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Miami Hurricanes 2021 Position Preview: Wide Receivers

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The biggest question mark on offense, what will we see from the Miami wide receivers in 2021?

Miami will continue wide receiver competition, wants to see linebackers cut it loose Michael Laughlin/Sun Sentinel/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

They have the talent, they have experience, now, can the Hurricanes wide receiver group finally put it all together? Last season, Miami’s WR’s had their moments where they produced for the offense and made plays, but in the end, the unit as a whole couldn’t find the consistency necessary to be a lethal passing attack.

Receivers coach Rob Likens is in his second year at UM, quarterback D’Eriq King is back for his final season, this offense has so much potential, Miami just needs their receivers to step up. While fans are skeptical with this position group, others around the country are impressed. College football expert Phil Steele has the Canes WR group at #7 in the nation. That’s saying a lot.

So with that being said, let’s take a look at the Hurricanes WR’s.

Mike Harley

Miami’s go-to guy and number-one option at receiver, Harley is back for his fifth and last year at UM, and he’ll be crucial for the Canes offense. In 2020, Harley had his finest season as a Hurricane, with 57 receptions, 799 receiving yards and 7 touchdowns, all career highs. While it took him a few games to get going last year, Harley’s play in the second half of the 2020 season helped Miami score points and win games.

Harley is not only the leader of the wide receiver room, but he’s one of the more influential players on the entire team. Harley’s leadership on and off the field, including his production on Saturday’s, is a big reason why many believe this Miami offense will improve from 2020.

Charleston Rambo:

Rambo transferred to Miami this off-season after spending the last three years in Oklahoma with Lincoln Riley and the Sooners. There, Rambo developed into a premiere number-two target on a high-octane Oklahoma offense. 2019 was his best season, hauling in 43 passes, for 743 yards and 5 touchdowns, as he was lined up opposite Ceedee Lamb.

Now at Miami, Rambo could be the answer to the Hurricanes inconsistencies in the passing game, as they’ve been trying to find someone plays along with Harley. If Rambo can play like he did two years ago at Oklahoma, and Harley plays like he did in 2020, the Hurricanes offense will improve greatly.

Keyshawn Smith:

Maybe the breakout receiver of the year when 2021 is all said and done, Keyshawn Smith has been one of the more talked about players this off-season. Entering his second season at UM, the speedster from California had just two catches last year, though Smith enjoyed a successful spring practice, catching the eyes of many.

As Miami prepares for fall camp and the upcoming season, Smith is a major contender to become that third starting wide receiver. He has great speed, impressive height as well as the ability to go up and make contested catches, Smith is my pick to start, and I think Miami has a future star on their hands with him.

Mark Pope:

When talking about who’s going to be third starting receiver for the Canes, many people still believe Mark Pope can be that guy. While he’s been underwhelming for most of his first three seasons at Miami, Pope still has the talent to make plays and be a real threat for Miami’s offense.

Last year, Pope finished with 33 receptions, 403 yards and 2 touchdowns. In the NC State and Virginia Tech games, Pope’s production was key in helping Miami win both games. However, due to lack of consistency, he wasn’t able to put together a strong season as a whole, falling short of expectations set for him.

What kind of Pope will we see in his final season as a Hurricane? I honestly don’t know. Part of me wants to think he’s finally going to become the player we all thought he’d be coming out of Southridge High School as a 5-star recruit. However, like my feeling about the Hurricanes as a team, Pope will have to prove it to me at this point.

Dee Wiggins:

The other highly-recruited receiver from the 2018 class, Wiggins’ career at Miami has been much like Pope’s: filled with plenty of expectation, moments of greatness, but overall it has been severely underwhelming. Last year, I predicted that Wiggins was going to have a big season, lead Miami in receiving, and perhaps become the next deep-ball threat in Coral Gables. I was wrong. Like Pope however, Wiggins came up in certain games, NC State and Virginia Tech mainly, just like Pope.

Wiggins will most likely be behind Rambo on the depth chart, as I don’t think he’ll start in 2021. However, because Rhett Lashlee has said he wants to use at least 6 receivers in the rotation, maybe we’ll see Wiggins break a few plays, possibly another touchdown against FSU.

Xavier Restrepo:

Going into this second year at Miami, I’m really excited to see what Restrepo can do on the field in 2021. Catching a pair of touchdowns in the spring game, the Deerfield High School product showed that he can be an effective slot receiver. Solid route running, Restrepo does a good job at creating separation and making catches in traffic. I don’t necessarily think Restrepo will start, but he’ll get plenty of reps throughout the season, and will be a reliable target the next few years.

I’m not going to go through all the receivers individually, but these first six I talked about, in my opinion, will see the field the most.

Another second-year WR is Michael Redding III, who I think could be a potential starter for Miami next season. He’s put on considerable size this off-season, and I’d like to see him push for more playing time.

Then you have the group of true freshmen, Romello Brinson, Jacolby George and Brashard Smith. Without a doubt, all three of them have very bright careers ahead of them at UM. None of them were early enrollees so they weren’t able to participate in spring practice, which means fall camp will be crucial for them in regards to seeing the field in 2021. While they may redshirt this year, it also wouldn’t surprise me to see them play.