Artie Burns is ready for the NFL. He didn't always play like a top flight prospect this season -- the defensive philosophy installed by Al Golden and Mark D'Onofrio was a big reason for that -- but he's a big time player who will likely be taken very early in April's draft.
Tracy Howard is graduating, which means the Canes will be losing two of their top three cornerbacks from the 2015 season. Junior Corn Elder announced Monday that he's returning to school. He will be the team's top corner in 2016, and should be among the best in the conference. There's a big drop-off after Elder though.
Using the next man up philosophy, Sheldrick Redwine will be given the first shot at starting opposite Elder. At 6-foot-1 and 190 pounds, Redwine was a three-star recruit who proved to be the best of Miami's freshman group of corners. He emerged as the team's fourth corner this season and played a key role at times but he's not in the same league as Burns. He won't have the same amount of experience as Artie either, which means there should be a significant drop-off in ability and experience at the other starting corner spot.
Ryan Mayes, Terrance Henley, and Michael Jackson are the other three cornerbacks on the current roster. Mayes has played very little in each of his first two seasons so expectations should be limited for the upcoming third year player. Henley and Jackson both saw the field this season but it was mainly on special teams. Both players were lightly recruited out of high school and weren't expected to be impact players early on.
Had Burns returned for his senior season, Redwine would have been a solid third corner and the others would have competed to provide depth. Now everyone's role will be increased, which makes the cornerback position a bit worrisome heading into the 2016 offseason.
It would make sense for the Canes to turn to the Junior College ranks to find a player who can make an early impact. Ladarius Gunter provided help right away when the Canes. The difference is that he started school in the spring and went through spring practice with the team before earning a spot in the lineup his first fall on campus. The Canes are not expected to have a mid-year transfer at this position.
None of the returning safeties have cornerback experience at this level, which means the Canes will need to turn to one of their incoming freshmen to make an early impact in 2016. Will they be ready to fill such big shoes so early on?
Time will tell.