After having four players selected in the 2020 NFL Draft last Saturday, the Miami Hurricanes had four more players sign with NFL teams as an undrafted free agent since then.
There could be nine Hurricanes off the 2019 team in the NFL after former linebacker Michael Pinckney finds a spot with a franchise when healthier.
How will Miami replace those players in the 2020 season?
Keep reading for how Miami can replace its former players heading to the NFL as undrafted free agents.
New Team: New England Patriots
Likely Replacement: Jr. Mark Pope
Darkhorse Candidate: Fr. Keyshawn Smith
Analysis: The newest New England Patriot had a tumultuous Miami career at best but was a major big play threat when he was on the field. Who can that gamebreaking threat be moving forward? Pope will get every chance to finally step up and live up to his 5-star billing as a recruit as he the likely candidate to fill Thomas’ shoes in this regard. Pope has just 19 catches for 277 yards and two touchdowns in action as a reserve in his first two seasons. His quickness and speed will likely make him a popular target for new Hurricanes quarterback D’Eriq King this season. Smith flipped his commitment to Miami in mid-January after Mike Leach moved on from Washington State. He got a chance to work with King and the other quarterbacks in Miami’s four spring practices and has “major athletic ability” according to David Lake of InsideTheU.com. Like most freshmen, Smith will need to fully understand new offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee’s playbook before earning an opportunity but he is the type of player who can serve as a big-play threat once acclimated to major college football.
New Team: New England Patriots
Likely Replacement: Rs. Jr. Jaelan Phillips
Darkhorse Candidate: Rs. Fr. Jahfari Harvey
Analysis: Hill had 27 tackles and 4.5 sacks in 12 games as a Hurricane after joining the program as a graduate transfer from Virginia Tech. He played situationally for the Hurricanes in 2019 splitting reps with Scott Patchan, Jonathan Garvin and Greg Rousseau. With Patchan transferred out, Garvin getting drafted by the Green Bay Packers and Hill signing with the Patriots, this leaves Miami in search of a reserve defensive end behind Rousseau and Temple transfer Quincy Roche. If healthy, Phillips very well could fill absorb a role like Hill had last season and excel in it. The UCLA transfer has not played in a game since 2018 but finally started practicing with the Hurricanes in March before COVID-19 ended Miami’s spring campaign. Whether Phillips is healthy or not, expect Harvey to play meaningful snaps this season. The Vero Beach High grad played in just four games as a true freshman in 2019 to protect his redshirt status. UM will need him to spell starters and play situationally in 2020 before likely needing him as a full-time starter in 2021 to replace the graduated Roche and Rousseau, should he declare early for the NFL Draft.
New Team: Pittsburgh Steelers
Likely Replacement: Jr. Al Blades Jr.
Darkhorse Candidate: Jr. DJ Ivey
Analysis: Bandy was undoubtedly the leader of Miami’s group of cornerbacks in 2019 and will be greatly missed in the Hurricane secondary. Blades Jr. was serviceable in coverage last season and figures to step into the role as Miami’s No.1 corner. He needs to work on becoming a more consistent tackler but if he makes strides there, he can be relied on to be Miami’s top cornerback. He broke up six passes and had two interceptions in 2019. Ivey had an extremely inconsistent 2019 season but did finish the year with three interceptions. He had several forgettable moments but many players seeing legitimate playing time for the first time do. Ivey must learn to be consistent as Miami will need him whether or not Blades Jr. serves as the team’s No.1 cornerback. Miami will need both of these players at their best in 2020 because there is not much experienced depth behind them at cornerback.
New Team: San Diego Chargers
Likely Replacement: Rs. Soph. Gilbert Frierson
Darkhorse Candidate: Soph. Keontra Smith
Analysis: Finley played the striker role fairly well and is a sure tackler who will be missed. Both Frierson and Smith are converted defensive backs who have the coverage skills to play the position, but need to develop the tackling skills Finley had. Frierson played sparingly as Finley’s backup in 2019 but did make 15 tackles and intercept a pass. His speed is one of his best tools as a defender as he is fast enough to cover most offensive players from the striker spot. Smith made just two tackles in seven games in 2019 playing mostly on special teams. His move to striker this spring helps bolster depth at the position as he was a bit buried on the depth chart at safety prior to the move. He will need to learn the intricacies of the position this offseason but has the physical tools to replace Finley if given the opportunity.
New Team: N/A (Pinckney is waiting until he is healthier to sign with an NFL team)
Likely Replacement: Rs. Fr. Avery Huff
Darkhorse Candidate: Fr. Tirek Austin-Cave
Analysis: Pinckney will be one of the most challenging departed Hurricanes to replace. He appeared in 49 games in his Miami career and was a four-year starter who averaged over 66 tackles per season. He was a staple of Manny Diaz’s aggressive, attacking defense in his time at Miami. Huff is a relative unknown to many Hurricane fans after taking an academic redshirt in 2019. He will be eligible to take the field in 2020 and figures to be a prominent candidate in the competition to replace Pinckney. Defensive coordinator Blake Baker highlighted Huff’s speed to the media this spring and his elite athleticism will likely give him the inside track to the starting job. With Zach McCloud and Sam Brooks penciled in to the middle linebacker position, that leaves a slew of unproven young linebackers to push for the outside linebacker starting job if Huff doesn’t snatch it. Why not Austin-Cave? He made 148 tackles his senior year of high school and if he can add a little weight prior to the 2020 season, he may get an opportunity to play as a true freshman.
Which player entering the NFL as an undrafted free agent will Miami miss the most?
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