Newcomers are playing huge roles for the Miami Hurricanes this spring. Youth and transience are heavily represented during offseason camp, but Miami’s newest players are flying through their first months as Canes.
Other players have been in Coral Gables for somewhat longer stretches, but are coming off injuries or are simply looking for expanded roles this fall.
Teammates and coaches see this head start paying off in 2021.
One of the spring’s biggest storylines is the development of Miami’s future quarterbacks—Freshmen Tyler Van Dyke and Jake Garcia. While senior D’Eriq King is the unquestioned starting quarterback in 2021, the Canes will have answers at the positions after King leaves.
“It’s not like they’re freshman quarterbacks,” receiver Dee Wiggins said. “They play like they’ve been here before. They’re doing better than any freshman would ever do.”
Both Van Dyke and Garcia have received first-team reps this spring, alongside third-year passer Payton Matocha. With Garcia only being cleared to return from a foot injury one day before UM’s initial spring scrimmage, Van Dyke may be slightly ahead of the pack.
“We’re just getting better as practice goes on,” said Charleston Rambo, a wide receiver and transfer from Oklahoma. “Just being around the guys every day, being in so many group chats, is [making] each other better.”
Rambo caught 76 passes in three years at Oklahoma for 1,180 yards and nine touchdowns. He was a part of two College Football Playoff teams, and helped lead the Sooners to a Big 12 Title and a Cotton Bowl win over Florida last season.
One area of improvement for Miami is the wide receiver room. Mike Harley led UM with 730 receiving yards in 2020, but only pro-bound tight end Brevin Jordan had more than 400 yards in 2020.
Harley returning to Coral Gables as a redshirt senior, the continued development of targets including Wiggins, Mark Pope and underclassman receivers, as well as the addition of Rambo are all boosts to the position group.
“It’s more competition,” Wiggins said. “Working hard, we’re pushing hard every day. We have something new every day at practice. Every time we watch film, coach [Rob Likens] gets on us about little details.”
On defense, linebacker Avery Huff will be a redshirt freshman once again in 2021 after the NCAA granted one year of eligibility relief to all student athletes due to the coronavirus pandemic. A season ago, Huff saw game action mostly in special teams. He is looking to turn a corner in on-field productivity.
“Understanding exactly how the coaches want me to play,” Huff said, is a basic facet of spring practice. But the simple piece of advice can allow players like him to reach the next level in development. “Now that I have a good understanding…I feel like the sky is the limit.”
Huff says he has worked with members of the defensive line on pass rushing and blitz stills. He has rotated with the first and second team defense this spring. A four-star product in the 2020 class, he ranked No. 12 nationally among outside linebackers according to 247Sports.
Safety Avantae Williams is also working his way into the depth chart after missing all of 2020. He recorded an interception in Miami’s first closed-door scrimmage, jumpstarting his first weeks in full practice as a Hurricane.
“It was good to get an interception, have a play on the ball and have my teammates surround me excited,” Williams said. “It just feels good to be back out there with the guys, learning from the older players, finding a way to fit into the defense.”
Williams entered UM as the No. 2 safety in the class of 2020, a four-star prospect according to 247Sports, out of Deland, Fla. While he was able to work out, watch film and do light drills last fall, this spring is his collegiate breakout.
The Canes conclude spring practice this week before Saturday’s annual spring game. The game—scheduled for 11 a.m. at Hard Rock Stadium—will be closed to the public but available on ACC Network. It will be the final time Miami is displayed on a television audience before its Sept. 4 season opener in Atlanta against Alabama.