If there’s one thing we can all agree on for the Hurricanes offense in 2020, it’s that the wide receivers as a whole didn’t live up to expectations. Mike Harley had a productive season and was clearly the top WR target for Miami, but Dee Wiggins, Mark Pope and others, failed to meet expectations, and the passing game, while it improved, could’ve been much better.
In order to fix that problem for the 2021 season, one thing that Rhett Lashlee needs to do more of is increase the use of their tight ends on offense.
Brevin Jordan had a solid year in 2020, and while he dealt with injuries, he still hauled in 38 receptions, for 576 yards and 7 touchdowns. When Jordan was on the field and heavily involved, the offense was at its best.
Even though Jordan is now gone to the NFL, Miami still has a very reliable weapon at tight end in rising senior Will Mallory. Last year, Mallory had his best season at UM, and did a job filling in for Jordan while he was hurt. In 10 games, Mallory had 22 receptions, for 329 yards and 4 touchdowns.
Hurricanes score on the same play that Cam’Ron Harris scored on earlier. This time it’s Will Mallory with the TD. pic.twitter.com/ClKJdiXbxJ— Anthony Yero (@AnthonyYero1) October 17, 2020
Mallory’s best game came against NC State on a Friday night, where he caught 6 passes, for 78 yards and 1 touchdown, as Miami scored 44 points in a comeback victory over the Wolfpack. He also showed his impact in games against Oklahoma State, Pittsburgh and Virginia.
Since Lashlee was hired as Miami’s offensive coordinator last January, I've said that I feel Mallory can be used similar to how Lashlee used SMU tight Kylen Granson. In Lashlee’s last year there in 2019, Granson had 43 receptions, for 721 yards and 9 touchdowns. While Mallory is a little bit bigger in size compared to Granson (245 lbs vs 235 lbs), Mallory has similar athleticism, and just like Granson, is very versatile at tight end.
Shane Buechele : 34/54 for a career-high 456 yards & 3 TD's— Lee Harvey (@AyeThatsLee) November 3, 2019
Kylen Granson : 4 catches for 77 yards & 2 TD's pic.twitter.com/0TFJLwIdf3
Mallory is a threat in the redzone, we all know that, but he’s also a matchup nightmare and can spread the ball downfield. In 2020, Mallory averaged 15 yards per reception, showing he’s a threat after he makes the catch. He does a great job creating separation from defenders and getting open, he can be D’Eriq King’s go-to target this season.
Will Mallory’s long reception that was called back. Excellent effort by Mallory here.— Art (@CaneFilms) September 21, 2020
Testament to the kind if athlete he is. The defense never stopped playing & neither did he. pic.twitter.com/FsAp3Lm0Jn
Now while I don't think it’s fair to expect 700+ yards from Mallory in 2021, it’s not crazy to predict a year from Will similar to Jordan’s in 2020. If the wide receivers aren’t producing, why not feed Mallory more? If the WR’s aren’t creating separation or catching passes, why not throw the ball to Mallory? In my opinion, he’s right up there with Mike Harley when it comes to receiving weapons for Miami. It’s clear he’s put his drop-issues from 2019 behind him, and there’s no reason he can’t have at least 4-5 receptions a game, AT LEAST.
Canes answer with the D’Eriq King to Will Mallory TD. 7-3 Miami. pic.twitter.com/BS2ECdpUdb— Will Manso (@WillManso) September 20, 2020
Talking with NFL Draft experts, they've always liked what they’ve seen from Mallory, and it’s been said that the belief has been, since their freshman year, Mallory has a higher pro ceiling than Jordan. If he’s utilized properly in 2021, you won't only see Mallory’s draft stock rise considerably, but also Miami’s passing-game production.
Aside from Mallory, the Canes have several other tight ends who can be used in the passing game to a greater degree. Larry Hodges is entering his third year at UM, and is probably the top candidate to become Miami’s number-two TE option behind Mallory.
Will Mallory, Larry Hodges and we still have Arroyo coming in early and will have almost 8 months with Coach Feeley.— Jasmaine P. ✍ (@Truly_Jas) January 7, 2021
Plus we still have Brantley coming in. #TEU
Also, I believe true freshman Elijah Arroyo can make his claim to be the second TE. With great pass-catching skills coming out of high school, Arroyo can spread the defense vertically like a wide receiver. UM will also have second-year player Dominic Mammarrelli, and another true freshman in Khalil Brantley.
Last season, Miami’s tight ends totaled 61 receptions, 903 yards and 11 touchdowns. In terms of catches and receiving yards, it was the most for a Miami TE group since 2016, and the 11 touchdowns were the most for the unit since 1999.
When someone tells me Miami isn’t Tight End U pic.twitter.com/7bYChrVSkE— Marsh (@hurricanesmarsh) April 28, 2020
Still, I think there’s room for even more production from this group in 2021, and I believe Mallory is next in line for carrying the torch of TEU.