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Players to Watch for on Every Miami Hurricanes 2022 Opponent

Diving Into Some of the Top Playmakers Featured in Miami’s Regular Season Slate

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: JAN 22 FSU at Miami Photo by Samuel Lewis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The season is now less than three weeks away and the Watch Lists, Preseason All-Conference teams, and way-too-early draft projections are rolling out. There are some Canes who are being featured on these lists, but what about the Canes’ opponents?

Check out the below players getting preseason recognition that Miami will be pitted against during the regular season.


Defensive back Omari Hill-Robinson
Class: Junior

Obviously, this is a cupcake opener and should make for a smoother transition into Miami’s college football season than last year’s opener against Alabama.

However, Tyler Van Dyke (and Jake Garcia and Jacurri Brown) could get their licks against Hill-Robinson. The Dillard High School (Fort Lauderdale, FL) grad was the lone BCU defensive player to crack the First Team Southwestern Athletic Conference Preseason honor after garnering 36 tackles, 4 interceptions, and 8 pass breakups in 2021. The competition is inferior to Power Five opponents, but Hill-Robinson did record 3 PBUs against UCF.

This could be somewhat of an unofficial tryout for Hill-Robinson if he pursues the ever-growing NCAA Transfer Portal and has an interest in Miami who have recent Dillard products including current Green Bay Packer, Jon Ford, and 2022 signee, Nyjalik Kelly.

Southern Miss

Running back Frank Gore Jr.
Class: Third Year Sophomore

Gore Jr. is the most enticing factor of this game against the inferior Golden Eagles’, as he will be the first “Frank Gore” to play in Miami as a Canes’ opponent. The Killian High School grad is going into his third year at Southern Miss and has already accumulated 1,509 rushing yards and eight touchdown in two seasons. Gore Jr. is looking for a strong season and has been named to the Doak Walker preseason watch list.

The senior Gore is officially done with the NFL but was just charged with simple assault this past week.

Texas A&M

Entire Offensive Line, led by Layden Robinson, and running back Devon Achane
Class: Freshman-Senior, Junior

This is a game that everyone in Canes’ nation has circled and will likely be the toughest test of the season. And while the Aggies have playmakers on all sides of the ball, they are a known perennial powerhouse at offensive line. Generally a faceless position, the Aggies projected starting lineup from left-to-right will make Canes’ defense aware they are a brickhouse with listed dimensions of: 6’6”, 320lbs; 6’5”, 320lbs; 6’5”, 325lbs; 6’4”, 330lbs; 6’8”(!), 325lbs. For perspective, the offensive line loses 15th overall pick, Kenyon Green, and is still lethal.

The cohort is anchored by fourth-year junior guard, Layden Robinson, who could be an early 2023 interior OL draft pick and is an All-American candidate. They also feature one of the best centers in the country in Bryce Foster, as well as behomoth right tackle, Reuben Fatheree, who is listed at 6-8, 320lbs - both of whom were true freshman in 2021. Behind the offensive line is shifty playmaking running back/return specialist, Devon Achane, who earned preseason second-team All-SEC honors.

The good news is that Cristobal is an offensive line wizard and will hopefully be able to leverage that mindset against Jimbo and Co.

Middle Tennessee

Wide receivers Izaiah Gathings Sr. and Jaylin Lane
Class: Fifth-year Senior and Third-year Sophomore

There are more questions than answers right now for the reigning Bahamas Bowl champion after their starting signal-caller, Chase Cunningham, went down with a knee injury toward the end of last season.

However, MTSU has an impressive pass-catching duo in Izaiah Gathings Sr. and Jaylin Lane, both of whom were named to the Conference-USA preseason watch list. The former three star recruits combined for 66 catches, for 768 yards, and 5 touchdowns in 2021. Lane, who is listed at 5’8”, 183lbs, has been a reliable pass catcher with 42 catches last season and was named a preseason All-American by Athlon and Phil Steele as a punt returner, and is also listed on the Paul Hornung Watch List. Gathings complements Lane as a bigger-bodied target at 6’4”, 226lbs.

This will be a sneaky test for the cornerbacks.

North Carolina

Wide receiver Josh Downs
Class: Junior

Two years removed from an offensive attack that featured two NFL level pass catchers in Dazz Newsome and Dyami Brown and running backs in Michael Carter and Javonte Williams, the Tar Heels major threat this year is 5’11”, 171lb slot receiver, Josh Downs. Downs is projected to be the best wideout in the ACC as he earned the most votes for a wide receiver at the wide receiver position. After accumulating 1,335 receiving yards in 2021, Downs has reliable hands and elite route running that the secondary will need to figure out.

We all know what happened in 2020, but in last year’s 45-42 loss, it was Downs who the Canes had no answer for as he recorded 11 receptions for 96 yards and a TD.

2021 high-four star quarterback, Drake Maye, and former Miami center/captain, Corey Gaynor, are also featured in this game.

Virginia Tech

Cornerback Dorian Strong
Class: Junior

The Hokies experience attrition at key positions led by cornerback Jermaine Waller, wide receiver Tre Turner, and dual threat quarterback Braxton Burmeister.

It will be defensive back, Dorian Strong, that could give Tyler Van Dyke and WR1 a fit in this October matchup. The 6’1”, 178lb was an under-the-radar three-star recruit proved his rangy abilities early and often as he played in all 11 games as a true freshman and recorded 22 tackles, one interception, five pass breakups, a fumble recovery and a QB hurry. In 2021, Strong flashed some ballhawking prowess with an interception and six pass breakups, but left some to be desired with only 23 tackles in 13 games. Strong will be the defensive leader and should be a challenge for the Canes’ passing game.


Defensive end RJ Oben
Class: Fourth-year junior

The combined score in the Duke-Miami game over the past two seasons has been 95-10. And the Blue Devils are overhauling their system with Cane coaching alumnus in strength and conditioning coach, David Feeley, and former Miami defensive line coach, Jess Simpson.

Feeley worked closely in developing former Cane and current Dolphin, Jaelan Phillips, and may have the opportunity to do the same with 6’4”, 255lb pass rusher RJ Oben. The former three-star has had underwhelming stats through three seasons: 26 tackles, six tackles for loss, and four sacks, but started to breakthrough last season and became a starter. Featuring a quick first step, he has been named a four team preseason All-ACC selection by Athlon Sports. Duke has recently placed strong defensive linemen into the NFL such as Victor Dimukeje and Chris Rumph II.


Quarterback Brennan Armstrong
Class: Fifth-year senior

The three-year starter has ample experience and features a good combination of lefty arm talent and ground attack (896 career rushing yards and 14 touchdowns). He is complemented by wide receiver, Dontayvion Wicks, who made the acrobatic and miraculous touchdown grab in the 2021 matchup, and All-ACC first team athlete, Keytaon Thompson.

Also, there are only two wide receivers in college football that averaged at least 100 receiving yards per game that are returning next season along with their quarterback - Wicks and Armstrong, as well as Ohio State’s Jaxon Smith-Njigba and CJ Stroud. Thompson and Armstrong averaged over 80 a game.

Florida State

Cornerback Jammie Robinson
Class: Fourth-year Junior

This one’s personal and even though Miami feels like the superior team, the Seminoles have plenty of talent including dual-threatquarterback Jordan Davis, running back Treshaun Ward, defensive lineman, Robert Cooper, safety Akeem Dent, as well as transfers in Albany defensive lineman, Jared Verse, UCF linebacker, Tatum Bethune, and former high four star wide receiver, Mycah Pittman.

However, it will be first team preseason All-ACC defensive back, Jammie Robinson, that has the potential to have a special season. The South Carolina transfer recorded 84 tackles and four interceptions in 2021. And if the front seven of Cooper, Verse, and Bethune can get to Van Dyke and limit his time in the pocket, Robinson will have no trouble locking down Miami receivers and eliminating their first move - and even had a pick against TVD last season.

Georgia Tech

Linebacker Charlie Thomas
Class: Senior

Let’s face it, last year’s game against Georgia Tech was too close for comfort - eked out a 33-30 victory at home - and cannot happen again. To that end, the last four games have been close as Miami lost the previous two and only won 25-24 in the matchup before that. Georgia Tech loses flashy running back, Jahmyr Gibbs, to Alabama via the transfer portal as he could become one of the best rushers in the nation in 2022, and their 2022 lineup is pretty lackluster

However, the Yellow Jackets feature a gritty linebacker in Charlie Thomas who has an impressive play diagnosis skillset and can be an impact player/leader as he has plenty of experience with 40 college games played through four seasons. The 6’2”, 207lbs linebacker had a solid 70 tackles and ten tackles for loss last season.


Front Seven Athletes Bryan Bresee (DT), Myles Murphy (DE), and Trenton Simpson (LB)
Class: Third-Year Sophomore, Junior, Junior

This is, without a doubt, the game of the Canes’ ACC schedule. And by this point in the season, it will be no surprise if Clemson has Cade Klubnik at the helm rather than current starting quarterback, DJ Uiagalelei.

However, it will be how Miami addresses the Tigers’ ferocious defensive attack that determines the Canes’ fate in Death Valley. Namely, Cristobal will need to have his offensive line in near playoff form as they face a former top five national recruit and second team All-ACC selection in Myles Murphy, the former number one recruit in the nation and third team All-ACC selection in Bryan Bresee, and explosive pass rusher with rare physical traits and preseason All-ACC first team linebacker in Trenton Simpson. That is a freakish trio that will most test the Canes to keep Van Dyke upright and see how good Cristobal just really is at addressing the trenches.

The Tigers also feature quality depth options in the front seven in Tyler Davis, Xavier Thomas, and Ruke Orhorhoro.


Defensive Linemen Habakkuk Baldonado and Calijah Kancey
Class: Fifth-year Senior and Redshirt Junior

This was expected to be 2021 Biletkinoff Award winner, Jordan Addison, but he recently transferred to USC. And former USC quarterback, Kedon Slovis, has not done enough to establish himself as a legitimate threat at this juncture, especially in a QB room that has immense depth.

Rather, this will be the second game in a row where the Miami offensive line will need to neutralize a heavy pass rush that features two Florida natives in Habakkuk Baldonado (Clearwater Academy International) and Calijah Kancey (Miami Northwestern). Both were named to the preseason All-ACC first team on the defensive line and to the Chuck Bednarik Watch List. Baldonado, at 6’5”, 258lbs features powerful hands and a quick-for-his-size first step after recording nine sacks last season. Kancey, at 6’0” 280lbs, brings a stout and compact frame and added seven sacks in 2021.

Who else are you looking forward to face during the 2022 season?