26 Tickets to Charlotte: Preseason Edition

26 Tickets to Charlotte: Preseason Edition

Stefan Adams
Previous: Pre-Fall Camp

Canes football is almost back as the LSU opener looms on Sunday. No better time than now to take a survey through the roster. Who's spot in the lineup is most secured?

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).

Locked and Loaded

1. S Jaquan Johnson, Sr. (LAST: 1)

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. (LAST: 2)

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. (LAST: 3)

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. (LAST: 4)

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. (LAST: 5)

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. (LAST: 6)

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. (LAST: 7)

If you’re talking huge, momentum-type plays, he 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, he 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 he is his most accomplished charge in this department at LB. Has also continued to build strength and reshape his body in the off-season. Want to see more consistency.

8. C Tyler Gauthier, Sr. (LAST: 8)

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. (LAST: 9)

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. His confidence is through the roof right now though.

10. S Sheldrick Redwine, Sr. (LAST: 12)

Moves up a tier after his amazing fall camp, where he started earning some serious draft buzz from NFL scouts. Playing faster than ever in his second year at the position and will team with Johnson to form a top notch safety unit.

11. WR Jeff Thomas, So. (LAST: 10)

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

12. RT Navaughn Donaldson, So. (LAST: 12)

Question marks about how he’ll handle the transition have slowly been reduced. I don’t think he’ll be perfect, but he’s clearly a tier ahead of the other Miami O-Linemen and his talent is as massive as his size.

13. NICKEL Trajan Bandy, So. (LAST: 13)

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 last season. His timing and instincts for the game are unreal.

14. DT Gerald Willis III, Sr. (LAST: 14)

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.

15. DE Jon Garvin, So. (LAST: NR)

Has probably had the biggest fall camp of anyone. He has handily held off Demetrius Jackson after Jackson’s return from injury, put on lean muscle mass, and has really made strides holding up against the run, making the leap from situational pass rusher to every down player. The sky is the limit for his potential.

More or Less Safe, But More to Prove

16. QB Malik Rosier, Sr. (LAST: 16)

Showed some improvement in fall camp and was clearly the best passer on the team. Showed he could make big plays for this team last season, but I need to see it more consistently this season. Miami has some of the best skill position talent in the country this season and will create plenty of opportunities. Can he regularly get them the ball?

17. WR Lawrence Cager, Jr. (LAST: 17)

Another season removed from his ACL set-back and getting buzz as an NFL talent after a successful camp, but he must play at that level every day. Can be the big-framed, red zone target to perfectly complement Richards and Thomas.

18. TE Brevin Jordan, Fr. (LAST: NR)

After Michael Irvin II’s injury in camp, there was no doubt who was opening up the season as a starter here. Miami has been moving him all over the field and fans will be surprised how much UM uses him this season.

Fighting to Hold On

19. SAM Zach McCloud, Jr. (LAST: 19)

He’ll help against the run and will be a liability against the pass. I’m not sold that his wrist is all the way healed and that is a serious concern for me going into the season.

20. DT Patrick Bethel, Jr. (LAST: NR)

Beat out Ford and Odenigbo to start and played well in a bit role last season. My question on him is how well can he stop the run? Out of anyone else on the team, I’ll be watching him closest against LSU.

21. LG Hayden Mahoney, Jr. (LAST: 21)

Another that solidified his role a bit more in camp. 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.

22. CB Jhavonte Dean, Sr. (LAST: 24)

One of the stories of camp was his rise as a legitimate option for Mike Rumph and he has been hard to separate from in practice. His biggest weaknesses last season was getting his head around and finding the ball in the air. Well, he may never possess elite ball skills, but he at least showed he has improved there with two picks in the second scrimmage. I’m cautiously optimistic.

23. STRIKER Romeo Finley, Jr. (LAST: NR)

Really impressing at striker. Still struggles with man coverage at times, but clearly much more comfortable in the hybrid striker role than at traditional safety. The game is slowing down for him a bit and he’ll be a big help in passing situations.

24. RG Jahair Jones, Sr. (LAST: 22)

He really held down the job here in fall and it didn’t seem like he was challenged all that much. Not sure if that’s more indicative of his improvement or an indictment of poor O-Line depth. Still, I think he is the starter with the most to prove going into the season as a fifth year senior that has never played a significant snap.

25. P Zach Feagles, So. (LAST: 25)

Inconsistencies continued in fall, but has all the tools to be a very good punter here. UM obviously can’t afford shanks every game.

26. K Bubba Baxa, Fr. (LAST: 26)

Has been crushing the ball and is consistently getting touchbacks on kickoffs. His leg is the real deal and he’s the clear #1 at kicker right now. That’s even with some relatively decent competition from UM’s walk-ons. Excited to see him kick week 1.

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 Cade Weldon – Big fall put him right back in the discussion for the backup role.

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

WR Brian Hightower – Spring game phenom continued progress in fall and will push Cager to the limit on the outside.

WR Mike Harley – Had a good fall after an average spring. Will see plenty of reps.

TE Will Mallory – Although he’s not quite ready to have an every down role, he will play a ton as a situation threat in the passing game.

OT/OG Delone Scaife – Made a leap from spring to fall and is now at left tackle. Clearly Miami’s 6th best lineman.

OG Venzell Boulware – Slightly disappointing he didn’t mount more of a challenge to Mahoney or Jones in camp, but will be the first guard to sub in.

DE Demetrius Jackson – Returned from his injury, but was unable to win a starting role. However, he’s made plays all throughout his career at UM and I don’t expect that to change.

DT Tito Odenigbo – Came in better than expected and pushed Bethel for the starting job.

LB Waynmon Steed – Looks like UM’s best back-up linebacker, which is incredible with no experience and coming off an ACL.

CB DJ Ivey – The most likely of the freshmen corners to become a starter by the end of the year.

Probable Contributors

RB/FB Trayone GrayWhat a rise he’s had over the off-season. Simply outworked everyone else for the #3 RB role and will also see time as the #1 FB.

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.

TE Brian Polendey – Will have to play some type of role due to necessity, but has already been passed up by the two true freshmen.

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

DE Scott Patchan – Natural pass-rusher that is just a hard worker every day.

DE Gregory 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 Jon Ford – Disappointing he wasn’t more ready to start, but he is in great shape and he will flash this season.

LB Mike Smith – A Manny Diaz favorite, he will play plenty this season.

LB BJ Jennings – Giving Smith all he can handle at backup MLB, earned his reps.

STRIKER Derrick Smith – Really fell off after a good spring, but he’s the best in coverage at striker and that’s the main reason the position exists.

CB Al Blades Jr. – Came in more physically impressive and ready to play than expected.

S Robert Knowles – Way too many busts last season; coaches want him to translate practice to games.

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

S Gurvan Hall – Impressed with his physicality and athleticism. Will slowly work his way into a role.

Wait and See

QB Jarren WilliamsAdvanced presence for a rookie QB, but is behind learning the offense. Will see PT regardless due to new redshirt rules.

RB Robert BurnsSpring hype petered out a bit, but he’s stayed healthy and that’s the key with him.

RB Lorenzo LingardLost the #3 RB role to Gray, and must work on pass pro, but has the chance to be one of the biggest risers by the end of the season.

RB Cam Davis – Needs to get the offense and protections down.

FB Realus George – I think he’ll see some time, but just not sure how much.

WR Evidence Njoku – Still moving a little stiff running routes as he comes back from the ACL, but is one of the most physically impressive players on the roster. Could work his way into the rotation easily.

WR Daquiris Wiggins – Huge upside, needs more size.

WR Marquez Ezzard – A lot of depth ahead of him and he doesn’t know the offense at all.

TE Michael Irvin II – Huge loss from a depth perspective; hopefully can return by the end of the season.

OT George Brown – Another injury that hurts UM’s depth in a questionable area.

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

OT Kai-Leon Herbert – Campbell is ahead of him at backup RT right now, but it was very close. Showed improvement this fall.

OG Cleveland Reed – Needs to up his conditioning, but possesses amazing strength.

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

DE/LB Patrick Joyner – Saw majority of time at DE and will simply be emergency depth this season.

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.

DT Jordan Miller – Miami got a steal. Wouldn’t be surprised to see him used situationally to plug the middle as the year goes on.

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

SAM De’Andre Wilder – One that’s hurt the most with the new striker position, and also suffered a mysterious neck injury of unknown severity.

CB Gilbert Frierson – The most physically impressive DB on the team needs to continue mental progression.

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.

OG Bar Milo – Already passed right up by the true freshmen; I can’t see him getting a fifth year even with UM’s major depth issues on the line.

OG Zach Dykstra – One of the only O-Linemen along with Milo to not get reps on the two deep this fall. Only his second year, but needs to improve quickly or will be filtered out of the program.

DE Terry McCray – Got some second team reps at DE when both the Jacksons were out. That was cool.

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

Comments (6)

Nice job. I’ m not saying that we are good enough but this year is our best chance to go all the way. Scared to think that ten of the eleven in your top group will probably be gone next year.