Jacksonville Sports Day

ACC: Miami Hurricanes Prepare for Pitt, Senior Week

Photo by University of Miami Athletics

CORAL GABLES, Fla. – Senior week is always tough in college football.

It marks the beginning of the end for so many players around the country that have devoted themselves to playing football for the college football program that means so much to them.

At the University of Miami, 26 seniors are preparing for their final home game at Hard Rock Stadium. The reality has set in. Saturday’s game against Pitt will mark their final time wearing a Hurricanes uniform in front of their home fans.

“It’s going to be a very emotional game,” defensive back Jaquan Johnson said. “Last time playing with my brothers. I’m looking forward to it.”

There is no shortage of outstanding seniors at Miami in 2018, as this year’s class is loaded with impact performers, but there is no position group at Miami with a bigger collection of senior standouts than the Hurricanes’ secondary.

Johnson and fellow senior stars Michael Jackson and Sheldrick Redwine make up 75 percent of Miami’s starting secondary and they are a big reason why the Hurricanes have one of the best defenses in America.

“You can’t be good in college football without having a good secondary,” defensive coordinator Manny Diaz said. “It doesn’t even start with pass defense numbers, it’s tackling first. In this day and age, when the ball gets out in the secondary, which it can do often to get the ball out there. The ability to have a secondary that can get the ball on the ground gives your whole defense confidence. Those guys are special. They’ve been in our program for three years now. I think a lot of credit has to go to Coach [Ephraim] Banda and Coach [Mike] Rumph, who’ve done an amazing job.”

Every member of Miami’s defense is proud of how they contribute to the collective success of the unit, but the secondary is especially gratified by how they help stop opposing players in their tracks.

“They told us some statistic about yards per pass that we were doing good in, but for me personally I say it’s the way we tackle,” Redwine said. “I think we are the best tackling defensive back group. You look around the nation, just the way we tackle… Coach Diaz brings us out every week and we practice tackling and they make sure… People are going to catch a ball on you, it comes with the position, but I feel like we get the ball on the ground. ”

The trio of Johnson, Jackson and Redwine have forged an unbreakable bond over their four seasons at Miami. While Saturday’s game will be their last home game as Canes, they know they have a lifetime of friendship ahead of them.

“It’s going to be our last game, but on the next level we’ll either play against each other or play on the same team,” Jackson said. “It’s not like a ‘goodbye, I’ll never see you again’ kind of like in high school. It’s kind of like, we might not be on the same team, but we still have Pro Day together and the combine. We still have all this stuff together.”

Johnson and Redwine have been teammates since before Miami, dating back to their days of optimist football and continuing at Miami Killian Senior High School.

“It’s going to feel like high school when we played our last game,” Johnson said. “I wasn’t sure if Red was coming to UM, then he finally made that decision to come to UM. As far as playing our last game at Hard Rock, I’m pretty sure it’s going to be emotional for us at the end of the game, during the game and all throughout the game.”

“It’s somebody who I’ve known for countless years,” Redwine said. “He’s a great teammate, on and off the field. We’re roommates, we have the same birthday and have the same interests and everything. Having that person who has been through what you’ve been through and has came from the same neighborhood, that’s a blessing to me.”

Ask any senior and they will tell you their time at Miami was a blur. Four years may seem like a long time from the outside, but the Canes feel like they just arrived on campus as true freshman.

“It’s fast,” Redwine said. “I tell the young guys that all the time and to make the most out of the time you guys have here because it’ll go by fast. Me and MikeJack we’re just talking about it a couple days ago and we’re talking about the first day we stepped on campus and where we took a picture. It’s crazy. A lot of stuff comes at you. You blink, you look up and they’re talking about ‘it’s time for you to go.'”

But the Canes are not ready to go just yet and they certainly do not want to leave Hard Rock Stadium without a victory on Saturday, especially after last season’s loss at Pittsburgh in the regular season finale.

“You know it hurt because we all felt there was more stuff we could’ve done to prevent it, but it’s last year,” Redwine said. “I’m not thinking about that at all. It’s another game. They run the ball very good. They have two running backs. That’s the main thing we have to focus on. We have to stop the run.”

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