Miami Football: 3 Biggest Concerns Heading into the Offseason

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistJanuary 6, 2014

Ryan Williams has a shot to start in 2014, but who is his competition?
Ryan Williams has a shot to start in 2014, but who is his competition?Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

After two restless days, the Miami Hurricanes football team received news that its head coach Al Golden would be staying at The U.

But after a handful of relieving sighs and "thank you" messages, the 'Canes will get back to business, focusing on how to improve during the offseason.

Following a disappointing finish to the 2013 campaign, there certainly are a few concerns surrounding the squad.

Other than defensive improvement, which has been highlighted recently, three areas stick out as Miami enters the nine-month stretch leading up to the 2014 season.

Getting Duke Johnson Healthy

Johnson kept Miami close against Florida State, but a fractured ankle during the third quarter ended his season.
Johnson kept Miami close against Florida State, but a fractured ankle during the third quarter ended his season.Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

Yes, the season opener is a long, long time away.

But over the final five games, the Hurricanes suffered without their star running back, Duke Johnson.

Chris Hays of the Orlando Sentinel notes that Johnson is not likely to participate in spring drills.

Now, I won't pretend I'm a doctor—mostly because it's illegal—but Johnson will need time to get comfortable returning to what he did best. Johnson's game was predicated on finding open holes, making hard cuts into running lanes and accelerating through them.

And he was darn good at it.

Local product and 4-star back Joseph Yearby is planning on enrolling early, so he, Dallas Crawford and Gus Edwards will share the load during spring ball.

While those reps will help the Miami reserves, Johnson faces a road to recovery that will be frustrating, keeping him off the field until the summer.

Though Johnson missing spring action will push back his conditioning, the layoff will allow him to get completely healthy—something the Hurricanes definitely need.

Retaining Current Recruiting Class

While uncertainty surrounded Golden's future at The U, many wondered what impact it would have on the Hurricanes' current recruiting haul.

Immediately following the U.S. Army All-American Bowl and during Golden's flirtation with Penn State, 4-star defensive tackle Travonte Valentine decommitted from Miami. Valentine was already considered a soft commit, and he announced that his rumored top suitor, LSU, was officially his new leader, via Andrew Lopez.

Valentine's decommitment was a factor in Miami slipping from sixth to ninth in 247Sports' Composite team rankings.

But the ranking is not the important part.

As of this writing, the 'Canes still hold 27 verbal commitments along with one signee, defensive tackle Calvin Heurtelou. Valentine, however, was an essential part of this class, potentially bringing the biggest frame (6'3", 338 pounds) to clog the interior.

Of course, as Valentine clarified, Miami is not out of the running for his services.

While some recruits, like 4-star safety Kiy Hester, are "100% committed to the U," as he tweeted Sunday, any prospect wavering in his pledge could have been affected by Golden's short silence.

So now, it's time for Golden and his coaching staff to lock up their class while attempting to add the final pieces for signing day Wednesday, Feb. 5.

Impending Starting Quarterback Battle

Stephen Morris led the Hurricanes for two seasons, but a new quarterback era at Miami is on its way.

Ryan Williams and Kevin Olsen are the leading candidates for the job, and spring practice will provide an opportunity to see the duo battle. Much-heralded 4-star commit Brad Kaaya is also en route to Coral Gables, Fla., but Peter Ariz of CanesInSight notes Kaaya said he cannot enroll early because of a policy at his high school.

As a freshman at Memphis in 2010, Williams appeared in every game, and he has played well in limited reps for the 'Canes. Under Golden, the Miramar High School product has completed 37 of 52 passes for 506 yards, four touchdowns and an interception.

A prized recruit and brother of ex-Cane Greg Olsen, Kevin was redshirted during the 2013 campaign.

But after not being taken to the Russell Athletic Bowl, Olsen's current status is not clear. Manny Navarro of The Miami Herald notes Olsen, Rashawn Scott and Ray Lewis III did not join their teammates on the trip to Orlando, but the reasoning has not been announced.

Bleacher Report's Chris Bello says the 'Canes need Olsen to win the starting job next season to provide a long-term option under center.

Ultimately, due to Kaaya's summer enrollment, it will likely be a battle between the senior Williams and the redshirt freshman Olsen while Kaaya steals any reps he can.

All recruit star rankings via 247Sports.


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