Last spring, Miami had the luxury of returning both of its starting safeties from the year before, but this spring, Miami will try to replace the 24 starts, 156 tackles, and five interceptions that Jaquan Johnson and Sheldrick Redwine combined for in 2018. Miami shortened their safety rotation as the season went on and the pair played a ton of snaps without having a bona-fide #3 guy. So, of the returnees, there will be a four-way battle for the two starting jobs.
The four contenders for this job in the spring have little experience. The player with the most experience of the group is 5th year senior Robert Knowles. Knowles appeared in 8 games last year and totaled 16 tackles. While Knowles production and playing time decreased from the year before, he is still the most productive returning player. Knowles could provide veteran leadership to a young and inexperienced group while also competing for a starting role this spring.
Another player who saw their role decrease from the previous season was junior Amari Carter. Carter appeared in just 5 games as a sophomore after appearing in 12 as a freshman. He managed just 12 tackles in those 5 games. Despite all of that, Carter is still the favorite to win one of the two starting jobs this spring. If Miami’s 2019 secondary plans on being in the same league as it’s 2018 secondary, guys are going to need to step up. Carter has a golden opportunity to do just that this spring.
The safety people are most eager to see this spring is sophomore Gurvan Hall. Hall totaled just eight tackles in five games as a true freshman, but still made some plays that got folks excited about the future. Like Carter, Hall is a favorite to land one of the starting roles and has a perfect situation lined up for him this spring. With Hall’s athleticism and playmaking ability, there is no reason he shouldn’t leave spring as Miami’s top safety.
Finally, we have junior Derrick Smith. Smith played safety as a freshman before transitioning to striker as a sophomore. Now, with Gilbert Frierson making the switch over to striker, Smith is going to go back to his original position of traditional safety, per Miami’s roster. Smith has plenty of game experience as he has seen the field in 25 of the 26 games since he arrived on campus. However, Smith only has 24 career tackles. Smith will use the spring to relearn the safety position and battle for one of the starting roles.
Former walk-on James Murphy earned a scholarship for his 5th year and has been a special teams standout, but at 5’7”, is not going to see meaningful snaps unless there is a rash of injuries.
USC transfer Bubba Bolden and 2019 signee Keontra Smith will both arrive in the summer and will be eligible to play immediately.
Miami has four players competing for two jobs. Coach Ephraim Banda has his work cut out for him replacing one of the top safety duos in the country, but this group does have talent and potential. Potential is great, but it is time for two of these guys to put it all together on the field.
The competition at the Safety position will be fun to watch this summer.. Hall and Carter will be the thumpers of the crew!! And hopefully Smith and Bubba can be the ballhawks on the back side.. Mix in the thumpers and the hawkers, Miami could have a really good back end in the secondary!!