Miami Football: 3 Freshmen Who Could Steal Starting Spots in Fall Camp

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistMay 1, 2014

Brad Kaaya will contend for the starting quarterback position, but is he prepared to win the job?
Brad Kaaya will contend for the starting quarterback position, but is he prepared to win the job?Credit: 247Sports

The Miami Hurricanes signed the No. 12 class during the 2014 recruiting cycle, and a few signees could steal starting spots during fall camp.

Not including Kc McDermott and the eight other players already on campus challenging for No. 1 jobs, the incoming prospects will compete with current starters.

Offensively, quarterback is the biggest question mark, and the 'Canes are waiting on a highly touted player to arrive in Coral Gables, Fla.

On the defensive side, a pair of linemen will help solidify important positions that are striving to overcome a recent history of underperformance.

Chad Thomas, Defensive End

Chad Thomas
Chad ThomasCredit: 247Sports

It's no secret Miami needs consistent production from the defensive line. Highlighted by the emergence of Ufomba Kamalu, Earl Moore and Calvin Heurtelou, the overall unit appeared to improve steadily throughout spring practice.

But that doesn't mean a true freshman cannot and will not enter the fray, as evidenced by the post-spring depth chart listing 10 players as co-starters. If that's not the definition of open competition, I'm not sure what is.

The lone 5-star commit in the class, local Booker T. Washington product Chad Thomas is already subjected to enormous expectations.

As seen in the accompanying video, Thomas is an absolute force off the edge, and Miami will not waste a player of his caliber. Plus, at 6'5" and 240 pounds, Thomas is physically prepared for the next level but has plenty of room to add bulk.

Though he's not enrolled yet, Thomas is already mentioned behind Kamalu and Anthony Chickillo on the depth chart. Chickillo has been underwhelming through three seasons, and Kamalu is an unproven commodity, so Thomas will have a legitimate chance to overtake the current Hurricanes.

Opposite speed rushers Al-Quadin Muhammad and Tyriq McCord, Thomas showcases similar explosive burst at the line of scrimmage and the strength to drive offensive linemen backward. 

If Kamalu and Chickillo struggle during the summer or fall, Thomas will be closing the gap even quicker than expected and may steal a starting spot.

Michael Wyche (JR) and Anthony Moten, Defensive Tackles

His road to Miami has been adventurous, but Michael Wyche will be joining the team in mid-May.

Manny Navarro of The Miami Herald noted Wyche decommitted from 'The U' due to an "obscure ACC rule" demanding three consecutive semesters at the same junior college. Much to the satisfaction of the Hurricanes, however, Wyche rejoined the 2014 class a few days later.

This season, Wyche will be classified as a junior, so he's not technically a freshman, but it will be his first season with Miami. Regardless, Wyche will working his way up the depth chart behind Moore and Heurtelou, but 4-star Anthony Moten will be chasing the trio.

Moten hails from St. Thomas Aquinas, another well-known local high school, and he flipped to Al Golden and Co. after originally committing to Florida.

While no one would complain, the Hurricanes are not requiring a Vince Wilfork-like D-tackle. They just want someone who demands a double-team blocking assignment once in a while, allowing the linebackers to make tackles as opposed to shedding offensive linemen of their own.

And with the rotation Miami employs on its defensive line, Wyche and Moten will receive numerous chances to demonstrate their respective values in the trenches.

Brad Kaaya, Quarterback

If you are a regular Miami follower on Bleacher Report, you've heard me reiterate the probability—or lack thereof—that 4-star signee Brad Kaaya wins the starting job.

"For Kaaya to play he has to get to school this summer, gain a functional understanding of the playbook and push to pull even with Olsen," Bleacher Report's Michael Felder said.

In rare cases, true freshmen quarterbacks arrive on campus, immediately challenge for the position and win the competition, like Christian Hackenberg at Penn State last season. But in reality, Matt McGloin graduated, and the 5-star was simply handed the reins in State College, Pa.

The overlying factor is the proper opportunity presented itself for Hackenberg, and he capitalized. Fortunately for Kaaya, though, he is entering a relatively comparable situation Miami.

Stephen Morris? Graduated. Ryan Williams? Sidelined. Kevin Olsen? Learning.

"Given what we have seen out of Olsen, some good and some bad," Felder said, "there is opportunity for [Kaaya] to claw his way into the mix. He played some pro style looks in high school and will bring quality skills to Coral Gables."

Enough quality skills that Dieter Kurtenbach of the South Florida Sun Sentinel believes Kaaya is the type of player who returns the "Quarterback U" moniker to South Florida.

But, again, becoming a transcendent player under center upon arrival is extremely difficultjust ask Jimmy Clausen. Playing behind Olsen would not destroy Kaaya's potential; in fact, Felder believes it would be beneficial for both Kaaya and Miami.

"I don't think he passes Olsen," Felder said. "Ultimately, the best thing for the 'Canes is for Kaaya to redshirt, Williams to return and contribute and Golden's team gets to spring 2015 with Kaaya and Olsen fighting it out in the true quarterback battle that Williams' injury did not allow for this year."

Plus, if Kaaya manages to take a redshirt season in 2014, that means he's still around in 2018, when Williams will be long gone and Olsen's eligibility has expired. And that is certainly an intriguing thought at The U.


Note: Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand. Recruit information courtesy of 247Sports.

Follow Bleacher Report CFB Writer David Kenyon on Twitter: @Kenyon19_BR.


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