Miami Football: 5 Most Important Spring Practice Position Battles
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The Miami Hurricanes' 2013 schedule was released a few short days ago, but the players cannot afford to be looking ahead to August 31 for long.
Spring practice is upon them, and key positions on the team are up for grabs.
Head coach Al Golden preaches about a competition for every position, and although some, like quarterback, are set, many spots are truly wide open.
Here are the five most important spring position battles for the Canes.
Second-String Running Back
Dallas Crawford saw limited playing time as a running back in 2013.
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With young phenom Duke Johnson becoming the starter, a few players have the chance to become the backup running back for the Canes.
Senior Eduardo Clements boasts the most experience, but sophomore Dallas Crawford has playing time under his belt, too.
Freshman Danny Dillard joins the friendly competition as well after redshirting in 2012.
The key to this battle will be for one player to emerge as the definite backup before true freshmen Cornelius Elder and Gus Edwards arrive at Miami in the fall.
Starting Tight End
Clive Walford is Miami's most experienced tight end.
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Clive Walford showed flashes of why he should be the starting tight end over the final two games of the season, but he wasn't a consistent producer.
Golden signed—depending on the assigned position—two to four tight ends in the class of 2013.
The two pure tight ends, Beau Sandland and Standish Dobard, are early enrollees who will challenge Walford and Asante Cleveland for playing time.
Sandland may jump Cleveland's spot on the depth chart, but it will be a battle for the starting job against Walford.
Dobard's best bet may be a redshirt season, but expect the true freshman to compete with Cleveland for the third-string job.
Note: WR/TE Derrick Griffin and ATH Ryheem Lockley could be designated as tight ends in the fall.
Starting Left and Right Tackle
Malcolm Bunche started all 12 games at left tackle last season.
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The Hurricanes return all starters on the offensive line, but sophomore Ereck Flowers will challenge incumbents Malcolm Bunche and Seantrel Henderson for either tackle position.
A teammate of Duke Johnson in high school, Flowers arrived at Miami and immediately started the first four games last season as a true freshman.
Sonny Odogwu is an early enrollee who 247sports calls a major sleeper, but he probably needs more time to, ultimately, learn the game.
The three-way competition may help both Bunche and Henderson solidify their respective starting roles, but Flowers should not be overlooked.
Starting Outside Linebackers
Thurston Armbrister started the final three games of 2012 at OLB.
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Returning players with starts in 2012 include Tyrone Cornelius, Thurston Armbrister and Denzel Perryman.
Sophomores Raphael Kirby and Gabriel Terry will fight for one of the starting positions as well.
If Johnson returns, he will probably be a starter, but one more off-field incident would more than likely lead to his dismissal from the team.
Note: Jimmy Gaines started six of the final seven games at MLB over Perryman, who switched to OLB... My educated guess is he will be used there again in 2013.
Antonio Crawford saw action in all 12 games as a backup.
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Junior Ladarius Gunter and sophomore Tracy Howard appear to be the favorites to lock down the corners after Brandon McGee's graduation and Thomas Finnie's dismissal from the team.
Three players—similar to the running back position—have a chance to establish themselves as a viable backup.
Sophomore Antonio Crawford, along with redshirt freshmen Larry Hope and Nate Dortch, will be battling behind Gunter and Howard.
Miami must have one of those players step into the nickelback role before highly-touted players arrive in the fall.
Both Artie Burns and Jamal Carter (who may play safety) should immediately challenge returning members of the Canes for playing time in 2013.