When reminiscing on the Miami Hurricanes’ defensive backfield through the years, some point to the cornerbacks that have done wonders for their football program. Those include some of the school’s best athletes, like Antrel Rolle and Duane Starks, to have ever stepped on the field of the Orange Bowl or what is now known as Hard Rock Stadium.
Many others of the same position have been churned out in Miami’s “Pipeline to the Pros,” after stellar careers on the gridiron for historically prominent coaches in Jimmy Johnson or Larry Coker.
And Trajan Bandy, though undrafted in the 2020 NFL Draft, looks to carry the ‘Canes cornerback legacy at the game’s biggest stage for the Pittsburgh Steelers as an undrafted free agent.
Bandy was harmonious to the defensive backfield for former Coach Mark Richt and current Coach Manny Diaz. A pick-six against the No. 3 ranked Notre Dame back in November 2017 cemented his reputation as an energetic, athletic cornerback, pushing the ‘Canes to a win and a No. 2 national ranking that night.
After a hectic week full of intercollegiate athletics conferences, including the Big Ten and Pac-12, postponing their football seasons to the spring, no action in 2020 may just be a reality. Yet should the ACC in fact have enough faith in its medical advisory team and proceed with play, Miami defensive coordinator Blake Baker has something to look forward to with his young cornerback unit.
The Hurricanes’ cornerback position has received a fair amount of attention since their Independence Bowl loss to Louisiana Tech in December. Junior cornerbacks DJ Ivey and Al Blades, Jr. will have a very important role to fill as the likely starters for cornerbacks’ coach Mike Rumph and Baker himself.
Blades, Jr., a Fort Lauderdale, Fla., native who started seven games in 2019, totaled 36 tackles with 22 of them being solo tackles. The 6-foot-1 junior out of the St. Thomas Aquinas program also notched two interceptions, while recording a season-high eight tackles in the Independence Bowl.
DJ Ivey, on the other hand, is also a junior and will look to take his game to the next level this fall. Also standing at 6-foot-1, the Homestead, Fla., native played 12 games in 2019, while starting six of them.
As last season drudgingly rolled along with close, frustrating losses, Ivey began to show flashes of Trajan Bandy himself. Recording 25 total tackles while leading the team with three interceptions, the former four-star recruit and Bandy could not have mirrored each other more closely. Bandy similarly tallied 29 tackles, as well as three interceptions the year before.
Whether or not Blades, Jr. and Ivey will be able to fulfill what Bandy had done in his three years at Miami, leading by example both on and off the turf remains critical for the team’s younger cornerbacks to develop efficiently.
One of those young cornerbacks includes four-star recruit Christian Williams, a 6-foot-1, 182-pound native of Daphne, Ala. He had committed to Miami in February 2019, despite receiving numerous offers from SEC programs, including Louisiana State, Alabama, Texas A&M, amongst others.
Previously ranked as the No. 7 recruit in Alabama, the First-Team All-State honoree is one of the nation’s highest ranked cornerbacks to come to Miami in recent years at No. 20. With a long, muscular frame, Williams brings plenty of versatility to the table as he will likely be able to play cornerback or even safety. Though he may not start immediately unless injury to Blades, Jr. or Ivey arises, this could certainly be an option for Blake Baker in 2021.
The road does not end there, especially when Isaiah Dunson will be on the stage as well. The No. 31 ranked recruit in Georgia committed to the ‘Canes on the same day as true freshman safety Avantae Williams in early February. A Tucker, Ga. native, Dunson chose Miami over Florida State and should have a shot against the rival ‘Noles in late September.
Last but not least, sophomore Te’Cory Couch returns for another season, with a chip on his shoulder to prove he can produce as a cornerback for Miami. Initially a four-star recruit out of Hollywood, Fla., Couch played in all 13 games but mostly on special teams.
He did, however, notch a career-high four tackles (two solo) against Louisville last November in a blowout win. Couch has even added roughly 25 pounds to his frame since arriving in Coral Gables, Fla., which could help him contend for a more consistent role in the defensive backfield this year.
Though time still remains, cornerback Markevious Brown of IMG Academy has the potential opportunity to bolster the Hurricanes’ cornerback squad for the 2021 season and on. The Bradenton, Fla., native will reportedly choose between Miami, Auburn, Arkansas, and Virginia Tech and other schools, being ranked as the No. 19 cornerback recruit in the country for 2021.
The Miami Hurricanes have a solid set of options in their cornerback department for this upcoming season but must ensure that a focused mentality remains their top priority, from the first to last whistle. As a whole they experienced quite a number of mental lapses at the start of games last year, especially when allowing opponents like Virginia Tech to get ahead by a handful of touchdowns early. That’s not to mention grappling with the ability to score on third downs.
Hopefully the theme of consistency will further develop and not culminate in demoralizing losses.