For years, Miami showed off an envious pool of talent at the defensive back position that made a striking impact on the collegiate football scene. From former Hurricanes Ed Reed to Kenny Phillips, the Orange and Green could count on playmakers in the secondary.
But last season, the Canes as a team intercepted a record-low four picks and failed to find a difference maker.
“We have guys returning like myself,” said senior safety Randy Phillips, who tore his lateral collateral ligament in his knee the third game of the season and was sidelined the remainder of the year. “We have guys that are coming back with more experience. We are definitely looking to get more interceptions this season.”
There is little depth at cornerback as only three players return with experience. Senior Chavez Grant, junior DeMarcus Van Dyke and sophomore Brandon Harris will all compete for playing time.
Grant has two career interceptions, while Harris recorded the first interception of his career in last season’s finale. Van Dyke played very well in the Emerald Bowl, tallying a career-high five solo tackles.
This season, much is expected from Harris. He is the only defensive back returning from last year’s unit with an interception.
“Brandon has been good for us,” head coach Randy Shannon said. “He’s a lot better than he was last year at this time, a trillion times better. He’s making plays out there. He’s knocking balls down, got some interceptions. He’s having fun with it. That’s what is different about this team. They’re having fun with everything they do each day.”
Van Dyke feels his time is now. He has only started 10 times in 25 games played.
“I’m ready to explode this year. I’m trying to have that swagger like I had my freshman year to make plays for my team,” he said. “I’m ready to prove all the doubters wrong. We have to bring the swagger back.”
Two other corners – freshman Brandon McGee, who enrolled in the spring, and converted senior wide receiver Sam Shields – could provide support. McGee was the 10th best cornerback according to Rivals.com, while Shields is the fastest player on the team with a 4.20 40-yard dash.
Redshirt Vaughn Telemaque, who chose Miami over the University of Southern California, has been compared by Shannon to Reed, the Baltimore Ravens’ pro bowler.
“There’s going to be really great things out of this secondary group along with the whole defense,” Telemaque said. “It’s going to be very exciting.”
One player that all eyes should be on is freshman Ray Ray Armstrong. With time, he will get the chance to prove his talent.
“I going to do my part to help Miami win,” Armstrong said. “I don’t think about [the hype]too much. I’m trying to work hard and help my team win.”
The secondary feels this season could be a building block for seasons to come as a new batch of players hope to continue UM’s legacy of greats.
“I feel good about the camaraderie,” Telemaque said. “I’m so excited to be part of this team because I feel we can be No. 1 in the country.”