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Reevaluating Miami’s Wide Receivers Post Spring Practice

Miami’s wide receivers impressed in the spring game and throughout practice. Should fans start to feel more confident in the unit?

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There were several position battles going on during spring practice for the Hurricanes, but one that was very intriguing was that at wide receiver. More specifically, who was winning the battle to be WR #3 behind Mike Harley and Charleston Rambo.

After practice and especially the spring game, it’s pretty obvious Harley and Rambo are the top two receivers for Miami’s offense and quarterback D’Eriq King. In the spring game, Harley finished with 4 catches, 20 yards and 1 touchdown, while Rambo added 7 receptions for 71 yards. It was a good way to wrap up a productive spring for the two.

But again, the big question remains, who’s going to be the third starting receiver? Miami has several options, with Mark Pope, Dee Wiggins, Keyshawn Smith, Xavier Restrepo and Michael Redding III being the names to know.

Pope is going into his senior season, and up to this point he hasn’t lived up to expectations after being a 5-star recruit coming out of high school. However, Pope did turn in a strong spring game performance, with 6 catches for 111 yards, leading all Canes receivers. We all know Pope has natural talent, and maybe 2021 is the season where it finally all comes together.

Wiggins, like Pope, enters his final year at Miami, where he’s had an up-and-down career. Ending the 2019 season strong, I was convinced the Hurricanes had found their next deep-ball threat. Though in 2020, inconsistency plagued Wiggins, and he fell short of expectations. During the spring game, Jake Garcia lofted a beautiful deep pass to Wiggins, which was dropped and fell incomplete, a problem that has been with the Miami native since he was a freshman. Still, I've always been a believer in Wiggins ability, think he’s a crisp route runner, and just like Pope, he could be saving his best for last.

Keyshawn Smith emerged as the fan favorite prior to spring practice, and the California native didn't disappoint. In the spring game, Smith hauled in 3 passes, for 61 yards and 2 touchdowns. If used correctly, he could develop into the next deep-ball threat at Miami. He has great downfield speed, runs solid routes and has good hands. He’ll need to work on consistency in fall camp if he wants to crack the starting rotation by week-one, but I think we have a special talent in Smith.

Restrepo is another second-year WR that’s a popular name among Canes fans. The Broward County product made some plays in the spring game as well, finishing the day with 4 catches, for 42 yards and 1 touchdown. In Miami’s second scrimmage, Restrepo had himself a day, with 9 receptions, for 144 yards and 2 touchdowns. He’ll be a reliable slot receiver for the next several years, and in 2021, I fully expect to see plenty more of Restrepo.

Another member of the 2020 recruiting class, Redding may be the most naturally gifted receiver the Hurricanes brought in from that cycle. A very physical WR, Redding had a good spring as well, though he left the final scrimmage with an injury. If he’s 100% by the start of fall camp, he’s talented enough he’ll see a lot of reps this season. Either way, he’s a future starter at receiver for the Hurricanes, he’s just going to have to be patient.

You also have Jeremiah Payton, who’s coming into his third season, and who spent most of spring practice recovering from an injury. Payton is another player who Canes fans have been waiting to see put it all together, but because of injuries and COVID, 2020 wasn’t that season. I still think he can have a solid career, but with plenty of young WR’s on the roster, 2021 has to be the year where he starts to show what he can do on Saturdays.

There’s still Dazalin Worsham, as well as true freshmen Romello Brinson, Jacolby George and Brashard Smith, the last three didn’t participate in spring practice. Worsham is a gifted receiver, though isn’t talked about as much as those mentioned previously in this article. Then the first-year WR’s, they all have very bright futures. It’s hard to tell what kind of action they’ll see on game days in 2021, though how they progress this summer and fall camp will give us a better idea.

You also have to remember, Rhett Lashlee and Manny Diaz have said that they want to have a deep rotation with the WR’s, ideally 6-8 receivers. If that’s the case, then the need to find a true #3 starting WR doesn't become as daunting, knowing that Miami is going to spread it around to several receivers.

However, giving King another consistent weapon at WR would make a huge difference for the Hurricanes passing game. In 2020, King threw for 2,688 yards and 23 touchdowns, but with another reliable option at wide receiver, Miami could see those numbers rise drastically.