OL RASHAD BUTLER
I have spoke highly on Rashad Butler's expected impact as a senior this upcoming season. He has the ability to be an all-conference tackle this year and with Eric Winston coming back there is promise along the offensive line. Butler is outstanding in pass protection using his long arms and quick first step to sustain the defense ends rush towards a quarterback. Earlier in his career he tended to be a little too upright in his stance, but has worked on staying lower to the ground creating better balance for the 6-foot-5 tackle from Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. He will be a very important piece of the offensive line puzzle this season and is expected to perform at a high level. This spring he showed the right mindset to be able to reach those expectations and beginning in August he hopes to pick up where he left off.
LB WILLIE WILLIAMS
Willie Williams had quite the 2004 calendar year from his recruiting process, his Miami career in jeopardy, injuries, and even a car accident on the way up to Atlanta for the Peach Bowl. As he turned the page in 2005 he got a "fresh start" and so far things have been going well. He was productive in the spring and made a number of hard hits specifically against the run. The coaching staff had Williams getting used to playing "downhill" and going at the ball. When practices resume in August look for Williams to take on a larger role as a linebacker and learning more about his defensive responsibilities. He is not expected to start this year and is immediate impact is unknown because of all of the players returning at his position, but expect him to make plays when he is on the field.
DE BRYAN PATA
If you are looking for a player to have a breakout season on the defensive side of the ball, Bryan Pata is a likely candidate. At 6-foot-4 and 275 pounds he brings a lot of run-stopping ability to the defensive end position. He needs to improve on his pass rushing skills in order to become an elite player and it will be essential for him to keep his motor running throughout the play. Pata, like a number of key players, plans on playing in the NFL someday. Whether or not he leaves has not been decided, but a solid junior season could influence his decision.
S BRANDON MERIWEATHER
The coaching staff loves his personality on and off the field. He is a player that plays with a lot of personality and it shows. Brandon Meriweather will be a very important asset to the secondary in 2005 and if he stays healthy, he should improve on his two interceptions in 2004—which is three less that I expected him to have. He wanted to improve his weight in the off-season and he has. He is in the 190-195 range right now, but it will be interesting to see if he will be a better player with the extra weight. Some players gain weight or lose weight, whatever the case may be, and they lose their identity on the field. Look for Meriweather to be the team's nickel or dime back this year.
WR AKIEEM JOLLA
At 6-foot-4 and 190 pounds, Akieem Jolla is known for his outstanding speed. He is a natural on the track and has improved his ability to make big-time plays over the past year. In the 2004 season, Jolla was primarily used on wide receiver screen plays and various short routes. But if the team wants to get the most out of Jolla's abilities they need to get him downfield running fly patterns. When Jolla first arrived on campus he struggled with the correct technique to catch the deep ball, but he has improved specifically this past spring. Quarterback Kyle Wright likes Jolla's downfield presence and it only will take a couple of times early in the season for Wright to trust him on a consistent basis. One thing that you like with Jolla is that he wants to be the guy as opposed to just a guy—regardless of where he is on the depth chart he wants more opportunities. Expect Jolla to have an impact this season down the field, which will improve the overall passing game.
RB CHARLIE JONES
While Charlie Jones received a lot of publicity in high school, including from our own publication—CanesTime the Magazine (March 2004), he only rushed six times for 25 yards as a freshman. This spring Jones was slated in the number one tailback spot with starter Tyrone Moss on the shelf. Unfortunately for Jones, he did not have enough positive plays to hold him back from fellow 2004 signee Derron Thomas. This August, Jones wants to get back on the field and show what he can do. He wants to show that he is not the back that struggled in the spring and that he can be counted on for productive carries in 2005.
OL TYRONE BYRD
After Tyrone Byrd took over for Anthony Wollschlager on the number one spot along the offensive line this spring, where does he fit in this fall? Assuming Byrd progresses over the summer he will be the guy at the center position this fall. He needed to do a lot of work on his snaps after the spring, but his dedication towards a new craft should blend well with his work ethic. The center position is considered the easiest position to learn, but that doesn't mean Byrd will not have to earn his starting spot this year. There are a number of guys ready and willing to take over the center spot even if they have not played there much in their career (i.e. Andrew Bain).
IN THE AIR TONIGHT
When the team opens up the 2005 season they will be on the road for their first two games—Florida State and Clemson. They will play their first home game on September 24 against Colorado. One of the best home pregame rituals the ‘Canes perform is having the coaches walk around to each player as they are stretching to wish them the best as the Phil Collins song, "In the Air Tonight", is being played over the stadium speakers. A night game in the Orange Bowl seems like a long time from now, but imagine how it will feel when the Hurricanes open the season on the road and watching other teams enjoy their home stadium.
Christopher Stock is a Senior Writer & Assistant Editor for CanesTime and can be contacted by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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