Miami football will lean on young players as key part of rotation

Sep 30, 2021; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 30, 2021; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports /

The freshmen on the Miami football team played their greatest amount of snaps in Thursday’s loss to Virginia. This includes both true and second-year freshmen. Wide receivers Xavier RestrepoRomello BrinsonBrashard Smith, Jacolby George combined for 58 snaps for the Hurricanes against the Cavaliers.

In his second season after not playing, quarterback Tyler Van Dyke has become the starter this season with D’Eriq King injured. Van Dyke was 15-29 for 203 yards, one touchdown, no inteceptions and had a critical 24 yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. He was throwing to multple freshmen WRs.

Breshard Smith had three carries for eight yards and one reception for eight yards. Second-year freshman Keyshawn Smith had one for six and Restrepo one for 45. Brinson and George did not record a reception. Running back Jaylan Knighton in his second season had 15 carries for 44 yards in his season debut.

Miami freshmen played extensively on defense against the Cavaliers. True defensive tackle Leonard Taylor had his career debut against Central Connecticut State but his breakout game against Virginia. Playing just 21 tackles, Taylor had two tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, 0.5 sacks and one pass breakup.

Defensive end Jahfari Harvey is in his third season with the Miami football program but is a freshman in eligibility after redshirting in 2019 and receiving an extra year because of Covid in 2020. Harvey had two tackles, 0.5 TFLs and 0.5 sacks in 38 snaps against Virginia. Harvey has seven tackles, three TFLs and 2.5 TFLs this season.

In his second season with Miami, DE Chantz Williams has become an important part of the Hurricanes rotation of edge rushers. Williams had three tackles 0.5 TFLs and 0.5 sacks in 32 snaps against Virginia. In 2021 Williams has nine tackles, 1.5 TFLs, 1.5 sacks and one pass breakup. Harvey and Williams are the future edge-rusher.

Defensive lineman Elijah Roberts had the first TFL and sack of his career against Virginia playing 28 snaps. Roberts finished with one tackle, 0.5 TFL and 0.5 sacks against the Cavaliers. The week prior against Central Connecticut State Roberts recorded the first three tackles of his Miami career.

Linebacker Corey Flagg in his second season has started all year. Flagg has 19 tackles, 1.5 TFLs and 1.0 sacks this season. If not for the extra year granted because of Covid, Flagg would be a sophomore. Only  Van Dyke played more snaps among the freshman for Miami against Virginia.

Flagg played 67 snaps against the Cavaliers. Chase Smith who could be the future for Miami at striker made the most of his opportunities. In two snaps, Smith recorded one assisted tackle. Cornerback Marcus Clarke is another Miami player who could be a sophomore in eligibility. Clarke has one unassisted tackle against Virginia.

True freshman safeties Kamren Kinchens and James Williams provide Miami with a stellar tandem at the position for at least the next two seasons. Williams played the most extensive action of his Miami career with 52 snaps against Virginia. Against the Cavaliers Williams recorded two tackles.

Williams has six tackles, one interception and one pass breakup. Kinchens played 32 snaps against VIrginia with one tackle. For the season, Kinchens has 10 tackles, one pass breakup and one forced fumble. Kinchens has shown good instincts. Williams and Kinchens will likely push starter Gurvan Hall throughout the season.

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Miami signed the 17th best class in 2020 and 11th in 2021. The young players on the Miami football roster will continue to receive more snaps. Manny Diaz’s job might depend on the young players performing at a high level. Miami could have as many six freshmen listed as first-team when they play North Carolina on October 16.