Miami Football Recruiting: 5 Former Blue-Chippers Who Will Finally Shine in 2014
Held back by various reasons, some former blue-chip recruits will have the opportunity to shine for the Miami Hurricanes in 2014.
Head coach Al Golden's ability to develop talent has been questioned, and the upcoming season will better answer that criticism—whether the results end up being positive or negative.
From skill positions to the strength of a defense, the once high-profile commits are entering a critical year in their advancement as college athletes.
A few of these players will be heavily relied upon by Miami, while one in particular is working on reaching his 5-star potential.
Malcolm Lewis, Wide Receiver
A 4-star wide receiver from local Miramar High School, Malcolm Lewis snagged four passes for 42 yards and a touchdown in his collegiate debut.
As has been well-documented, though, his freshman season was cut short by a nasty ankle injury suffered against Georgia Tech. Then the wideout was slowed by recovery from groin surgery during his sophomore year, per Manny Navarro of the Miami Herald.
However, fast-forward another few months, and the post-spring depth chart lists Lewis as a co-starter with senior Phillip Dorsett.
While Miami fans hope 2014 4-star Braxton Berrios can be a menace in the slot, it's easy to overlook what Lewis has proved he can do, even in a very limited sample.
Al-Quadin Muhammad, Defensive End
Al-Quadin Muhammad is the youngest member of this group, but his breakout season may happen at a similar time.
Plucked from New Jersey, the 4-star edge-rusher notched two sacks in his third collegiate game, albeit against Savannah State. Excluding that performance, he made six total stops despite playing in all 13 games.
However, Matt Porter of The Palm Beach Post wrote the defensive end earned 1.5 sacks during the second spring scrimmage. Plus, with what Porter reported from practice, Muhammad is prepared for an outstanding sophomore campaign in both on-field performance and trash talk.
He is a throwback Miami player.
Raphael Kirby, Linebacker
Touted as the seventh-best linebacker in the 2012 class, 4-star Raphael Kirby enrolled early and made his presence felt on the practice field. But we're not talkin' about a game, we talkin' about practice.
Kirby has played in 20 games, but he has only accounted for 26 tackles (2.5 TFL, 1.0 sack), largely in a special teams role.
However, Jimmy Gaines and Tyrone Cornelius ran out of eligibility, and current star Denzel Perryman moved inside during the spring. Consequently, both outside linebacker positions were vacated, and Kirby is currently listed as a co-starter with sophomore Jermaine Grace at one spot.
Grace will certainly see playing time, but Kirby is expected to see the majority of snaps. And it's his time to be a force from the second level.
Tracy Howard, Cornerback
Arriving at Miami as a 5-star and the nation's top corner, Tracy Howard obviously had enormous expectations. He had a decent freshman campaign, tallying 17 tackles and four pass breakups in mostly reserve duty.
Before last season, Navarro noted Howard's goal was 10 interceptions. Well, the sophomore avoided a slump and managed four picks, including one for a touchdown in a win against Virginia.
He was named All-ACC Honorable Mention last year, but as a junior, the Miramar product will be one of the top defensive backs in the conference.
According to David Lake of 247Sports (subscription required), Howard said his 2013 season "just set the stage, I feel I just gave people a piece of what I could do. Now I want to put the whole thing together. Not just making plays on the ball, but plays on the run, doing a better job of getting off blocks, get my weight up—I just want to put the whole package together."
His elite status will likely not be a product of a 10-interception year; instead, locking down his side of the field on an improved defense should shove him into the national spotlight.
Deon Bush, Safety
Deon Bush committed to "The U" at the U.S. Army All-American Game, saying "I gotta put my city back on the map right now," per Chris Hays of the Orlando Sentinel.
Right now, unfortunately, turned into a pair of injuries for the 4-star safety from nearby Columbus High School, which limited his production.
Throughout his first two seasons, he appeared in 21 games (nine starts), making 65 tackles, four forced fumbles, four pass breakups and one interception. Those are respectable numbers, sure, but not what a program-changing player does.
Per Lake, Bush said, "Last year was tough. I am not going to lie. I am ready to put it behind me. I am working hard this offseason so I can have a better year this year. Now I am ready to show what I can do and be the type of player everybody expects me to be."
Bush will continually be challenged by rising sophomore Jamal Carter, but the returning All-ACC Honorable Mention safety has a great chance to shine in 2014.
Note: All recruit information courtesy of 247Sports. Star ratings reflect 247Sports Composite Rankings.