Yearby declared early for the pros and was not taken. He tried out with the San Francisco 49ers and Philadelphia Eagles, but was not signed.
After a 1,002-yard season in 2015, Yearby lost his starting job to sophomore Mark Walton last year. Walton was named team MVP after rushing for 1,117 yards and 14 touchdowns. He and Gus Edwards, who transferred to Rutgers, opted to move on instead of split time behind Walton in their senior seasons.
Marshall reportedly tore the patellar tendon in his right knee, costing him the season.
Want an idea of what it’s going to take for Brad Kaaya to make the Detroit Lions roster? Take a look at the quarterback they drafted at about the same spot last year.
Jake Rudock of Michigan and Fort Lauderdale’s St. Thomas Aquinas High School went to Detroit in the sixth round of the 2016 NFL draft, 191st overall. Kaaya, Miami’s all-time leader in passing yards, joins Rudock now as the Lions’ sixth-round draft choice in 2017, the 215th overall.
Miami Hurricanes head coach Mark Richt with Miami Hurricanes quarterback Brad Kaaya (15) and Miami Hurricanes wide receiver Stacy Coley (3) at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida on September 1, 2016. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)
Rudock spent most of his rookie season on Detroit’s practice squad. Though promoted to the active roster in late November, he never played in a regular-season game and never rose higher than No. 3 on the depth chart, behind starter Matthew Stafford and Dan Orlovsky.
It’s unlikely that Kaaya will advance any more quickly, providing he convinces Lions coach Jim Caldwell to give him an extended look in the first place. The only reason Rudock has moved up on the food chain is that Detroit decided in February to move on from former backup Dan Orlovsky, a former fifth-round draft pick who has been bouncing around the league since 2005 without ever gaining much traction.
The long-term goal for Kaaya is to get a second contract and thus to gain some stability in the league. If he has a rookie season like Brandon Doughty did with the Dolphins last year, that would be fine. Doughty was a seventh-round pick.
If you want another picture of the challenge before Kaaya now, do you remember Kheeston Randall?
The Dolphins took him 215th overall, the same as Kaaya’s slot, in the 2012 NFL draft. He was a defensive tackle from Texas who made the roster as a rookie and made six tackles in 12 games.
Miami released him prior to the 2013 season. Cincinnati carried him on the active roster for a couple of weeks that year and the Vikings took a look at Randall in training camp in 2014 before releasing him.
Different position, different situation, but the problem is the same. From the sixth round on down, it’s a battle for survival. Kaaya will have to win that before anybody starts thinking about him as Stafford’s long-term backup.
Njoku, from Cedar Grove, N.J., is the seventh of nine children born to Nigerian parents. He’s also part of another proud lineage: ultra-athletic, highly talented tight ends from Miami. Scouts think Njoku (pronounced nJOE-koo), who racked up 17.2 yards per catch last year as a redshirt sophomore, is every bit as good as Pro Bowlers from ‘The U’ like Jeremy Shockey, Kellen Winslow, Greg Olsen and Jimmy Graham. Njoku is the fifth first-round tight end from Miami since 2000 (Franks, Shockey, Winslow, Olsen).
What’s not to like about Njoku? He’s considered as good a blocker or as polished a product as Alabama’s O.J. Howard. That’s about it. Not only is Njoku one of the youngest players in the draft — he turns 21 in July — but he has a sculpted physique, was an ACC competitor and former national champion in the high jump, runs like a wide receiver and has plenty of developing to do. A high school wideout who briefly played linebacker after arriving on campus, led Miami in yards per catch (17.2) as a redshirt freshman, but blew up in 2016. In his only full season as a featured option at UM, he led ACC tight ends in yards (698) and touchdowns (eight). He showed red-zone toughness, jump-ball ability and breakaway speed (five catches of 40-plus yards, best among tight ends nationally). ESPN’s Todd McShay called him “loaded with talent” and put him No. 2 on his “highest ceiling” ratings. ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. told The Post before the draft the lowest he thought Njoku would go was No. 30 overall. ProFootballFocus knocked him for concentration drops and said he isn’t overly elusive or explosive — note that ESPN disagreed with that assessment — but said his strength and speed are major pluses. Sports Illustrated drove home the latter point by musing, “Ever wondered what it would look like if Cam Newton played tight end? Well …”
What a shame it would be if Brad Kaaya doesn’t go high in the NFL draft after skipping what would have been his senior season at Miami.
Sure, it would be tough on Brad, the Hurricanes’ all-time leader in passing yards and completions, but consider the continued indecision about his replacement in Coral Gables.
Mark Richt can’t name a starter coming out of the spring practice sessions and both Malik Rosier and Evan Shirreffs have been around long enough to show what they can do. Meanhwhile, top recruit N’Kosi Perry, a beanpole at 6-feet-4 and 178 pounds, doesn’t arrive on campus until next month.
MIAMI GARDENS – Miami Hurricanes head coach Mark Richt with former Hurricanes quarterback Brad Kaaya (15) and wide receiver Stacy Coley (3) at Hard Rock Stadium on September 1, 2016. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)
Kaaya may not have had the kind of blockbuster junior season that would have catapulted him into obvious first-round draft territory but he did throw 27 touchdown passes with just seven interceptions. That’s high efficiency, and it figures that he and Richt would have gotten more comfortable with each other if given another season to work together.
As it was, Kaaya got sacked way too much (25 times) which was partly the fault of Miami’s offensive line and partly his own. His footwork and his decision-making need to speed up before some NFL team is going to go crazy over him.
Depending on what you read in the pre-draft speculation chatter, Kaaya could slip all the way to the third-day developmental class, or some team might want to take him as high as the second or third round to school behind a certain starter.
Never that easy figuring out who should go and should stay. NFL scouts aren’t as adamant as they used to be about looking for quarterbacks from a pro-style offense, which diminishes any supposed bonus points that Kaaya might have earned at Miami. Also, there’s a drive to start first-round quarterbacks right away as NFL rookies, another relatively new trend, and Kaaya isn’t ready for that.
Overall, would staying with the Hurricanes for his senior season have gained Miami a few more victories in 2017 and pushed Kaaya significantly higher in next year’s NFL draft?
I’ll say yes to the first question and no to the second.
Everyone’s got something to prove at Pro Days, the series of showcases that take place at campuses nationwide between the NFL Scouting Combine and the NFL Draft. Colleges gather their best draft-eligible prospects and put them through testing in front of representatives from NFL teams. As usual, Miami has a lot of talent, so all 32 teams are expected to send personnel.
Questions and projections for each of the 15 former Hurricanes who will work out:
Jamal Carter, S: Is he fast-fast or just fast? He has a lot going for him: chiseled body (6-1, 218), hard hitter, durable. Carter, according to his reps, showed NFL teams in Indianapolis that he could move well in space. The difference between being a mid-rounder, late-rounder or free agent will likely be his 40 time – if he’s in the 4.5 range, he’ll hear his name called. Projection: sixth-round pick
Adrian Colbert, DB: Is he draftable? He may not have enough game tape to warrant a spot in the draft, but Colbert (6-1, 195) made a few highlight-reel plays in his brief Miami tenure. Much is unknown about his game, so teams will want to see a lot from him (and be reassured that he’s healthy). He can play corner or safety. Projection: free-agent signee
Stacy Coley, WR: Will he stay healthy? That’s a concern teams won’t be able to address Wednesday, so Coley (6-0, 195) can make them feel better by blazing through the 40 and catching everything thrown his way. It’ll help that Brad Kaaya is feeding him the rock. Projection: fifth-round pick
Standish Dobard, TE: Can he run and catch? Dobard (6-4, 250) is a big body who has trimmed up considerably. That has helped bring his times down. He can block, but he’ll be a long shot for the league unless he can show something in the passing game. Projection: Will get a look in rookie camp
Corn Elder, CB: Does size matter? Elder might want to set up a projector with his game film at the edge of UM’s practice field. He was all over the place as a senior, a playmaking threat who did everything Manny Diaz and Co. asked. “One of the best-tackling defensive backs I’ve ever coached,” Diaz said. Teams know what he can do – but some simply won’t draft a 5-10, 183-pound corner. Projection: fourth-round pick
Jermaine Grace, LB: Is he big enough? Grace’s reps say he’s up to 220 pounds – he was in the 205-210 range for most of his UM career – and needs to prove he can still run at that weight. Before he was dismissed from the program last August, Grace (6-1) was one of UM’s fastest players. He’s a fit for a hybrid linebacker/DB role in the right NFL scheme. Projection: free-agent signee
Danny Isidora, OG: How high can he go? Isidora (6-3, 305) has the size of an NFL interior lineman. He was durable (39 consecutive starts) in college. He ran a 5.03-second 40 at the combine, third-best among guards, and put up a respectable 26 reps on the bench. Projection: fourth-round pick
Rayshawn Jenkins, S: Is he a mid-round or a late-round pick? Though NFL.com knocked him for his “average” instincts, Jenkins (6-1, 214) has the size, speed and aggression to be a quality NFL player. He certainly didn’t hurt himself at the combine: 4.51 in the 40, and among the top safeties in the bench (19 reps), vertical jump (37 inches) and broad jump (128 inches). Projection: sixth-round pick
Brad Kaaya, QB: How good is his arm? The bigger question scouts have about Kaaya (6-4, 214) concerns his decision-making under pressure, and he will not face an onrushing NFL defense on Wednesday. So he could help himself by putting some zip on the ball, to counter the prevailing thought he doesn’t have the strongest of arms. Projection: third-round pick
Malcolm Lewis, WR: Does he have NFL-caliber skills? Lewis (5-10, 190) had a tough road at UM with injuries. His career totals – 62 catches, 650 yards, three touchdowns in five years – aren’t overwhelming, but he’s a hard worker and a good soldier. Projection: rookie-camp attendee
Al-Quadin Muhammad, DE: Who is he, again? Muhammad (6-3, 253) played in just 17 games at Miami because of off-the-field trouble. He’s extremely raw as a player, but has the physical tools to be a pro. Projection: free-agent signee
David Njoku, TE: What else can he prove? Scouts looking to ding Njoku (6-4, 245) for something focus on his blocking, which can improve, but he brings so much else to the table. Projection: first-round pick
Justin Vogel, P: Will he be drafted? Vogel was one of the ACC’s best punters the last few seasons, and didn’t hurt his stock at the combine with a 4.7 time in the 40 and a 34-inch vertical leap, both by far best among specialists. NFL.com wrote that Vogel “doesn’t have a booming leg” on a consistent basis, but his accuracy is certainly pro-caliber. Projection: priority free agent
Marquez Williams, FB: How much else can he contribute? Williams (5-10, 260) has immense strength, but NFL teams don’t carry block-only fullbacks. He’ll have to show increased speed and potential as a pass-catcher to get a shot in the league. Projection: rookie camp invitation
Joe Yearby, RB: Is he good enough for the NFL? Yearby will have to remind teams that he rushed for 1,000 yards in the ACC, and forget that he was passed up as a starter in his junior season. He doesn’t have great size (5-9, 205) or blazing speed, so he must be a willing special-teamer – something he didn’t do often at UM – to make a roster. Projection: free-agent signee
Players will interview with NFL coaches and scouts beginning at 8 a.m. Weight room testing begins at 10:45 a.m., followed by drills on the outdoor surface. The event is closed to fans.
According to UM, no live TV coverage or online streaming will be available. NFL Network and ESPN plan to send reporters.
It’s appropriate that Navaughn Donaldson chose No. 55. Those are two wide numbers, side-by-side. Had the incoming freshman chosen a more svelte pair of digits, like No. 71, they might have become lost on his back.
Yes, Donaldson, UM’s top offensive line recruit, is a mountain of a man. He is listed at 6-foot-6, and soon after he arrived on campus in January, one teammate estimated he was carrying 375 pounds. The school’s online roster initially pegged him at 335, which is more of a goal than accurate reporting. The spring sheet handed out to reporters Tuesday has him at a believable 350.
We say that to say this: you forget that when you see him run around.
Donaldson got his first reps in a Hurricanes helmet on Tuesday, and people inside the program are no less excited than they were when he enrolled in January. He has the potential to be a starter in year one — he was lining up as the first-team right tackle on Tuesday — and for an offensive line that has struggled in recent seasons, represents a very bright future.
“That’s a big, strong kid,” said defensive tackle Kendrick Norton, no pipsqueak himself at 6-3 and 312 pounds. “He works hard. He’s a big body. I like him.”
He’s not alone.
Offensive line coach Stacy Searels made no bones about it on signing day, calling him “a very talented and large human being” who is expected to “compete for a job this year.”
Footage of Donaldson in high school shows him mainly at right tackle, mauling overmatched high-schoolers. The first play of his highlight tape is an eye-popper. He lines up at the 27-yard line, slips through the defensive line and rumbles diagonally downfield to bowl over a defender near the sideline at the 47. On another play, he sprints more than 50 yards to throw a block as his running back hits the end zone. He’s lifting high school safeties off the ground, like something out of The Blind Side.
“He has pretty quick feet,” former UM All-American and NFL Pro Bowler Bryant McKinnie said in a UM-produced video, adding that “it is pretty rare” to be that big and that light of foot.
High school highlight tapes represent the best a player has to offer, and college is a different game entirely. The physical advantages many linemen enjoy as prep stars disappear quickly. A good college tackle must have the strength to move 300-pounders, the quickness to kick-step in balance with speedy linebackers and ends and the punch to knock them off-stride. They must work in concert with others and be nasty enough to dominate.
Nearly all high school linemen must either add or drop significant bulk, and Donaldson is no different. But Searels is eager.
“I can’t wait to get my hands on him this spring and really work with him,” he said. “Get a grasp of our system, our scheme, our technique. Physically, he’s got all the tools you’re looking for. It’ll be a process. Hopefully by the time that first game rolls around, he’ll be ready to play.”
On Tuesday, he impressed Kc McDermott, a rising senior who worked next to him at right guard. The goal there, coach Mark Richt said, was to put Donaldson next to a veteran to help him learn. There’s no reason Donaldson can’t become UM’s starting right tackle as a freshman, as Ereck Flowers didin 2012.
Flowers played left tackle the next two years, left for the NFL early was a first-round pick of the New York Giants. UM hasn’t had a first-rounder up front in the last two seasons. If Donaldson arrives quickly — and enrolling early will help immensely — and the offensive line gels, the Hurricanes’ quarterback-to-be-named-later will be thankful.
“Navaughn did a really good job today, especially for his first practice as a freshman,” McDermott said. “He has been one guy that is relentlessly asking me questions.
“Me and him got together, we’ve been working with the playbook, we’ve been talking to each other constantly, we’ve been working outside on Saturdays on our off days just to fine-tune his technique. He’s obviously got a long way to go, but he did a really good job today. Just very impressed with how he works. That goes for the entire offensive line.”
SPRING FOOTBALL 2017
Position-by-position previews and projected depth charts:
ESPN’s Jon Gruden‘s annual “QB Camp” series brings the top quarterbacks in the NFL Draft to the network for a film session and some of Gruden’s trademark weirdness.
Brad Kaaya, you’re up.
ESPN posted two videos with Gruden, the former Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach, and the former Hurricanes quarterback. First, Gruden asks Kaaya about his first college start, when Louisville smacked him around in a Sept. 1, 2014 loss.
“This is a tough way to start,” he said. “But I learned a lot. I knew there would be times were I’d have to take shots and I wasn’t going to feel great. But at the end of the day, this ‘U’ means a lot more than my body, than someone else’s body, than anyone else around me.
In another installment, Gruden seems ready to grill Kaaya about Miami’s 2015 loss to Cincinnati — the game that, if we may editorialize a little, accelerated Al Golden‘s firing — but winds up suggesting old music for him to listen to.
Count Florida International coach Butch Davis, who visited the NFL Scouting Combine as an NFL assistant and head coach following his pair of stints at Miami, among those who believe it’s a little puffed up.
“There’s parts of it that are good and then some of it clearly highly overrated, because a lot of those kids look good in those drills but can’t play a lick,” he said Monday on 790 The Ticket.
“The biggest part that you get out of it is the medical and the opportunity to get interviews. You do see some things athletically that either validate or [call into] question some of the video that you’ve watched.”
Here’s what this year’s group of Hurricanes draft hopefuls put on tape over the last week in Indianapolis, and what scouts are reportedly saying:
TE David Njoku
Didn’t blaze through the 40 — 4.64, though some close to him thought he could run sub-4.6 — but Njoku performed the explosive-power drills well. His vertical leap (37.5 inches), broad jump (133) and three-cone drill (6.97 seconds) were top-five among tight ends at the combine. His broad jump was tied for sixth among all players. Good, but not quite the record-setting performance he wanted.
He also produced 21 bench reps and a 4.34 20-yard shuttle. NFL.com’s analysis: “He is still growing into his body and has to add to his play strength, but his playmaking potential and elite traits should make him a first-round pick and a future Pro Bowler.”
QB Brad Kaaya
Didn’t run the 40, which didn’t help those concerned about his athleticism. But Kaaya, who reflected on his time at UM in media interviews, reportedly had a strong workout Saturday:
"The [QB] that maybe helped himself more than anybody [today]: Brad Kaaya. He had a great workout this morning." – @MoveTheSticks
“I really love his mental makeup and want to like him more as a prospect,” an NFC Director of Pro Personnel told NFL.com. “I just think someone is going to overdraft the person or the intangibles. At the end of the day, he has to throw with better accuracy and velocity or he’ll be just another guy.”
Coley tied for 12th among receivers in the 40 (4.45) and as expected, didn’t produce eye-popping strength numbers (10 reps on bench). His vertical (34 inches) and broad jump (122) didn’t stand out. An NFC North scout talking to NFL.com had this assessment: “He needs a lot of work but I think he has enough talent to play in the league. I just have doubts that he loves the game. He is notorious over there for kind of coasting on his talent rather than putting in the work he should be. If he’s not committed to the NFL process, he will be gone early.”
CB Corn Elder
At Elder’s size — 5-10, 183 pounds — a fast 40 time could keep his stock high. His 4.55 clip won’t help him with some teams, but apparently, some teams wouldn’t take him based on size alone. “I love the player, but he’s too small for what we are asked to look for,” one NFC North area scout told NFL.com. “But someone else is going to get a good player. I would fight for him if I could.”
S Rayshawn Jenkins
Raise your hand if you thought Jenkins (4.51) would outrun Elder (4.54) at the combine. That’s a good result for Jenkins, who recorded nine interceptions, 15 passes defended and 201 tackles in 38 career games at Miami. He was was a top performer among safeties in the bench press (19 reps), jumped 37 inches and broad-jumped 128. “He’s not perfect, but come on. He’s big, fast and strong. I mean, if you don’t want that then I don’t know what to say,” an NFC East Coast area scout told NFL.com.
S Jamal Carter
He was a step behind Jenkins in the 40 (4.64), vertical leap (35 inches) and broad jump (122) and tied him with 19 reps on the bench, but Carter’s rock-solid frame (6-1, 218) has always impressed scouts. “I don’t see the ball skills to be a starter but guys that look like that make rosters,” an NFC Director of Personnel told NFL.com after watching Carter at practices for the Shrine Game.
OL Danny Isidora
A solid-but-unspectacular performer the last three years for Miami, Isidora helped himself at the combine. His 5.03 40 was fifth among offensive linemen, and 26 reps on the bench tied for seventh. Other numbers: 29-inch vertical, 94-inch broad jump, 8.13-second three-cone drill and 4.9-second 20-yard shuttle.
P Justin Vogel
Impressed with a 4.70 time in the 40. That was best among punters and better than every offensive lineman who participated in the drill. It was better than one wide receiver, four running backs and four tight ends. It was better than all but four quarterbacks, all but 12 defensive linemen and 13 linebackers. He was slower than every defensive back, though. Vogel also produced a 34-inch vertical and checked in at 6-4 and 219 pounds.
DE Al-Quadin Muhammad
Had a lot to prove entering the combine, considering he has played one of the previous three seasons because of off-the-field issues. Didn’t want to say much about the past. NFL.com writes he has the “physical traits to warrant a look” though his game is basic and underdeveloped. Muhammad was a top performer in the 60-yard shuttle (12.14 seconds) and ran a 4.88 40. Other results: 22 bench reps, 30.5-inch vertical, 117-inch broad jump, 7.25 three-cone, 4.47-second 20-yard shuttle.
INDIANAPOLIS — Former Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya said Friday at the NFL Scouting Combine that he feels he could have won a national championship if he’d stayed at Miami.
But Kaaya has no regrets about his decision to bypass his senior season, as he’s long dreamed of playing in the NFL
“I thought of both scenarios, but at the end of the day it was an opportunity that I’ve wanted since I was six years old — to play in the National Football League,” Kaaya said. “And while I think I could have won a national championship and a conference championship had I stayed at Miami, it’s always been a dream of mine to play in the Super Bowl — and play in an NFC Championship or AFC Championship. Be a Pro Bowler. I’ve been watching the NFL since I was 6 years old. I believed in my decision. I’m not really regretting anything. I believe in myself. I’ve believed in myself every step of the way.”
Kaaya believes Miami will be a College Football Playoff contender in 2017.
“I think Miami., I think they’ll be in good hands,” Kaaya said. “We won the first bowl game in 10 years, finished on a five-game win streak, and that hadn’t been done since 2001. I think we made a lot of progress and changed the way that Miami is viewed in the public, in Florida and across the country. I think we reversed some of the, I guess, stigma that the U had. It’s been awesome. Coach Richt will have them back on the right page pretty soon. I think next season they’ll be a playoff contender, no doubt.”
Kaaya declined to predict who will succeed him at Miami.
“I dunno,” Kaaya said. “I really couldn’t tell you, man. All the QBs there are pretty good. I think no matter who the quarterback is, I think they’re going to be set. I don’t think they’ll be in a position where they’ll have to depend on a guy to have a 300-yard game every game and make extremely crazy plays. I think the defense will be great. I think the offense has a couple skills guys coming back, and the whole o-line returns. They’ll all be three-year starters on the –line. I think they’ll be set. Plus Mark Walton in the backfield too. he’s phenomenal. You’ll be hearing about him next year.”
Kaaya said Dak Prescott’s success after the Dallas Cowboys drafted him in the fourth round last season is encouraging. Many are predicting Kaaya to be a late-round draft choice.
“Just motivates me,” Kaaya said of Prescott. “It shows that it doesn’t matter what round you go, it doesn’t matter where you are, all you need is just one opportunity. Dak came in and focused. He clearly got better from the time he left college and up until when he was drafted, and I’m sure even after the draft he put in work. And it just shows what believing in yourself can do. I believe in myself and I believe in decision. I’ve believed in myself every step of the way and I felt that I can make an impact wherever I end up.”
As Kaaya meets with many teams here at the combine, he’s asked about various concepts used in the NFL. Kaaya feels he has an advantage in those meetings.
“A lot of it I’ve seen in my three (Miami) offenses,” Kaaya said.