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2014 Fierce 40 Previews: #27 Miami

by DJ Boyer on Jul. 18, 2014

#27 Miami Hurricanes

 

2013 Recap:

It was another step in the rebuilding of the Miami Hurricanes with a successful 9-4 campaign, but this team started 7-0 and whispers of an ACC Title and even the National Title started to surface. Three consecutive ACC losses and a bruising loss to Louisville in the Russell Athletic Bowl had them limp to the line a bit.

 

Coaching:

Al Golden was rumored for a few coaching openings but ultimately everyone likes what he is doing with the Miami program. The Penn State job looks like it could have been his as he has coached there in the past, but clearly wants to stay. Miami needs to have a few more seasons at or near double digit wins or Golden may eventually make a jump.

 

Offense

Quarterbacks/Running Backs:

Quarterback is usually where things start and end for most teams but Miami hopes that is not the case because this is where all the question marks on offense lie. Three of the top four quarterbacks on the roster are freshman and there is no game experience to draw upon. Kevin Olsen seems to have the inside track with the most command of the team in the spring. Brad Kaaya and Gray Crow seem to be battling for the #2 spot right now but anything is possible. Ryan Williams was expected to be the starter when the season began but he tore an ACL in April leaving this wide open. Williams is a fifth year senior as Miami was hoping to groom some youngsters along before starting next year.

What will help is the fact that Miami may have the best running back in the nation carrying the football in Duke Johnson. Johnson is back after his ankle injuries last season limited him to just over 900 yards in seven starts and eight games total. Johnson is also very adept to catching the football and his work in the open field is evident as he is a deadly kick returner as well. Johnson will have a huge workload on his back and sophomore Gus Edwards is more than capable of spelling him when he needs it or injury arises.

Best Draft Prospect: Duke Johnson RB 3rd Round 2015 (Junior expected to declare after this season).

 

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends:

Miami may have lost their go-to-receiver in what seemed to be the ageless Allen Hurns (seemed like he played for 6-7 years), but they have a whole stable of capable receivers who as a group may be the most talented in the ACC. Even though the receivers have a lot of talent it might be tight end Clive Walford that could be the receiver of choice. Walford has quietly built himself an impressive resume and he shows great hands and reliability on third downs. Sophomore Stacey Coley led the team with seven touchdowns as a freshman and he has blinding speed. Watching Miami work underneath and then hit Coley with the home run ball might be something we see during a few games this season. Players like Phillip Dorsett and Herb Waters will ensure that someone on this team is open. Even though the receptions may be down as Miami will pound the football with Johnson, the options are there and there is no shortage for those who can contribute.

Best Draft Prospect: Stacey Coley WR 3rd Round 2017.

 

Offensive Line:

The whole left side of the line is back and we always seem to have at least 1 Miami Hurricane that is a draft prospect year in and year out along the line. This season Ereck Flowers looks to be that player although he would have to declare early, as the left tackle is a junior. We have Flowers coming back for 2016 though because if he does he is a 1st round choice. whereas in this class he would probably be a mid-second to third round pick. Left guard Jon Feliciano and center Shane McDermott are back and they have more than 40 career combined starts for the Hurricanes. The right side of the line is filled with young players who are very talented but the starters have yet to be set. The top six prospects on the depth chart for right guard and right tackle are all freshman and sophomores. Despite the youth movement there is so much leadership and talent that this is the second best line in the ACC, behind only Florida State, a team with the best line in the entire nation.

Best Draft Prospect: Ereck Flowers OT 1st Round 2016.

 

Defense

Defensive Line:

Anthony Chickillo is the leader of the line and the senior may be the most underrated defensive end in the NCAA today. Chickillo is moved all over the line and asked to do a number of different things for the Hurricanes. He does them without hesitation and is a true team player. Chickillo only had 3.5 sacks last year but he has constant pressure and has tremendous size to hold up well against the run. Olsen Pierre returns at defensive tackle and his 33 tackles showed he is a stable force in the middle of the line. A couple of newcomers should contribute heavily to the Hurricanes success and they are JUCO transfer Michael Wyche at defensive tackle and big time recruit Chad Thomas, a freshman defensive end.  Not big stars for the defensive line but if opposing teams sleep on them they will be sorry.

Best Draft Prospect: Anthony Chickillo DE 6th Round 2015.

 

Linebackers:

Denzel Perryman surprised us and a host of others when he did not declare for the 2014 NFL draft and decided to come back to Miami for his senior season. Perryman will be one of the most sought after middle linebackers in the upcoming draft and we have him graded as a 2nd round prospect at this time. Perryman led the Hurricanes with 108 tackles and had 64 the season before so he has been the most active Hurricane on defense for two years. Perryman is not as tall as the typical middle linebacker but he is built well and is fluid in coverage with terrific range. Sophomore Alex Figueroa was being groomed as the eventual replacement for Perryman, but it was announced that he has been dismissed from the football team following an arrest on sexual misconduct charges. It remains to be seen how this will affect the Hurricanes but Figueroa figured to be a key player on defense and possibly the unit's leader after this season when Denzel Perryman graduated. Incoming freshman Juwon Young can handle the inside duties in the future, but most of this will also hinge upon his progression this season. Raphael Kirby and Tyriq McCord should split the duties on the outside and both have enough game experience. McCord is actually the top returning sack artist for the team with 4 last season.

Best Draft Prospect: Denzel Perryman LB 2nd Round 2015.

 

Secondary:

Tracy Howard is starting to look like a legitimate “shutdown” corner. Howard led the team with 4 picks yet only had 5 passes defensed. The reason why that number is so low is because most teams just started to avoid throwing his way. Ladarius Gunter got more work on the other side and he is nearly as good when it comes to being a prospect. Gunter is a senior while Howard a junior, but they form one of the best tandems just beneath Virginia Tech and Florida State as far as starting cornerbacks. Deon Bush is a new starter at safety but he may be the key to the entire secondary as he made 31 tackles and played a big role in the defense despite only starting 3 games last season. Miami is not hurting when it comes to playmakers in the secondary as all the players mentioned have the ability to take a turnover back the distance for a pick-6. Rayshawn Jenkins is back in the fold at free safety, and Jamal Carter and Dallas Crawford are terrific backups but will see time at safety. On 90% of the teams in the country these players would be starting, but Miami is just loaded near the back of the defense.

Best Draft Prospect: Tracy Howard CB 3rd Round 2016.

 

Special Teams:

The return game is no issue as Miami consistently ranks near the top and the coverage units have improved under Al Golden. The real issue here is replacing Pat O’ Donnell who will be adjusting to NFL life. Matt Goudis looks like he will be a kicker/punter although the role of punter could be filled by a host of youngsters on the squad. As long as Goudis doesn’t struggle there will be little to no issues with the special teams units.

Best Draft Prospect: Duke Johnson RB/KR 3rd Round 2015 (Junior expected to declare after this season).

 

Schedule:

You know Miami wants revenge in the opener with Louisville although they need to go on the road to do it. The end of October through the middle of November offers the toughest part of the schedule starting with a road game against Virginia Tech before home contests with North Carolina and Florida State. The Hurricanes do have a bye week before they get the defending champions. The late September game in Lincoln against Nebraska will be fun to watch.

 

Draft Outlook:

Miami went through a few seasons where the cupboards were bare as far as draft prospects. They have a way to go to get back to the late 90’s and early 2000’s when at least 3 guys were going in the 1st round every year, but they are moving in the right direction. Duke Johnson is a player that could make some noise if the team gets hot and if he carries them, he may not only turn pro but he could get some serious Heisman Trophy consideration.

 

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