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Hurricanes return deep receiver room, complemented by new transfers, freshmen

The 2024 season is on the horizon, and Hurricanes fans hope to see a major step forward in Year 3 of the Mario Cristobal era.

As Miami keeps adding talent through high school and transfer portal recruiting, UM appears poised to be a major contender in the ACC this season.

This summer, we will take a look at a different position group each week to see who departed, who arrived and who should have big impacts this year.

Last week, we previewed the Hurricanes’ running back corps. This week, we’ll look at more offensive skill players: wide receivers.

Who left

Like other positions, the Hurricanes lost several wide receivers to a combination of graduation and the transfer portal.

The biggest loss to the room did come via the transfer portal. Colbie Young, an 11-game starter last year, left Miami for greener pastures up north. The 6-foot-5 receiver will try his luck at perennial powerhouse Georgia.

Young is a tough player to replace. His size is an innate characteristic that makes him a challenge to cover. In two seasons at UM, he had 79 catches for 930 yards and 10 touchdowns. Last year, Young had 47 catches for 563 yards and five scores. Pro Football Focus gave him a 70.2 offensive grade.

The Hurricanes also lost a potential playmaker in Brashard Smith. Like several other Hurricanes the last several years, Smith transferred to SMU, where he could play for former Miami offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee.

Smith, a Miami Palmetto alum, had 770 receiving yards and four touchdowns along with 177 rushing yards and a score in three seasons. He was also a weapon on kick and punt returns, scoring on a key kickoff return against Texas A&M last season.

Smith had 22 catches for 263 yards and a pair of touchdowns last year and had a career-high 132 rushing yards. Pro Football Focus gave him a 68.2 offensive grade with a 70.5 receiving grade and a 55.6 run grade. He also had an 86.9 kickoff return grade, which was fifth in the nation among returners with at least 10 returns.

The Hurricanes also lost Frank Ladson Jr., a Miami native, who transferred to UMass after playing just 23 offensive snaps last year. Tyler Harrell graduated and signed with the New York Jets as an undrafted free agent.

Who returns

Fortunately for Miami, most of their receiving corps from last year returns with another year of experience after strong 2023 campaigns.

Leading the way is slot receiver Xavier Restrepo. The Broward County native had a breakout 2023 campaign, earning first-team All-ACC honors. Restrepo was the sixth receiver in UM history to notch a 1,000-yard season, finishing the year with 1,092 receiving yards and six scores.

He earned an 89 receiving grade from Pro Football Focus, which was 12th in the nation among receivers with at least 50 targets last year.

“He’s as constant as you get. Week in, day in, game in,” UM offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson said in March. “I’ve preached to some other guys, too, that the best players I’ve been around have been the same player every day. That’s probably the biggest compliment I can give a player, and I can give ‘Strep that, that he’s the same every day.”

At outside receiver, Miami also returns Jacolby George. The Plantation alum had a career-best season, finishing fourth in the conference with 867 receiving yards on 57 catches. He led the Hurricanes with eight touchdown catches.

George, a third-team All-ACC pick, had a 73.4 offensive grade last year, but he has shown a knack for getting poorly timed penalties. George was also arrested in Volusia County in January on charges of racing on the highway and having an unlawful registration. Adjudication was withheld in his case.

“I think initially, yeah, that comes to mind right away because it’s not part of the DNA of the program,” Cristobal said when asked in March whether he considered dropping George from the program. “It’s not who we want to be as a program. and then you also have to stop for a second and think it’s your job to find a way to get it right until you can’t get it right. We’ve invested a lot in him, and there’s been a lot of growth and development, and it’s time for that to show as a teammate, as a guy who’s completely committed to being the best he can be to help the team win. I believe we’re headed in the right direction, and I think he knows that. And I think this is going to end really well with him.”

The Hurricanes bring back several reserve wide receivers who will compete for larger roles.

Isaiah Horton is poised to play a bigger role this year after making 18 catches for 168 yards and a score last season. He drew positive reviews during spring camp and could fill the spot vacated by Young, even though he is not as tall as Young. Horton scored two touchdowns in Miami’s spring game.

A pair of young wide receivers could also get more playing time this season.

Ray Ray Joseph looked promising in limited time last season, notching 36 yards on six catches. He also performed well on special teams. Fellow second-year Robby Washington, who spent some time in spring camp working at cornerback, had only a handful of snaps on offense last season but earned praise in spring.

“They know that getting reps is not easy because we have a thousand-yard receiver that plays the position that they play,” Dawson said in spring. “Now we can do other things to get people on the field with multiple guys at that position, but ultimately, they’ve got to raise their level.”

Who arrives

There are four new wide receivers on the team for 2024, and all of them have a chance to make a quick impact.

Transfer Sam Brown Jr. is the most likely new receiver to get significant playing time. Brown transferred from Houston in April, and he brings a strong resume. Brown had 815 receiving yards and three cored on 62 catches last season. He earned a 72.9 receiving rating from PFF.

The Hurricanes brought in three wide receivers in their 2024 recruiting class.

Chance Robinson was one of UM’s longest-tenured recruits in the class. A St. Thomas Aquinas alum, he will get his first full practices with Miami in the fall. Robinson was a four-star prospect and the No. 31 receiver in the class, according to 247Sports’ composite rankings.

Two of the new receivers, freshmen Joshisa “JoJo” Trader and Ny Carr, were on campus for spring practice this year. Both made their share of standout plays.

Trader, a star at Chaminade-Madonna in Hollywood, was a four-star prospect and the No. 9 receiver in the class. Carr, a former Georgia commit, was also a four-star prospect and the No. 15 receiver in the class.

“They can run, and their body control is what you think,” Dawson said. “Now like everything, whenever you’re new, you’re not playing instinctive like you can play until you start learning things in a way that everything becomes second nature. But their skill set is what you want them to be.”