Barry Jackson

The Hurricanes’ plan to fill the biggest hole on their defense entering spring practice

UM’s Amari Carter greets the Riviera Chargers youth football team

Miami Hurricanes safety Amari Carter is given warm welcome by Riviera Chargers youth football players who attended a free camp in West Palm Beach on Friday, June 8, 2018.
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Miami Hurricanes safety Amari Carter is given warm welcome by Riviera Chargers youth football players who attended a free camp in West Palm Beach on Friday, June 8, 2018.

A six-pack of Hurricanes notes on a Tuesday:

Among the positions with considerable uncertainty this spring: safety.

Jaquan Johnson and Sheldrick Redwine have moved on to the NFL and it won’t be easy to replace Miami’s best safety combo in years.

Potential starter Bubba Bolden, the Southern Cal transfer, hasn’t yet arrived; he’s still in California completing classes at a junior college. Freshman Keontra Smith also will arrive this summer.

That leaves UM a bit thin at the position this spring, with Amari Carter, Gurvan Hall and Robert Knowles the only returning scholarship players who played safety last season. UM also apparently is prepared to try Derrick Smith Jr. at safety; he played the striker position last season, behind Romeo Finley, but UM’s web site now lists him as a defensive back.

Safeties coach Ephraim Banda likes what he has to work with.

“I’m more excited about this group than I’ve ever been,” Banda said. “I recruited [striker] Derrick Smith, know how dynamic he can be. I recruited Gurvan Hall; we all know how dynamic an athlete he is.

“Amari Carter, I know his physicality and all the intangibles he possesses, Robert Knowles blew us away in mat drills. And you add Bubba and Keontra [this summer].

“Even standing with them [recently] without Bubba and Keontra I’m like ‘These guys are big, pretty. I know they can run and are physical, are my type of guys.’ We’ll be young absolutely, but like I told them `Run to the ball and tackle.’ And I’m good with playing as many of them as possible. It’ll be a by-committee this year and I’m not scared to play whoever.”

Banda called Smith “arguably the best safety in Broward.”

Banda said that Bolden “brings an element of competition” and that “I told my guys `This is your opportunity, your chance to show me you can play for Miami and the start is this spring.’

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“In the fall I’ll give the young guy [Smith] and Bubba a chance. In training camp, they’ll get their chance to show me. At the end, we’ll lay all our cards on the table and say, ‘Who is the best guy or the best three or four or five guys?’ We’ll play them all if we can.”

There’s a good chance Fort Lauderdale Western High cornerback Justin Hodges will join this 2020 UM class. Hodges was offered by UM last month and told Canesport that it was a dream of his to get a Canes offer and he sees himself as a Cane.

His cousin is UM cornerback Al Blades Jr. Rivals gives the 6-foot-2 Hodges two stars but he appears to be undervalued as a prospect.

UM also has a very good chance to ultimately sign 2021 Miami Northwestern cornerback Kamren Kinchens.

UM, Syracuse, Kentucky and Louisville are competing for Miami Palmetto three-star Class of 2020 safety Robert Hanna.

But the jewel of the defensive back targets is five-star Jacksonville based Class of 2020 cornerback prospect Fred Davis, rated the No. 23 overall prospect by Rivals. He’s strongly considering the Canes but there is serious competition.

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The goal in Manny Diaz’s first spring as UM’s head coach?

“You want to find your best players,” he told WQAM’s Larry Blustein. “They have a new lease on life. I don’t want kids on defense to feel they’ve arrived. Let’s go see what we got. Let’s get in the ring and mix it up. I don’t believe we played as well as we can play [last season]. Let’s find out who we are, what we got and how to maximize our potential.”

With Jacksonville’s Carson Beck committing to Georgia recently, none of the five quarterbacks confirmed to have been offered by UM for 2020 plays in Florida, and Rivals’ Adam Friedman makes a good point:

“It’s always surprising to see how few major quarterback prospects are in South Florida. The top signal callers in the area are good but they are, at best, low Power Five prospects. The last time a big-time quarterback from South Florida panned out was Lamar Jackson in the 2015 class and before him was Teddy Bridgewater in the 2011 class.

“Those are the only two quarterbacks from South Florida that were ranked at least four-star prospects and actually panned out. With all the transferring going on at the high school level right now it is surprising that we don’t see any major high school quarterback prospects ending up in South Florida.”

Bunch of quick things: UM beat Wake Forest, 79-71, in the ACC Tournament in Charlotte on Tuesday, behind 21 points from DJ. Vasiljevic and 20 points and 10 boards from Anthony Lawrence. UM advances to play Virginia Tech at 2 or 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday. UM (14-17) was the only Power 5 team to have five players average in double figures this season, according to coach Jim Larranaga....

UM is strongly in the mix for four-star Nashville-based athlete Keshawn Lawrence, who loved his UM visit and is cousins with former Canes standout Corn Elder. UM sees him as a cornerback… FIU has put on sale tickets to the UM-FIU Nov. 23 football game at Marlins Park. But they’re available only to FIU season ticket holders..…

After acquiring Olivier Vernon from the Giants, the Cleveland Browns now have five Hurricanes on their roster, joining Duke Johnson, Ray-Ray Armstrong, David Njoku, Chad Thomas. And former UM star Alonzo Highsmith is the Browns’ vice president/player personnel.

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Barry Jackson has written for the Miami Herald since 1986 and has written the Florida Sports Buzz column since 2002.


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