Which upperclassman needs to show up during the spring?
Reggie Youngblood was a five-star offensive tackle prospect coming out of high school. While he's been in the starting lineup, he hasn't performed like a 5-star player yet. This is his final go-around in college and now he's entering year two under new coach Jeff Stoutland. Youngblood has the physical tools to be a very good offensive tackle and now it's time for him to step up and give UM one of the best pair of tackles in the conference (along with Jason Fox, who is already considered one of the best in the ACC).
Javarris James is going to be in a fight to the death as he faces stiff competition from a worthy group of second year backs. Graig Cooper was a co-starter for much of the year with James but could see an expanded role as his 5.5 yards per carry was the best for last years stable. Shawnbrey McNeal showed flashes of big play ability and reminds fans of a young Frank Gore. Lee Chambers is an all-around threat with elite athleticism. All of them will be looking to take carries from one another. If Baby J doesn't shake a sophomore slump, he could be in for a long season seeing other backs take valuable carries. James has been thought of as a potentially great back out of the two back set, a set he didn't see in bulks in his first two seasons. But that is all going to change as the Hurricanes made the fullback position a priority in the late stages of the recruiting process. They landed JUCO standout Pat Hill, an explosive blocker and John Calhoun, a recently coverted fullback out of Sebastian River HS. The pieces are in place for James to break out, but he has to shake off last years tough season.
Antonio Dixon must shake his inconsistency and weight issues and become a dominant force in the middle for Miami. The Canes defense was unusually average last season and a big part of that was a weak defensive tackle rotation. The expectation is incoming freshman Marcus Forston will put an end to that deficiency, but that is a lot of pressure to put on a true freshman. Dixon must elevate his level of play and bring it every snap if the Hurricanes defensive line is going to improve from last year. If the senior defensive tackle can become a run stuffing force for Miami it will allow new defensive coordinator Bill Young more flexibility with his linebackers and safeties. Dixon must prove this spring that is he is completely dedicated to being the best player he can be and prepare himself to show scouts that he can be a NFL player by having a strong senior season for the Hurricanes.
Antonio Dixon. It's hard to believe that Dixon is going to be a senior already. Last season I really saw a renewed effort on his part to stay in shape and play as many downs as possible. Even an injury we all thought would sideline him for the rest of the year couldn't keep him off the field for very long. Dixon needs to continue losing that extra poundage and play more downs, because he no longer has the luxury of having experienced counter-parts playing next to him. Dixon has to step into the lead role as a senior and set an example for the younger guys.
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