Barry Jackson

Here’s what the Canes don’t have enough of. And potential future starters again protected

A 10-pack of Hurricanes notes on a Sunday night:

▪ The conventional thinking is that in order to emerge from the pack of a bunch of mediocre ACC teams, UM needs more elite recruits.

But I’m not sure how realistic that is until UM starts winning big again, because the Canes have been unable, in most cases, to beat out Alabama, Georgia, Ohio State and Clemson for the best of the best locally.

Here’s what UM really needs: More of its players to outperform their high-school recruiting rankings.

You can count on one hand the number of players on this roster who have convincingly done that.

Defensive end Greg Rousseau is at the top of that list; he was rated by ESPN the 91st best recruit in Florida in 2018 and 485th best recruit nationally by 247sports. Linebacker Mike Pinckney belongs on that list, too; ESPN somehow rated 105 Florida-based prep players higher than him in 2016.

Rivals rated defensive tackle Jon Ford the 85th best player in the state in the 2017 class. You could make the case running back DeeJay Dallas - who has had an excellent UM career - belongs on that list, too, but at least he was a top 250 kid (rated 231st by ESPN in his class), so he wasn’t totally undervalued.

Among transfers, receiver KJ Osborn - who had no Power 5 offers when he signed with Buffalo - clearly has been a much better player than evaluators expected.

So that’s five. But the Canes need more than that to at least have a chance to become the second best team in this conference.

▪ UM on Friday again sat seven freshmen who could become starters in a couple years: tight end Larry Hodges (three appearances this season), receiver Jeremiah Payton (two), defensive end Jahfari Harvey (three), safety Keontra Smith (one) and defensive tackles Jared Harrison Hunte, Jason Blissett and Jalar Holley (one game for all three).

Players can redshirt if they don’t play in more than four games. Barring injuries to veteran players, it makes sense to redshirt all seven of them.

▪ UM won’t be redshirting its two freshman cornerbacks, which isn’t a surprise considering the lack of depth at the position. T’Cory Couch and Christian Williams have appeared in all six games this season.

And even though Williams has played almost entirely on special teams, he showed his value there Friday by catching Virginia’s Joe Reed on a long kickoff return that could have otherwise gone for a touchdown.

Freshman linebacker Sam Brooks has played in UM’s past four games after sitting out the first two. And with Zach McCloud redshirting, it’s probably unrealistic to redshirt Brooks at this point.

▪ Davie Western three-star defensive back Justin Hodges de-committed from UM on Sunday evening, becoming the 13th former 2020 UM commit to decommit.

According to 247sports.com’s rankings, he was the lowest-rated prospect in UM’s 2020 class, a safety expected to play cornerback.

Miami now has 22 commits in the class, including two corners (Winter Park’s Marcus Clarke and Louisiana-based Daran Branch) and two safeties (Miramar’s Brian Balom and South Dade’s Keshawn Washington).

▪ On three different occasions on Friday, ESPN analyst Louis Riddick criticized Dan Enos for running “slow outside zone runs” or slow developing runs to the boundary instead of attacking Virginia up the middle. Most of those runs were unsuccessful (Also not sure the wisdom of that Brevin Jordan sweep on a third and goal from the Virginia 3.)

But Enos’ play calling was excellent on the two touchdown drives, including the well-timed screen passes to combat Virginia’s zone. And there’s no question that Enos has raised the performance of UM’s quarterbacks, as N’Kosi Perry indicated twice last week.

▪ UM continues to rank among the worst in the nation in three categories: The Canes’ 28 sacks allowed are most in FBS, one ahead of Akron and Old Dominion….

UM’s 27.5 percent conversion rate on third downs (19 of 69) is fifth-worst in the country and worst among Power 5 schools…. Miami’s 55 penalties are eighth most in the country; among Power 5 schools, only Syracuse (56) has more.

▪ Safety Gurvan Hall has begun playing a lot better after a poor stretch early in the season. Per Pro Football Focus, he was targeted eight times in coverage on Friday and allowed three completions for just 13 yards.He also blitzed five times and had three quarterback pressures.

Also at safety, Bubba Bolden played more in his second game (32 snaps) than his first for the Canes. He broke up a pass on the only ball thrown in his coverage area.

▪ Linebacker Mike Pinckney was UM’s best player on Friday, according to PFF. He had six tackles (including one for loss), a sack, didn’t miss a tackle, had two pass breakups and generated pressure on the quarterback on seven of his 12 pass-rushing snaps.

▪ After Cam’Ron Harris’ strong close to last season, it seemed as though Enos might give comparable carries this season to Dallas and Harris. It hasn’t happened, but that’s also thoroughly justified because Dallas is averaging 6.7 yards on 70 rushes this season while Harris is averaging 3.7 on 39 carries.

▪ UM has allowed five passing plays of 40 yards or more, and timely breakdowns continue to be an issue. But the Canes also made some very good plays in coverage - especially in the red zone - on Friday.

After the games against UF and UNC, Miami was allowing a 108.9 average NFL passer rating to opposing quarterbacks. It’s now down to 81.5 for the season. Last year, it was 71.5.

Overall, UM is allowing 290 yards and 19.2 points per game. Last season, the Canes allowed an average of 268 yards and 18.2 points per game for the season.

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