He made some impressive plays last season, and has a burgeoning rep as a supercharged athlete. If he wanted to, redshirt sophomore tight end David Njoku could declare for the draft after this season. If he has as good a season as most at UM expect, he might.
But he says he has a long way to go before he makes that decision.
Njoku, who had 21 catches for 362 yards and a touchdown and a team-high 17.2 yards per catch, is one of the keys to Miami’s offense. He’s 6-foot-4, 245 pounds and has nine percent body fat, one of the lowest percentages among the Hurricanes. He said he runs a 4.49-second 40-yard dash. He’s also a former high school state champion (New Jersey) high-jumper who has shined at the ACC level.
“He’s a freak,” senior tight end Stan Dobard said. “He does a lot of things well, and now he’s becoming one of the great blockers too, not just a pass-catcher so he’s coming all around. He’s a complete tight end now, so he’s going to be a star.”
Njoku is rated by CBS Sports as the 11th-best tight end in the 2019 draft class. It’s unclear how he stacks up against the 2017 class, the first year in which he’ll be eligible. (Dobard, a senior, is rated No. 21 in next year’s draft. Junior Chris Herndon isn’t rated for 2018.)
On Twitter, CBS Sports draft analyst Dane Brugler said he likes “the flashes” of talent Njoku shows. “Wish he did more to help [Brad] Kaaya. Hope to see those traits developing this season.”
Njoku, who counts former UM tight ends Jeremy Shockey (“I talk to him almost every day”) and Jimmy Graham as mentors, laughed when asked if he lets thoughts of his future enter his mind.
“I just take it day by day,” he said. “I don’t really focus on all that stuff. It’s just day by day. I’m going to focus on today, then later on today, and I’ll focus on tomorrow when tomorrow comes. We’ll go like that.”
But sometimes he does allow himself to consider the road ahead.
“I mean, yeah,” he said. “It’s very exciting. But I’m just focused on winning championships here first. We’ll worry about that later.”
Herndon, who lives with Njoku and Dobard in an apartment five minutes from campus, said the draft isn’t a regular topic of conversation at home.
“[Njoku] doesn’t talk about it a lot,” Herndon said. “I feel like he’s one of those people who makes his own decisions, he’s not influenced by anything else. I guess at the end of the season if he feels like he did well enough and put himself in the right position to leave, he’ll leave. Not just based on what everybody else is saying. He doesn’t let the hype get to his head. He’s good at keeping it out.”
Herndon said he thinks about his own future from time to time.
“I mean, everybody thinks about it, but you’ve just got to be realistic about it,” he said. “College football is a four-year, sometimes five-year thing. If I need to stay my senior year, I don’t have a problem with that. Like I said with David, you’ve just got to see how the season goes and how comfortable you are where you’re going to be drafted and all that stuff.”
* Running back Gus Edwards said he’s down to nine percent body fat (he’s 6-2, 230) and the Lisfranc fracture on his left foot is sometimes sore, but not so bad that he needs to take practice reps or days off.
Also on Edwards’ mind: he was happy the offense fought back against the defense. “I think we won today. We got ‘em. It felt good because they’ve been getting us all camp. Today was our first day winning, so it felt good.
“We just competed better and we finished better. In games past from last year there are games we could have won but we just didn’t finish.”
* Mark Richt was not available to reporters after practice because of a previous engagement.
* A UM source said freshman Will linebacker Michael Pinckney, who has been limited by what Richt has called a “quad or hamstring” injury, practiced Tuesday but doctors afterward to get his injury checked out. The source said Pinckney’s visit was “precautionary” and the team is hoping to get clarity on what ails him. (UPDATE: a UM source said Tuesday afternoon that Pinckney has a minor hamstring injury and that “he’s fine.” UM will continue to treat and monitor him.)
* Reserve offensive lineman Hunter Knighton, who suffered a bout of heat stroke in 2014 that nearly ended his life, has been held out of practice for precautionary reasons.