CORAL GABLES — After Adrian Colbert intercepted a pass from Brad Kaaya and caused another pick with a batted ball during Friday’s practice, Kaaya admitted Colbert “tricked” him, then swore “it won’t happen again.”
When a reporter told him what Kaaya said, Colbert just rolled his eyes.
The grad transfer from Texas has brought a competitive edge — and plenty of speed — to the Hurricanes’ cornerback unit.
In a group that lacks both depth and experience, he’s battling with senior Corn Elder and sophomore Sheldrick Redwine for two starting spots, though defensive coordinator Manny Diaz and cornerback Mike Rumph say no decisions have been made. Colbert, 6-foot-2 and 205 pounds, is confident he’ll be able to help them make up their minds.
“I didn’t come here come off the bench,” he said Friday, after Miami’s second practice of the fall. “I came here to start.” It doesn’t surprise Colbert, either, that he’s running stride-for-stride with Stacy Coley in drills.
“I feel I can run with anybody in the country,” he said.
Colbert said he plays with an edge because of doubters who believe he’ll “be like a reserve and be a special teams player, he didn’t really do anything at Texas, so I come here with a chip on my shoulder,” he said. “I’m definitely going to play like I have it.”
That’s what Diaz hoped for when he reached out to Colbert in January. In 2012, the four-star recruit from Mineral Wells, Texas, signed with Texas to play for Diaz (who was fired after two games in 2013). Colbert started four of 38 games, all in 2014, when he registered his only career interception. He also tied for the team lead in special teams tackles (six) and ran sprints on the track team.
By November 2015, after spending last season as a reserve, he decided to graduate and transfer. He took a call from “one of my good friends,” former Texas graduate assistant Ephraim Banda, who convinced him to come to Miami and play safety for him. Colbert was willing to flip positions when Rumph needed help.
“He’s a guy that already knows how to practice full speed, knows how to work, a high sense of urgency in everything he does,” Diaz said. “And then you see his physical skills. He’s got length and speed, which are always valuable in the secondary.”
More importantly, Diaz said, Colbert had seen a coaching change at Texas, and knew his experience could be valuable to a defense that sagged under Al Golden and Mark D’Onofrio. “He had seen everyone changing the scheme, but what was more important is they had to change the culture,” Diaz said.
Mark Richt has liked him “since the day he got here – his energy, his maturity,” he said. “He should be mature. He has been at a great program, and came here and could keep pace and in some cases, show the way.”
Still, Colbert copped to feeling “butterflies” during his first practice with the Hurricanes on Thursday. “I missed it so much because I didn’t do spring ball,” he said. “It was kind of a loss. It was a need.”
To fill Miami’s need at cornerback — Elder is the only returner with meaningful game experience — Colbert is playing a position he last played junior year of high school. Rumph said sophomores Michael Jackson, Terrance Henley, Ryan Mayes and freshman Malek Young haven’t stood out. UM is also hoping transfer Maurice Smith falls to them if Alabama blocks his transfer to Georgia.
Colbert would tell him there are far worse places to be than Coral Gables.
“The coaches love me and I love the coaches because they give me equal respect,” Colbert said. “They’re straight up. They give me constructive criticism and they’re not just trying to bring you down every time they tell you something.”