Miami's best player last season was in the secondary. He played college football for all of one season after spending four years at point guard for the RedHawks. He was named MAC Defensive Player of the Year after recording 72 tackles and seven interceptions in the only twelve games of his career. He was drafted by the Green Bay Packers in the second round. His name is Quinten Rollins, and he's not walking through that door.
Charged with replacing Rollins as a beast in the defensive backfield is Heath Harding, a junior safety who played in all twelve games last season, starting nine. Although his interception numbers weren't as flashy as Rollins, he did manage two picks while leading the RedHawks in tackles: his 85.5 accounted for a full 12.7% of all tackles recorded by the Miami defense last year, according to SBN's own Bill C.*
Harding's work hasn't gone unnoticed. Like fellow defenders Kent Kern (#62 in our countdown) and Bryson Albright (#52 in our countdown), he was named to Phil Steele's preseason All-MAC Third Team. And like Kern (a linebacker) and Albright (a lineman), he'll be expected to anchor a defensive unit this year—continuing the collegiate shift for the onetime regional offensive player of the year at Dayton Christian High School, where he rushed for 5,124 yards at a 14.1 yards per carry pace during his career.
Will Heath Harding take Quinten Rollins' place? No, because he isn't a cornerback. But he's demonstrated talent, results, and leadership ability. Maybe the better comparison in recent Miami history for Harding isn't Rollins, but the fearsome safety Matt Pusateri. If Harding's junior year in 2015 is anything like Pusateri's in 2003, the rest of the MAC should watch out.
*Miami credits Harding with 98 tackles last season. I'm not sure who's right.