Miami has 1 goal every year, and that is to win a National Championship in football. Yes, there are other small goals along the way, including beating FSU, winning the Coastal, getting to and winning the ACC title, but the ultimate goal is to put Championship trophy #6 in the trophy case. Unfortunately, outside of 2005 and 2017, the Canes haven’t been in the discussion past the month of September in most years. The question has always come up, whether it was coaching, QB play, or the overall talent on the field.
This is part 3 of 10, where I ask, Do the Canes have enough to contend for the College Football Playoffs?
Miami has been loaded at WR for 4 decades, with dynamic playmakers who could take over a game, but going into 2020, the Canes seem thin at this marquee position. How has this happened? Was Miami’s offense, or lack thereof a big deterrent for elite talent staying in South Florida? Will Rhett Lashlee’s new system give Miami the much needed boost for the kids on campus to make a big impact? Only time, and repetitions will help an inconsistent group make its mark.
Think back to the 80’s, 90’s and 2000’s, where guys like Michael Irvin, Randall Thrill Hill, Andre Johnson, Santana Moss, Reggie Wayne and many others struck fear into opponents and defensive coordinators alike. Opposing teams would know where the ball was going, roll coverage that way, and still give up big plays. Santana Moss said it best, “big time players step up in big games”, but who are the big time players on this years Canes team?
James Proche put up monster numbers in 2019 in this exact same offense with 111 catches, 1225 yards and 15 TDs. The year previous he had 93 catches, 1199 yards and 12 TDs, all while being a 5’11” 193lb. He was a 3 star recruit with offers from schools like Arkansas St, Colorado St, Louisville, North Texas and others. The point being, this offense may allow for kids who haven’t done a lot in the past to thrive and put up some monster numbers with D’Eriq King throwing them the ball.
Does Miami have enough, let’s examine.
Dee Wiggins - Wiggins has a lot of potential in a 6’3” 200lb frame to be that elite playmaker Miami is looking for. The problem has been inconsistency throughout his 2 years on campus. In back to back weeks in Miami’s biggest wins, he posted 4 catches for 74 yards and a back breaking TD vs FSU and 3, 85 and 2TDs vs Louisville. The other 11 games he accounted for only 13 grabs and 176 yards, where he far too often was invisible on the field. Going into his junior season, it’s time for him to step up, or be passed by, by freshmen on the team.
Mike Harley Jr. - Seems like just yesterday that Harley arrived on campus and was thought to be an excellent pickup at WR, but here we are entering his senior season, and he’s posted a solid yet unspectacular career so far. Harley should thrive in this offense with his ability to play in the slot and make contested catches, and the hope should be that he plays like Braxton Berrios did in 2017. Harley has averaged around 11YPC throughout his Miami career and should be a 1st down machine for King in the passing game. It is step up time for Mike Harley.
Mark Pope - Pope was the most highly decorated High School recruit out of this group, but has done little to nothing at Miami. Rumors(and I stress rumors) have been spread about Pope that he was having trouble learning the past 2 offenses, but the ability seems to be there when given the chance. Pope needs to be electric now, where he should get many more opportunities with the ball in his hands, and judging by some of the offseason workouts that he has posted, it seems like the sense of urgency has kicked in.
Jeremiah Payton - One of the great mysteries of 2019 is why was Payton not given more of a chance to get on the field and play. Miami’s offense was stuck in concrete and maybe someone of Payton’s ability could’ve helped jumpstart a lethargic group. Payton has all the physical tools, but now needs to be given a chance to thrive in this offense. He is a great route runner, and has deceptive speed to go along with a 6’1” frame. Obviously we don’t know what he can bring to the college game yet, but with Miami going more 4 and 5 WR sets, his chance to shine is right now.
Due to transfer and graduations, these are the only returning players on the roster, which should leave opportunity for the four freshman who signed this year to make plays. Michael Redding III, Dazalin Worsham, Keyshawn Smith and Xavier Restrepo all bring varying abilities, but it is hard to project who will step up, and who will take a redshirt. The fact that the Canes are in this position at WR is sad, especially based on where Miami recruits, and who they’ve put in the league previously. I’d expect at least 2 of these guys to play significant minutes in the WR rotation.
This is not a vintage Miami unit, and until they step up their game on the field, this is not a college football playoff group. The accolades that they received in high school have not translated to the college game, but the hope is with Rhett Lashlee calling a 21st century offense that WR play should improve drastically. We saw UGA a year ago struggle playing young WR’s and that potentially cost them a shot at the playoffs, so for Miami to contend, this is a group that must play better. Who are the playmakers? Quite frankly we can’t name one and feel really good about it. Time for these guys to prove us wrong.
Next up, Tight End