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Miami Football: What You Need to Know About the Hurricanes' Top Veteran Players

David MayerCorrespondent ISeptember 5, 2016

Miami Football: What You Need to Know About the Hurricanes' Top Veteran Players

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    In order for the Miami Hurricanes to compete for the ACC Championship there are certain veteran players that need to step up.  Whether they are sophomores, juniors, or seniors is irrelevant.

    With the huge amount of young players on this team, guidance and leadership will be just as important as their physical ability.

    Championships aren't given, they are earned, and you need to have a solid amount of young talent mixed in with a good amount of veterans if Miami wants any shot at winning an ACC ring.

    Here is what you need to know about the top Hurricanes veterans.

They Have Big Shoes to Fill

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    Even though the Hurricanes finished just 6-6 last season, there were plenty of players that had a tremendous season.

    Lamar Miller will be the biggest loss, as he had the third-highest rushing season in Miami history with 1,272 yards last year.  He was the first Hurricane to break 1,000 yards since Willis McGahee did it in 2002.

    Senior Mike James and junior Eduardo Clements will most likely be the primary running backs who will get the most carries.  I am assuming James will be the starter to begin the season and should lead the team in rushing yards, unless true freshman Duke Johnson lives up to the hype in his first season.

    Another big loss was Tommy Streeter when he decided to forgo his senior season for the NFL.  Streeter broke out last season by leading the team in receptions (46), receiving yards (811), yards per catch (17.6) and touchdowns (8).

    This will be a tough one to fill, as Miami doesn't have a player that possess the size (6'5", 200 pounds) and speed (4.5/40) that Streeter had. 

    Junior Allen Hurns should be the primary receiver, as he is the only returning receiver that had more than 14 catches last season.

    On the defensive side of the ball, the Hurricanes must find a replacement for linebacker Sean Spence, who racked up 217 tackles and 31.5 tackles for loss the last two years.

    This position should be an easier fill as sophomore Denzel Perryman seems to be destined to have a huge career at Miami.

    The only thing Perryman will need to do is be a leader like Spence was last season.  Once he does that, the sky is the limit.

They Are Young Veterans

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    I can honestly say that there hasn't been this amount of young and talented players at Miami since 2001.  The sophomores and juniors with a lot of game experience is amazing and if the freshman class is anything as advertised, we are entering a period in which Miami will dominate once again.

    Arguably, the two best defensive players on the team are sophomores Denzel Perryman and Anthony Chickillo, and both players played in all 12 games last season as true freshmen.

    Perryman ended the season second on the team in tackles with 69, while Chickillo finished the season tied for the team lead in sacks with five.

    They aren't the only underclassman that are experienced though.  Junior wide receiver Allen Hurns played in all 12 games last year and will most likely be junior quarterback Stephen Morris' main target this year.

    Hurns is the elder statesman at wide receiver, but may not even be the best receiver on the team.  Sophomores Phillip Dorsett and Rashawn Scott have had an amazing spring and will be huge assets to the offense.

    Speaking of offense, the entire offensive line are either sophomores or juniors, and each of them played in at least eight games last season.

Possibly the Best Kicker-Punter Combination in the Country

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    If there is one thing you need to know about the veterans on the team, it's that both punter Dalton Botts and placekicker Jake Wieclaw could very well be the best kicking combination in the entire country.

    Botts, a senior JUCO transfer, ended last season with the second-highest punt average (42.7 yards per punt) in the ACC.  Earlier this summer he was placed on the preseason All-ACC team and was put on the Ray Guy Award watch list, given to the best punter in the country.

    Wieclaw, a senior, waited for three years behind Hurricane legend Matt Bosher and didn't disappoint in his first season as the kicker.

    Wieclaw converted all 39 extra points and finished the season 11-for-14 on field goals.  His play made him a semi-finalist for the Lou Groza Award, given to the best placekicker in college football.

    These are two positions I have 100 percent faith in.

Must Stay on Their Toes as the True Freshmen Class Will Push Them

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    Even with all the veteran players on this Hurricanes squad, there are certain positions in which the true freshman class will compete for playing time.

    Offensive lineman Ereck Flowers has already shown that he has the ability to start.  He received high praise from coach Al Golden earlier this spring and is already second on the depth chart heading into the fall season.

    Four-star safety Deon Bush may push A.J. Highsmith at the safety position.  If you recall, Highsmith was moved to the top of the depth chart after Ray-Ray Armstrong was dismissed earlier this summer.

    Duke Johnson will be coming in and causing all sorts of issues with playing time with Eduardo Clement and Mike James.  James will most likely be the starter, but if he struggles holding on to the ball like he did last year, watch out for Johnson.

    Another starting position in which a freshman can snag a spot it is at cornerback. Five-star recruit Tracy Howard is an absolute beast at corner, and if I were Larry Hope or Ladarius Gunter, I would make sure to practice at a high level, because Howard is for real.

    The last position in which the veterans need to step their game up to keep their position is the defensive line.  At times during last season the line looked absolutely clueless.

    Golden went out and recruited a couple studs in Tyiq McCord and Jelani Hamilton.  Both players were highly recruited and if they are as good as advertised, the line may consist of a sophomore, two freshmen, and a junior.

Only Seven Starting Seniors

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    According to the official Hurricane roster there are only 14 seniors on the entire team.  Out of the seniors, only seven of them (including the kicker, Jake Wieclaw, and punter, Dalton Botts) will probably be listed as starters.

    Mike James will be the only senior on offense while the defense will have four—Vaughn Telamaque, Darius Smith, Raman Buchanan and Brandon McGee.

    Although James is a senior, he only has three starts at running back over his career, playing second fiddle to starters Lamar Miller and Damien Berry.

    James has a total of 157 rushes for 719 yards and 11 touchdowns.  He is very familiar with the offense and should be the starter going into the first game against Boston College.

    Safety Vaughn Telemaque is the Hurricanes most experienced player, starting all 25 games in the last two years.  With Ray-Ray Armstrong off the team, Telemaque must be the leader of the defensive backfield.

    Darius Smith is a JUCO transfer and has just seven starts with the Hurricanes at the defensive tackle position. Although he has just seven starts, Smith played in all 12 games and has the physical ability to be a presence this season on a very inexperienced defensive line.

    Ramon Buchanan saw his senior season cut short last season as he got hurt in the fourth game of the season.  Buchanan earned a medical red-shirt.

    Buchanan, much like Telemaque, is a seasoned veteran that has played in 39 games in his career (starting 14) and is a vital part of the young Hurricanes defense.  He must help develop some of the tremendously talented linebackers this season.

    The last of the starters is cornerback Brandon McGee.  McGee has logged 13 career starts, including 12 last season.

    Much like Telemaque and Buchanan, McGee has to be the spoken leader of a crop of very inexperienced conerbacks.  In fact, he has more starts at corner than the other starters and backups combined.

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