for this 2020 season, because Deejay Dallas was still at UM, as well as Lorenzo Lingard. Well, Dallas declared early for the NFL Draft and Lingard transferred to Florida, so the experience level for running backs in 2020 has dwindled mightily.
Junior Cam’ron Harris will no doubt be the starter barring an injury, and you also have redshirt junior Robert Burns, who showed promise towards the end of 2019, but has a history of injuries himself.
Couple injury updates from Manny Diaz just now: Corey Gaynor is out, considered day-to-day; meanwhile, Robert Burns out for the rest of the spring. Will be having a procedure done on his knee. Nothing major, per Diaz, just getting things cleaned up ahead of the season.— Christy Chirinos (@ChristyChirinos) April 9, 2019
After Harris and Burns, you have Knighton as well as fellow true freshman Don Chaney. Knighton and Chaney were arguably the two best RB’s in the state of Florida for the 2020 cycle, and we’re all expecting both to have great careers at UM. However, Chaney suffered an injury recently and has been ruled out for spring football.
FYI, can confirm @canesport report that freshman RB Don Chaney Jr. is being held out of spring contact drills after shoulder injury in the Army All-American game. It’s precautionary. He had minor surgery.— Manny Navarro (@Manny_Navarro) January 24, 2020
That will thrust Knighton into having a much bigger role not just in spring practice, but also once the regular season hits. I’ve been a huge fan of Knighton for a long time now, and his speed is really what jumps out to you, along with exceptional vision and patience that great running backs have. He also has a different playing style than Chaney, and Knighton in my opinion, fits the Rhett Lashlee offense a little more with his incredible athleticism, being used taking hand-offs but also catching passes out of the backfield.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Knighton has a big spring, and actually jumps Burns on the depth chart, and becomes the backup to Harris once week one rolls around on September 5th.
Miami’s backfield just got some serious speed with Rooster pic.twitter.com/aTGTDYUZW9— Mamba Marsh (@hurricanesmarsh) November 28, 2019
Another true freshman who I’m really high on is offensive lineman Jalen Rivers. Without a doubt, Rivers was one of the biggest gets for Miami in the 2020 class, especially when you consider the problems that the Canes OL had this past year.
Though he’s lined up at nearly every position on the offensive line throughout the last few years, I believe Rivers can come in and really challenge for the starting left tackle position. Rivers shined bright at the Under Armour All-America game at LT before enrolling early at UM, giving fans a glimpse into the future.
Reading great things about Jalen Rivers at UA prestige. That dude will be a blessing in a couple years to the Miami offensive line— Mamba Marsh (@hurricanesmarsh) January 1, 2020
We saw Zion Nelson at the position in 2019 as a true freshman, and while he showed brief moments of improvement, the season was riddled with poor play, which resulted in far too many sacks given up, third most in college football. Rivers comes in as a true freshman now, much more highly recruited than Zion was last year, and we’ll see how Jalen progresses over the next several months.
Miami Top247 OL commit Jalen Rivers working at left tackle. pic.twitter.com/l6qR5afBRu— Andrew Ivins (@Andrew_Ivins) September 27, 2019
The third guy I wanted to talk about is Avantae Williams, the highly touted safety who surprised everyone and committed to the Hurricanes on national signing day over the Gators. Considered by some to be the best safety in the 2020 class, Williams has future star and high draft pick written all over him, but I believe we’re going to see him play a role as a true freshman right off the bat.
AVANTAE WILLIAMS— NMD TV (@NMD_TV) February 5, 2020
Commits to The U pic.twitter.com/xhDI7OboEi
Miami has guys like Bubba Bolden and Gurvan Hall Jr. who will most likely start at the two safety positions once the season starts, but I think Avantae could be that next guy in the rotation. He has playmaking ability that the other UM safeties haven’t unleashed. He can go up and snag an interception, or lay a vicious hit to a wide receiver coming across the middle.
The biggest way I see Williams contributing in 2020 will be in coverage, as the Hurricanes secondary will be questionable. He possesses a speed and 3rd gear during the game that few players have, and I expect Avantae to be thrown in there for coverage situations, whether it’s man or zone.
Which freshman are you most excited to see play for the Canes this year?