Miami Hurricanes look to showcase ‘little Deebo Samuel’

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.

After previewing Miami’s talented wide receiver corps last week, now we’ll look at a position group that did not appear much in the passing game last season, the tight ends.

Who left

The Hurricanes return most of their tight ends from last year, but they did lose one promising prospect through the portal: Jaleel Skinner.

Skinner, a Bradenton IMG Academy alum, was a top tight end prospect in Mario Cristobal’s first recruiting class at Miami. He was a four-star prospect and the No. 3 tight end in the 2022 class, according to 247Sports’ composite rankings.

As a freshman in 2022, Skinner had nine catches for 129 yards. But his playing time decreased last season. He had one catch for nine yards, and his offensive snaps dropped from 145 in 2022 to 25 in 2023.

Skinner entered the transfer portal after the season ended, and he stayed in the ACC, landing at Louisville.

Who returns

The Hurricanes bring back most of their tight ends from last season, and UM coaches expect more production from a group that had just 17 catches for 145 yards and one touchdown last year.

Ninth-year tight end Cam McCormick is back, extending his unprecedented career another season. McCormick played more snaps than any other UM tight end last year, playing 564 offensive snaps. He had eight catches for 62 yards.

“Obviously, I had some unfortunate circumstances that happened and I’ve been blessed to be able to play this long,” McCormick said in the spring. “So it’s definitely cool. I’m the first person to play nine years. That’s something that holds value to it, you know what I’m saying? I don’t know if another person will ever get to that point. It’s cool to, I guess, own that title.”

Pro Football Focus did not give McCormick high marks last season, awarding him a 42.8 offensive grade. He had a 35.9 receiving grade. He did receive better marks in blocking, earning a 60.2 pass-blocking grade and a 56.4 run-blocking grade.

Elijah Arroyo is the next longest-tenured tight end. Arroyo played just one game last year as he recovered from a torn ACL, but the redshirt junior has shown he can be a quality player when he is healthy.

“If he’s healthy, he’s a dude,” offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson said in the spring.

The Hurricanes also bring back sophomore Riley Williams, who was Miami’s most productive tight end last year. An IMG Academy alum, Williams had eight catches for 72 yards and a score in his first college season. He played the second-most snaps of Miami’s tight ends last year, earning a 54.9 offensive grade, a 52.6 receiving grade, a 57 pass-blocking grade and a 58 run-blocking grade from PFF.

Williams was a four-star prospect coming out of high school, and he had a strong spring.

“Riley played a lot of football last year as a true freshman,” Dawson said. “That’s hard. Everybody can be critical of guys when they’re freshmen playing at this level. I thought he did a really good job last year, but his ceiling is very, very high

Miami also brings back redshirt freshman Jackson Carver, who played six snaps last year.

“There’s going to be a lot of success in this room, and I don’t want guys to get to that selfish aspect,” McCormick said. “I want us all to celebrate each other’s success and build each other up when we get out there and we each make a play and we can all be happy for each other.”

Who arrived

The Hurricanes added one tight end in the offseason: freshman Elija Lofton.

Lofton was the most-hyped freshman among a talented group who arrived for spring practice. The standout young player arrived from Las Vegas powerhouse Bishop Gorman High, and he came prepared. Lofton quickly made a good impression on teammates and coaches.

“We talked a lot about Rueben Bain last year, early on, and Francis (Mauigoa), and when you start talking about Elija, you feel a little bit the same way,” Cristobal said.

Lofton played tight end and running back in the Hurricanes’ spring game, breaking off a couple of solid runs.

“He’s doing everything well,” Williams said. “He’s out there not only just tight end. He’s playing running back, he’s playing slot. They’re using him all around the field because he’s an all-around guy. He can make those plays. We like to think of him as like a little Deebo Samuel. He’s able to do everything.”