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Three “surprises” on Miami’s season-opening depth chart

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Bradley Jennings Jr. and Tyler Van Dyke are amongst the pleasant surprises for Miami heading into the UAB game

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 02 ACC Championship Game
Miami linebacker Bradley Jennings Jr. (44) tackles Clemson running back C.J. Fuller (27) during Miami’s 38-3 loss to the Tigers in the 2017 ACC Championship game in Charlotte.
Photo by Brian Utesch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Miami released its season-opening depth chart on Monday afternoon in advance of the team’s season-opener against UAB on Thursday at 8pm.

While there are a lot of familiar names in familiar places, there were several position competitions that did not shake out the way some thought they might during fall camp.

Here are three “surprises” found on Miami’s season-opening depth chart.

Jennings wins middle linebacker job

Many Hurricane fans expected sophomore Sam Brooks to work alongside Zach McCloud as Miami’s starting middle linebacker.

Redshirt junior Bradley Jennings Jr. will be Miami’s starting middle linebacker on Thursday night however as he has won the starting job coming out of training camp.

Defensive coordinator Blake Baker said the competition to start won’t stop because the season is starting this week.

“The middle linebacker position battle is ongoing,” Baker said. “Sam Brooks has had a phenomenal camp. I feel very good about putting both of those guys in the game.”

Baker also said that he expects Brooks to work as a reserve at both middle and outside linebacker for the Hurricanes this season when Jennings and McCloud aren’t on the field.

The road to winning the starting job out of camp has been a long one for Jennings.

He sat out the 2019 season while recovering from offseason surgery. Prior to that, he played mostly on special teams for the Hurricanes in 2017 and 2018 and never has made more than two tackles in a game during his Hurricane career.

“He has been in our defense a long time,” Miami head coach Manny Diaz said of Jennings. “He was neck and neck with (Shaquille Quarterman) for a long time as to who the biggest hitter on our football team was...We’ve also got some super talented guys continuing to develop behind (him).”

Offensive Line Shake-Up

After giving up 51 sacks in 13 games last year, Miami’s offensive line needed a facelift.

The starting unit will look vastly different on Thursday night as the Hurricanes will have three new starters when they take the field.

Houston transfer Jarrid Williams earned the starting job at right tackle while John Campbell Jr. will be Miami’s starting left tackle on Thursday night.

Junior college transfer Ousman Traore will be Miami’s starting left guard against UAB.

The surprise here? Two true freshman starters from the 2019 squad are now backups on the 2020 line.

Jakai Clark is listed as the second-string center behind incumbent starter Corey Gaynor while Zion Nelson is working with the second team and can play either tackle or guard, according to Diaz.

Another surprise is both true freshman offensive lineman making the two-deep for Miami. Jalen Rivers will backup Traore at left guard while Chris Washington is listed as the second team right tackle.

Tyler Van Dyke is Miami’s third-string quarterback

The true freshman from Connecticut will serve as Miami’s third-string quarterback against UAB on Thursday night, behind starter D’Eriq King and backup N’Kosi Perry.

This is significant because it means that he has beaten out redshirt freshman Peyton Matocha and redshirt junior Tate Martell in preseason camp.

Van Dyke drew praise from Diaz and offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee in Monday’s Zoom meetings with the media.

“Tyler has a really, really bright future here,” Diaz said. “His ability to make some throws has caught the eye of everyone on the football team. He is a young guy who needs seasoning and reps. Everybody has been impressed with what Tyler does since he has showed up on campus.”

“Tyler Van Dyke has been really good for a freshman,” Lashlee said. “He has a really calm demeanor about himself. He doesn’t seem to get too high or too low.”

While it is unlikely that Van Dyke sees significant playing time during the 2020 season, it seems the 6-foot-4, 220-pounder has the Hurricanes feeling good about the future of the quarterback position.

Poll

What is the biggest "surprise" on Miami’s season-opening depth chart?

This poll is closed

  • 46%
    Bradley Jennings being named the starter at middle linebacker
    (202 votes)
  • 19%
    New offensive line hierarchy
    (83 votes)
  • 30%
    Tyler Van Dyke being Miami’s third-string quarterback
    (132 votes)
  • 3%
    Other (leave answer in comments)
    (15 votes)
432 votes total Vote Now