So it’s not often that you have a chance to post a picture of a running back-at-the-time as the featured image in a preview post about the safeties, but here we are. With the stunning news of Rayshawn Jenkins‘s season ending injury surfacing yesterday, at least one of the safety spots is now completely up in the air. As Andrew mentioned in the post I just linked, the loss of Jenkins is a significant blow, but it does not spell Y2K-level doom for the Hurricanes’ secondary. We wish Rayshawn nothing but the best in his recovery and we now turn our attention to those who will take the field with the ‘Canes in 2014 at the safety position.
Junior Deon Bush arrived in Coral Gables two years ago with huge expectations after being ranked as the #5 safety in his class and choosing the ‘Canes over the likes of Florida, Florida State, Alabama and Auburn. The results in his first two years have been mixed, but with a starting role all but cemented this year, he seems poised to make a leap. After starting six games as a freshman, he dropped to just three starts in 2013 while playing in eleven games. Over the past two years, he registered 65 tackles, including 2 sacks (most notably dropping Teddy Bridgewater in his own endzone for a safety in last year’s Russell Athletic Bowl), and an interception of Jameis Winston in Tallahassee. Bush has good size (6’1”, 198 lbs.) and speed and I expect him to start most—if not all—of Miami’s games this year and drastically step up his play. Even so, hopefully his tackle numbers on tick up only a little because the front seven should allow fewer plays to get to the second level in 2014.
When Miami first announced Dallas’s move to safety, I thought it reeked of desperation and a lack of depth. Obviously, I was way off. As Andrew pointed out yesterday, Miami is as deep at safety as it’s been since Golden arrived and ditto for running back, which enabled Dallas to make the jump. My skepticism has quickly turned to excitement as I’ve read the news coming out of camp—the junior has really impressed at safety both in spring practice and fall camp. Last year, he was a workhorse for the ‘Canes at tailback, both spelling Duke Johnson and taking the reigns after his unfortunate injury in Tallahassee. If his rushing style indicates anything, he’ll be a very physical safety as well and receivers going over the middle better be careful. He’ll also be a constant threat to blitz. Crawford is no stranger to the defensive secondary—he played corner in addition to running back in high school and Rivals tabbed him as the #27 cornerback in his class. Those skills will give him the versatility to step into a man coverage role when the scheme calls for it. With Dallas sitting on top of the current depth chart, I’m buying into the hype and ready to call him a projected starter. He’ll likely slot into the role that Rayshawn would have filled and mitigate his loss. What a call by Golden to move Dallas back in the spring.
Sophomore Jamal Carter was a consensus four-star out of high school and entered Miami ranked as the #17 safety in his class by Rivals. Last year, he saw the field in 12 games, but almost completely on special teams. While you could argue that burning a year of Jamal’s eligibility on special teams duty was a massive oversight by the staff (and you would be correct), that should be somewhat mitigated down the road by the arrival of two highly touted newcomers who I’ll get to in a second. At 6’1”, 213 pounds, Jamal is the biggest safety on the squad and should see significant playing time in 2014. As a senior at Miami Southridge, he recorded 73 tackles and showed tremendous range. Carter has a lot of potential and while he’s yet to put it all together, he’ll definitely push the starters and continue to develop in 2014.
The Hurricanes feature a pair of true freshman safeties who have a good shot at seeing the field in 2014. While it’s certainly not out of the question that one could redshirt, it’s now much more of a long shot with the Jenkins injury and I wouldn’t be surprised if both get some meaningful reps.
Gayot, a 6’1”, 205 pounder out of Lake Worth, Florida, originally committed to Louisville before flipping to the ‘Canes. (I wouldn’t want to play for Bobby Petrino either, man.) Ranked nationally as a three-star and the #74 safety in his class by 247 Composite, Gayot has impressed in fall camp and worked his way up to second behind Dallas Crawford on the Hurricanes’ first depth chart. As oft-repeated, take this with a grain of salt, but Gayot has turned some heads. He is certainly more physical than your average safety (sensing a theme with this group?) and has great size to boot. Expect to see #7 on the field this fall.
Coming into camp, Kiy Hester was one of the most hyped recruits of the class of 2014. With a similar 6′, 200 pound build to Gayot, Hester is another physical safety with the skills and strength to step in and play as a true freshman. Also a successful flip (from Rutgers), Hester picked up four stars from the 247 Composite and ranked as the #31 safety in his class nationally. He comes out of DePaul Catholic in New Jersey, a very fertile poaching ground for Al Golden. While he was not listed on the Hurricanes’ first depth chart, don’t let that fool you as he is definitely ahead of Hugo Delaphena Jr. At this point, Hester has better physical tools than Gayot and will also see the field if he can put them together. However, if someone in this group is going to redshirt, it’s likely Kiy.
Also On The Depth Chart
Hugo, a redshirt senior, will more than likely only play on special teams and in mop-up duty like he did in 2013. However, I had the privilege of working with him as an IM sports referee last year and he’s a great guy and ambassador for the program. I’ll certainly be rooting for Hugo this year.