The entire Miami Hurricanes team has a lot to prove in 2021, as they’ll come into the season expected to build off of a 8-3 campaign in 2020. Though, there are several players who might have extra pressure on them to perform.
Mark Pope/Dee Wiggins:
This wide receiver duo has been criticized in the past, no question about it. Since they arrived at UM in 2018, fans have been waiting very patiently, for Pope and Wiggins to live up to the hype.
In three seasons at Miami, Pope has registered 52 receptions, 680 yards and 4 touchdowns, while Wiggins has totaled 58 catches, 766 yards and 7 touchdowns. Last year, I was the captain of the Dee Wiggins bandwagon, and thought he was ready to emerge as the top-target for the Canes. Sadly, this did not come to pass. Pope is very similar, and the last two off-seasons, all I've heard is “this is the year Pope breaks out.” And heading into 2020, I was a believer. It didn't happen.
Now, it’s their last season, there is no next off-season for Wiggins and Pope at Miami. What kind of production will we see from them? Who says they’re even going to be starting at WR? They’re getting serious push from younger WR’s like Keyshawn Smith and Michael Redding III, how will Pope and Wiggins respond?
Nothing against Hall, but I don't think any Hurricanes player should ever wear the number 26 again. Whenever a player is assigned those digits, all Canes fans assume this guy could be the next Sean Taylor. News flash, there will never be another Sean Taylor, and every Miami player to wear 26 since Taylor left UM, has been disappointing.
In Hall’s case, I just don't know what’s happened with him. Another member of that 2018 recruiting class, the hype surrounding Hall was everywhere. I thought he played fairly well as a first time starter in 2019, and was expecting him and Bubba Bolden to become one of the best safety duos in college football last year. While Bolden became a star on defense, Hall backtracked in 2020, and received the lowest grade on PFF of a defensive player who played at least 500 snaps.
How will Hall respond in 2021? There’s going to be several younger players pushing Hall for playing time and to take his starting spot, cough cough Avantae Williams.
The first three players I listed on here are those who have come up short of expectations at Miami, Mallory isn’t quite like that. Playing alongside Brevin Jordan for the last three seasons, Mallory hasn’t got as many chances to prove himself as the other players on this article.
Having said that, the hype surrounding Mallory has always been high, and now with Jordan headed to the NFL, the time has come for Will to be starting tight end. Personally, I think Mallory has a terrific season, and if he’s targeted enough, who's to say he doesn't have a better year than Jordan did in 2020?
Still, it’s time for Mallory to step up, and being starting tight end at Miami brings high expectations.
Sam Brooks Jr:
After Michael Pinckney and Shaq Quarterman left following the 2019 season, the choice by many for the next starting linebacker at Miami was Sam Brooks. He had 37 tackles playing at weak side linebacker in 2020, and yes he did look good a few times, but as a whole, the production wasn't enough.
Now, the hype surrounding Brooks isn’t nearly as high as it was last spring, while second year linebackers like Corey Flagg Jr. and Tirek Austin-Cave are viewed as the up and comers. I predict Brooks and Flagg will be the two starters at LB, but that means Brooks, now in his third season, has to rise to the occasion and help improve a position group that has been very disappointing the last two seasons.
Let me say this, I’m not putting Nesta on here because I think he played poorly in 2020, because he didn’t. In fact, 2020 was by far the best season Silvera has had during his UM career, earning All-ACC honorable mention.
Now, Nesta is a senior. Seems like it was just yesterday he made his announcement on Signing Day with the Chuky Doll. That was then, and this is now, and now, he’s the leader of this defense. I know most people will say Bubba Bolden or maybe Gilbert Frierson, but to me, Nesta Silvera is the leader of this Canes defense. Nesta is not participating in spring practice due to an injury, but will be good to go once fall camp arrives and the regular season starts.
When announcing he’d be returning for his senior season, Nesta posted on social media, “I know and trust the plan that coach Diaz has in place and I’ve decided to run it back with my bruddas, take over the ACC, and win a natty. We gon’ to make the crib great.”
Great quote, now it’s time to back it up.