GRASSY - Due to the amount of questions that surround this team, there are many, many possibilities of who one breakout player can be. To me, a logical chocie will be at the wide receiver slot. This position has been a disappointment since the departure of Andre Johnson in 2002 - save the play of Lance Leggett last season. With Leggett returning and commanding attention from opposing defenses I think Ryan Moore has a very good chance to emerge as a breakout player.
Moore (pictured right) has suffered through various injuries and if healthy is as talented as any wideout in America. He has said all of the right things and appears hungry to erase the sub-par performances of the past with a stellar 2005. If Miami's offense can wake up and be productive this season, Moore could be a big part of that.
BAKAS - As much as people talk about the offense, if the Canes are going to return to the lofty status that many are hoping for the defense has to deliver. And because there arent a whole lot of proven playmakers on that side of the ball, someone is likely going to have that season where he goes from being recognized as a possible starter to being a big time difference maker. Having said that, two guys stand out -- Bryan Pata and Jon Beason. Both were big time recruits coming in here. Both have shown progress in their first two seasons. They've shown flashes of excellence. I love Beason. He's a throwback. He plays at one speed and that's full throttle. He's old school. He has a chance to add his name to the list of great linebackers who have come through here. However since there are so many linebackers looking to see the field, including some very good backups like Romeo Davis and Willie Williams and since the Canes see so many spread offenses which puts UM in a situation with having just one linebacker on the field, it's going to be tougher for Beason.
Therefore, I'll go with Pata (pictured right). He's in the best shape of his life. He was forced to sit out most of his senior year at Miami Central because of a screwup in their academic department somewhere. He played as a true freshman here but battled through some nagging injuries that appear to be a thing of the past. Last season he started the final four games of the season and really played well. His performance against Florida was an early indication that he's ready to step it up. He's shed 10 pounds and is much quicker coming off the edge. Nobody's stronger or tougher. He's hungry. He's ready. He has a cool hairdo. Everyone talks about Orien Harris and Baraka Atkins along the defensive front. Pata's name hasn't registered on the national scales yet. That will change this season. I think he'll have a banner year, will emerge as one of the top d-ends in the conference, and will shoot up a lot of....ahem.....NFL draft lists by January.
STOCK - There are a few players I like in this category of a 'breakout player'. I think Kenny Phillips will have a very productive year this year as a true freshman at the safety position. Whether or not he starts is still up in the air. Willie Williams will be a force at linebacker especially against the run. When he gets his motor running he is very hard to contain. Right tackle Rashad Butler has yet to gather any post-season awards, but I expect a very solid year from him. Eric Moncur and Calais Campbell are two great looking defensive ends who will provide depth to the line off the edge. Jon Beason recorded 29 tackles a year ago and he could eclipse that mark four games into the season.
All of those young players are very options in choosing a breakout player, but I am going with the redshirt freshman running back from Reserve, La.--Derron Thomas.
Thomas (pictured right) stands 5-foot-9 and weighs 190 pounds. He possesses outstanding speed particularly on the outsides. He can and has outran defensive backs when he gets into the secondary. His success is due in part to his explosiveness at the line of scrimmage. He does not wait around for his spot, he goes, hits it hard and excels.
This spring Thomas was the top offensive performer breaking long run after long run. Whether or not he will do that in a game is still unknown since he has not played in a game yet. But when the lights are on expect a breakout season for Derron Thomas. He will be one of the most exciting players to watch in 2005.
Bryan "Grassy" Knoll - WR Ryan Moore
Mike Bakas - DE Bryan Pata
Christopher Stock - RB Derron Thomas
Look for Question #4 tomorrow, August 25.