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No Rambo, No Harley. Who will step up for ‘Canes in 2022 at WR?

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After losing Charleston Rambo and Mike Harley to the NFL Draft, an alpha will emerge from the shadows to be the Canes #1 WR. Who will it be?

Manny Navarro, Twitter

Going into the 2022 season, the Miami Hurricanes offense is going to look very different at the wide receiver position. Leading receivers Charleston Rambo and Mike Harley are both making the move to the NFL after their careers as Canes, and that opens up two very important starting spots for the Canes.

Rambo and Harley accounted for 136 catches, 1,715 yards and 12 touchdowns. That’s 58% of all receiving yards from wide receivers. Tyler Van Dyke’s two safety valves are gone and somebody is going to have to fill those shoes.

What Production is Returning?

Miami has players that have shown flashes, but the receiving core is very young overall. The team is returning seven receivers, all of which are considered sophomores. Six of those seven were able to make some impact in 2021, with some making more than others. No returning WR had more than 30 catches or 375 yards.

Returning: 1,180 receiving yards and 9 touchdowns.

  • Xavier Restrepo: 24 catches, 373 yards, 2 touchdowns.
  • Keyshawn Smith: 26 catches, 332 yards, 3 touchdowns.
  • Brashard Smith: 14 catches, 199 yards, 2 touchdowns.
  • Jacolby George: 7 catches, 183 yards, 1 touchdown.
  • Romello Brinson: 7 catches, 90 yards, 1 touchdown.
  • Michael Redding: 1 catch, 3 yards.

Each player has pedigree or proven talent, but as a sophomore, it’s time to take that leap to an every-down wide receiver. Every player brings a different skillset. Do any of them have the potential to be the alpha in 2022? Sort of, but I think Clemson transfer and Miami native Frank Ladson will be the No. 1 receiver for Tyler Van Dyke and the ‘Canes this season.

The Miami Native Returns Home: Frank Ladson

In order for Van Dyke to be at his best, he needs someone to play the Rambo role. What is the Rambo role? “F**k it, Rambo gotta be down there somewhere.“ Someone needs to be that guy. In my opinion, I think it will be Frank Ladson. The 6’3, 205 pound wide receiver is the big body on the outside that has the potential to fill the void left by Rambo.

Ladson was a four-star recruit, No. 39 overall, in the Class of 2019 out of South Dade High School in Miami that signed with the Clemson Tigers. The transfer didn’t have much success at Clemson and struggled mightily with injuries. In his three years in Death Valley, Ladson caught just 31 passes for 428 yards and 6 touchdowns. Then again, he is by far the highest rated receiver that the Canes have on the roster. Could he be Rambo V2? Could he be a depth piece who continues to struggle? The possibilities are endless, but I think that he will find success playing at the crib. He should be the alpha that allows the younger guys to grow alongside him.

The similarities to Rambo are evident. In three seasons at Oklahoma, Rambo racked up 76 catches for 1,180 yards and nine touchdowns in 28 games while buried on the depth chart behind future NFL stars in Ceedee Lamb and Marquise Brown. In his lone season at Miami, Rambo produced 79 catches 1,172 yards and seven touchdowns in just 12 games. All he needed was a shot at being the alpha.

In addition to batting multiple injuries while at Clemson, Ladson was buried behind two NFL players in Tee Higgins and Amari Rodgers, and future NFL player Justyn Ross. Now, leading a young, inexperienced receiving core, the once highly-touted Ladson will have his chance at being the WR1 for TVD.

The Returning: Who Will Emerge?

Miami always rotates heavily, so it goes without saying that everyone will be used effectively. Back to the main question: who will emerge? Next to Ladson, I believe that sophomore Jacolby George will take the leap to being the ‘Canes WR2, if not WR1.

In his limited role as a reserve, George contributed seven catches for 183 yards and a touchdown. His 26.1 yards per catch led the team by a large margin. The six foot receiver runs smooth, crisp routes and has the capability to play inside or outside. His after the catch ability is amplified in his role as one of the best punt returners in the nation. George was the primary punt returner for nine games, checking in at No. 11 in the country with 10.9 yards per return. During the off-season, George mentioned that he has gained 12 pounds. The bigger, faster, more physical George is someone that will be a key contributor to the ‘Canes in 2022.

“The sky is the limit for him. His route-running, his releases, and he wears XXXL size gloves. It is just about confidence and maturity with him. It will come,” said Mike Harley, former ‘Canes receiver and teammate of George.

As far as the rest of the bunch, Restrepo and K. Smith have proven that they are capable players. K. Smith is as fast and physical as any receiver in the nation. It seemed like every catch he had in 2021 was over the middle, which he faces with no fear. An all-purpose wide receiver, K. Smith is likely to see his production grow in 2022. “They got to figure out ways to use him this year. He is legit,” said Harley.

Restrepo’s role is locked in. The sure-handed, shifty sophomore always seems to be open and consistently breaks tackles. He needs to be on the field. “He just needs to be a smart player. Just keep working and good things will happen,” said Harley.

These two are extremely consistent and will have the ball in their hands very often.

B. Smith and Brinson can get caught behind the shadow of those in front of them, but they could easily breakout. B.Smith has the most game-breaking speed of any player in all of FBS and I can guarantee that Gattis will get him touches in space. A dangerous player that can be used as a receiver or a running back that has the potential to explode at any moment. “When he gets the ball in his hands, he reminds me of a Deebo Samuel. He can be used any way,” said Harley.

Brinson’s 6’2 frame instantly separates him from the rest of the roster outside of Ladson. While I think he is more talented than him, his role in 2022 could be that of Darrell Langham in 2017, the big body that the team goes to when they are one-on-one. Don’t forget that he had the catch of the year in 2021. “We didn’t really use fades or jump balls in the red-zone, but in those situations he is the guy to go to,” said Harley.

The potential of these two future stars is immense.

The Future is Bright in Coral Gables

In recent memory, this is one of the highest potential wide receiver groups that the ‘Canes have had in a long time. The dynamic, electric core has their time to shine. The 2022 season is bound to be home to a few breakout stars, though only time will tell who they will be.