Through the years there have been many former ‘Canes who were very successful playing for the Redskins. Specifically, players like Santana Moss, Clinton Portis, and the late Sean Taylor all come to mind. Even though neither Portis nor Moss were originally drafted by Washington, they are still a big part of the rich history that springs to mind when I think about the Miami to Washington pipeline.
However, the past decade has not been as kind to the Hurricanes, and, understandably, Washington has not drafted a single player from “The U” since Leonard Hankerson in 2011. Potential starting left guard Ereck Flowers is the only Miami player currently on the roster.
Don’t get me wrong, the Miami Hurricane well is far from dry. While their record has not always reflected it, there has always been a high amount of NFL talent on the Hurricanes’ roster (Miami has had 19 players drafted over the past three drafts) and much of it will be on display as they take on the University of Florida on August 24, 2019 for what is the first college football game of the 2019 season.
For those watching this Saturday, which ‘Canes should you keep an eye out for?
1. Jonathan Garvin , #97, DE, 6’4/256 (Round 2-4)
Garvin came to Miami as a 4-Star defensive end prospect, who broke into the rotation behind Chad Thomas (Rd3, 2018) Joe Jackson (Rd5, 2019) as a true freshman.
Here he is vs Notre Dame’s Mike McGlinchey.
Last season, Garvin started all 13 games in breakout season, finishing with 60 tackles, including 17 tackles for loss, with 5.5 sacks, plus two fumble recoveries and five PBUs.
Per Pro Football Focus, Garvin graded out well above average (79.3) as a sophomore, and, in addition to the above stats, he was charted with five hits on the quarterback and 21 hurries.
With the loss of Jackson and DT Gerald Willis to the NFL, Garvin enters his junior season as the leader on the defensive line, and with Top-50 potential. That is a higher projection than you will see elsewhere, but Garvin has a great chance of getting out to a fast start by starting the season against a Gators’ offense that is replacing both starting offensive tackles from last season.
2. Jeff Thomas, #2, WR, 5’10/180, Jr. (Round 2-3)
Thomas originally came to Miami as a consensus 4-Star recruit and #1 HS player in the state of Illinois.
During his first two seasons, he caught 52 passes for 937 yards, with 5 TDs. He also added 1,172 yards on kickoff and punt returns.
In 2018, Thomas had been dismissed from the team by former head coach Mark Richt and was about to transfer to Illinois, when new Miami coach Manny Diaz asked him to return.
Here is Jeff Thomas against an LSU secondary that featured Greedy Williams, Kary Vincent, Grant Delpit, and JaCoby Stevens. With a bad quarterback, Thomas still managed to total five receptions for 132 yards.
Thomas’ recruiting profile credits him with running a 4.38 second 40 yard dash time, which I believe is valid, given his tape.
Many NFL teams now value speed and short area quickness over size and contested catch ability and former Georgia WR Mecole Hardman was drafted in Rd2 with a similar skill-set to Thomas.
Given that the first receiver taken in the 2019 NFL Draft was the 5’9/166 pound Marquise Brown out of Oklahoma, I wonder if Thomas could be a riser, given his speed and quickness.
3. Navaughn Donaldson, #55, Guard, 6’6/345, Jr. (Round 3-4)
Donaldson came to Miami as a consensus four-star offensive line prospect, who started starting 10 of 13 games as a true freshman, earning First-Team Freshmen All-America honors from ESPN.
Per Pro Football Focus, Donaldson played a total of 761 snaps in 2018, and graded out slightly above averaged (69.3). He shifted between right tackle (six starts) and right guard (five starts) in 2018 but was clearly better at guard. He was better in pass protection (76.0) than run blocking (68.1).
Just a true junior, Donaldson has already made 22 career starts and will be Miami’s most experienced returning offensive lineman in 2019. He is expected to play LG this season, and even practiced at center during spring practice.
If Donaldson can keep his conditioning and body in check, he has a chance to leave early for the NFL.
4. Michael Pinckney, #56, LB, 6’1/230, Sr. (Round 3-4)
Pinckney had an outstanding freshman season, starting all 13 games, and finishing with 61 tackles (33 solo). He earned Freshman All-America recognition from ESPN.
Pinckney has started 36 games over his career and, enters his final season with 203 tackles, 29.5 tackles for loss, 9.5 sacks, three interceptions, six pass breakups and a fumble recovery.
Per Pro Football Focus, he graded out at a sensational 84.8 overall, including an elite 91.3 in pass coverage. Aside from his 18 quarterback pressures (he had 3½ sacks), Pinckney was targeted 16 times in coverage. He gave up 10 catches for 47 yards but no scores.
Michael Pinckney is ready to rep the Turnover Chain again for the Canes! pic.twitter.com/jfgxEI6VRo— PFF College (@PFF_College) June 4, 2019
Pinckney has the instincts and good enough speed to play at the NFL level. His size is adequate in today’s NFL. As a four year starter, he is very experienced and has proven to be durable. Pinckney checks many boxes.
5. Shaquille Quarterman, #55, LB, 6’1/240, Sr. (Round 3-4)
Quarterman came to Miami as a consensus 4-star recruit, and delivered a dominant freshman season, starting all 13 games and finishing second on team with 84 tackles (43 solo), while earning Freshman All-American honors. Despite fielding a defensive line that sent several upperclassmen to the NFL (R.J. McIntosh, Kendrick Norton, Joe Jackson, Chad Thomas) Quarterman had a team-best eight quarterback hurries in 2016.
In 2017, he was voted second team All-ACC as a sophomore, then First-Team All-ACC honors as a junior, after compiling 82 tackles, including a career-best 14 for losses.
Going into his final season, Quarterman has started every game of his Miami career (39 games) and compiled 249 tackles, including 31 for loss and 12 sacks.
At roughly 6’1/240, Quarterman has the Micheal Barrow type build. How highly he is drafted will depend a lot on post-season All-Star events, like the Senior Bowl, and his workout numbers at the NFL Combine. Much will be tied to what he runs in the 40.
6. DeeJay Dallas, #13, RB, 5’10/215, Jr. (Round 4-5)
Dallas came to Miami as a consensus 4-star recruit, and quickly became known as an all-purpose player, who transitioned from WR to RB midway through his freshman season.
Then last summer, Dallas came back bigger and faster (reportedly clocked a 40 in the 4.4 range at about 215 pounds).
In 2019, he continued to be multidimensional, as he finished with 109 rush attempts, 10 receptions, 17 kickoff returns, and 11 punt returns, for a team-leading 1290 all-purpose yards. According to Pro Football Focus, Dallas also graded out well (85.0) in the 39 pass-blocking snaps he was in on.
Here is DeeJay lined up as a slot receiver.
Dallas will be the lead running back for the Hurricanes and if he has a healthy 2019 season, he is a strong bet to eclipse 1,000 yards rushing and 300 yards receiving. His versatility in college may have some teams envisioning a James White type of roll in the NFL.
Of note, Miami has had nine running backs (Travis Homer, Mark Walton, Joseph Yearby, Duke Johnson, Lamar Miller Frank Gore, Willis McGahee, Clinton Portis, and Edgerrin James) leave early for the NFL. If Dallas does declare for the 2020 NFL draft, it would be the fourth consecutive year a running back has left Miami early.
7. Trajan Bandy, #2, CB , 5’9/190, Jr. (Round 4-5)
Bandy was named All-ACC Third Team in 2018 after a breakout season in which he started all 13 games, made 36 tackles, and led the team with both three interceptions and eight passes defended.
Bandy came to Miami as a consensus 4-star recruit, and earned 3 starts as a true freshman. Now entering his junior season, he is the lone returning starter in Miami’s secondary, and already has 16 career starts.
Per PFF, he graded out as third best on Miami’s defense (88.) overall and the best in coverage (89.4) among all of Miami’s talented defensive backs (Michael Jackson, Jaquan Johnson, and Sheldrick Redwine were each day three picks in 2019). Last season, Bandy was targeted 43 times and gave up only 20 catches for 296 yards and three scores.
8. Trevon Hill, #94, DE, 6’3/245, RS-Sr. (Round 4-6)
A transfer from Virginia Tech, Hill originally was a relatively modest HS recruit (ranked as the No. 231 prospect in the country by Rivals).
Hill was dominant in three games in 2018 before being dismissed from Virginia Tech for an unspecified violation of team rules. Reportedly, he blew up after the Hokies’ upset loss to Old Dominion.
In the three games he played last season, he had 11 tackles, 4.5 TFLs and 3.5 sacks. According to Pro Football Focus, Hill was credited with an amazing 14 quarterback pressures, on just 64 pass rushing snaps.
Hill had his best season at Virginia Tech in 2017 when he had 46 tackles, 9.5 for loss, 5.5 sacks, one forced fumble, and one interception. In 30 career games with the Hokies, he made 16 starts, recording 94 tackles, including 20 for loss, with 11.5 sacks.
Here he is, beating Clemson’s All-American LT Mitch Hyatt.
People forget that Trevon Hill had 3.5 sacks and 4.5 TFL’s in 3 games last year. 94 is going to thrive at Miami in 2019 pic.twitter.com/ktpMI5te88— Beat UF (@hurricanesmarsh) July 16, 2019
Hill should replace NFL-bound Joe Jackson as the starting defensive end opposite Jonathan Garvin, but he has competition for that role. The Hurricanes have other talented players on the edge like Garvin, Scott Patchan, Gregory Rousseau, and Jahfari Harvey. Even if he has a successful season, there will be questions surrounding Hill’s dismissal.
9 . KJ Osborn, #4, WR, 6’0/205, RS-Sr. (Round 5-7)
Osborn came to Miami as a graduate transfer from the University of Buffalo, where he was Buffalo’s second-leading receiver in 2018. Osborn had 53 catches for 892 yards and seven touchdowns for the Bulls last year.
Before playing a single snap for the ‘Canes, Osborn has already made his mark, by breaking Miami’s school record for squat and bench press by a wide receiver. If he tests well at the NFL Combine, Osborn is a reasonable bet to get drafted in the late rounds.
10. Zach McCloud, #53, LB, 6’2/240, Sr. (Round 6-7)
McCloud delivered impressive freshman season, starting 11 of 13 games at linebacker and finishing with 37 tackles. In 2017, McCloud saw action in all 13 games and made 11 starts. Last season, Miami replaced him in nickel sets, and while technically still a starter, his role was reduced.
Always considered the third best of the three true freshman linebackers who started for the ‘Canes back in 2016, McCloud’s role lessened as Miami gradually played more and more nickel as their base defense.
At this point, he might be a long shot to be drafted, but he is the type of athletic linebacker that a NFL team may try to develop. Thus far, McCloud has totaled 129 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss, and 2.5 sacks during his UM career.
11. Romeo Finley, #30, LB/S Hybrid, 6’1/215, Sr. (Round 6-7)
Finley was impressive as Miami’s “Striker” position (a hybrid LB/safety) last season for the Hurricanes. Against multiple wide receiver sets, the Hurricanes prefer to match-up with a Striker, instead of three linebackers. Last season, the Hurricanes’ pass defense led the nation in yards per game allowed and passer rating.
While he has made only four career starts, he is reportedly is getting even more comfortable with his role in the defense, and could be in for a breakout season.
If he tests well, he will be drafted next year as an in-the-box safety.