Miami Football: Grading the Canes' First Year Starters

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistOctober 9, 2013

Miami Football: Grading the Canes' First Year Starters

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    Rayshawn Jenkins has been a gem for the 'Canes this season.
    Rayshawn Jenkins has been a gem for the 'Canes this season.Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

    The Miami Hurricanes enter their bye week with a 5-0 record, and Al Golden's team has accomplished this feat with a handful of new starters in 2013.

    From skill positions to the trenches, the 'Canes have been showcasing fresh talent throughout the season.

    As expected, Duke Johnson leads the group on the stat sheet, but contributions from other players on the field must not be overlooked.

    No. 13 Miami matches up exclusively with conference opponents for the remainder of the regular season, so the starters must keep improving their production. Otherwise the Hurricanes backups will be pushing for the first-string spot.

    Note: New starters are players who have started at least three games in 2013 after not starting at least six games or a majority at their respective position during 2012.

Duke Johnson, Running Back

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    Through five games, Duke Johnson has been tough to tackle.
    Through five games, Duke Johnson has been tough to tackle.Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

    So far, Duke Johnson has lived up to lofty expectations.

    The sophomore running back has rushed for 572 yards on 84 carries (6.8-yard average) and tallied four touchdowns. He has set up a few more scoring opportunities that were finished by second-stringer Dallas Crawford.

    Additionally, Duke has caught four passes for 77 yards and added 30.5 yards per kick return.

    Johnson's one issue right now is ball control. Duke has fumbled three times over the last two games, including twice in the red zone against South Florida.

    Once he gets that problem corrected, Johnson will be a menace during the ACC campaign.


    Grade: A-

Herb Waters, Wide Receiver

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    Waters is no stranger to burning his defender.
    Waters is no stranger to burning his defender.Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

    In 2012, Herb Waters' production exploded during the final two games of the year, making five catches for 195 yards and two touchdowns.

    Fast-forward to 2013, and Waters has played some decent football. The sophomore receiver has grabbed nine passes for 170 yards and housed a 63-yard run during the season opener.

    He caught at least two passes in each game before being shut out by Georgia Tech last weekend. The biggest reason for Waters' potential drop-off, however, is the emergence of freshman Stacy Coley.

    Waters now finds himself in a positional battle with Coley, but regardless of what happens, he provides excellent depth at receiver for Miami.


    Grade: B

Ereck Flowers, Offensive Tackle

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    Ereck Flowers via 247Sports
    Ereck Flowers via 247Sports

    Ereck Flowers had a handful of starts during 2012 and saw plenty of action throughout the year, but the 6'6", 315-pound offensive tackle has started every game this season.

    Flowers has been flagged for a couple holding penalties, but otherwise, the high school teammate of Duke Johnson has continued to open holes for the stellar running back.

    It was by no means a punishing block, but Flowers moved his man well out of Duke's path for a 33-yard gain vs. Georgia Tech.

    Though fellow tackle Seantrel Henderson's production seemingly changes on a weekly basis, Flowers has been a well-needed constant for the 'Canes.


    Grade: B+

Jared Wheeler, Offensive Line

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    Jared Wheeler via 247Sports
    Jared Wheeler via 247Sports

    Technicality rules, and here is Jared Wheeler.

    He is not a normal starter, but the senior offensive lineman received the nod at center for two games, replacing Shane McDermott as the Hurricanes did not rush their starter to play against nonconference opponents Savannah State or South Florida.

    Due to Seantrel Henderson's one-game suspension last week, Wheeler was plugged into a versatile Miami offensive line and started at left guard.

    Wheeler has appeared in every contest and will play an important role as a key reserve for the rest of the season.


    Grade: B-

Curtis Porter, Defensive Tackle

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    Curtis Porter via 247Sports
    Curtis Porter via 247Sports

    Senior defensive tackle Curtis Porter has battled through numerous injuries, and he is finally starting to produce.

    Prior to the 2013 season, Porter had started three games and made just 24 tackles during his collegiate career.

    So far, Porter has notched seven tackles, including 2.0 for loss and pounced on a loose ball for his first career fumble recovery. Most importantly, he has been clogging the interior and allowing Miami linebackers to make a play.

    Of course, Porter is still searching for the illustrious first sack, and here's hoping the injury-plagued lineman can notch one before the end of the year.


    Grade: B

Tracy Howard, Cornerback

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    Howard made his first career interception vs. Florida.
    Howard made his first career interception vs. Florida.Brad Barr-USA TODAY Sports

    Tracy Howard hasn't been mentioned much this season.

    But as a cornerback, that's a good thing.

    Howard did tally an interception during the 'Canes win over Florida, but quarterbacks simply are not throwing in the sophomore's direction.

    He has started four games, managed eight tackles (0.5 for loss), defended a pass and allowed just one 20-yard pass to the Gators' Quinton Dunbar.


    Grade: A

Rayshawn Jenkins, Safety

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    Jenkins made a key play for the 'Canes vs. Florida.
    Jenkins made a key play for the 'Canes vs. Florida.Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

    Rayshawn Jenkins was not supposed to be the starter in 2013, but Deon Bush has been hampered by an injury.

    Jenkins has arguably been just as good, if not better than what his fellow safety would have been. The sophomore has started every game, accounted for 14 tackles (11 solo), broke up two passes and defended four more.

    Jenkins' biggest contributions, however, are his two clutch interceptions.

    He picked off a Jeff Driskel pass in the red zone and made the game-sealing interception last week vs. Georgia Tech.

    Miami has yet to face a top-notch passing attack, so on October 17, North Carolina's Bryn Renner will pose the toughest test for the Hurricanes secondary to that point.


    Grade: A-