Bubba Bolden is next great Hurricane safety in 2022 NFL Draft

MIAMI, FLORIDA - OCTOBER 05: Bubba Bolden #21 of the Miami Hurricanes reacts against the Virginia Tech Hokies during the second half at Hard Rock Stadium on October 05, 2019 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FLORIDA - OCTOBER 05: Bubba Bolden #21 of the Miami Hurricanes reacts against the Virginia Tech Hokies during the second half at Hard Rock Stadium on October 05, 2019 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

The Miami Hurricanes have an outstanding, storied past of placing great defenders in the NFL, especially at the safety position.

Players like Bennie Blades (1988), Ed Reed (2002), Sean Taylor (2004), and Brandon Meriweather (2007) are just some notable Hurricane safeties that made a sizable impact at the professional level. The next player in line for the Hurricanes in the 2022 NFL Draft is the versatile Bubba Bolden.

Like the greats before him, Bolden is a hard-hitting defensive back and fearless competitor on the field. He plays with tremendous confidence and range from the safety position. The former prep All-American was a welcomed addition to the Miami secondary after transferring from the USC Trojans after the 2017 season. He has the tenacity and makeup to become a high-quality starter at the next level. I will detail below Bolden’s journey to becoming the next standout safety from the Hurricanes’ program.

Former Trojan turned Miami Hurricane

Bubba Bolden was a former four-star recruit and top-70 player emerging from Bishop Gorman high school in Nevada. He chose The USC Trojans over other top programs like Florida, Ohio State, and Oregon. He only recorded 8 tackles in 13 games as a reserve for Coach Clay Helton and company. Bolden decided to transfer to Miami after his freshman campaign and was consequently forced to miss the 2018 season.

As a redshirt freshman in 2019, Bolden returned to the field for the Hurricanes. However, his season ended early after five games and one start due to injury. During those five games, the talented cover man recorded 11 tackles, a forced fumble, an interception, and one pass broken up. His star potential continued to elude coaches in another lost season for Bolden.

Bubba is back with a vengeance

Returning from injury, Bolden took the field with great ferocity and leadership displayed in his first season as a full-time starter in Miami. He tallied 74 total tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, one interception, one sack, and a team-high four forced fumbles. He is a tremendous open-field tackler that closes quickly and ends plays before they get going.

Bolden started nine out of eleven games in 2020, finishing as a semifinalist for the Jim Thorpe award and putting himself squarely in the mix for selection in the 2022 NFL Draft. As one of the top returning players on a talented Miami Hurricanes team in 2021, the former Trojan could be a surprise selection in the first round next April. He is one of the top safeties available and should see his stock grow even more as the Hurricanes reach the meat of their conference schedule.

Player comparisons and future NFL potential

While Notre Dame’s Kyle Hamilton will be the top safety selected and potential top-10 pick, Bolden should not be too far behind. His playstyle is similar to Denver’s Justin Simmons, as a hard hitter that recognizes and closes on plays quickly. Like Simmons, he also has the ability to come up closer to the line and cover slot receivers and tight ends.

Bolden’s long arms allow him to reroute pass catches and get into passing lines with ease. He also uses his closing speed and intelligence to fly to the ball and make plays with little hesitation. NFL teams are always looking for defensive backs that are intellectual and quick to recognize and diagnose plays before they develop, which is a real strength for Bolden.

As a player that operates like his hair is on fire, one of the only real downsides with Bolden is the lack of turnovers or “game-changing” plays. He’s not a ball-hawk and often times will play the man and not the ball in the air, which leads to more break-ups than interceptions. The opportunity is there for takeaways, but that is not a big part of his game currently and may adversely affect his upside long-term.

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Despite the loss to Michigan State this past Saturday, Bolden stepped up and made a team-high 10 total tackles. He is a versatile player that flies all around the field and seems to leave his footprint on every defensive play for Miami. Bolden has been a bright spot in a down season for the Hurricanes and coach Manny Diaz thus far in 2021 and should be rewarded with a high pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.