Yes, Quarterback is the most important position in sports.
Figured I’d get that out of the way.
It’s no surprise that with most things in life, the one with the most control has more input into final outcomes. Starting Pitchers. Goalies. Point-anything in basketball.
However, that position is still only one position on the field. They don’t block the rusher off the edge to buy more time. Nor do they patrol a defense as the last line of defense.
Every position on the field has an impact. Most teams that can check the box at the most important positions are the teams that play the last games of a season.
That stirs the question, what does the industry consider the top 5 positions?
Going through the usual suspects the result were nearly universal across the board. NFL.com, Foxsports.com, ESPN.com all had various editions of this list, but had the same top five, with all lists led by Quarterback. That was followed by some rank composed of Tackle, Pass Rusher, Defensive Back and Wide Receiver. Sites like our very own SBNation.com weren’t very different. It all boils down to the most basic of premises:
Someone to put points on the board.
Someone to stop that guy.
Someone to protect the first guy.
Someone to help the second guy.
Football at its most primitive state: Score more points than the other team.
Since the changes to the Transfer system in College Football drastically changed and allowed a player friendly transfer environment, Manny Diaz has attacked the referenced positions HARD. Its a sensible approach if you want to rebuild and do it quick: Free agency.
Unsurprisingly, Manny Diaz has sought a signal thrower in back to back offseasons. Last year is was fan favorite Tate Martell from the Ohio State University. The social media darling was a hot topic after his transfer to Miami but was a non factor on the field. Bringing Tate in was a risk despite his Elite 11, five star pedigree despite his lack of playing time.
Next up is D’Eriq King. In comparing King and Martell’s resumes, its easy to see that the staff learned from their previous dip for a Quarterback. Rather than going after a ballyhooed recruit without college proving, they went after most transfers that had previously been a starter or had multiple starts under their belt. The Canes hit a home run with King, who as a grad transfer, brings great experience and a win now mentality. His resumes proof of success is also a major factor for teammates who know that the new guy can win games and will demand the rest of the team get on his level.
2. Pass Rusher
Similar to the type of prospect the staff brought in with Tate Martell, Jaelan Phillips, from UCLA, was a five star player and number one player coming out of high school. However a limited amount of film prior to devastating injuries leave the buyer in wait and see mode. The most important difference between Martell and Phillips are the early reviews. For Tate it took almost all of spring for his first true, on field shining moment in the third spring game. For Phillips, it took but a few plays in the first week of spring camp for the staff to realize they had something special on their hands. Though its not even summer yet the early returns are promising. The freakishly athletic defensive end should be a larger part of the defensive attack.
Following the trend set with the quarterback transfers, Miami brought in another experienced highly successful grad transfer in Quincy Roche. The former Temple Owl brings a heavy resume as arguably the top returning pass rusher in college football. Similar to King, Roche has a win now work ethic that the coaches hope will become contagious among his position room and the defense. Another notable similarity to King notates another trend by the staff from year 1 to year 2. Stars no longer matter. Results are king when looking at the top two additions for this offseason, as both King and Roche were low rated recruits out of high school with limited offers, while Martell and Phillips were top 50 players with astronomical ratings.
3. Offensive Tackle
From what we have seen from the tackle shopping in the portal, there is one certainty: They have been the hottest commodities and the hardest to obtain. While big time transfer end up at Alabama and Georgia, the mid tier are jumped on like toilet paper at Costco, with only scraps left to choose from.
Year 1 brought a transfer who, while had the results and maturity, lacked the production at a high level. Tommy Kennedy came from FCS Butler, and was thought to be a talent that had the tackle agility but lacked the heft. Coaches hoped that some time in the weight program would get Kennedy adjusted to FBS football and a starting gig at Left Tackle. Well, after losing out on Left Tackle to a TRUE FRESHMEN, Kennedy’s lack of heft all but disqualified him from starting anywhere else on the line. Our Justin Dottavio posed a question and disqualifying answer with great foresight in his article on Kennedy last year.
Will he start?? If Kennedy isn’t starter ready right now it’s not even worth it.
No he didn’t, and no it was not.
This year Miami has the rare opportunity to not only add a Left Tackle with a high recruit pedigree, but a Grad Transfer with the same win now mentality as Roche and King. Firstly, the player Miami is SO fortunate to have landed via the portal, is one Issiah Walker. The Miami Norland grad made the quick transfer from the University of Florida back home to Miami after a moment of clarity that there was no place like home. Miami gains a great athlete at the tackle position who is very projectable and with enough ability to challenge for heavy snaps this season.
Speaking of King and a urgent mentality, it is his former teammate and hopeful next blind side guardian, Jarrid Williams, that Miami is tenaciously pursuing in the portal. The grad transfer is an excellent athlete with great feet, and has produced on the field, allowing only 2 sacks in 544 snaps during the 2018 season.
4. Defensive Back
With the history that Miami has in the deep secondary, it is not surprising that they were able to go into the portal and add another exceptional player for the secondary. Bubba Bolden, formerly of the University of Southern California, came to the Canes after a falling out with the coaching staff at USC. Citing trust issues, its fitting that Bolden was able to be successfully recruited by former Bishop Gorman HS teammates Brevin Jordan and aforementioned Tate Martell. Bolden doesn’t have all the experience you would want in a plug and play type player, but was able to put together enough snaps and tape for most people to determine we got a hell of a player in the safety transfer. The fluid athlete shows a nose for the ball and sees the field well, and should be a great partner with Gurvan Hall in the back of the Hurricane Secondary.
5. Wide Receiver
This group had more outward movement than inward. KJ Osborn is the primary moving piece here. The Buffalo transfer and former IMG wideout was a fantastic addition to the wide receiver room for the Hurricanes, leading the receiving corp in receptions, yards and touchdowns. It was his impact as a leader, however, that had the coaches and players buzzing. The 7th round pick of the Minnesota Vikings left a lasting impression in the wide receiver room and seems to have rubbed off on the younger players. At several points in the offseason players like Mark Pope, Mike Harley and Dee Wiggins have saluted the Cane in some way, shape or form.
In moves that very well may be addition by subtraction, Brian Hightower, (Illinois) and Marquez Ezzard, that no longer felt apart of the program, transferred out. The transfers opened the Canes to take four receivers this past signing day that look to be main stays in the near future. We wish the outgoing men well and are very happy with the new additions!
With all that the Canes may not be done. Adding stars at every major football position has bee an excellent show of general management by the current staff. Will we be able to add one last star before its all said and done?
We shall see, what we shall see.