A critical part of the University of Miami’s 2012 season was the play of then-freshman Duke Johnson.
The Miami, FL native and former 5-star recruit ran for 957 yards and 10 touchdowns during his freshman campaign, en route to earning Rookie of the Year in the ACC and making All-ACC and All-Freshman teams.
Though the Hurricanes are not getting any 5-stars in what Rivals.com ranked the No. 20 recruiting class of 2013, they do have a number of incoming freshman who could make positive contributions to the team come September.
None will light up the college landscape like Johnson did a year ago, but here are four young Hurricanes who will attempt to keep the ACC Rookie of the Year award in Miami and not with any other team in the talented Atlantic Coast Conference.
A late addition to the Hurricanes 2013 class, Derrick Griffin is an imposing force who should terrorize ACC Corners.
At 6’7’’, the 4-star recruit from Rosenberg, Texas was ranked the No. 3 wideout by Rivals.com and the fifth-best player from a state that typically produces a great deal of college football talent.
His monstrous size for the position allowed him to shine in the Army All-American Bowl, where he scored the West team’s only TD.
While Miami has some size at the WR position in 6’3’’ Allen Hurns and 6’2’’ Rashawn Scott, neither poses the instant mismatch that Griffin does.
Griffin's high school highlights show a knack for making plays downfield. Of all the members of Miami’s incoming freshman class, expect Griffin to see the most time on the field, via SB Nation’s State of the U.
With world-class speed and a physical style of play, The 6'1'' Burns will make an early impact at either corner or safety for the Hurricanes.
Like Griffin, Burns was a star in two sports in high school, and was also recruited to run track for the University of Miami.
Burns has also been noted for his maturity. Some family adversity in 2006 forced him to become the man of the house earlier than he may have wanted.
An Under Armour All-American who was sought after by Alabama, LSU, USC, and others, Burns chose Miami where he will be close to home.
The local product should contribute early in his ‘Canes career, as the Hurricanes are weak at corner after the graduation of Brandon McGee, their best cornerback a year ago.
If he can adjust to the speed of the game and utilize his talents, Artie Burns will be a fixture in the Hurricane secondary from the very beginning of what looks to be a promising four-year career.
The No. 1 player from the state of New Jersey according to Rivals.com, Muhammad possesses an explosive first step that will make him an effective college pass-rusher.
While Miami has one defensive end slot filled in by junior Anthony Chickillo, there is some uncertainty along the rest of the defensive line.
Shayon Green led the team in tackles with 67 as a freshman, but failed to record a sack. Defensive Tackle is also an area of concern for the Hurricanes, as the revolving door of Olsen Pierre, Luther Robinson, Corey King, and others produced limited results.
This lack of productivity should pave the way for Muhammad to at least see time as a situational pass-rusher or on third downs during his freshman campaign.
The Miami defense as a whole is not the strength of the team, so it should open up opportunities for younger players to gain some early experience.
Muhammad has the talent to get after opposing quarterbacks, and with a little weight added to his 6'4'', 225-pound frame, he could become the best player in this recruiting class.
Cornelius 'Corn' Elder
While the Miami backfield is crowded, the departure of Mike James leaves some room for others to emerge.
James led the team in carries a year ago, and accumulated 621 rushing yards and 344 receiving yards. The productive back and former team captain also reached the end-zone nine times.
While Duke Johnson will get the lion’s share of the carries during his attempt to make a Heisman run, someone will need to spell the busy star-back between his running back and kick return duties.
Eduardo Clements remains the favorite to act as the second running back. Clements scored twice a year ago and was a 4-star recruit in 2010, via Rivals.com.
Cornelius Elder, however, was a highly productive high school running back who could see some time as a freshman. Rivals’ No. 5 player from the state of Tennessee, Elder surpassed 2,000 yards rushing his junior year and nearly repeated the effort in his senior season.
That kind of productivity usually finds its way onto the field one way or another. Though Elder is currently listed as an Athlete, expect him to be in the mix at running back for Miami come the beginning of the 2013-14 season.