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How Will Miami Fix Their Wide Receiver Issues?

Throughout the 2020 season, Miami’s offense got better in many ways. But, there was one glaring weakness, their wide receivers.

NCAA Football: Cheez-It Bowl-Oklahoma State vs Miami Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

None of Miami’s WRs were significant contributors last season, so 2020 was an opportunity for juniors like Dee Wiggins and Mark Pope, and senior Mike Harley Jr to step up and prove that they can handle the load. For the most part, the Canes wideouts were subpar this season.

The Issues

NCAA Football: Miami at Clemson Ken Ruinard-USA TODAY Sports

Dee Wiggins had only been a key player in a couple of games back in 2019. This season Wiggins became one of Miami’s primary wideouts. Wiggins was targeted 19 more times than he was last season but only finished with 25 more receiving yards. He was able to put together back-to-back career games against NC State and Virginia in which he hauled in 15 receptions for 183 yards and a TD. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to perform at that level in any of Miami’s nine other games this season. Wiggins’ inability to make plays held back the Canes in multiple games this season. D’Eriq King, and N’Kosi Perry in the Oklahoma State game, would make nearly perfect passes in which Wiggins wouldn’t go up and fight for the ball. Against UNC, Wiggins lost a 50/50 ball to Tony Grimes. Tony Grimes was supposed to be a HIGH SCHOOL SENIOR this fall. In Miami’s three-point loss to Oklahoma State, Rhett Lashlee called a screen pass to counter an all-out blitz he expected. The call was correct and Kosi Perry threw a pass to Wiggins while blockers were all in place. There was nothing, and I mean absolutely NOTHING that was gonna stop Wiggins from jogging in a leisurely manner to the end zone. The Canes kicked a field goal shortly after. Those four points lost on a drop was the difference between a win or a loss against the Cowboys.

Mark Pope also had an uneventful season. The former five-star finally found a consistent role in the Canes passing attack this season. Because of Mike Harley’s success out of the slot, Mark Pope was forced to line up outside. Pope was shut down in more than half of Miami’s games this year. Perhaps his worst performance is the one most fresh in our minds, as he dropped multiple deep balls from N’Kosi Perry, including a drop on what would’ve been a 40 plus yard completion to get the Canes in scoring range while down 3 in the 4th. When the Canes were able to get him the ball in space he did well, but his hands were the issue for him this year. He had the second-highest drop percentage in the entire ACC by eligible WRs (minimum 50 targets). Even more alarming is who was first in that category, Dee Wiggins.

Bright Spots from Last Season

NCAA Football: Miami at Duke Nell Redmond-USA TODAY Sports

Mike Harley was the lone bright spot from Miami’s returning wide receivers this season. As the season went on, his connection with quarterback D’Eriq King got better and better. Harley finished the season with 57 catches for 799 receiving yards and 7 touchdowns, leading Miami in all three categories. The senior has gotten better every season since joining the Canes in 2017.

Miami’s freshmen also flashed when given the opportunity. The only issue is, well, they never got that opportunity. After a loss to Clemson, Manny Diaz announced that all starting WR spots would be open for competition. In the next game vs Pitt, the young guys started to see some real playing time as Keyshawn Smith saw 33 snaps and Mike Redding and Xavier Restrepo had 6 and 7 snaps respectively.

The freshmen WR group got hit with COVID-19 ahead of the Hurricanes’ matchup with NC State, derailing the growth we’d seen.

It seemed like the added pressure of potentially losing playing time woke up the veterans as they looked great from the Pitt game until the horrific loss to UNC and a bowl loss.

Some might blame new wide receivers coach Rob Likens for the shortcomings at the position. But I think anyone who thinks that is being unfair. Likens didn’t have a spring practice camp to get to know and develop his WRs. This was an inherited group with clear talent and experience deficiencies. Likens has proven he can develop talent at the position. He coached back-to-back first-round picks in N’Keal Harry and Brandon Aiyuk in 2018 and 2019, while at Arizona State as OC and WR coach.

It will be interesting to see what Likens will be able to do with incoming highly-touted signees in Romello Brinson, Brashard Smith, and Jacolby George. All three WRs were ranked in 247 Sports’ Top 247. Miami hadn’t had 3 WRs ranked in the Top 247 since 2008 when Miami signed Aldarius Johnson, Davon Johnson, Travis Benjamin, and Tommy Streeter.


Miami v Pittsburgh Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

Miami has looked to the transfer portal the last few seasons. With results ranging from success stories like Jaelan Phillips and Jose Borregales to failures such as Tate Martell and Tommy Kennedy.

For wide receivers, look no further than KJ Osborn. The former Buffalo WR came to Miami to prove himself to NFL scouts and grind for the opportunity to play pro ball. How did that end up? Osborn was Miami’s leading wide receiver in 2019 and was drafted in the fourth round of the 2020 NFL Draft by the Minnesota Vikings.


NCAA Football: College Football Playoff Semifinal-Oklahoma vs Louisiana State Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Oklahoma WR Charleston Rambo was thought of as their top WR entering this season but fell behind Marvin Mims and Theo Wease.

Rambo isn't just a cool name, he's a pretty damn good wide receiver. He caught 43 passes for 743 yards and 5 TDs in 2019. But with less playing time, Rambo had 25 receptions for 312 yards and three scores in five fewer games than the year prior.

He would be a very intriguing option for the Canes. Interest from either side has not been confirmed, but Rambo being the top WR in the transfer portal would make him a great addition to the program. Offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee, WR coach Rob Likens, D’Eriq King, and many other Canes are among his recent follows so we’ll see how this one plays out.


NCAA Football: Houston at Tulane Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Houston WR Keith Corbin III entered the transfer portal as a graduate on Monday afternoon. In 42 career games, Corbin has 94 receptions for 1,467 yards and 13 touchdowns. The main factor that leads many to think Miami will target him is the fact that he was D’Eriq King’s number one option in 2018 at Houston. Having a WR with that type of chemistry with a QB like King could be great considering the poor WR play and miscommunication that UM has had this season. Just like the other two wide receivers on this list, Rhett Lashlee is among his most recent followers on Twitter.


The most talked-about transfer portal wideout by Canes fans, Toure is coming from the FCS level at Montana. He would bring a large physical build to a position group made up mostly small guys better suited as slot receivers than wideouts.

Toure has been exceptional at Montana. He set an FCS playoff record with 303 receiving yards in a game with the Grizzlies. The previous record-holder was none other than Pro Football Hall of Famer Randy Moss. Toure recorded 87 receptions for 1,495 yards and 13 TDs in 2019.

Toure has expressed interest in Miami, sharing posts about him possibly going to Miami on his social media. He has also reportedly been in contact with Rob Likens in the past week.