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Time for #15 to shine

Both of them.

Miami v Florida International Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

The elation over the news that Leonard Taylor committed to the Canes on Thursday afternoon was somewhat tempered by the news that Miami DE Gregory Rousseau would opt out of the upcoming season due to COVID-19 and focus on getting ready for the 2021 NFL Draft.

First, I want to say that I do not blame Rousseau one bit. In fact, I think it was the correct move for him to make.

The debates continue to rage over the proper compensation for student-athletes to receive for their participation in collegiate athletics. The group of PAC-12 players who made recent demands for concessions in order to play has only strengthened the rallying cry for a more extensive means of compensation for players who annually generate millions for public institutions and their wealthy coaches and administrators. Some would say the players hold the most leverage, but I think the schools/conferences/NCAA hold more leverage in that they provide the only real opportunity for the young men to showcase their skills leading up to their eligibility for the NFL Draft. There will almost certainly be someone willing to step in and take that spot if someone else doesn’t want it for whatever reason.

However, there’s one thing that players still have control of: themselves. And a young man choosing to do what is best for him simply by focusing on him is the one thing that he has control over in this crazy environment that college football has devolved into.

By most projections, Rousseau is a Top 10-15 pick. A sign-your-name-and-you-have-enough-money-to-retire-when-you’re-done type of contract. As a player, you have to do whatever you can to protect your ability to reach that point in April without jeopardizing those millions of dollars. Insurance programs are nice, but it won’t match what Rousseau could earn. In fact, not even close. Per the NCAA, loss-of-value insurance typically falls between a coverage range of $1 to $10 million. This year, as the #2 overall pick by Washington, Chase Young signed a 4-year base contract worth $34.56 million, with $22.697 million guaranteed. That’s a huge difference. Rousseau has been routinely projected as a top 5 pick in mock drafts, so it’s not an unfair comparison by any means.

So we bid farewell to what we hope will become the most prolific Pro Cane pass rusher ever and look forward to watching his career unfold. Thanks, Greg, and best of luck in your NFL career. We’ll be watching with great interest.

What’s left? Another number 15 (I say that because it looks like he’s interested in getting his old number 15 back) looking to wreak havoc on the Canes’ defensive line. Y’know, the former #1 overall recruit a few years ago.....

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 01 Cincinnati at UCLA Photo by Chris Williams/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Jaelan Phillips came to Miami back in February 2019 as a transfer from UCLA. He was the #1 overall player in the class of 2017, per 247 Sports, following a 21 sack (!!!) senior season at Redlands East Valley HS (CA). At UCLA, he totaled 41 tackles, 8 TFLs, and 4.5 sacks in 2017 and part of 2018. His season came to an early end in 2018 due to a concussion and wrist injury. In fact, he was advised to medically retire in December 2018 due to the concussions.

However, it seemed he got different medical advice, and so he transferred to Miami to restart his career. During his offseason, he added muscle and filled out his frame further, as evidenced by Phillips himself...

Rousseau and Roche were ready to dominate as perhaps the best duo in the country, but Phillips and even Jafari Harvey have been slept on in a big way. As I’ve said before on here, I don’t pretend to be a scout and give breakdowns, but I don’t have to. Defensive coordinator Blake Baker likened him to an athletically superior video game player while speaking with the media this week.

“I feel really good about him,” Baker said. “He did a standing back-flip the other day from a standstill position, so those kind of guys don’t really exist very often. Obviously, athletically, brings a lot to the table. Very, very smart young man.

“I think his best football is in front of him, knocking some of the rust off. He hasn’t played in a while. Athletically, it’s like creating a player on NCAA Football when they used to have that video game. ... He’s got all the tangibles and intangibles. You just got to put it together on the field.”

We’ve talked a ton about the next man up, and most of the time, there is a reason for angst when the change is made. The guy who went down was starting for a reason. And Rousseau will be difficult to replace. However, if there is a player who is more naturally talented with more of a chip on their shoulder to succeed than Phillips, I’d like to know who. I am thrilled to see what he can do, see that explosiveness on display against UAB, then against FSU two weeks later in his first taste of the rivalry. If anything, I’m slightly concerned about his time off and getting back up to game speed in short order, because the Canes have some true challenged early in the season, with Louisville and FSU looming after starting against a game UAB team.

Two different lineman who’ve donned the number 15; two different opportunities to shine going forward. Good luck to both Greg and Jaelan in 2020 and beyond. Should be a lot of fun to watch.