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CORAL GABLES — Banners hang from the Hurricanes’ indoor practice facility ceiling, documenting the program’s rich history of All-Americans. Famous names in Miami lore like Vinny Testaverde, Warren Sapp and Ed Reed have their names immortalized there.
Safety Kamren Kinchens joined those UM legends earlier this month, getting his own banner to commemorate his All-American 2022 season. Now he’s working hard to become the best leader he can be as he begins his third season with the Hurricanes.
“Last year, it was just more of like put my head down, just making sure [I] am doing good before everybody else,” Kinchens said. “But now it’s like I’ve got to bring along everybody with me. Even though I might be in the front, I’ve got to make sure there’s five more people with me to the front so they can help everybody else come along.”
Kinchens excelled in his sophomore season, racking up 59 tackles with a team-leading six interceptions. Pro Football Focus gave him a 90 defensive grade (14th in the nation among all defensive players and No. 1 among safeties with at least 500 defensive snaps) and a 90.7 coverage grade (also No. 1 among safeties).
But Miami’s 2022 season ended on a sour note with a blowout home loss to Pittsburgh. Kinchens was the lone player to address the team after the loss, telling his teammates: “If you don’t want to be here, farewell, good wishes to you, hope for the best. But if you want to stay, come every day ready to grind because we don’t want this taste in our mouth again.”
“I don’t think he ever stops thinking about the team, how he can get better, how the entire organization can get better,” UM coach Mario Cristobal said. “He’s that kind of a guy. He asks for opportunities to get better, he asks for things that he can do to be a better leader. He approaches his teammates with confidence, and he will confront and demand from those that maybe aren’t reaching or getting to that standard on a consistent basis. He’s not afraid to do that.
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“That’s critical for us. If we don’t hold everybody accountable to a certain standard, the whole organization can suffer from that.”
Twenty players took that advice, departing via the transfer portal. Those who stayed saw Kinchens continue to grow as a player and as a leader.
“Kam was young last year; he was only a sophomore winning an All-American, which is incredible,” quarterback Tyler Van Dyke said. “But yeah, he’s really taken a step as a leader. He’s the guy around here. He’ll take that defense to another level, make sure everyone’s doing the right thing. On the field, he’s very impressive, making plays all around. Whether it’s in the coverage game or the run game, he’s doing everything out there.”
Like everyone else on the team, Kinchens has been busy learning the team’s new playbooks. Kinchens said he is making sure to absorb new defensive coordinator Lance Guidry’s playbook faster than everybody else so he can assist his teammates.
“Everybody learning the playbook the same, so just making sure I can get in it extra, more than everybody else,” Kinchens said, “to make sure I know what I’m doing so if a guy doesn’t know what he’s got, I can help him. If we learn it at the same pace, then it’s like, ‘I don’t know if you don’t know.’ So it’s making sure I’m two steps ahead.”
The banner now hanging from the Carol Soffer Indoor Practice Facility rafters does not just honor Kinchens’ accomplishments last year. It also helps inspire some of Miami’s younger players.
“I look at that every day, and it gives me goosebumps,” redshirt freshman wide receiver Isaiah Horton said. “That’s great. That’s an honor. I’m so proud of Kamren, and Kamren deserves that, too. … It just makes me want to work harder. I want to see my name up there one day.”