Since the NCAA Transfer Portal was introduced in October 2018, Manny Diaz has been a frequent user of its benefits. For those student-athletes who employ the Transfer Portal, there are a plethora of reasons for joining Diaz’s organization and playing for the University of Miami Hurricanes football program - the weather, a beautiful campus, a storied history, and top tier placement of NFL prospects - just to name a few.
However, there are also a few reasons that have made Diaz’s sales pitch quite difficult and has resulted in a two-way street in and out of South Florida. The product that was once easy to sell itself has been difficult to market because of struggles on the field where the Canes have finished 6-7 and 7-6 in the past two years and the recent decline of production of Canes alumnus into the NFL. Lastly, even though Diaz has excelled at bringing talent in through the Transfer Portal, he and previous coaches have struggled to retain talent, which has resulted in a mass exodus year after year of once highly-touted recruits.
As evidenced by the below chart, the Hurricanes have witnessed fourteen players utilize the Transfer Portal. In 2019, there were an additional seven who transferred to another program. By contrast, Diaz has currently procured five players through the Transfer Portal who may be eligible to play for this upcoming year and garnered an additional seven in the 2019 group.
Miami Transfers 2020
|Michael Irvin II/TE
Miami Transfers 2019
Now, in this context, the old adage “quality over quantity” should prevail over the contrasting idiom, “strength in numbers,” when considering the class of transfers in and out of the Hurricanes football. That is, the 12 new Canes in the past two years likely put the program in a better position than they were in with the previous 21 Canes who have, or are in the process of, departing from Miami.
I have a hunch that much of the Canes Faithful, and even Diaz criticizers, would praise Diaz for his utilization of the Transfer Portal. And rightfully so. However, just as there is optimism for the incoming class of transfers, there is reason to believe that the players who plan to transfer could benefit from a change of scenery. Thus, let’s take a deeper dive into the personnel that has come in and come out of South Florida, as well as the pros and cons that the revolving door known as the Transfer Portal has caused in Miami.
2019 Transfer Class:
Let’s start by analyzing the players who entered transferred in and out of Miami prior to last year’s season. In fact, the 2019 Transfer Class was balanced as seven players joined the Canes through the Transfer Portal but seven players also departed (granted, Bar Milo did not utilize his final year of eligibility and Jeff Thomas entered the Transfer Portal, but returned to the program).
In other words, the 2019 additions and departures can be analyzed similarly to a blockbuster trade. Of note, the college careers of the 2019 additions, KJ Osborn, Trevon Hill, Tommy Kennedy, and Chigozie Nnoruka, as well as 2019 departures, Lawrence Cager and Hayden Mahoney, have come to a close either by way of entering the NFL Draft or graduation, so the outcome of their transfer decision is complete.
The one-and-done WRs both put up decent numbers in 2019. For Miami, Osborn started all 13 games and caught 5 TDs for 547 yards. At Georgia, Cager was belabored by two separate injuries but still put up productive numbers in his nine games played by scoring 4 TDs for 476 yards. Even though Cager is a big-bodied target with natural athleticism, his injuries cannot go overlooked, and the Canes made out in this “swap” with getting Osborn whose make-it mentality is integral to any organization and was likely the reason the 5’11” WR was drafted in the fifth round, while the 6’4” Cager went undrafted.
Next, are the two QBs who transferred: Tate Martell, who joined the Canes, and Cade Weldon, who left the Canes for East Tennessee State. At this point, neither Martell nor Weldon has done much in their college career, although Weldon was sidelined due to injury last year. With that being said, Weldon is likely to have a better chance to get action this year at QB as the former 3-star recruit will compete with true freshman, Cade Larkins, for the job. Martell’s expectations were sky high as an Ohio State QB transfer but will be competing for a backup role at this juncture.
There was also a coincidental one-for-one “swap” of Offensive Lineman through the Portal, as Tommy Kennedy joined the Canes and Hayden Mahoney left the Canes for Boston College. Even though both entered as former three-star recruits out of the 2015 high school class, Miami likely would have preferred to hang onto Mahoney last year, who immediately found success at Boston College, while Kennedy was part of the musical chairs group that was the Canes inept offensive line in 2019.
As to the remaining incoming players, defensive end, Hill was a solid addition and complemented a stout defensive line by collecting 27 tackles and 9.5 tackles for loss (including 4.5 sacks). Nnoruka, who transferred from UCLA, was more of a role player as he saw action in 13 games but only contributed 12 tackles and 1 tackle for loss.
Another defensive end addition from UCLA, Jaelan Phillips, was a five-star recruit coming out of high school but has been plagued by injuries. If healthy, he could be a key contributor to the 2020 roster. Lastly, another highly-touted high school recruit, safety, Bubba Bolden, was also plagued by injuries last year but could make an impact in the secondary if healthy this season.
For outgoing players, running back, Asa Martin, has been unable to find any semblance of consistency in his college career. Martin initially started his career at Auburn, then transferred to Miami, but six months later transferred to Memphis. Martin certainly has a lot of talent as he was considered a four-star recruit coming out of high school, but cited Memphis Mike Norvell’s offense as one of the reasons for his decision to join the Memphis program. Norvell has since left Memphis for Florida State and Martin has three years of eligibility remaining. Wide Receiver, Marquez Ezzard is a strong receiver who is an asset on short routes. Ezzard will likely carve out a decent role at Georgia Tech and could have definitely been a contributor to the U’s receiver depth this upcoming year. Lastly, there is punter, Zach Feagles, whose career did not pan out in Miami, and the Canes likely upgraded with promising rising redshirt Junior, Lou Hedley.
2019 Incoming Transfer Class Grades: C+
2019 Outgoing Transfer Class Grades: D
Bottom Line: Overall, neither the incoming nor outgoing Transfer Portal classes of 2019 for the Hurricanes ended up being overly successful. The remaining variables that could alter these grades are incoming transfers of Bolden and Phillips to Miami (both defensive players) and outgoing players Martin and Ezzard (both skill position offensive players). All four of these players should have successful remainders of their college careers. There is likely more upside with Bolden and Phillips - but unfortunately more volatility, as they have both been plagued by injuries to this point.
2020 Transfer Class:
The 2020 Transfer Classes in and out of Miami have a lot more unknowns to this point than the 2019 Transfer Classes, including the fact that the destination is still unknown for some players in the Transfer Portal.
The position that has been the talk of the offseason is the quarterback position, which was a carousel in 2019 between Jarren Williams, N’Kosi Perry, and Tate Martell. Now, however, there appears to be optimism of a clearcut favorite as transfer, D’Eriq King, is not only expected to be the starter but is also a Heisman hopeful. Based on the King’s arrival and other additions to the quarterback room, Jarren Williams has entered the Transfer Portal. Both entered college as dual-threat style quarterbacks, King as a three-star and Williams as a four-star. At this point, even though the verdict is largely still out for Williams, King’s ceiling is much higher.
The offensive line was the unit that plagued the U the most in 2019, as they failed to protect their signal callers by allowing a wretched 51 sacks in 2019. However, the offensive line got a facelift through the Transfer Portal by getting two additions, Jarrid Williams and Issiah Walker. Even more, Williams comes from Houston, so there is some familiarity playing with King and Walker was a steal from University of Florida, so that is always nice. One Cane O-Lineman, George Brown, Jr., did enter the Transfer Portal. Brown was initially a three-star recruit who transferred to the Canes from LSU, but never particularly carved out a spot on the line.
The biggest name that left the Canes was former five-star high school recruit running back, Lorenzo Lingard, who opted to transfer to the University of Florida, which is always tough to see. However, Miami appears to have a strong running attack led by strong returnees Cam’Ron Harris, Robert Harris, as well as Don Chaney, Jr. and Jaylan Knighton, the 66th and 85th ranked freshmen according to ESPN 300 for 2020, so should not be substantially impacted by Lingard’s departure. Miami is lacking a power presence in the running attack, so losing a fullback, Realus George, to the Transfer Portal could have some effect in short, situational instances.
The Canes also lost a number of skill position players to the Portal. Namely, Brian Hightower at wide receiver committed to the University of Illinois. Hightower, similar to Ezzard, could have assisted with wide receiver depth at Miami. Miami also lost three tight ends, Evidence Njoku (hybrid WR/TE), Brian Polendey, and Michael Irvin II, but the Canes have one of the best tight ends in the nation in Brevin Jordan, and complementary Tight End pieces in Will Mallory and Dominic Mammarelli, so the Tight End position should not be negatively effected.
On the defensive side, the addition of Quincy Roche immediately gives Miami one of the best defensive line combinations in the nation with Roche and Gregory Rousseau. The Canes lost former three-star high school recruits, Scott Patchan, who was a legacy Cane, and Tyreic Martin, to the Portal. However, similar to the Tight End position being in a decent spot due to their viable replacements, the defensive line is also primed to be dominant in 2020.
At defensive back, the Canes lost two players to the Portal right before the start of the 2019 season when Nigel Bethel and Derrick Smith both declared that they would be leaving the program. There is not significant depth in Miami’s secondary, so these departures are not ideal.
Lastly, the kicker position, which was an issue in 2019. Bubba Baxa has left the program and Jose Borregales goes across town from FIU to join the Canes. This is an upgrade and could make or break games, as we witnessed last year.
2020 Incoming Transfer Class Grades: A
2020 Outgoing Transfer Class Grades: B-
Bottom Line: The transfers in and out of Miami’s program for 2020 is the epitome of quality over quantity. Manny Diaz perfectly addressed the needs by getting a playmaker QB in King, not one, but two strong offensive lineman, a top-tier edge defender in Roche, and a kicker, which is also a position of need this year. Even though the Canes lost 14 players to the Transfer Portal, the positions that experienced the most turnover, tight end and defensive line, appear to be competent enough to avoid any negative consequences of the departures.
Turnover is never great no matter how you draw it up (unless it results in a turnover chain). And there has been significant turnover out of the Canes’ organization through the recently introduced Transfer Portal. However, Diaz’s utilization of the Transfer Portal has been impeccable, both in the players the Canes have added through the Portal and ability to ensure there are significant pieces to assist with the players who have left.
As the Transfer Portal is a means of making the transition process easier for those leaving their respective programs. Ideally, Diaz and the Canes will continue to snag players out of the Transfer Portal and those who originally commit to playing in sunny South Florida, will never want to leave the University of Miami Hurricanes, a program filled with rich history.