Miami Hurricanes 2016 camp preview: Defensive backs

The Hurricanes are back on Greentree on Thursday. Let’s go position-by-position and tell you what we know, what we don’t know, and what we want to learn this month. 

At defensive back, Miami is counting on cornerback Corn Elder and others to produce as youngsters develop.

2016 Canes Camp Previews:  QB | RB | WR | TE | OL | DL | LB | DB | ST

Ten important storylines for Hurricanes camp

For review: spring grades Offense | Defense 

Corn Elder was a playmaker in 2015. (Getty Images)

Corn Elder was a playmaker in 2015. (Getty Images)

Projected depth chart  

CB
29 – Corn Elder, Sr., 5-10, 180
25 – Adrian Colbert, R-Sr., 6-2, 205
12 – Malek Young, Fr., 5-9, 180

S
26 – Rayshawn Jenkins, R-Sr., 6-2, 210
4 – Jaquan Johnson, Soph., 5-11, 190
30 – Romeo Finley, Fr., 6-1, 205

S
6 – Jamal Carter, Sr., 6-1, 215
20 – Robert Knowles, R-Fr., 6-1, 195
38 — Cedrick Wright, Fr., 5-9, 180
37 – Jeff James, Fr., 6-1, 185

CB
22 – Sheldrick Redwine, Soph., 6-1, 195
28 – Michael Jackson, Soph., 6-1, 200
21 – Terrance Henley, Soph., 5-11, 180 or
27 – Ryan Mayes, R-Soph., 6-1, 195

Numbers to know

Miami’s ranks in passing yards allowed per attempt over the last two years: 26th (2015) and 17th (2014). The opposing QB ratings: 36th and 33rd.

Miami lost two cornerbacks (Artie Burns, who declared for the NFL draft, and Tracy Howard) and two safeties (Deon Bush and Dallas Crawford).

Led by Burns’ ACC-best six interceptions, Miami finished 23rd in that category. Jenkins (seven career interceptions, three in 2015) and Elder (two in 2015) are the top-producing returners. Elder broke up a team-high 11 passes.

Elder (eight starts) is the only player who has started a game at cornerback. At safety, Jenkins (21) and Carter (three) have starting experience (At Texas, Colbert started four games at safety in 2014).

Quotes of note

“We’re really adamant about disciplining them, to the point they’re looking at us like we’re going to back down but we’re not. We’re constantly on them about being disciplined. … Sometimes when we got those penalties last year, it was low effort. It wasn’t us doing something stupid [out of over-aggression], it was a guy running by you and you grab him, or you hold a guy who’s rushing the quarterback. I think we’ve fixed some of that stuff in spring practice.” – Cornerbacks coach Mike Rumph

“We’ll have to make some quick decisions [regarding who will play] in the first two weeks of August camp. … All we care about in the secondary is sense of urgency, toughness and tackling. If you can bat a ball down better, if you can catch it when they throw it in your direction, bonus. But bad tackling secondaries make bad defenses. We’re really trying to make a point that our toughest players will play.” – Defensive coordinator Manny Diaz

““I’ll be very honest: it would be hard to say who our best corner is right now, let alone our second and third. That position has got to continue to really improve and all those guys know it. It would be a disservice to all of them if we told any of them that – you know, Corn knows he has the most experience, but he’s got to play at a much higher level for us to have any chance to slow anybody down.” – Diaz

Breakdown

The third of those above thoughts came mid-spring, when Diaz was hardly impressed with what he saw from his inexperienced cast. UM simply allowed way too many big plays. Another issue: they weren’t challenged as much as Richt would have liked because of depth problems at receiver. The first two quotes came from the summer, when Diaz and Rumph maintained that as a unit, the DBs have a lot to prove.

Diaz wants an aggressive secondary, but he isn’t sure if he has the personnel to do so. At corner, Elder will be in the spotlight without Howard and Burns around him. Redwine, a special teams contributor last year, will compete with grad transfer Colbert for the other starting job. Colbert was a safety at Texas, but Diaz is betting he’ll compete with the urgency of a player on his last go-round. Jackson, Henley and Mayes were special-teamers last season, and Rumph is excited about Young’s potential. Opponents will try to pick on that group, given its inexperience.

Safety, coached by the energetic Ephraim Banda, is in better shape. The former bartender has a reliable playmaker in Jenkins, whom Diaz named along with Elder as one of his smartest defensive players. Carter is physically impressive but hasn’t been a consistent performer. Johnson earned a spot as a third safety and could compete for a spot as the nickel back (Colbert would seem to be an option there as well). Knowles, who redshirted last year, was impressive against UM’s second-teamers in the spring. Finley and James arrived in the summer, while Wright still needs to qualify.

Miami should be able to pressure with its front seven, but can it cover? We’ll see.

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