Ladarius Gunter started all 13 games at one cornerback spot last season. He's now trying to make it in an NFL Camp as an undrafted free agent. Former walkon Tambu Fentress only started eight games at safety last season but was the team's most productive player there. He's now trying to make it as a Seattle Seahawk. Antonio Crawford, the team's nickel back the last two seasons, is now on West Virginia's roster.
The Canes had just nine scholarship players at defensive back in the spring - and one was still coming back from an injury - but those nine are about as talented as a group that you'll find in all of college football.
Artie Burns was the primary starter at cornerback last season opposite Gunter. He turned in a solid sophomore season but actually spent time playing behind Corn Elder in the spring. Burns has NFL-type ability but Elder was that impressive throughout the spring. Both are very talented players with bright futures and should continue an intense competition for the starting job well into the summer.
Tracy Howard is the leading candidate to replace Gunter on that side of the field. A former five-star recruit out of high school, Howard hasn't had the type of career a lot of people expected from him but he's still a very talented player capable of doing big things for this defense. He seemed to shore up a starting job in the spring, and a lot will be expected of him as a senior this coming season. Redshirt freshman Ryan Mayes will help provide depth there before the incoming freshmen arrive later this summer.
Deon Bush was the most talented safety on Miami's roster last season. He's the hardest hitter on the roster now and caused five fumbles in 11 starts last season. Now that Fentress has moved on, Bush will be counted upon to step up and really take over the safety spot. There's every reason to believe he'll have a huge senior season if he can stay healthy.
Having said that, senior Dallas Crawford actually spent a lot of time in the spring playing ahead of Bush on the depth chart. Crawford is smart and a steady performer but simply lacks the play-making ability that Bush brings to the table.
Getting the first chance to replace Fentress at the other safety spot was Jamal Carter, a former four-star recruit who started a couple games last season. He's admittedly not been as committed to the playbook as he needed to be but as long as he matures on the field and changes that, he could be in line for a big season. You'd be hard pressed to find a more talented tandem of starting safeties anywhere in college football than Bush and Carter. Incoming freshman Jaquan Johnson turned in a solid spring and should factor into the safety rotation early in the season.
Rayshawn Jenkins, a redshirt in 2014 because of an injury, was a starting safety in 2013 so it'll be interesting to see how he factors into the mix when he returns at full strength in the fall. He'll likely challenge Carter for a starting spot opposite Bush. Jenkins has the edge in experience but Carter brings a bit more to the table from a physical standpoint. Either way, it'll be a fun competition to watch.