26 Spots on the Boat: Pre-Fall Camp Edition

26 Spots on the Boat: Pre-Fall Camp Edition

Stefan Adams
Canes football is almost back as fall camp eve is upon us. No better time than now to take a survey through the roster. Who's spot in the lineup is most secured?

Glad you asked. The starting roster will be assigned a ranking and separated into tiers detailing how safe their job is, with tie-breakers being ability and depth at their position. Backups are divided based on how close they are to pushing into the starting 26 (22 Starters on offense/defense, kicker, punter, NICKEL, STRIKER). The starting spots are based on how spring practice finished, NOT projections into the future.

Locked and Loaded

1. S Jaquan Johnson, Sr.

Walter Camp, Thorpe, and Bednarik Awards watch lists, leader of the defense, Turnover Chain King… what else can you say? He’s not the most athletic or the biggest safety, but his instincts, passion, and will to win are what drives him and that’ll always play in college football. He’s a national treasure; enjoy him while it lasts.

2. DE Joe Jackson, Jr.

How you build a defensive end when you construct one in the lab: 6’5” 265, incredible wingspan, athleticism off the charts, high-octane speed around the edge. Became a much more complete defensive end last season, gaining the strength to hold up against the run, while still maintaining his ability to penetrate and cause havoc in the backfield. He’s a no-doubter first round pick.

3. CB Michael Jackson, Sr.

Beginning last fall at essentially fourth on the depth chart, Thriller came out of nowhere last season to establish himself as Miami’s alpha dog at corner and thrust himself into the NFL Draft Day 2 discussion, high praise for someone many pegged as a transfer candidate less than a year ago. The improvement is legitimate and he is physical with his prototypical 6’1” 205 pound build, while still showing next level ball skills (4 INT’s in 2017). Corner also has almost no established depth, so his importance to this team is paramount.

4. MIKE Shaquille Quarterman, Jr.

He’s a true leader in the middle for the Canes that players look to in times of peril. Once he locks on, you can trust him to make the stop, as he doesn’t miss many tackles and sheds blocks very well. This year, he’ll work on going from very good to great by making more impact plays within the defense. His value is upped even more as a true middle linebacker that can make all the reads and calls.

5. WR Ahmmon Richards, Jr.

After an injury-plagued sophomore campaign, he’ll be coming out in 2018 with something to prove. Even in the eight games he did play, he wasn’t 100% right and his numbers took a dip from his fabulous freshman season. Still, all the ingredients are there for a monster junior year and possible early entry to the NFL. Will get bumped up higher if he lands his brother. Leader of the deepest position on the team.

6. RB Travis Homer, Jr.

Someone the coaches have said they feel is the only every-down back on the team right now. He was 34 bowl yards away from having a 1,000 rushing season after spending the first third of the year as a backup. He demonstrated the ability to not only initiate contact, but also quickly run away from it. Extra bump for the DBZ touchdown celebration.

7. WILL Michael Pinckney, Jr.

If you’re talking huge, momentum-type plays, Pinckney arguably had the best season of the linebackers last year, flying around Manny Diaz’s defense to finish with 68 tackles, 11 TFL, and 3.5 sacks, plus an interception. At 6’1” 220 pounds, Pinckney is full of impact plays and is a heat-seeking missile into the opponent’s backfield. Along with turnovers, Diaz heavily emphasizes the “havoc stats” in particular (TFL, sacks, QB hurries) and Pinckney is his most accomplished charge in this department at LB. Pinckney has also continued to build strength and reshape his body in the off-season. Want to see more consistency.

8. C Tyler Gauthier, Sr.

The Canes’ most consistent O-Lineman every down. Someone you know is going to get the job done and also has the intelligence to make all the line calls and get his line organized. Even showed some position flexibility by playing right tackle in the spring for a bit. Has built himself from a low tier 3-star to a likely NFL draft pick. Respect.

9. LT Tyree St. Louis, Sr.

Quite possibly the only player on the team that can play LT competently. Coaches are betting it all on him because there’s no other option. He has the feet to do it, but must work on his technique and balance. If he shows signs that he’s not reaching as much, that’s big progress.

10. WR Jeff Thomas, So.

We know he can get open on a go-route against anybody in the country. Does Miami have anybody that can hit him? Will he learn to run anything else? Been called the best player on the offense at times this spring. Burner that has star potential with a functional QB.

Very Secure

11. S Sheldrick Redwine, Sr.

Athletic upside not as high as others on the team, but the coaches trust him. One of the best tacklers on the team. Pulled away even further from the back up safeties in spring. Drop off in quality behind him showed when he went out last season. Improved as the year went on in his first season on the last line of defense.

12. RT Navaughn Donaldson, So.

Despite some freshman struggles, played beyond his years at guard for UM last season. He’ll move out to right tackle his second season, but had some struggles working against Miami’s speed rushers in spring. Will continue to cut bad weight, but Miami has a lot of confidence that he can be a good to great right tackle in 2018.

13. NICKEL Trajan Bandy, So.

Has continued to develop his body. Nobody will challenge him to man the slot and he’ll also see reps on the outside on occasion. You could see the switch go on with him as it got deeper into the season. His timing and instincts for the game are unreal.

14. DT Gerald Willis III, Sr.

It could be argued that he’s the most important player on the team after Rosier, in terms of guys that must step up for this season to be a success. When not on the field, lock him in a room. Must continue his progress off the field. Has star potential.

Feeling a Little Heat

15. DE Demetrius Jackson, Sr.

Respected leader in the locker room. Good enough to be up another tier, but Garvin and Rousseau will be nipping at his heels this fall, not to mention he is coming off an injury as well. The value of being able to move him inside on passing downs means his reps will be safe regardless.

16. QB Malik Rosier, Sr.

The guy everybody is most interested in this season. He is what he is at this point. Opened up parts of Miami’s playbook that had cobwebs and dust in it with his legs. Closed other parts of the passing game with his arm inconsistencies. Miami has some of the best skill position talent in the country this season and will create plenty of opportunities. Can Rosier get them the ball?

17. WR Lawrence Cager, Jr.

Finished last season with a career game against one of the best defenses Miami faced all season in Wisconsin. Another season removed from his ACL set-back and getting buzz as an NFL talent after a successful spring camp, but he must play at that level every day. Hightower will push him.

18. STRIKER Derrick Smith, So.

Went the entire spring beginning to end as the starter. The complete package at the spot and has been exactly what the coaches are looking for, being quick enough to cover slot receivers, while being physical enough to shed blocks and make tackles at the line. His rise means less snaps for McCloud. Will be that hybrid LB/S type that Miami needs and they can use his speed and coverage skills to improve the defense, especially in passing situations. How often will we see this striker look over the traditional 4-3 base defense?

19. SAM Zach McCloud, Jr.

Weak link at LB this past season led to the implementation of the striker position. His play led to some of the more noticeable defensive busts of the season. While he regressed a bit, he is known as the team’s hardest hitter and he recorded 48 tackles, 4.5 for losses, with 2 sacks last year. He really needed a big spring, but missed almost all of it with a wrist injury. Also, where exactly does he fit in as a true SAM linebacker with the addition of the striker position in Manny’s defense?

Fighting For Their Lives

20. DT Jon Ford, So.

The guy UM wants to win the #2 DT job. He’ll complement Willis’ gap-shooting ability nicely, with his sheer size and propensity to snuff out the run. Still working on his play-to-play consistency though, and fall camp will tell us a lot about how far he’s come in that department.

21. LG Hayden Mahoney, Jr.

He's a guy you wouldn’t mind as a super-sub off the bench, but being Miami’s fourth best lineman right now is concerning. He won’t ever be a star and he’ll struggle against the more athletic guys he goes against, but Mahoney is tough as nails and that’s something that will always win Stacy Searels over. Grad transfer Venzell Boulware will push here.

22. RG Jahair Jones, Sr.

Boulware will push here as well. Hasn’t played a significant minute in a Miami uniform to this point. He’s one of the strongest, if not the strongest, guy on the team, and can be a dynamic run-blocker, but struggles with lateral movement and quicker gap-shooters. Has put in the time off the field in his final year. Will it pay off?

23. TE Michael Irvin II, Jr.

It’s the classic argument of mediocre but experienced vs. talented but clueless. How long it takes for the freshmen to figure things out will determine how long he holds the job. Not enough consistency either on or off the field to have much confidence, but he’s shown he can be serviceable if the freshmen aren’t ready.

24. CB Jhavonte Dean, Sr.

The definition of boom or bust player. Has the prototypical size and length you want in a corner and made some nice plays in coverage last year. However, playing for Rumph requires an aggressive and physical approach that he hasn’t mastered yet. Nor has he mastered the ability to turn around when the ball is in the air.

25. P Zach Feagles, So.

Middling at best as a true freshman. How else can you explain a negative yardage punt? Still, this was one of the top punters in the country coming in and he has NFL bloodlines. Needs to make a big leap in year 2.

26. K Bubba Baxa, Fr.

We know nothing about him really… besides he’s essentially guaranteed the starting kicker job. He had issues with accuracy as a HS senior, but has the leg to hit from anywhere on the field (within reason). Can he be trusted to make the big kick vs. LSU?

Pushing the Starters

QB N’Kosi Perry – Knocked down a peg from deity status but still QB2 and likely first up in case Rosier struggles.

QB Jarren Williams – Advanced presence for a rookie QB; will see PT due to new redshirt rules.

RB DeeJay Dallas – Mr. Versatility will get plenty of touches in a variety of roles this season.

RB Lorenzo Lingard – Fastest man on the team could be UM’s best back by end of season.

WR Brian Hightower – Spring game phenom will push Cager to the limit on the outside.

TE Brevin Jordan – Consensus #1 TE recruit has all the opportunity in the world.

TE Will Mallory – Freak athlete won’t be far behind Jordan if he can keep adding poundage.

C Corey Gaynor – Still working on the mental aspect of the position; can play guard in a pinch.

OG Venzell Boulware – Grad transfer from Tennessee has starts under his belt; will challenge both Jones and Mahoney for the nod at either guard spot.

DE Jon Garvin – Looked comfortable as a starter in spring with DJax out. Could be with the big boys by the time fall ends.

DE Greg Rousseau – Way ahead of where he was projected to be at this point and has put on serious size. Might be the most talented DE in this group and that says a lot.

DT Patrick Bethel – Played over Ford last season and will push him to start, but will likely to continue giving UM quality reps off the bench.

LB Waynmon Steed – After Rousseau, the biggest standout of the spring. He looks like UM’s best back-up linebacker, which is incredible with no experience and coming off an ACL.

CB DJ Ivey – Showed up to spring looking chiseled. Slightly ahead of Frierson with technique.

CB Gilbert Frierson – The most physically impressive DB on the team will get plenty of reps. Must cut down on freshman mistakes.

Probable Contributors

RB Robert Burns – Plenty of spring hype. Can he stay healthy?

FB Realus George – Ready to play. How much will UM use him?

WR Darrell Langham – Wily vet has his uses: redzone, FSU killer.

WR Mark Pope – The complete package. The fact that he’s not higher shows UM’s depth.

WR Mike Harley – Will hope to not get lost in the shuffle at WR; will help out on return units.

OT George Brown – Poor showing this spring; likely would have gotten passed up if UM had real depth.

OG Delone Scaife – Requires more strength to hold up every down, but could easily work his way into part-time role.

DE Scott Patchan – Great spring after switching back to DE; natural pass-rusher.

DT Tito Odenigbo – Plans to fill the “Anthony Moten”, 4th DT role.

DT Nesta Silvera – Tough to make a real impact on the line as a true freshman late enrollee, but receiving high praise within the program already.

LB Charles Perry – Recovering from a knee injury and there’s a logjam at OLB.

LB Mike Smith – A Manny Diaz favorite is getting pushed by the guy just below him.

LB BJ Jennings – Giving Smith all he can handle at backup MLB.

STRIKER Romeo Finley – Great fit at the new rover position. Game slowing down for him even more.

S Robert Knowles – Way too many busts last season but coaches still like him.

S Amari Carter – His reps are safe; will have a role all over the field this season.

S Gurvan Hall – Impressed with physicality in spring before injury.

Wait and See

QB Cade Weldon – Talented but stuck behind “more talented” and “experienced”.

RB Cam Davis – Wait and see if he passes up Burns.

WR Evidence Njoku – Will be interesting to see how recovered he is from the ACL in camp.

WR Daquiris Wiggins – Huge upside, needs more size.

WR Marquez Ezzard – A lot of depth ahead of him.

OT Kai-Leon Herbert – Been held back by shoulder injury; Canes really need him to step up.

OT John Campbell – His athleticism is off the charts and his technique is much more advanced than expected coming into UM.

OT Zalon’tae Hillery – Great potential, needs to continue to develop his body.

OG Cleveland Reed – Heard good things about him, has the strength to play right away.

DT Jordan Miller – Massive size, will take a year or two before he’s ready.

LB De’Andre Wilder – One that’s hurt the most with the new striker position.

LB Patrick Joyner – Could see time at DE as well this season.

CB Al Blades Jr. - Coming in late put him behind the eight ball aka Ivey/Frierson.

CB Nigel Bethel – Track star that’s a corner project; will see time on special teams.

It’s Never Too Late

RB Crispian Atkins – A Butch Jones “Winner in Life” for making it this far and earning a scholarship in the first place as a former walk-on.

FB Trayone Gray – Switch to FB means Miami career likely ends with a whimper.

TE Brian Polendey – Needs to make vast improvements to not get passed up by the freshmen.

OG Zach Dykstra – Already passed right up by the true freshmen in spring.

OG Bar Milo – Ditto.

DE Terry McCray – Move to DE leads to late-career renaissance and he gets drafted. Probably.

DT Tyreic Martin – Have heard zero about him this entire off-season.

Comments (44)

All y’all who keep doubting Nesta Silvera will be singing a different tune after Fall Camp starts.
Thought I read that Finley ended spring as starter at Striker position?
All y’all who keep doubting Nesta Silvera will be singing a different tune after Fall Camp starts.
You think Nesta’s gonna be a player? Really going out on a limb there. No one else thinks he’s any good.
Get rid of Polendey, Dykstra, Milo, and Martin after this season.
Is the gap between Redwine and Carter because Redwine is stepping his game up, or more on carter? I know Banda recently said the gap grew and I’m curious your thoughts. Carter strikes me as a heat seeking missile type that I was hoping would get serious reps if he can’t start.
Is the gap between Redwine and Carter because Redwine is stepping his game up, or more on carter? I know Banda recently said the gap grew and I’m curious your thoughts. Carter strikes me as a heat seeking missile type that I was hoping would get serious reps if he can’t start.

Banda was also talking up Knowles so he's full of crap. If Knowles is on the field......Banda should be fired.
You think Nesta’s gonna be a player? Really going out on a limb there. No one else thinks he’s any good.

Lol Im talking about the ones who act like it’s going to take some time before he is ready. I think he is going to immediately challenge Bethel and Ford for their spots.
Lol Im talking about the ones who act like it’s going to take some time before he is ready. I think he is going to immediately challenge Bethel and Ford for their spots.

He plays a different spot than Ford. He would be battling Willis, Bethel, Tito. Ford is the only big body we got besides Miller who I doubt will be ready this year.
He plays a different spot than Ford. He would be battling Willis, Bethel, Tito. Ford is the only big body we got besides Miller who I doubt will be ready this year.
Tito is a big body. I see him as a 1 tech.
Oh and don’t get too caught up in the weight thing with pat bethel playing the 1 technique, he’s 6’3 and about 295 and is one of the strongest guys on the team. College football has evolved **** uga who runs a traditional 3-4 nose tackle last year John Atkins was only 6’3 305 and in that scheme usually the nose tackles are bigger than that. 6’3 295 is big enough for our 1 technique for sure