Tomorrow morning, the Miami Hurricane fans will get their first live look at the first version of the 2021 squad. The game will be televised tomorrow on the ACC Network at 11 am EST. Check local listings yadada (Cut the cord).
Over the course of the spring, we have heard a consistent stream of updates and progress on seemingly the same groups.
- We have heard that Xavier Restrepo, Charleston Rambo and Mike Harley have taken the reins of the wide receiver group up to this point.
- We know that the quarterback played has been even better than expected from Tyler Van Dyke, Jake Garcia and even Payton Matocha, despite D’Eriq King’s absence.
- The offensive line continues to grow and the depth there is showing up.
- New position group coaches Travaris Robinson and DeMarcus Van Dyke are making a lasting impact on the defensive back groups.
- Coach Ishmael Aristide has ALL the energy
- Zack McCloud at defensive end, is, in fact, a big thing
What we haven’t heard however, are more about a handful of players that ultimately need to show substantial growth in order for Miami to have success this season. Some might say that if you don’t hear a name that just means things are working out. Others would say they haven’t stood out enough to be mentioned. The truth is, regardless of the reasoning behind limited noise, we need to know what we have in these players to know if they will be impact players going forward or simply contributors that will continue battling the next crop of players coming in this summer.
While the juice around Knighton was real entering last season and throughout the season, his name has blended into little updates rather jumping out front as one might expect from the excitement of his first campaign with Miami. The reason very well could be his limited availability leading into spring due to injury. That may have forced a slow progression through camp. Knighton however, has a large opportunity to really shine in tomorrow’s spring game. Firstly, lead back contender Don Chaney is being held out as a precaution due to his own injury concerns, leaving the Hurricanes with just two healthy backs along with Cam Harris for the game. Secondly, ZERO tight ends will be available for the game, aisde from walk ons, so the logical move is to turn to an expansion of the passing game to the running backs. Jaylan Knighton is viewed as not only a contributor on the ground but as a third down style back that can take a pass the distance.
The last scrimmage was opportunity one, and Knighton stepped up decently for 12 carries and 66 yards, just over 5 yards per carry. Tomorrow Knighton’s opportunity to showcase a bigger involvement and his home run ability will be something to watch for.
Elijah Roberts here is a personal watch but still a very impactful one. The sophomore flashed his athletic ability for a defensive tackle at points last season even in limited play. This spring, the opportunity to get bigger snaps was there will Nesta Silvera on the mend and with his recruiting defensive line coach, Jess Simpson, back in the fold. While defensive tackle has experience and dudes still available with the likes of Jon Ford and Jared Harrison-Hunte, Roberts should begin feel the heat as in exactly one month, Leonard Taylor will be entering the chat. The length, size and IQ Roberts has is a great blend, however, for those traits to get a bigger look going forward, the spring game audition tomorrow will need to be a great one, or else he risks getting lost behind LT and a return Nesta Silvera. Look for 99 tomorrow to step up and show out.
A favorite word at Miami?
If there is one name that folks here at State of The U, strongly inclusive of myself, have hyped consistently, it is one Jahfari Harvey. The Treassure Coast diamond is one that has been viewed often as the heir apparent at defensive end. The pressure on Harvey will be heavy. Many would view this as needing to replace three high level, NFL caliber talents at the position, in Greg Rousseau, Jaelan Phillips and Quincy Roche. With the move of Zack McCloud to defensive end and he transferring in of Deandre Johnson to the program may be viewed as insurance for Harvey. The 3rd year player is squarely in the spotlight, needing to show he has the juice to make a name for himself in a defense that should let his skill set shine. We need to hear and see number 12 often tomorrow if we are to know if he can be that guy or if it will begin conversations of next man up.
That is the biggest thing missing from DJ Ivey’s game since he stepped on foot to the campus in Coral Gables. His height, length, size and ability all play on Sunday. Throughout his time at Miami, we have had glimpse after glimpse of those traits working together, whether vs Pittsburgh in 2019 or at the onset of the 2020 season. Yet, TOO often, we see moments like the ones versus Georgia Tech in 2019 and versus UAB in 2020 that leave us all scratching our heads.
One person who has taken notice is Coach Travaris Robinson, who recently mentioned that consistency was the only thing holding Ivey back. Ivey showed up last game with a pair of pass break ups and accolades from opposing receivers, but we will want to see that success carryover and even improve in the final Spring Game. With Tyrique Stevenson entering the fold, Al Blades Jr. returning the summer, and with TeCory Couch and Isaiah Dunson pushing, the senior needs to stay locked in or get left out of the starting lineup.
Last we saw Gurvan Hall, Camron Harris was making his social media life a living hell by hurdling him during the second spring game.
While the average fan saw that as indictment on Hall, it truly was just an amazing feat of athleticism from Harris. With that said, the narrative that fed that reaction was Hall’s toolsy frame not living up to the expectations most had for him following a successful sophomore year campaign in 2019. Hall’s number fell drastically in 2020 and so did his play, struggling in communication and open field tackling. Much like the other members on this list, Hall’s opportunity to be the man next to Bubba Bolden is quickly shrinking. Avantae Williams, the top safety from the 2020 class was clearing for football activity leading into the spring, and now, the top safety of the 2021 class is soon to be on campus in one James Williams. Not to mention, Larry Bluestein’s favorite safety of the 2021 cycle, Kamren Kinchens is already on campus and noticeably larger. Hall may have the most competition of any on this list, making the urgency level that much greater. I need to see Hall making the right plays and assisting his teammates in the secondary. This offseason looms large for the safety, and the final Spring Game will need to be his best yet.
Hopefully everyone can watch tomorrow’s game and enjoy the return of football. We want more than anything to exit the game without injury, but also to see these five among others take their games to the next level.