The Miami Hurricanes are led by superstar running back Duke Johnson, but one star player is not enough to carry a team to an ACC championship.
Although head coach Al Golden must replace 17 players on the two-deep depth chart, the 'Canes roster is full of young talent. According to 247Sports, Golden and his staff put together the 14th-best recruiting class during the 2013 cycle, and Miami's current commits make up the nation's No. 6 group.
Next season, Miami will once again continue its decade-long quest for its first-ever ACC crown, and by Thanksgiving 2014, a few current lesser-known Hurricanes are poised to become synonymous with "The U" brand.
The true freshman has shown glimpses of stardom, and Stacy Coley will be a household name by the end of November 2014.
Coley has racked up the second-most all-purpose yards for Miami this season, trailing only Duke Johnson. Throughout Coley's 10 appearances, he has caught 27 passes for 486 yards and five touchdowns, averaged 26.6 yards per kick return and 22.0 per punt return.
Note: The 22.0 yards per punt return would be second-best in the nation if Coley qualified for that statistic.
Additionally, Coley has provided explosive plays throughout his freshman campaign.
Stacy Coley: not slow.— Dieter Kurtenbach (@dkurtenbach) November 23, 2013
But Coley doesn't just hope he gets the ball, he makes it happen.
Against South Florida, Coley made one of the best catches of the 2013 season, leaping to grab a perfectly placed ball from Ryan Williams, took the hit and landed in-bounds.
Later in the year against Wake Forest, he displayed outstanding concentration and snagged a tipped pass for a 43-yard gain...while on his back.
Coley will help fill the void left by Allen Hurns—the 'Canes' leading pass-catcher—and continue to be a major factor in a Miami receiving corps filled with speed.
A highly coveted recruit last season, Al-Quadin Muhammad has played scattered snaps in 2013, appearing in each of Miami's games.
He tallied two sacks against Savannah State, and despite the few reps, Muhammad has disrupted a few more plays while on the field.
Senior Shayon Green leads all Miami lineman with 60 tackles (and 10.5 for loss), and his production must be replaced. Muhammad is one of the best-suited players to do just that, since he has been utilized in Green's position throughout the season.
Muhammad is not necessarily an overpowering blitzer, but he has excellent play-recognition skills and takes great pursuit angles.
Also, while Muhammad emerges as one of the Hurricanes' top defensive players, watch for true freshman Chad Thomas to form an aggressive edge-rushing tandem with the sophomore.
Miami's defensive line has struggled mightily over recent years, but Muhammad and the influx of young talent can turn the 'Canes' defensive difficulties around.
Sophomore linebacker Raphael Kirby has all the potential to become something special.
Kirby is already one of the Hurricanes' best hitters, and he has learned the ropes behind senior Jimmy Gaines, who is second on the team with 68 tackles.
The Stone Mountain, Ga. product is the front-runner to take over Gaines' position, and he has caught Golden's attention.
According to Manny Navarro of The Miami Herald, Kirby was making headlines during the spring and even earned the praise of his coach, who said "Kirb is going to be good. He's a bright kid and he's a hard worker. He's got to get to the point where it's second nature and he's not thinking. He's getting there. ... I'm excited about Kirby."
If outside linebacker Denzel Perryman stays for his senior season, he will be an even bigger star than what he already is. Opposing teams must keep a watchful eye on Perryman, and Kirby will be freed up to lay some huge hits.
During the 'Canes' 45-26 win over Virginia, Kirby located the ball, tracked down a speedy Tiquan Mizzell and absolutely leveled him. It wasn't necessarily a highlight play, but Kirby's awareness was showcased, and that alertness will help lift Kirby to the next level in 2014.
And when a handful of Miami players like Kirby step up, the Hurricanes will be contending for their own next-level accomplishment—an ACC championship.