Barry Jackson

UM seeks clarity at defensive tackle and cornerback, with potentially good news at both

Miami Hurricanes starting cornerback Trajan Bandy (2) wears the Turnover Chain after intercepting a pass against Notre Dame last November. No. 8 UM opens its season on Sunday night against No. 25 LSU in Arlington, Texas.
Miami Hurricanes starting cornerback Trajan Bandy (2) wears the Turnover Chain after intercepting a pass against Notre Dame last November. No. 8 UM opens its season on Sunday night against No. 25 LSU in Arlington, Texas.

A six-pack of Hurricanes notes on a Tuesday:

From a talent standpoint, UM has a legitimate No. 1 cornerback in Michael Jackson and a legitimate top defensive tackle in Gerald Willis, health permitting and assuming Willis’ new-found maturity is permanent. Both are NFL prospects.

The question this camp is finding out who are the best second and third options at those positions.

At defensive tackle, reliable Pat Bethel - who thrived last year after moving over from defensive end - opened camp as the No. 2 defensive tackle. But Jon Ford – after an uneven spring – appears poised to make a push.

“Jon Ford looks like a different guy than he did in the spring, which allows him to go a lot harder,” defensive coordinator Manny Diaz told WQAM’s Joe Rose on Tuesday. “In one day of pads, watching what those guys have done spending a whole summer with [defensive line coach] Jess Simpson up front has been good to see.”

Behind them, Tito Odenigbo and freshmen Nesta Silvera and Jordan Miller are competing.

“Miller and Silvera look like what Miami d-tackles [should] look like,” Diaz said. “In a 4-3 Miami defense, the d-tackle position is where it all starts.”

And defensive end Demetrius Jackson expects to move to tackle in some packages.

At corner, Trajan Bandy has emerged as the clear No. 2 behind Jackson. Unless someone overtakes him, he’s poised to play on the boundary in base defense and in the slot potentially in nickel – unless Al Blades Jr. plays the slot and Bandy stays outside.

“Coach says he’ll need me to play a little nickel this year, and I’m all for it,” Bandy said. “I’ve come a long way.”

Safety Sheldrick Redwine noted that players say the 5-9 Bandy “has little man syndrome. He’s small but he always plays with a chip on his shoulder.”

The four freshman corners and Jhavonte Dean are all competing for positions three through five.

“Al Blades and [freshman] Nigel Bethel have both really done a good job in the first couple of days; it adds depth,” Diaz told Rose and Zach Krantz. “It’s going to really be a battle now. The secondary is a lot deeper than it’s ever been. We finally have six or seven corners that can get in a game and help, six or seven safeties. We’ve got some receivers that can really run. It’s like one-on-one [drills] should really look like at the University of Miami.”

And speaking of freshmen, Redwine said safety Gurvan Hall – who missed the majority of spring ball with an injury – “has been doing really well coming off his spring injury. He’s showing great range, has great football speed, is aggressive. That’s a big thing coach Diaz tells young guys, is you have to prove your toughness to the team. He’s been coming out, striking, making plays on the ball. He’s impressed me.”

More feedback on freshmen, this time from the offense: Receiver Mike Harley said of the new tight ends: “I like those guys. Brevin Jordan is like a big body guy that makes the tough contested 50/50 [receptions]. Will Mallory is a route runner; [UM can] get him in the slot in space. They’re definitely going to play this year.”

And Bandy said Mark Pope has stood out among the four freshmen receivers because “he’s fast, he’s quick [and] he blocks” – which receivers coach Ron Dugans insists his receivers do effectively.

Cornerbacks coach Mike Rumph has carved out a role for Malek Young, whose career ended because of a neck injury in the Orange Bowl:

“He sits through the meetings with me and the players; he doesn’t sit in coaching staff meetings yet,” Rumph said. “I will try to get him to that level. The kids not only hear [coaching] from me; they hear it from Malek too, so it’s easier for them to comprehend.”

UM officials are hopeful that the basketball program is in the clear after an FBI investigation into their program that seemingly turned up nothing.

“We haven’t heard from them in a while. Seems like they’ve moved on from us,” one UM official said. And the NCAA hasn’t investigated.

But the FBI typically doesn’t announce when a person or institution is no longer being investigated.

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