Missed field goals lost Miami close games in 2019—drops by starting receivers were their Achilles’ heel in 2020.
Dee Wiggins with the drop. Should have been a big gain. DB slipped.— Manny Navarro (@Manny_Navarro) December 29, 2020
Similar to the Hurricanes’ other position groups, the wide receiver corps is filled with talent. Unfortunately, potential and ability didn’t translate to consistent results on the field.
SOTU’s own, Justin Dottavio, wrote a thorough article breaking down why Miami’s receivers were dropping the ball, and how they could fix it.
Aside from senior wideout Mike Harley, Miami’s receivers were consistently inconsistent. Week in and week out, it was a toss-up in terms of who would be a solid second option to Harley. The answer typically came from outside of the WR room, with tight ends Brevin Jordan and Will Mallory being common targets for quarterback D’Eriq King.
Mark Pope, a 5-star recruit (Rivals) from 2018’s class, seemed like he could take a Jeff Thomas or Stacy Coley-like role at UM. The ‘Canes, especially in recent years, have loved giving playing time to young wideouts with huge potentials. Everything was in line for Pope to have a breakout season, but any progress he made wasn’t sustained.
I just want to know if there’s a receivers coach in the history of the Earth who would tell a player to wait and try to bread basket catch this ball. pic.twitter.com/majY90FnqE— Canes Legacy (@CanesLegacy) December 30, 2020
Pope had a counterpart in inconsistent play in Dee Wiggins, a 3-star recruit, also from 2018’s class. Similar to Pope, Wiggins struggled mightily in securing 50/50 balls down the field. That trend played a major part in Miami’s loss to Oklahoma State in the Cheez-It Bowl—but the problems were apparent long before 2020’s finale.
‘Canes fans have seen the difference a reliable receiver can make. K.J. Osborn, a former-transfer portal addition and current kick returner for the Minnesota Vikings, showed good hands throughout his one year at Miami, hauling in 5 touchdowns and 547 yards—including a game-sealer against Pitt. As seen throughout his highlights, the majority of his touchdowns came through 50/50 balls in the endzone, posting up, and using his hands to high-point the pass.
The solution may not be an improvement from Wiggins and Pope—it could come from the underclassmen behind them. Xavier Restrepo, a sophomore for 2021, didn’t see the field much outside of special teams. Keyshawn Smith and Micheal Redding III are also included in the younger corps but saw limited action. This group showed flashes and could help eliminate the drop-off in production between Harley and Pope/Wiggins.
It wasn’t all bad, of course, we saw Rhett Lashlee’s offense soar at times during 2020, but Pope and Wiggins must improve if the ‘Canes want to make an ACC Championship-run in 2021. Harley’s return for next season helps Miami’s case significantly—as does the addition of transfer WR Charleston Rambo—but opposing secondaries know we’ll have to rely heavily on them if Pope and Wiggins don’t take strides in the offseason. We can expect heavy pressure on WR coach Rob Likens, who will surely be on the hot seat if a repeat of 2020 occurs.
Kicking off the 2021 season against Alabama in Atlanta, GA, we’ll learn very quickly who’s game-ready and mentally and physically prepared.