Jaquan Johnson, Sheldrick Redwine embrace new roles for upcoming season

Junior tight end David Njoku (86) goes up against another player in football practice Friday morning at Greentree Practice Fields. Joshua White // Contributing Photographer

On Wednesday, defensive backs Corn Elder and Rayshawn Jenkins showed their skills at Pro Day at the Greentree Practice Fields.

After Thursday morning practice, it was clear that for the University of Miami, the focus is on the future – the next men up to take the reigns in the secondary.

Junior defensive backs Jaquan Johnson Jr. and Sheldrick Redwine Jr. are expected to compete heavily for the starting spots that have been left open by many of the graduating seniors, including Elder and Jenkins, who are entering the 2017 NFL Draft.

Johnson and Redwine have similar stories. Both are locals – they attended Miami Killian Senior High – and both have the opportunity to go from being situational role-players to every-down starters for the Miami Hurricanes.

“We stay together,” Redwine said. “He’s right there, I’m right here. It’s like high school.”

Johnson played in all 13 games last season for the Hurricanes and started in five of them after starting in none his freshman year. He exhibited Swiss-Army-knife qualities, doing a little bit of everything on defense. Standing at 5 feet 11, 190 pounds, Johnson recorded 38 total tackles, three tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks and one interception.

“Jaquan has a natural upbeat personality that other guys want to get excited to play with,” defensive coordinator Manny Diaz said after practice.

Coaches are looking for Johnson to take on a bigger load next season.

“He has taken a leadership role,” Diaz said. “In an instant, he has gone to being the most experienced guy we have in the back end. But, I think he is relishing that role. He’s keeping everyone going in all the drills, being first in every line. [He is] doing what a guy should do when it’s his turn to be the head guy.”

Redwine, standing at 6 feet 1 and 195 pounds, had an excellent start to the 2016 season, but his inconsistent play in the second half of the season forced Diaz to pull him from the starting lineup. Like Johnson, Redwine started in five games. He collected 28 total tackles, two pass break-ups and one forced fumble.

However, unlike Johnson, Redwine has switched positions. He played cornerback last year, but since then the coaching staff has chosen to see if his skill set is better fit to play safety.

So far, Diaz has liked what he’s seen.

“Looks like it’s working out for him right now,” Diaz said. “He looks like he’s having fun playing football. From what I have seen so far, he has really embraced the role and is running with it.”

Redwine says he is transitioning well while learning all the new plays. He made note to take after what Johnson does – to “see what he does and try to take that to the game.”

But when it comes down to it – regardless of position– Redwine will do what is necessary to be successful and help his team win.

“Whatever they need me to do – if they put me at d-line, I’ll play d-line,” Redwine said. “I’m a football player. You want to play me there, I’m going to play there.”

The juniors have had a close relationship for years. They played together in high school, they are roommates at Miami and now have a shot to play across from each other on a consistent basis.

“I was excited, another [Killian] Cougar back there with me, so I was just thinking we will do some damage together,” Johnson said. “The bond is there. The brotherhood is there. We have been working on the playbook since they made the transition of him at safety. It is just us working on our little details together.”

Both players have shown glimpses of high-level play – starter-level play. Now, as spring training continues and summer approaches, the time has come for the two Killian grads to show why they deserve to be the lead guys in the backend come fall.



Follow sports reporter Isaiah Kim-Martinez on Twitter at @isaiah5740