University of Miami

It’s back to Killian High days for old friends and new UM safety duo

UM safeties coach Ephraim Banda

UM safeties coach Ephraim Banda speaks about Sheldrick Redwine's switch from corner to safety and Redwine's bond with his high school and UM teammate Jaquan Johnson.
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UM safeties coach Ephraim Banda speaks about Sheldrick Redwine's switch from corner to safety and Redwine's bond with his high school and UM teammate Jaquan Johnson.

When Sheldrick Redwine’s principal at Miami Killian High told him in May of 2015 that his last day of school would be that week because he had fulfilled his graduation requirements and could report to the University of Miami to begin his college career as a student-athlete, he got weepy.

“I had tears in my eyes,’’ Redwine told the Miami Herald back then. “I’m going to miss high school. I have so many memories, and I’m leaving them all behind.”

Well, not exactly.

Redwine, who was told this football offseason that he would be converted from cornerback to safety, not only lives with former Killian teammate Jaquan Johnson, the two are now junior safeties in the same backfield.

“Everything feels just like high school,’’ Redwine said Thursday after the Hurricanes’ fifth practice of spring. “He’s right there. I’m right there. We’ve just got each other’s backs.’’

Redwine, lean for a safety at 6-1 and 200 pounds, started five games last season, though true freshman cornerback Malek Young came on strong late and started the last four games. Redwine finished 2016 with 28 tackles, two pass breakups and a forced fumble.

Johnson, constantly praised by his older counterparts the past two years — safeties Jamal Carter and Rayshawn Jenkins are both headed to the NFL Draft — is considered a star waiting to break out. Listed at 5-11 and 190 pounds, he had 38 tackles, four tackles for loss,  1 1/2 sacks, an interception, two pass breakups, a fumble recovery and a blocked kick in 2016.

Among the safeties’ current backups are redshirt sophomore Robert Knowles and true freshman early enrollee Amari Carter. The two Killian Cougars, both playing with the starters, are pretty excited competing together.

“You know, another Cougar back there with me,’’ Johnson said Thursday of his Killian buddy, who still has those long, flowing dreadlocks. “I was just thinking, ‘We’ll do some damage together.’ The bond is there, the brotherhood is there. It’s just us working on our little details together. ... He’s catching on quick.’’

Defensive coordinator Manny Diaz was the coach who delivered the position-switch news to Redwine.

“When we watched all the film from a year ago,’’ Diaz said, “he stood out as a guy that really did a nice job in terms of tackling in space, running to the ball, making some pretty hard-nosed plays in the back end. We pride ourselves on being a tough-nosed secondary.

“That was not a knock on his ability to play corner, but we felt like his speed and skill set, defending slots at the field safety spot, he might be more suited for that as opposed to defending the guys on the outside.”

All that, Diaz acknowledged, plus the fact that the Canes have junior Michael Jackson excelling this spring in practice, not to mention they need proven experience at safety as some future standouts, such as Carter, are being groomed.

“His reaction was outstanding,’’ Diaz said of Redwine. “ ‘Coach, anything I can do for the Miami Hurricanes I’m up for.’ ’’

Safeties coach Ephraim Banda is especially pleased that Redwine “has upped his urgency’’ during spring practice. “We’re going to play the best [defensive backs] we’ve got. Doesn’t matter what position they play.

“… There hasn’t been a dropoff, which is really what Sheldrick’s issue was in the past, and I’m very proud of him coming out here with that same urgency that [Jamal Carter] or Jaquan has brought.

“When he does that, he’s a really good player.’’

▪ Early enrollee Robert Burns, a true freshman running back who was injured for much of his senior season at Gulliver Prep, missed practice Thursday, InsidetheU.com reported. He was reportedly carted off the field before media had their viewing period, with trainer Vinny Scavo saying, “I’m taking him to class.’’

UM offensive coordinator Thomas Brown was asked after practice how Burns was doing. “He’s doing fine,” Brown said. “He’ll be OK,’’ adding, “I don’t address injuries’’ after he was asked if Burns was injured.

▪ Defensive line coach Craig Kuligowski, the new UM assistant head coach, said he expects “greatness, every day’’ from his veterans. “We want to be the best defensive line in the country, not a darn good one or one of the best ones we have had. No, the best in the country.’’

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