Forgive Bubba Bolden if there’s a bit of rust as he nears his UM debut, whether it’s Saturday against UF or Sept. 7 at North Carolina.
He hasn’t played in a game since a Pac-12 championship appearance for Southern Cal, against Stanford, nearly 20 months ago. He started practicing fully three weeks after his UM teammates opened fall camp.
But from a talent standpoint, there might be fewer more skilled No. 3 or No. 4 safeties in the country. A Parade All-American and rated the seventh best safety and 61st ranked overall recruit in the 2017 class, Bolden is pleased to have finally arrived at UM less than two weeks ago - a full seven months after he announced he would be transferring here.
It was a longer wait than expected, largely because he needed to complete a class at a community college.
There are two words to explain why Bolden ended up at UM:
Bolden, who was Jordan’s former teammate at Bishop Gorman High in Las Vegas, considered no other school because UM’s starting tight end sold him on the merits of Miami.
“I’ve known Brevin since I was a young kid,” Bolden said. “We played elementary football together, middle school, high school. That’s like my brother. He told me, ‘I feel like you should come here and I made it happen.’”
When Bolden spoke with coach Manny Diaz and safeties coach and co-defensive coordinator Ephraim Banda, he became even more convinced that Miami was the right place for him.
The two coaches “pulled up the facts,” Bolden said. “They showed me the defense last year and what they’ve done in the past and who they’ve produced and they were like, ‘We can make you one of those players too.’ You already know what Miami is: the tradition, the history, Sean Taylor, Ed Reed, everybody else. Why would you not want to be here?”
His high school production was exceptional: According to Max Preps, he had 110 tackles in three seasons of high school football, with 11 interceptions— seven his 2016 senior season for powerhouse Bishop Gorman, which won its eighth consecutive state title that year and third consecutive USA Today national title.
His college career body of work is limited to five games and eight tackles as a USC freshman in 2017.
Bolden withdrew from Southern Cal after saying on an Instagram post in early October that he faced a 28-month suspension for an incident “pertaining to underage drinking at an off-campus party back in February 2018 wherein I participated in mutual trash-talking with party-goers.
“As the vibe at the party turned unfriendly, I left with several friends. Approximately nine days afterward, the party hosts reported feeling threatened by me that night, which sparked a USC [Student Judicial Affairs and Community Standards] investigation.
“After USC’s Chief Threat Assessment Officer found me to not be a threat,’’ he wrote, “USC’s Title IX Office declined to even open an investigation. I was not charged with any criminal activity and several party-goers refuted the allegations, SJACS sanctioned me with a 28-month suspension based on the projected graduation date of the party hosts.
“My behavior at the party was not reflective of my character which my family, friends, teammates and many more admire, and for this I’m truly sorry. At this point, I’m 100-percent committed to ensuring that the lessons I’ve leaned on and learned on and off the field will carry me to the next level.’’
He was slated to be a starter his sophomore season, but never played after being suspended indefinitely in August.
What did he learn from that ordeal?
“The situation happened, I moved on from it,” he said last week. “I learned a lot from it. Just be a smarter person and move forward. I lost an opportunity before, so I don’t take anything for granted. I just got to come here and just work.”
Defensive coordinator Blake Baker said Bolden is working at both safety spots and believes he can capably play there or at the striker position.
“Bubba is an attack type of defender,” Jordan said. “He loves to make plays, runs across the field. He’s long and athletic.”
He isn’t likely to start at least initially — Gurvan Hall and Amari Carter have earned the starting jobs — but Bolden said he’s OK with that. He has three years of eligibility at UM.
“That doesn’t make a difference,” he said of starting. “I respect them. They earned their spot. They’ve been here. I’ve got to contribute any way I can. I’m going to get on the field. I’m going to play. I feel like we all rotate in. Two people can’t play the whole game. I’m here to win. I’m here to play and help my team out.”
As for UM’s other Pacific 12 transfers, linebacker Jaelan Phillips will sit out this season after transferring from UCLA, and Chigozie Nnoruka - the other UCLA transfer — has emerged as UM’s No. 3 defensive tackle, Baker said.
Nnorkua had 46 tackles and two sacks as a key part of UCLA’s defense in 2017 but saw his playing time diminish in a new system last season and was limited to four games.
Nnoruka said his decision came down to UM and UF. And “Miami won because of their defense and opportunity. And I like the city of Miami. On my visit, I had a lot of fun.”
APPAREL DEAL STRUCK
UM struck a deal with Fanatics — a 10-year agreement that will deliver more than $1 million a year to the Canes athletic department and give fans a greater selection of on-line Canes merchandise, including hats, umbrellas, phone cases and apparel.
Fanatics is the world’s largest seller of licensed sports gear. Adidas will remain UM’s on-field jersey provider.
Fanatics also has deals with the University of Florida and Oregon, but UM’s deal includes a new element — the creation of a data analyst position on the UM staff.
“Miami is thrilled to partner with Fanatics, marking a transformational change in our licensing and merchandising strategy,” UM athletic director Blake James said. “We believe that in the future, the focus must be on the University’s direct engagement with fans, alumni and students, and this unique alliance with Fanatics propels our vision forward in a cohesive manner.”
Check back later for a Canes six-pack.