If things go as planned later this month, Miami will have three players in their secondary drafted by the NFL. All three of them were new starters at the beginning of the 2017 season when the Hurricanes won their first ten games. Now Miami has to replace them with Trajan Bandy being the only returning starter.
Miami has finished in the top 20 nationally in interceptions the past two seasons. The hope is that the secondary will continue to play with the same intensity. However, with the departure of the talented seniors there is a lack of production. There are now only two players in the secondary that have recorded an interception.
Passing The Torch
At the safety position, Miami has had good fortune. When Manny Diaz took over as defensive coordinator in 2016, he had Jamal Carter and Rayshawn Jenkins. Both went on to the NFL and were replaced by Sheldrick Redwine and Jaquan Johnson. Corn Elder also graduated after the 2016 season and was replaced by Michael Jackson at cornerback.
So the Miami coaching staff has seen this transition before and will try to find the best solution moving forward. This Spring, the Canes will try to find continuity but more help will enroll in the summer. With only four scholarship cornerbacks available for spring practice, it’s likely Miami will find who will start alongside Bandy.
There is some experimenting going on in the spring at the safety position. Defensive coordinator Blake Baker revealed that starting striker Romeo Finley has been receiving reps at safety. Prior to last season to Finley was originally a safety before switching positions to Miami’s version of an outside linebacker, which they named the ‘Striker’ position.
Amari Carter looks to be the likely replacement for Johnson. The upcoming junior is physically an upgrade, standing at six foot two and 200 pounds. However what Johnson lacked in size he more than made up for with his football IQ and tenacity. Carter has had a role on Miami’s defense since he was a freshman working as a dime linebacker on third downs. Carter has a reputation as a big hitter during his time at Miami and will now be given the task of being a leader in the secondary.
Gurvan Hall is highly thought of around Miami’s program. Upon his arrival last spring, he was even given the number 26 jersey made famous by Sean Taylor. As a former Under Armour All-American, expectations are high for Hall. He will now get his opportunity to earn a starting position after playing mainly on special teams last season.
The Hurricanes have another solid option in Derrick Smith. At six foot two, Smith provides another physical presence at safety. Since being at Miami he’s moved from safety to striker and now back to safety this spring. Much like most of the other young safeties, special teams has been where most of his snaps have played. With a strong spring, Smith could carve out more of a role at safety once the season arrives.
The last likely replacement is Bubba Bolden, who is not yet on campus but has signed to play for Miami next season. Last season Bolden was set to be the starting safety at Southern Cal but was held out of action due to a violation of school rules off the field. He was a top 10 safety prospect out of high school in the 2017 class according to 247 Sports.
For college football fans, the name Al Blades might bring back memories. The Hurricanes have a legacy in Blades, whose father played for the Hurricanes from 1996 to 2000. Al Blades Jr. played a key role on Miami’s special teams being named captain multiple times for the season. He played defense in the opening game against LSU after Bandy was ejected for targeting.
DJ Ivey is another notable name that has a chance of starting alongside Bandy. Last season he played in a backup role at cornerback. Much like Jackson, Ivey is a big corner standing at six foot one. Miami likes his ability to match-up against bigger receivers but have not named him the starter as of yet.
The third option is Nigel Bethel, another six-foot tall corner. Bethel redshirted last season to be given more time to learn cornerback after mainly playing offense in high school. However, his athleticism makes it an easy transition for the former high school track star.
Miami has more options that will enroll in the summer, many of whom of are finishing high school. Bubba Bolden has more of a realistic chance at coming in and earning a position because he has already played in a collegiate defense. He would have started last season if not for an off the field issue for USC. A big part of my reasoning behind this is the fact that Miami will start off the collegiate season and those with spring practice experience will have an advantage. The Florida versus Miami game being moved up to August 24th accelerates the summer learning process.