Recruiting: Which defensive backs are Miami Hurricanes chasing?

Jhavonte Dean during his official visit to Miami. (twitter.com/taydean12)

Jhavonte Dean during his official visit to Miami. (twitter.com/taydean12)

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On Wednesday, the signing day two-week warning bell sounded. Feb. 1 is almost here.

That, of course, means the Hurricanes are in for a frenzied final stretch. They hosted a group of recruits last weekend, and have the next two weekends booked as they try to add to a class of 20 commits. UM’s group is rated among the highest in the country – No. 13 by ESPN, No. 14 by Rivals and No. 16 by 247Sports – but like all coaches, Mark Richt is looking for more.

Let’s set the stage by assessing at how Miami is faring at positions of need. We previously looked at wide receivers. Next up: the ballhawks and big hitters who could play in Manny Diaz’ secondary.

CORNERBACK and SAFETY

The situation: The Hurricanes are reloading, to say the least. They lose standout cornerback Corn Elder, starting safeties Rayshawn Jenkins and Jamal Carter, and valuable contributor Adrian Colbert to graduation.

Malek Young and Sheldrick Redwine, who will be a sophomore and a junior, respectively, are the only returning corners who have played meaningful snaps. Michael Jackson, who competed for the No. 4 corner spot in camp last year, and fellow junior Ryan Mayes will try to rise from special-teamers to rotation players.

Miami has a good safety in junior-to-be Jaquan Johnson, who has been a part of the rotation since his freshman year. Romeo Finley, a good special-teamer last year, is a candidate to open spring ball as a starter ahead of redshirt sophomore Robert Knowles and second-year men Cedrick Wright and Jeff James.

Who’s coming: One of Miami’s top-rated commits, four-star athlete DeeJay Dallas (5-11, 190), is already on campus. He could play defense or offense, in part depending on how UM’s wide receiver recruiting goes, and may try both in the spring. For now, we project him at defensive back. Like Dallas, four-star cornerback Trajan Bandy has tried to recruit others to UM and has the potential to be a fan favorite. Bandy, who will enroll in the spring, told Canesport he would take unofficial visits to campus in the coming weeks to help sway others.

 

Bandy and Dallas could be in the mix for nickel and dime roles, which is how Johnson and Young saw most of their action last year.

Three-star safety Amari Carter (6-2, 188) is reportedly on campus and should be a factor. Another hard hitter, Derrick Smith (6-3, 190) will join him after spring drills.

Who they’re chasing: Miami lacks overall speed, depth and experience here. It’s hard to get all three in one offseason, but UM plans to sign speedy recruits – and at least one of them has a little experience.

That would be junior college cornerback Jhavonte Dean, who visited last weekend. An Alabama commit who played his high school ball at Homestead-South Dade High, Dean (6-2, 180) has expressed an interest in coming home. He brings speed (stopwatch-timed 4.3 seconds in the 40 at Alabama’s camp last June) and experience. He’ll have three seasons to play two years.

In an interview with Canesport, Dean (who signed with Cincinnati out of high school) made it clear that if Alabama wants him, he’s all but certain to play there, but he loved his visit to Miami. InsideTheU reported he took a 20-minute walk with Richt on the beach during the visit. Dean, who plays at Blinn College in Brenham, Texas, grew up with current Hurricanes from the area Dionte Mullins, Joe Jackson and Cedrick Wright. He’ll be back in Texas for the semester and would transfer in May (or so).

Miami would love to get 6-3, 180-pound cornerback Brian Edwards back in the fold. The Miramar High standout dropped his commitment to the Hurricanes in October, but is considering UM again. He saw Louisville last weekend, will visit Miami this weekend and see Florida on Jan. 27.

Another ex-commit, C.J. Henderson (6-1, 175), will sign with either Miami, Florida and Alabama and declare his choice on signing day, his father told Canesport. Recruiting websites consider Florida the favorite, but dad says everything is even with those three schools.

UCF commit Tariq Carpenter (6-2, 191) is being evaluated by UM and will visit this weekend, according to InsideTheU.

Final thoughts: Aside from Johnson and perhaps Young, it’s hard to project anyone as a starter. Across the board, there’s opportunity for talented recruits to see action, if not challenge for leading roles. Miami sold playing time to Bandy, Carter, Dallas and Smith, and that’s their continued pitch to the others. … Recall that defensive back was a major worry for the Hurricanes last season, and things turned out OK. Elder’s emergence as a do-it-all leader was a major reason why, but Carter and Jenkins improved their tackling in a big way. They were much more experienced — all seniors — than this group, though, so it’s fair to wonder if the secondary has a year of growing pains ahead regardless of improvements … Henderson is considered the fastest of the potential signees – he has “excellent breakaway speed,” ESPN said after watching him run a 4.35 at a Nike combine last year — but Dean, a late developer, seems to be right there with him. Dean ran a 4.58 during high school, according to ESPN, and apparently dropped that by two-tenths since then (Carpenter ran a 4.69 at a Nike combine last year. A 40 time for Edwards was not available).

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