2017 Miami Hurricanes spring football preview: Looking for the best DBs

Jaquan Johnson's playmaking instincts are a valuable part of Miami's secondary. (Getty Images)

Jaquan Johnson’s playmaking instincts are a valuable part of Miami’s secondary. (Getty Images)

Eighth in a series of position-by-position looks at the Hurricanes heading into spring practice, which begins March 21.

Previously: QB | RB | WR | TE | OL | DL | LB

If it makes an anxious Hurricanes fan feel any better: Manny Diaz had issues here last year, and things worked out fine.

Counterpoint: He had host of veterans. He no longer does.

Counter-counterpoint: Help is on the way.

The Hurricanes may struggle to cover and tackle in the secondary this spring, but the defensive back group should look different by fall practice. That’s because fifth-year transfer cornerback Dee Delaney, an FCS All-American from The Citadel, plans to enroll at UM in May. Along with him comes two four-star cornerback recruits (junior college transfer Jhavonte Dean and local prep standout Trajan Bandy) and a hard-hitting safety from Jacksonville (Derrick Smith).

Those players’ arrival will shore up Miami’s lone area of defensive concern. Those already on campus will try to carve out roles in a rebuilding unit before the summer competition gets hot.

Projected depth chart (with fall class year listed)

Cornerback
Malek Young, Soph.
Michael Jackson, Jr.

Safety
Jaquan Johnson, Jr.
Amari Carter, Fr.
Jeff James, Soph.

Safety
Romeo Finley, Soph.
Robert Knowles, R-Soph.

Cornerback
Sheldrick Redwine, Jr.
Ryan Mayes, R-Jr.
Terrance Henley, Jr.

Major storyline: Who’s good enough to play? This unit has major question marks after losing four senior starters — cornerbacks Corn Elder and Adrian Colbert and safeties Rayshawn Jenkins and Jamal Carter — to graduation. Johnson and Young are the only players who have seen extended crunch-time reps. Johnson is primed for a leadership role, and will be on the field at either safety or a nickel/dime role. Delaney will likely be one of the starting corners once he arrives. It’s likely Dean could win the other spot, with Young and Bandy chipping in at nickel/dime. Diaz said he will try all corners except for the undersized (5-foot-9) Young at safety, in an attempt to find more depth there. Finley was good on special teams last season, but he’ll have to hold off Carter, a mature four-star recruit, for reps. Redwine and Jackson have speed and size (both are 6-1, 200) and could be better suited to safety, if Delaney, Dean, Young and Bandy wind up taking the top corner roles. Diaz will mix and match to try to find his best defensive backs. Most or all of these guys will play on special teams, too.

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