The Hurricanes are back on Greentree on Aug. 1. 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.
Todd Hartley was expressing an emotional state many college football coaches don’t get to in front of reporters: he was darn near giddy.
On signing day 2016, about a month after he was hired as Miami’s tight ends coach, he was discussing the players he inherited like a first-time homeowner whose new digs came with a bonus Lamborghini in the garage.
He knew, as did those who watched the Hurricanes closely the year before, how good David Njoku could be. He had Chris Herndon. He had Stan Dobard. He signed Michael Irvin and Jovani Haskins and man, what a crew to start working with.
Miami’s offense was blessed to have Njoku, a first-round pick of the Cleveland Browns. It is now on this second-year coaching staff to develop the next one who’s going to generate that “free Lambo” type of excitement.
Projected depth chart
23 — Chris Herndon, Sr., 6-4, 252
87 — Michael Irvin, Soph., 6-3, 248
88 — Brian Polendey, Fr., 6-6, 230
86 — Malik Curry, R-Soph., 6-3, 230
The term is worn-out, but Njoku was more than deserving of the “freak” label: a chiseled, 6-4, 245-pound speedster with the leaping ability and body control of a national-champion high-jumper (which is what he was in high school). Herndon wasn’t typically in the slot or busting the seam with Njoku around, but with good hands and plenty of speed, he is plenty capable. Not only is he arguably the ACC’s best returning tight end, he would be Miami’s best fullback and one of its best wideouts. No matter who Miami starts at quarterback, Herndon will be a reliable target and probably won’t come off the field much, so expect a jump from last year’s numbers (334 yards and two touchdowns on 28 receptions).
After Herndon, things might be a little dicey. Njoku left early for the draft, Dobard graudated and Haskins transferred, leaving the Hurricanes with three tight ends on scholarship, two of them unproven. Coaches have been encouraged by Irvin, an intelligent route-runner with good hands. He had disciplinary issues as a freshman, like several others. Unlike Haskins, he is still on the team. Polendey, an early enrollee, didn’t make an impact this spring, but Hartley likes his smarts and physicality. Curry is a solid walk-on. Entering camp, it appears depth at the position is as light as it has been at Miami in some time. It’s up to these guys to make that thought no longer rings true.
The ideal situation for the Canes: Herndon, who placed second in the preseason All-ACC voting at tight end, finishes the year in first, and Irvin and Polendey shine as backups and leave coaches wondering who’s The Guy entering spring. But if that doesn’t happen, Miami has arguably the best combo of tight end recruits in the country on schedule for 2018. Brevin Jordan, a Las Vegas native who committed to UM over USC and Michigan, and Jacksonville-based Will Mallory, whose dad and two uncles played at Michigan, have expressed excitement about pairing up at ‘The U.’ As of this writing, Jordan is rated No. 3 among 2018 tight ends by 247Sports’ composite ratings. Mallory is No. 8. Miami hopes it will coast toward that bright future, rather than limp toward it.
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