University of Miami

All eyes on UM football’s fresh faces as fall camp opens Tuesday

In this Nov. 26, 2016 photo, East St. Louis's Jeff Thomas reacts after his touchdown reception during the Illinois Class 7A high school championship football game against Plainfield North at Memorial Stadium in Champaign, Ill. Thomas is one of UM’s top new faces.
In this Nov. 26, 2016 photo, East St. Louis's Jeff Thomas reacts after his touchdown reception during the Illinois Class 7A high school championship football game against Plainfield North at Memorial Stadium in Champaign, Ill. Thomas is one of UM’s top new faces. AP

More than a dozen Miami Hurricanes will run onto Greentree Field for the first time in an organized practice setting Tuesday to launch their University of Miami careers.

Among them are two legacy Canes – one whose father played 22 years in the NFL; the other whose brother just got drafted in the first round by the Cleveland Browns.

Also among them are two nationally heralded cornerback transfers, a defensive end who garnered 100 scholarship offers – Alabama and Ohio State included; and a quarterback battling to be the next starter.

Here are six freshmen, one junior and one senior who merit a closer look, though all 15 (14 if defensive lineman Jonathan Ford, the only one who wasn’t on campus, enrolls) are good enough to make their marks:

Quarterback: N’Kosi Perry (jersey No. 5) – This fresh face is the most intriguing of all the newcomers, as UM is seeking a starter to replace career passing-yardage record-holder Brad Kaaya. Perry, listed as 6-4 and 185 pounds, is out of Ocala Vanguard High and didn’t arrive until late May. But the reviews are outstanding. He threw for 1,778 yards, 24 touchdowns and four interceptions his senior season as one of the nation’s highest rated dual-threat prep quarterbacks, with another four touchdowns and 97 yards rushing.

“The guy, he’s got just so much ability,’’ coach Mark Richt told WQAM-560 after National Signing Day. “When you watch his highlights you can see that he’ll make some plays that you don’t design,’’ “We’ll be like, ‘Oh my gosh, what did the guy just do?’’’

UM football coach Mark Richt gives update on quarterback situations at ACC Football Kickoff Friday, July 14, 2017, in Charlotte, N.C.

Wide receiver: Jeff Thomas (No. 4) – A major speedster along with St. Thomas Aquinas newcomer Mike Harley, the 5-10, 175-pound Thomas, from East St. Louis, Illinois, was rated the sixth best receiver in the nation by 247Sports and eighth best by ESPN. He was the fastest player in 2016 at The Opening and he starred in the 2017 Under Armour All-America Game with 148 receiving yards and two touchdowns.

Thomas caught 50 passes for 1,101 yards and 13 touchdowns last season. He reportedly struggled academically at one point in his high school career, but apparently came back strong. Expect UM’s academic support team to keep him on task.

Wide receiver: Evidence Njoku (No. 83) – You know the name. You’ve yet to see the game. Njoku, 6-6 and 196 pounds, is the younger brother of recent NFL first-round draft pick David Njoku, who left UM for the Cleveland Browns after his redshirt sophomore season. The younger Njoku, from Cedar Grove N.J. and Wayne Hills High, finished his final season with more than 400 yards receiving and eight touchdowns. Most are wondering if he’ll ever be converted to a tight end, like big bro.

Cornerback: Dee Delaney (No. 3) – A Walter Camp All-American, Associated Press All-American and pretty much every outlet you can think of All-American, Delaney comes to Miami as a graduate transfer from The Citadel. This 6-1, 193-pound corner is a hard-hitting, lock-down defender who has plenty of experience and comes up big in big games. He led Citadel’s Southern Conference with six interceptions last season for 163 return yards, and is tied for second in career interceptions (13) and according to the Post and Courier of Charleston, S.C., “is the most decorated All-American in school history.’’

Cornerback: Jhavonte Dean (No. 6) – Dean transferred to Miami from Blinn College in Brenham, Texas, where he was regarded as the top junior college cornerback. Listed as 6-2 and 185 pounds, he reportedly runs a 4.3-second 40-yard dash and was a four-star prospect by 247Sports, ESPN, Rivals and Scout. He returns to Miami-Dade County after graduating from South Dade High School. “He’s been a Hurricane fan his whole life,’’ said defensive coordinator Manny Diaz. “He’s coming home.’’

Cornerback: Trajan Bandy (No. 2) – Bandy had some impressive offers coming out of Miami Columbus High. How about Alabama, Auburn, Clemson and Oklahoma among them? The 5-9, 180-pound Bandy was rated as the 30th-best corner by 247Sports. “He plays like a high school player in the college level,’’ Diaz said. “His sense of urgency, his toughness, his tackling is off the charts.’’

Defensive end: DJ Johnson (No. 1) – He’s No. 1 on the UM roster and reportedly No. 1 nationally in the amount of scholarship offers he received – 100, according to the UM media guide. Johnson, quick and agile despite his 6-5, 240-pound size, was rated the ninth-best player in California and No. 5 at his position by ESPN. In the spring, defensive line coach Craig Kuligowski told CanesInsight.com that he got a text from Johnson, saying, “I’m DJ Johnson. I’m the number one defensive end in the country and I’m interested in the Canes.’’

Punter: Zach Feagles (No. 18) With outstanding former punter Justin Vogel expected to win a job with the Green Bay Packers, UM was left punterless – or at least in bad shape in that department. Feagles to the rescue, hope UM coaches. The 6-2, 210-pounder, rated seventh nationally by Kohl’s Kicking, certainly has the genes for it. His father Jeff punted for 22 years in the NFL and is in the UM Sports Hall of Fame. Feagles graduated from Ridgewood High and is from Glen Rock, N.J.

  Comments