With juniors Al Blades Jr. and DJ Ivey returning for the Miami Hurricanes after splitting starts opposite of Trajan Bandy last year, one would assume they’re set as the starting cornerbacks in 2020 with Bandy now gone.

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Not so fast, says UM cornerbacks coach Mike Rumph.

Rumph, who was on the Hurricanes’ 2001 national championship team and was a first-round pick in the NFL draft months later, is rotating all his cornerbacks for first- and second-team reps. Sophomores Te’Cory Couch and Christian Williams and freshmen Marcus Clarke and Isaiah Dunson are working in with Blades and Ivey.

“I’ll say that this is probably the most competition that I’ve seen as a cornerbacks coach here,” said Rumph, who has held his role since 2016, on Thursday. “I don’t have a set starter right now.

“These six guys are going at it every day. What Greentree Practice Field is built off of is what I have going on right now.”

Rumph said Miami has gone through two or three full rotations of all six working with the first team. The Hurricanes record statistics on their performance, and those numbers will determine the starters. Rumph wants to keep that competition for two more weeks before the team settles on starters going into preparation for the opener against UAB on Sept. 10.

“As we buckle down and get ready for a game, it’ll be a little more evident who’s starting,” he said.

Added Blades: “I go into every practice as if nothing is anyone’s. Those guys behind me, Te’Cory and Christian, they’re great corners, and DJ’s a great corner, as well. All four of us, including the freshmen too, anyone can have that job.”

Rumph is trying to get his cornerbacks to get their hands on passes more often. He’s incorporating more ball drills in camp and getting them on the Jugs machine in hopes of increasing interceptions and pass deflections. The Hurricanes had five interceptions from cornerbacks in 2019 – three from Ivey and two from Blades.

The leader in camp interceptions of late? Clarke, the freshman from Winter Park.

“He’s done some things,” said Rumph of Clarke, who had an interception in Sunday’s scrimmage. “He’s got to work on his technique, get technically sound in what he’s doing, but when the ball’s in the air, because he’s played so much receiver [in high school], he does a great job of tracking the ball.”

The four returning cornerbacks are making sure to bring up the freshmen Clarke and Dunson.

“It’s their first camp,” said Ivey, “so making sure they’re on the right path, getting to meetings, make sure they make their meals, checking in and getting everything done that they need to get done was one of the biggest parts for me.”

While Miami ranked No. 18 in pass defense last season, giving up 195.2 yards per game through the air, breakdowns in coverage for big plays was one of the downfalls of the secondary.

With the current group set to be depended on more with Bandy gone, defensive backs are making sure to communicate along the secondary, said Ivey, and to avoid repeating mistakes they make once as they see a look that gives them trouble from UM’s new offense, said Blades.

Ivey said he has improved his press-coverage skills, recognizing routes and identifying wide receiver tendencies.


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