Barry Jackson

This is how Miami Hurricanes coaches assess the newcomers at the defensive back position

With the University of Miami’s defensive backfield losing three of four starters – safeties Jaquan Johnson and Sheldrick Redwine and cornerback Michael Jackson – there’s ample opportunity for freshmen to come in and challenge for immediate playing time.

At safety, four-star freshman Keontra Smith will be given a chance to challenge Amari Carter, Gurvan Hall and Robert Knowles for a significant role.

At cornerback, Te’Cory Couch will have every opportunity to challenge second-year corners Al Blades, Gilbert Frierson, D.J. Ivey and Nigel Bethel for playing time opposite Trajan Bandy.

Smith and Couch — who have signed with UM but haven’t enrolled — were teammates at Hollywood Chaminade-Madonna.

Meanwhile, a third and possibly fourth corner might be added on Signing Day, with UM in pursuit of four-star Christian Williams (an Alabama commitment) and three-star Martin Emerson (a Mississippi State commitment).

The Canes remain in the mix for both.

And UCLA grad transfer cornerback Colin Samuel has followed UM officials on Twitter, but it’s unclear if the Canes are interested. He had one interception in 2017 and missed last season with an injury.

UM player personnel director Matt Doherty, appearing on WQAM’s Hurricane Hotline, made clear the expectations are high for Smith, who was rated by Rivals as the 25th-best cornerback in this class but is expected to play safety at Miami.

“We are going to treat him as our new Jaquan Johnson in that rover role,” Doherty said. “He played a lot of his high school ball around the line of scrimmage, but he has the long speed and fluidity and certainly the instincts to play on the back end, and his tackling ability is his strong suit at this point.”

Safeties coach and co-defensive coordinator Ephraim Banda said Smith “plays with an edge, with a lot of juice. He’s always got a smile on his face. When he walks in a room everyone knows he’s a leader.”

Banda didn’t rule out Smith possibly even working at the striker spot. “I have a feeling he’ll find his way on the field somewhere,” Banda said.

Rivals rated the three-star Couch as the 49th-best cornerback in this class, and UM will have him play corner.

“I love Te’Cory, his ability to bend his hips and play press man,” Banda said. “He’s super focused and locked in; he just plays with great pace, doesn’t care who he’s going against. He’s a very good playmaker. The ball in the air he usually comes down with it. Super happy we got TC.”

Doherty’s take: “He’s a really good cover corner. He is going to have to come in and get bigger, but his fluidity, speed and knack for making plays on the ball is what you are looking for at corner.”

And a grad transfer remains a possibility if the right one emerges.