Miami Hurricanes Football: 5 Freshmen Who Will Start in 2012

David MayerCorrespondent IMay 6, 2012

Miami Hurricanes Football: 5 Freshmen Who Will Start in 2012

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    It is very hard to compete as an incoming freshman for a starting nod, but with so many new faces in so many positions, there are several soon-to-be Hurricanes that will have that opportunity.

    While most likely none of them will be starting Week 1 against Boston College, that doesn't mean they won't be down the road.  Injuries to certain players will no doubt catapult the freshmen closer and closer to that No. 1 spot.

    Here are five freshmen that I believe will eventually become starters this season.

Raphael Kirby, LB

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    I know the Hurricanes' depth at linebacker is pretty solid right now and I also know that Denzel Perryman will not be relinquishing his middle position anytime soon, but don't be surprised if freshman Raphael Kirby moves to outside and starts sometime this year.

    Kirby has already proved that he is ready for the big time with his spring performance.  He has a spectacular motor and hits like a truck.

    The linebacker position is already filled with seasoned vets like Perryman, Gionni Paul, Ramon Buchanan and James Gaines, but Kirby may be too hard to keep off the field.

    I honestly believe they move him to outside and he starts beside Paul and Perryman halfway through the year.

Tracy Howard, CB

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    Tracy Howard is a tremendous athlete with great size and closing speed, something that the Hurricanes' defensive backfield has been missing in the last few years.

    Although Howard will be getting a late start (he doesn't come to Miami until June), I believe that once he understands the defensive scheme and speed of college football, the Hurricanes will have no choice but to plug him into a starting position.

    That doesn't bode well for Thomas Finnie or Brandon McGee, but it doesn't matter what year these guys are—Al Golden is going to play the best player at the position, and that most likely will be Howard.

Ereck Flowers, OL

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    When I first saw some videos of Ereck Flowers, I was blown away by his total domination at run-blocking (see video), but there were some question marks on his pass-blocking.

    This spring, he answered any questions anyone has against him.  Flowers is an absolute stud with great feet, and there is no doubt in my mind that he will be thrown into the starting rotation on a very questionable offensive line.

    I wouldn't even be surprised if he starts the first week against Boston College.

Jelani Hamilton/Tyriq McCord, DE

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    Jelani Hamilton and Tyriq McCord are two incoming freshmen that both have the skill set to become starters on the defensive line their freshmen years.

    The problem is there is only one position available, with the other one occupied by sophomore phenom Anthony Chickillo.

    Hamilton and McCord will be competing for a starting position right off the bat, as there is a depth issue at defensive end.  Kelvin Cain was moved from linebacker to end, and I don't believe he will have enough to keep his position.

    McCord is a little undersized (6'3", 220 pounds) but makes up for it with speed and agility.  Hamilton, on the other hand, is much bigger (6'5", 240 pounds) and uses brute strength to beat offensive linemen.

    I believe either player will start, but as of right now I couldn't tell you who that is going to be.  Anyone got a coin?

Duke Johnson, RB

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    One of the most popular incoming freshman this year has to be Duke Johnson, and for good reason.  Johnson was an absolute stud in high school and earned a 5-star ranking by scout.com late into the season.

    Johnson has a rare combination of quickness and field vision, which will eventually turn him into a Hurricane starter.

    I know Mike James and Eduardo Clements had a wonderful spring practice, but I don't think you can deny Johnson's ability to be the starter.

    James will most likely start to begin the season, but after Johnson gets more practice time, he will eventually become the Hurricanes' starting running back.