Running back Gus Edwards will transfer from Miami, the school announced Wednesday.
Edwards, a redshirt junior from Staten Island, N.Y., could wind up closer to home as a graduate transfer. UM did not specify where he was heading.
“Gus indicated to me that he would like to explore the possibility of other opportunities to continue his football career and we have given him permission to do that,” coach Mark Richt said in a press release distributed by the school.
Before Miami’s 31-14 win over No. 16 West Virginia in the Russell Athletic Bowl on Dec. 28, Edwards wrote in a post on his Snapchat account it would be his last game as a Hurricane. A source close to Edwards told The Post at that time he was considering transferring to Syracuse. He chose Miami over the Orange in 2013. His list of 15 offers included mostly ACC and Big Ten schools, such as Florida State, Boston College, Pittsburgh and Rutgers.
Edwards, coming off a foot injury that cost him 2015, had 59 carries for 290 yards and one touchdown last season. He was scarcely used until the final month of the year, when he passed junior Joe Yearby as the No. 2 back behind 1,000-yard sophomore Mark Walton. Edwards, 6-foot-1 and 230 pounds, started to use his size and considerable speed; before his injury, he was UM’s fastest straight-ahead back. Running backs coach and offensive coordinator Thomas Brown expressed his regret that he didn’t use him more.
In 35 games at Miami (one start), Edwards rushed for 977 yards and 12 touchdowns on 186 carries.
After losing Edwards and Yearby — who declared for the NFL draft — UM will lean more on Walton (5-9, 205) and sophomore-to-be Travis Homer (5-11, 200), who was a standout on special teams in his debut season. It also means more opportunity for senior-to-be Trayone Gray, who sat out last year recovering from an ACL tear, and the running backs Miami signs.
The Hurricanes expect to add two recruits at the position. One is three-star Robert Burns, who is set to enroll this month. The other could be four-star Anthony McFarland, who will decide between UM and hometown Maryland next Wednesday.
Safety Billy Gibson, a three-star recruit from Miami Southridge High, announced on Twitter last week that he is back on the recruiting market.
Gibson’s departure leaves Miami with one safety (Palm Beach Gardens High three-star Amari Carter) enrolling early. Derrick Smith, another three-star, plans to enroll later.
Canesport reported Wednesday that Carter and four other early enrollees — quarterback Cade Weldon, athlete DeeJay Dallas, defensive end Jonathan Garvin and offensive guard Zach Dykstra — moved into their dorms and will begin orientation.
The Hurricanes are looking for defensive backs with the graduation of starting safeties Jamal Carter and Rayshawn Jenkins and standout cornerback Corn Elder, along with productive grad transfer Adrian Colbert. They are hard after junior college cornerback Jhavonte Dean, an Alabama commit who grew up in Homestead, and high school prospects Christopher Henderson (four-star, Miami-Columbus) and Brian Edwards (three-star, Miramar).
TAMPA — Technically, the first ballot of the 2017 season. I submitted this to the AP early Tuesday, after covering one of the best national title games in history (my column is here).
Clemson (where I had ’em previously: 2 – 14-1, 7-1 ACC). The new kings. The ACC is the best conference in the country now, too.
Alabama (1 – 14-1, 8-0 SEC). A ridiculously stacked team that lost a heartbreaker. Losing Bo Scarbrough in the title game hurt.
Washington (4 – 12-2, 8-1 Pac-12). Gave Alabama’s offense a hard time until the Tide went power in the second half. A worthy playoff opponent.
USC (10 – 10-3, 7-2 Pac-12). A completely different team with future star Sam Darnold at quarterback. Went on a nine-game streak to end the year, and beat Penn State in the Rose Bowl.
Ohio State (3 – 11-2, 8-1 Big Ten). Despite a 31-0 loss in a playoff semifinal to the eventual national champions, Ohio State, this was a playoff semifinalist. It was just impossible to ignore the Trojans.
Penn State (5 – 11-3, 8-1 Big Ten). A close call for the Big Ten champs, but losing in a thrilling Rose Bowl to USC drops them to sixth.
Oklahoma (8– 11-2, 9-0 Big 12). De-facto Big 12 champs cruised past Auburn in the Sugar Bowl.
Florida State (13 – 10-3, 5-3 ACC). Closed with five wins in a row, including a one-point win over Michigan in an excellent Orange Bowl.
Michigan (6 – 10-3, 7-2 Big Ten). No shame in losing to FSU and Dalvin Cook.
Wisconsin (7 – 11-3, 7-2 Big Ten). Handed Western Michigan its first L in a Cotton Bowl win.
Western Michigan (9 – 13-1, 8-0 MAC). Loses P.J. Fleck to Minnesota, but quite a season.
Oklahoma State (12 – 10-3, 7-2 Big 12). Trounced Colorado in the Alamo Bowl. Clearly the second-best Big 12 team.
Stanford (23 – 10-3, 6-3 Pac-12). Closed with six wins and beat UNC in the Sun Bowl without Christian McCaffrey (and quarterback Keller Chryst, who left the game in the second quarter with an injury). Bryce Love: 164 yards and a touchdown.
Florida (19 — 9-4, 6-2 SEC). Ravaged by injuries? No offense? Didn’t matter. Gators’ defense whipped Iowa in the Outback Bowl, but they won’t be a legitimate SEC contender until they get something going on the other side of the ball.
LSU (20 — 8-4, 5-3 SEC). How about the Tigers? Holding the Heisman winner under 200 total yards in a 20-point win, in which they overwhelmed Louisville’s beleaguered offensive line, had to make Ed Orgeron happy.
Virginia Tech (18 — 9-4, 6-2 ACC). Probably deserved better than the Belk Bowl, but oh well. ACC Coastal champ scored 35 unanswered to beat Arkansas.
Miami (NR — 9-4, 5-3 ACC). Made easy work of 10-win West Virginia in the Russell Athletic Bowl, and closed with five wins in a row (including a dismantling of Pittsburgh, which beat Clemson and Penn State).
South Florida (25 — 11-2, 7-1 American). Lost to Temple during the season, but outlasted South Carolina in the Birmingham Bowl (a team which beat Tennessee). Oh, and Willie Taggart left Charlie Strong with some really nice pieces.
San Diego State (NR – 11-3, 6-2 Mountain West). Won the Mountain West and whipped nine-win Houston in the Las Vegas Bowl.
Tennessee (NR – 9-4, 4-4 SEC) . Beat nine-win Nebraska by two touchdowns in the Music City bowl, and wins over Florida and Virginia Tech were quality.
Colorado (11 – 10-3, 8-1 Pac-12). Lost by 30, and while Oklahoma State’s good, that’s too much.
West Virginia (14 — 10-3, 7-2 Big 12). Lost to unranked – but good – Miami in the Russell Athletic Bowl.
Louisville (17 – 9-4, 7-1 ACC). Ended with three losses, and sputtered against LSU in the Citrus Bowl. The main problem: a shaky offensive line. Credit for losing only to Clemson in conference play.
Western Kentucky (NR – 11-3, 7-1). Conference USA winner ended with eight wins in a row. Scored 10 on Alabama, too.
Georgia Tech (NR – 9-4, 4-4 ACC). Beat six of last seven opponents, including Virginia Tech and for once, Georgia.
No. 15 Auburn (8-5, 5-3 SEC). Couldn’t hang with Oklahoma. No shame in losing to Alabama and Clemson, but Georgia and Texas A&M didn’t look good by the end of the year, and the middle of the SEC pack wasn’t all that great.
No. 16 Nebraska (9-4, 6-3 Big Ten). It was a pick between two four-loss Power Fives, and Georgia Tech closed better.
No. 21 Boise State (10-3, 6-2 Mountain West). A miserable end to the season, losing to Baylor – losers of six in a row, and a touchdown underdog – by 19 points in the Cactus Bowl.
No. 22 Iowa (8-5, 6-3 Big Ten). Beat Michigan and Nebraska in the final three weeks, and the losses to Northwestern and Penn State didn’t look as bad, but Hawkeyes did nothing against Florida in the Outback Bowl. And for a team that was close to the playoffs in 2015, finishing 8-5 is a disappointment.
No. 24 Temple (10-4, 7-1 American). Some tight losses (Penn State, Memphis) and a good win over Navy in the AAC title game, but came out flat against Wake Forest in a Military Bowl loss.
Are the Hurricanes a national title contender in 2018? One oddsmaker seems to think so.
According to SportsInsights, which cited odds from the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook, Miami has the 14th-best odds to win the 2018 national championship.
The Hurricanes are a 30-to-1 shot, the website said.
That’s tied with Georgia, Kansas State and 2017 playoff semifinalist Washington.
Alabama (3-to-1) has the best odds, followed by Florida State, Oklahoma, Ohio State and USC (all 8-to-1), Louisville (10-to-1), Michigan, LSU (both 12-to-1), Clemson, Oklahoma State, Texas (all 20-to-1), Penn State and Auburn (both 25-to-1).
Behind Miami: Virginia Tech, Wisconsin, Florida, Tennessee (all 40-to-1), West Virginia (50-to-1), Notre Dame, UCLA and TCU (all 60-to-1).
The Hurricanes, who went 9-4 and are likely to be ranked in the 2016 postseason and 2017 preseason polls, will be replacing quarterback Brad Kaaya, tight end David Njoku and their Corn Elder-led secondary, but coach Mark Richt welcomes back his entire starting front seven, most of his offensive line, gifted receiver Ahmmon Richards and 1,000-yard rusher Mark Walton.
I have an Associated Press poll vote, I haven’t yet decided where I will rank the Hurricanes in our year-end poll (which comes out Tuesday morning). They will crack my top 25, after spending the last five weeks of the year unranked.
Some evidence suggests they should make a significant jump.
Miami played some excellent ball toward the end of the year, closing with a five-game win streak and a win over No. 16 West Virginia in the Russell Athletic Bowl. At their best, the 2016 Hurricanes were quite good.
According to one all-encompassing efficiency metric, Football Outsiders’ “F+” rankings, the Hurricanes are No. 12 nationally. That’s third-best in the ACC, behind only Clemson (No. 2), which plays in the national championship Monday against Alabama, and Florida State (No. 7).
Why is Miami so high in the metrics? I wrote to Connelly, who writes for SB Nation, for an explanation in plain English. He developed the S&P+ rating, so from that side of things, he cited:
Opponent adjustments. Miami played seven teams ranked in the top 30 of the S&P+ rankings. While it lost to four — Florida State, North Carolina, UNC, Virginia Tech and Notre Dame — three of the losses were by one possession, and the three wins — Pitt, N.C. State and West Virginia — were by an average of 18 points. Plus, it beat the 20th-ranked S&P+ team (Pitt) by 23. “The transitive property doesn’t get you very far overall,” Connelly said, “but just thinking in those terms, it would make sense that they ended up [rated] in the teens.”
The defense. Manny Diaz’ group pulled off what Connelly called “a rare combination of being efficient and preventing big plays,” he said. “Don’t bend, don’t break, if you will. They were super aggressive against the run and created tons of negative plays (while allowing a big run here and there), and while the pass defense was less efficient, it was still solid and gave up almost no big plays. That’s a lovely combination that resulted in a No. 13 defensive ranking.”
Special teams. The Hurricanes’ special teams S&P+ rating was 12th nationally, which by Connelly’s calculation boosted them an extra 1.4 points per game. “Place-kicking, punting, and kickoffs were all good to excellent on average,” he said, “and the return game was at least average to above average.” Miami needs to find the next Justin Vogel, though it gets another year of Michael Badgley.
Connelly added that Miami’s offense “had the least to do” with its 12th overall ranking. The Hurricanes were 34th in offensive S&P+, “dragged down by an all-or-nothing run game,” he said. “But defense and special teams were awesome.”
Sometimes stats surprise you, but that mostly backs up what I saw on the field. I doubt Miami will be 12th in the final poll, but sometimes polls surprise you.
Richards, from Wellington High, was our 2015 offensive player of the year. In his first year at UM, he broke Michael Irvin‘s 31-year-old program record for receiving yards by a freshman, and led all freshmen nationally in yards (934, with three touchdowns on 49 catches). He had Miami’s longest reception of the season, a 77-yard touchdown against Virginia, and led all freshmen in yards per catch (19.06).
And he had the proper attitude, too.
Recruits who act like celebs usually the ones who get folded up first day of practice
If Miami can get the same production from Garvin, Richt will be pleased. In a season that lasted just nine games — Hurricane Matthew wiped out one contest, and Lake Worth missed the playoffs — Garvin (6-4, 220) had 88 tackles and a school-record 25 sacks. He is considered a three-star recruit by most websites, which seems low.
The Hurricanes don’t care about his rating, just that he’s coming. He admits he was “kind of star struck” by the SEC schools that recruited him, but he’s all-in on Miami.
“That’s really where I wanted to go for the longest,” he said. “I remember when I was younger, after the game, I would throw up the ‘U’ … I’ve always been a fan.”
Also heading to Miami next week as an early enrollee: Palm Beach Gardens High safety Amari Carter, a first-team defensive selection. Carter recorded 41 tackles, five tackles for loss and two interceptions in his senior year.
Including Richards, Miami’s 2016 signees from Palm Beach performed exceptionally well as freshmen. Linebacker Zach McCloud (Santaluces High) started 12 of 13 games and made several outstanding plays, and running back Travis Homer (Oxbridge Academy) was named special teams newcomer of the year at the team’s awards banquet for his hard-hitting work on coverage teams.
UM has an early pledge from Pahokee cornerback Akeem Dent, who is considered among the top recruits nationally in the sophomore class.
Mark Richt isn’t worried about recruiting wide receivers now that his standout, veteran quarterback, Brad Kaaya, has moved on to the pros.
“The thing is, when you play with a veteran quarterback when you’re a freshman, you might not have a veteran quarterback when it means the most to you in your career,” he said. “The big thing they understand is there’s a tremendous talent base within this quarterback group. Whoever rises will get the ball to you and showcase the things that you can do within the team concept.
“More than likely, there’s a good chance that whoever gets the job can grow with whoever comes in as a receiver.”
The only “veteran” Miami returns at quarterback is Malik Rosier, who will be a redshirt junior. He has appeared in 10 games, one as a starter.
Richt spoke about the impending quarterback battle, recruiting and more in a year-in-review conference call with beat reporters Thursday.
In spring drills, Rosier, last year’s backup, will jockey for position with Jack Allison, a former four-star recruit who redshirted last year; redshirt sophomore-to-be Evan Shirreffs, incoming freshman Cade Weldon and walk-on Vincent Testaverde (read a breakdown of their strengths and weaknesses here). Another freshman, N’Kosi Perry, is considered to have the highest ceiling of the bunch, but he will not arrive until the summer.
“First of all, everybody’s got a shot,” Richt said. “We’ll be excited about the competition. That tends to bring out the best of people. When guys are competing, and they know there’s not only a realistic chance of being second-team but being a starter, that changes things for guys.”
He made it clear that Allison, last year’s top recruit, “had every opportunity” to win the backup job last year in camp and didn’t.
“We weren’t going to sit here and say, ‘He’s trying to beat out Brad,’ because that’s not a realistic thing to say,” Richt said. “But there was a battle for second team, and he was in town. … It’s been a full year now. He knows a lot more about the system, and he knows there’s a lot more at stake. I’m expecting him to compete.”
Shirreffs, Richt said, “does a really good job of learning what to do and taking it from the meeting room to the practice field. He’s very consistent in what he does. He’ll definitely be in the race.”
Aside from being Miami’s all-time leading passer, Kaaya was the unquestioned leader of the team. Whomever ascends to replace him will “have earned the right to lead,” Richt said. “I’ve seen a lot of guys who are backups that had all the characteristics of leadership, but maybe that’s not their role yet. When they take over that starting position, that changes things for them. I think it’ll happen naturally.”
Reflecting on Kaaya’s decision, Richt said he was “being real” with him, providing him all the good information he could, and Kaaya decided “what was most important in his life. That’s kind of what it came down to.”
Richt said two players who were considering transferring, running back Gus Edwards and defensive tackle Courtel Jenkins, “haven’t said anything to me. … I’m not saying they’re not considering it, but neither one has come to me with anything.”
At tight end, Chris Herndon will be a senior and the unquestioned showcase player. But without David Njoku around, Miami probably won’t run as many two-tight end sets. That’s unless Michael Irvin II and Jovani Haskins, both freshmen who were suspended for the bowl game, can rise up. “We’ve got a lot of growing up to do at that position,” Richt said.
Richt took the low-key approach when asked about the ceiling of his defensive front seven, which exceeded all expectations. “If everybody comes back with the right attitude of turning it up a notch, even above what we did last offseason, get in the best shape possible and continues to play hard, we’ll be in good shape,” he said. “It’s a good bunch.”
Finally, here’s Richt, reflecting on his first year at his alma mater:
“I guess it’s kind of two-fold. In one sense I feel we gained a lot of ground on trying to be great with a team that could handle adversity, and go through a tough time in mid-season and came out of it with five victories and a bowl victory. A lot of positive things happened throughout the season and especially toward the end. I thought that was a very good sign.
“But then you also look back at what could have been and you kick yourself here and there. It’s a learning experience for everybody. We did a lot of great things. I think we’ve created a good foundation, created a good bit of momentum going into the 2017 season and I’m looking forward to these guys becoming great.”
Miami’s recruiting efforts haven’t yielded a new commit since Jacksonville-based safety Derrick Smithpledged on Dec. 13.
The Hurricanes haven’t added anyone publicly, anyway.
Offensive coordinator and running backs coach Thomas Brown said in a radio interview Wednesday that Miami has players — plural — who have told coaches they are coming to Coral Gables, but haven’t felt the need to declare their intentions to the world.
“I think we’re going strong,” Brown said on WQAM, when asked how recruiting was going. “We’ve got a bunch of guys who have already committed to us, and guys who have made some silent commitments to us that haven’t made it public yet. That will add some juice to our recruiting class once they come forward.”
Who might they be, and when might they have committed? We profess no specific knowledge. But it wouldn’t be a surprise if one of them is four-star running back Anthony McFarland (Hyattsville, Md.-DeMatha Catholic), who has told recruiting websites Miami is his leader. He is also considering hometown Maryland.
Miami’s top targets include five-star receiver Devonta Smith (Amite, La), offensive linemen Tedarrell Slaton and Kai-Leon Herbert (a Michigan commit), from Plantation-American Heritage; and cornerbacks Christopher Henderson (Miami-Columbus) and Jhavonte Dean (an Alabama commit from Homestead who plays at Blinn College in Texas).
UM is in need of receivers, offensive linemen and defensive backs the most, though Brown said coahces are looking for “the best players available, no matter the position.” The Hurricanes’ class is rated 15th nationally and third in the ACC by the 247Sports composite ratings.
* As expected, Brown said there is no front-runner for the starting quarterback job, after Brad Kaaya‘s departure.
Miami is in need of wide receivers now, so it’s unlikely Evidence Njoku will have the same college career as his brother.
David Njoku signed with Miami in 2014 as a 6-foot-4, 220-pound wideout and redshirted, since UM had a deep group of receivers that included future first-round pick Phillip Dorsett. Njoku was even tried for a brief time at linebacker, wearing No. 50 and a less-than-enthused expression on the practice field. But he grew into a tight end, and a good one. The 245-pound former national champion high-jumper declared for the NFL draft last week, after his redshirt sophomore season. Draftniks say he could be a first-round pick.
Evidence has done some growing of his own. He is listed at 6-foot-4 and 205 pounds but told 247Sports recently he is now 6-6.
“I hope I’m done growing,” he said. “I’m not trying to be 6-8 or something like that.”
Like his brother was, Evidence is considered a three-star recruit and is currently Miami’s only wide receiver commit. He told 247 that Tennessee, Penn State, Missouri and Nebraska continue to recruit him. He plans to visit Tennessee and Nebraska in January, he told reporters after his Wayne Hills (N.J.) team won a North Jersey 1 Group 4 state title. Njoku recorded 415 yards receiving and eight touchdowns on 27 catches, after transferring from nearby Cedar Grove High for his senior year.
His highlight tape (below) shows that aforementioned length, and some decent leaping and ball skills Miami could use. The Hurricanes lose his older brother — one of the best tight ends in the nation — along with outside threat Stacy Coley and hard-working senior Malcolm Lewis. They are still after several other wideouts to join the class, including four-star Louisiana product Devonta Smith, an Army All-American.