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The top 5 positions Miami should have an “open competition” for this spring

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Miami returns a lot of veterans but that should not prevent position competition this spring

NCAA Football: Cheez-It Bowl-Oklahoma State vs Miami
Miami Hurricanes defensive lineman Jahfari Harvey (12) strips the ball from Oklahoma State quarterback Spencer Sanders (3) in the first half of Miami’s Cheez-It Bowl loss.
Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

Miami Hurricanes head coach Manny Diaz joined the Joe Rose Show on 560 The Joe in Miami on Monday and said that the Hurricanes will have an “open competition” at every position this spring.

With the amount of veteran players Miami has returning, this could be a form of coach speak from Diaz.

However, there are most certainly some positions that could use an infusion of new talent in 2021 and some players at these positions who deserve an opportunity to showcase their skills as starters.

These are the five positions that Miami should definitely open up this spring and consider making changes on the depth chart for in 2021.

Wide receiver

2020 notables expected to return: Mike Harley, Dee Wiggins, Mark Pope, Jeremiah Payton, Keyshawn Smith, Michael Redding III, Xavier Restrepo

2020 key losses: None

Newcomers: Oklahoma transfer Charleston Rambo, 2021 recruit Romello Brinson, 2021 recruit Brashard Smith, 2021 Jacolby George

Analysis: There is no more obvious position than wide receiver for Miami to host an open competition for. Miami’s wide receivers were average at best in 2020 and that is mostly thanks to a career year from Harley. Wiggins and Pope were very disappointing at times because of how many passes they dropped and they should absolutely be considered candidates for a demotion. Rambo will likely push for a starting job right away this spring. How many of Miami’s 2020 and 2021 wide receiver classes will emerge to push for playing time in their first full spring with the program?

Defensive end

2020 notables returning: Jahfari Harvey, Cameron Williams, Chantz Williams

2020 key losses: Jaelan Phillips, Quincy Roche

Newcomers: Tennessee transfer DeAndre Johnson, 2021 recruit Thomas Davis, 2021 recruit Jabari Ishmael

Analysis: Miami has no choice but to have an open competition at defensive end. Phillips and Roche started and played the majority of the snaps for the Hurricanes in 2020. Expect Harvey, Johnson, Cameron Williams and Chantz Williams to be the top four options battling for two available starting positions this spring. The wildcard here is Zach McCloud, who played defensive end snaps in the bowl game and recently announced that he would be back in 2021.

Linebacker

2020 notables returning: McCloud, Sam Brooks Jr., Avery Huff, Tirek Austin-Cave, Corey Flagg Jr., Bradley Jennings Jr., Waynmon Steed, Ryan Ragone

2020 key losses: Patrick Joyner Jr.

Newcomers: 2021 recruit Deshawn Troutman, 2021 recruit Tyler Johnson

Analysis: Miami returns nearly every player who played a snap at linebacker this past season and that includes its top six linebackers in Brooks, McCloud, Flagg, Jennings, Steed, and Austin-Cave. While that seems like a huge positive, it is no secret that Miami’s linebacker play was not up to the standard set by past University of Miami teams this season. With McCloud potentially moving to defensive end, look for there to be an open competition this spring to see who will be Miami’s two starting linebackers in 2021.

Cornerback

2020 notables returning: Te’Cory Couch, Al Blades Jr., DJ Ivey, Marcus Clarke, Isaiah Dunson

2020 key losses: None

Newcomers: Georgia transfer Tyrique Stevenson, 2021 recruit Malik Curtis

Analysis: This is another position that just did not have a performance that matched up with lofty University of Miami standards in 2020. Stevenson will change everything with this group as the former 5-star recruit is expected to come in and be the top dog in the cornerback room immediately. Where Diaz and company decide to use Stevenson is not yet clear but the Georgia transfer will be on the field often this upcoming season. What other cornerbacks will be on the field with Stevenson? If Couch plays like he did at the end of the season, Miami will undoubtedly find a spot for him. If Blades Jr. returns healthy, he also will likely find some playing time as well. It remains to be seen this spring what will happen with Ivey, Clarke, Dunson, and Curtis and how Miami’s depth chart will shake out at cornerback for the 2021 season.

Running back

2020 notables returning: Cam’Ron Harris, Donald Chaney Jr., Jaylan Knighton, Robert Burns

2020 key losses: None

Newcomers: 2021 recruit Thad Franklin

Analysis: Miami’s running game was not where offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee wanted it to be in 2020 but that can’t be blamed fully on this unit. Miami’s offensive line struggled mightily to effectively run block. With the emergence of true freshmen Chaney and Knighton (pre-injury), it is reasonable to think that Miami will have an open competition to see who the starting running back is in 2021. Harris’ experience might make him tough to beat but Chaney and Knighton looked like they had physical tools that Harris didn’t at times this season. We will find out after spring practice who will head into the summer as Miami’s starting running back. Harris, Chaney and Knighton all have the ability to be Miami’s starter in 2021.