Although it is still over half a year until the 2023 NFL Draft and a full season needs to be played, the most frequent Canes defensive player appearing on way-too-early big boards and mock drafts is cornerback, Tyrique Stevenson. In some cases among respected draft analysts, Stevenson is even appearing higher than teammate and lead ACC Heisman candidate, Tyler Van Dyke.
Stevenson, a Miami native, originally joined the U after departing from a potent Georgia defense in 2020. As part of his recruiting process, Stevenson rose to five-star status but he was predominantly featured as a slot/nickel safety during his two years at Georgia. He earned the opportunity to play outside cornerback against Cincinnati in the 2020 Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl and impressed with a pivotal pass breakup. However, he then opted to return home to the Canes (Miami Southridge grad), a program that was involved deep into his recruitment process, and Tyrique since earned more playing time as a true outside coverage CB.
Last year in his first season with the Canes, Stevenson added a boost to Miami’s defense with a career high 43 tackles, four pass deflections, and the first pick of his career (against current Steeler, Kenny Pickett). However, considering he was the third best corner in the country in his recruiting class, he has left some to be desired thus far in his career, whether due to injury or otherwise.
That being said, many are aware of Stevenson’s potential and he is making the rounds in way-too-early mock drafts: ESPN’s Todd McShay ranks him as the 28th overall draft-eligible player (fourth-best CB) while The Athletic’s Dane Brugler ranks him as 45th overall.
The lofty expectations for Stevenson are not unfounded and not only because of his five-star potential. Rather, Stevenson has the upside necessary to experience a Jaycee Horn or Ahmad Gardner-type breakout season due to his frame, length, and physicality. One scout even compared him to a bigger version of Antrel Rolle, saying he “could be a first-rounder because he’s big and physical and can play corner and safety.”
Stevenson tore his labrum on November 6 against Georgia Tech, played through it initially for three games, but then was ruled out for the final two games of the year after getting an MRI. Tyrique then opted to return for his fourth collegiate season and rehabbed the shoulder. This offseason, Stevenson knows he has a lot to prove and the physical corner has put an increased emphasis on his body/health with new strength and conditioning coach Aaron Feld.
Expectations for 2022
In spite of the delayed start to his offseason program, Stevenson looks like a lock to be a starter at one of the two outside cornerback positions and should predominantly be lined up against the opponents’ top wideout.
Listed at 6’0”, 214lbs, Stevenson is a heavier cornerback and uses his size to his advantage where he is skilled in bullying/stunting wideouts at the line of scrimmage. Stevenson is long-limbed and has track star speed - ran a 10.88 100-meter dash in high school - to turn his hips and run with receivers. On 49 targets on the outside in 2021, Stevenson proved his coverage capabilities as he allowed just 25 receptions for 228 yards over 11 games or 20.7 yards per game against his targets according to PFF. The 9.1 yards per reception ranked second among outside Power Five corners. Tyrique has exhibited scheme-versatility as he has played in the box, nickel, safety, and outside cornerback during his college career (he played some linebacker in high school). He also has versatility as a punt returner.
Tyrique Stevenson in man coverage last season:— PFF College (@PFF_College) June 18, 2022
5 catches allowed
39.4 passer rating
5 forced incompletions pic.twitter.com/fazmaSo71V
That being said, Stevenson needs to improve his ball skills as he has only tallied 14 career pass deflections and one career interception, while being a bit too grabby. While Stevenson is a physical corner and willing tackler, another big concern regarding his skill set is an issue that plagued the entire Miami defense recently - poor finishing on tackles (he had ten missed tackles in 2021). The new coaching staff’s style should benefit Tyrique, as the defense should play more disciplined. To that end, there was speculation that Stevenson partly returned for his senior season due to a desire to work with Mario Cristobal.
UPDATE: 247 Sports’ Gaby Urrutia believes Miami CB Tyrique Stevenson will return for another season. Gaby noted that it’s not a done deal but Stevenson is excited about the prospect of playing for Cristobal. pic.twitter.com/DkLZ5S4A7K— Spark College Football (@SparkCFB) December 17, 2021
Stevenson has commented on not only working hard with Cristobal but also new defensive backs coach Jahmile Addae. Addae is a players’ coach who offers a technical approach as opposed to last year’s defensive backs’ coach, Travaris Robinson, who emphasized physicality. Addae should be able to help develop Tyrique and improve his tackling and ball diagnosis/timing. To add comfort, Addae was the first DB coach Stevenson had in college while at Georgia.
As a Miami Southridge alum, Tyrique Stevenson transferred to the Canes’ program to get closer to home but also to catapult his game with more repetitions at outside corner. An injury last year may have somewhat set Tyrique back, but the trajectory seems on track as he has the athleticism, frame, and raw talent to be an early pick next year, as long as he cleans up some of his drawbacks - all signs point to Cristobal and Co. assisting as Stevenson propels himself to the pinnacle at the next level.
10 Passes Deflected
Second Round 2023 NFL Draft Pick