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Miami Hurricanes 2021 Spring Position Preview: Safeties

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Miami has produced some of the NFL’s most notable safeties over the last 40 years.

C.J. RICHARDSON

The safety position at Miami has long been one of pride and respect. Bennie Blades, Darryl Williams, CJ Richadson, Ed Reed, Sean Taylor, Brandon Meriweather... the list goes on and on. The Hurricanes have always recruited speed and power, even dating back to the days of Jimmy Johnson and his 4-3 Over defense. Johnson wanted the fastest team in the country and was in the perfect place to land it.

New safeties coach Travaris Robinson has the luxury of having what might be the highest rated position room in the program. The safety group has a five-star in James Williams, six four-star players, and two three-stars (per 247).

Coach Robinson, a former wide receiver, defensive back and kick returner at Auburn, knows a thing or two about talent. He played in the NFL for the Atlanta Falcons and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He’s also coached at Auburn, Florida and South Carolina- having seen SEC speed both as a player and coach.

He’s now at Miami and is taking over from Ephraim Banda in the safety room. Robinson has a talented group but really does have his work cut out for him on the practice field this spring. The ‘Canes safeties got sloppier by the week in 2020 and have veteran leadership returning but also young bucks who need playing time.


The veterans

Bubba Bolden

Bubba Bolden is a six-foot-three, 200 pound redshirt junior from Las Vegas, NV. A former Parade All-American and four-star prospect, Bolden transferred to Miami from USC before the 2019 season. Bolden was injured for a good bit of the ‘19 season but had a few impressive displays in the defensive backfield.

In 2020, Bolden logged 11 games played with nine starts and 74 tackles on the season. He was named All-ACC second team and a Thorpe Award semifinalist for the ‘20 campaign. He has all of the physical talent in the world but was plagued by poor pursuit angles and bad tackling for the second half of the season. Bolden will have to learn how to read plays faster, play in control, and finish in control rather than going for the kill shot at full speed.

Gurvan Hall, Jr.

Gurvan Hall is a junior out of Palm Beach Gardens High School. Hall, a former four-star prospect, is six-foot and 194 pounds. In ‘20, Hall started three games and played in eleven regular season contests. He had 43 tackles and three pass breakups last season. He’s another physically gifted safety for Coach Robinson’s unit. But his angles in both the pass game and run game leave a lot to be desired.

Amari Carter

Amari Carter is a six-foot-two, 200 pound senior out of Palm Beach Gardens in Florida. Carter is a former three-star prospect by 247, but a four-star by ESPN. Carter saw action in 10 games with nine starts in 2020 after being named a team captain. He has the most experience out of the bunch having played in 48 games over his career in Coral Gables.

In his career, Carter has 128 tackles and one interception with 6.5 tackles for loss. Carter notoriously has missed time for targeting penalties both in the pass and run game. His tackling form is dangerous and something coaches really need to work on before he or someone else gets paralyzed on the field.


The prospects

Jalen Harrell is a former four-star from Champagnat Catholic School in Florida. Mostly a special teamer, Harrell played in five games in ‘20. At six-foot-two, 200 pounds, Harrell has the size to come down into the box and play the run when needed.

Keshawn Washington is a freshman from South Dade High School in Florida. Washington is a six-foot-two, 190 pound former four-star prospect. Washington saw action in five games last season, mostly in the kicking game.

Avantae Williams is a six-foot, 180 pound safety cut in the mold of Ed Reed. Williams is a former four-star recruit who sat out the 2020 season with an injury. Recently cleared, Williams is expected to fight the veterans for playing time immediately.

Don’t overlook freshman Brian Balom. Balom is a three-star freshman from Miramar High School who played in 10 games in ‘20 and made one start on the season. He had 10 tackles on the season. Coach Diaz likes ‘program’ guys who might not physically be able to play but work hard and mentally can get lined up.

Andrew Barnes is a practice squad player from Maryland.


The rookies

Already enrolled for spring, Kamren Kinchens is a four-star prospect from Miami Northwestern High School. Kinchens is a winner who helped lead Miami Northwestern to the Florida State Championship Game in 2017, 2018, and 2019.

In the fall, incoming freshman five-star James Williams will join the safety room and Coach Robinson’s unit. We will see what becomes of the top-rated safety in the 2021 class. Williams is six-foot-five and almost 220 pounds. He would make a great red zone threat on offense, but also works centerfield like Sean Taylor.

He’s a guy that Miami has to get involved early, even as a summer enrollee. Talent like this doesn’t stumble on campus every day, the coaches have to get him involved from day one in some way. Williams made my post “Maybe he’s born with it,” because of his amazing sprinting form, especially for a guy of his build.


Projections

Manny Diaz has proven he likes seniority over talent in his time at Miami. While that worked with Al Golden’s recruits in 2016, it’s started to slowly look like a bad decision with the lack of development at key positions at Miami. At the safety position, there are too many now former four and five star prospects to continue to play struggling players like Hall and Carter, and even Bolden, if young stars like the Williams duo, Washington, Kinchens, and Harrell are waiting in the wings.

Something has to give in Coral Gables and fans are hoping it’s the new voice in the safety room with Coach Robinson coming in from the Gamecocks. A new voice, a new mentor, new drills and techniques are a good thing at the position. Let’s hope that pursuit angles, depth, rotation and tackling are all addressed to the point of annoyance this spring and summer.

2021 Starters: Bubba Bolden and Amari Carter

2021 next men in: Gurvan Hall and Avantae Williams

Fans will be pissed when: James Williams and Washington are stuck in the kicking game while Hall and Carter get a lot of burn.