Mike Bakas of Canes Time brings you an in-depth look at the Miami Hurricanes as the game with the Florida Gators approaches. The two rivals square off in a game with big implications at the start of the 2013 season. Miami's high powered offense from a year ago returns a lot of weapons while they hope the defense can improve from last year. Bakas gives you his take on the Hurricanes.
Senior Stephen Morris
had one of the most successful seasons ever by a Hurricane quarterback in 2012. He showed off his big arm, and the coaching staff let him throw the ball down the field a lot. His numbers in November were as good as any quarterback in college football. Expectations were high heading into the offseason. Then the Hurricanes lost pass-happy offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch to the NFL. James Coley came in from Florida State, and Morris seemed to pick up right where he left off. He had a solid spring, and really emerged as a leader over the summer. He wasn't asked to do much in the opener against FAU but he'll certainly have to bring his A-game against a very good Florida
defense this Saturday.
Running Back: Duke Johnson is Miami's best player. He was Miami's best player right
from the start of last season, even as a true freshman. A former five-star recruit from nearby Norland High, Johnson made big things happen as a runner, as a pass-catcher, and as a return specialist last season. He finished his first year with nine offensive plays that went 35+ yards. He bulked up to 195 pounds during the offseason, and became the team's featured back after Mike James
– now a Tampa Bay Buc -- graduated. Johnson picked up right where he left off last season for the Hurricanes in their opener against FAU. He finished with nearly 200 yards of offense, but did not see any action in the return game. If the Hurricanes want to win Saturday's game, Johnson will have to come through with another strong performance. Behind him are three unproven runners – senior Eduardo Clements
, sophomore Dallas Crawford
, and true freshman Gus Edwards. Clements has been a career backup. Crawford was a prep quarterback, who spent his first season here as a safety. He's still finding his role. Edwards is the most talented of the three but is just a true freshman still trying to find his way. Fullback Maurice Hagens
is a three-year starter, and a real bull as the lead blocker.
Wide Receiver: Allen Hurns is the senior leader of the group. At 6-foot-3, he's a big
target with soft hands and is the most trusted receiver for Morris. Phillip Dorsett
is the fastest player on the team. He emerged as a major deep threat last season, and was the team's most productive receiver in 2012. He's also the team's primary return specialist. Herb Waters
didn't see the field much during the first two months of his freshman season a year ago. Then he exploded in November with numerous big plays, and that continued last Friday night. His 63-yard touchdown run on an end around was Miami's biggest play of the night. Malcolm Lewis
, who is fresh off a badly broken ankle suffered last season, has some big play flair but is being worked back in slowly. True freshman Stacy Coley
is probably the most talented receiver on the roster. He was open all night last Friday but dropped two potential touchdowns from Morris. Look for him to play a key role off the bench. The Canes lost Rashawn Scott
, a 6-foot-3 junior, to a shoulder injury last week. Redshirt freshman D'Mauri Jones, who has never played in a game and was lightly recruited, will serve as the team's sixth receiver.
Tight End: Clive Walford is a very talented tight end. After playing mostly basketball in high school, the 6-foot-6 junior emerged as a major weapon in the second half of last season. At 6-foot-6, he has a rare blend of size, speed, and athleticism. He caught another touchdown against FAU. He leads the way at the tight end position. When the team goes into two tight end sets, Asante Cleveland gets involved. A lightly recruited senior from California, Cleveland is used mainly as a blocker. The Hurricanes signed the nation's top Junior College tight end prospect in the 2013 class when Beau Sandland picked the Hurricanes. While he didn't catch any passes in the opener, Sandland is a 6-foot-6 pass catching specialist who figures to play a key role at some point this season.
Offensive Line: The Hurricanes entered the season with loads of talent and experience.
They have six guys who could start just about anywhere, including sixth man Seantrel Henderson
– a 6-foot-8 senior who was the nation's top recruit a few years back. Henderson has an NFL future, and plays off the bench. The leader of the group is senior Brandon Linder, who has been a starter for three years now. Sophomore Ereck Flowers
is a very athletic left tackle who protects Morris' blindside. Shane McDermott
is very smart and tough at center. Juniors Jon Feliciano (RT) and Malcolm Bunche
(LG) round out the starting unit. The issue here is depth. The Canes lost two players from its second unit to injuries during fall camp. It's a 2nd unit that was unable to convert a goal line situation late in the FAU game.
The Hurricanes had one of the worst pass rushes in all of college football last season. They finished the 12-game season with just 13 quarterback sacks. While everyone returned from that unit, it wasn't going to be enough. The Hurricanes added Wisconsin transfer David Gilbert
, Virginia transfer Justin Renfrow
, and Juco transfer Ufomba Kamalu
to the mix during the offseason. All three helped play a key role in this unit getting four sacks in the season opener. Junior Anthony Chickillo
, who has now started 22 straight games, is the starter at one end spot. Senior Shayon Green
, who is more of a run specialist, starts on the other side. Sophomore Tyriq McCord
and freshman Quan Muhammad provide the heat when the team goes into a nickel defense. Olsen Pierre
, a former Temple commit who switched his commitment to Miami when Al Golden got the job, is in his third season as a starter. He has an NFL future and is considered Miami's best defensive lineman. Curtis Porter
, a 325-pound load, plays in the middle. Renfrow and senior Luther Robinson
provide depth inside.
Linebacker: Junior Denzel Perryman is the leader of the group. He has speed, experience, and a good football IQ. He plays on the outside. Jimmy Gaines, a lightly recruited senior from New York, plays in the middle. While he doesn't make the amount of plays you'd like from a mike linebacker, he's like having a coach on the field. Junior Thurston Armbrister and true freshman Alex Figueroa share time at the other outside spot. Sophomore Raphael Kirby, a former four-star recruit from SEC country, is the fifth player here. It's considered a solid group but lacks ideal depth.
Defensive Back: Former five-star Tracy Howard lines up at one of the cornerback spots,
while lightly recruited Juco transfer (from last year) Ladarius Gunter plays the other spot. Gunter has been a pleasant surprise from the 2012 recruiting class. Sophomore Antonio Crawford
is the fastest defensive back, and plays the nickel for the Canes. While Nate Dortch
was considered the fourth corner heading into the season, the coaches have very high expectations for true freshman Artie Burns
. Look for the former four-star recruit to play a big role again on Saturday off the bench. Rayshawn Jenkins
, a former three-star recruit from the Tampa area, starts at one of the safety spots. The second one is still unsettled. Sophomore Deon Bush
is widely considered Miami's best overall defensive back but he sat out the opener after having offseason surgery in the summer. He'll likely be a game-time decision on Saturday. If he's unable to go, senior Kacy Rodgers
will get the nod. The son of an NFL coach, Rodgers has lots of experience and knows the defense very well. He doesn't have the same skill set as Bush, however.
Special Teams: Matt Goudis is in his first year as the team's kicker. He had a strong spring, an excellent fall camp, and then hit both field goal attempts (35 and 43) in the opener. The Canes had to replace Dalton Botts, one of the ACC's top punters in 2012, and they were able to get Cincinnati transfer Pat O'Donnell on board. The talented senior has an NFL-caliber leg and handles both punting and kickoff duties for the Canes. Dorsett and Crawford served as the two primary return guys in the opener. It's likely that the Canes will keep Duke Johnson off special teams because of his increased role on offense this season.