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Position-by-Position Preview of Miami Hurricanes' 2014 Roster

David KenyonFeatured Columnist IVDecember 29, 2016

Position-by-Position Preview of Miami Hurricanes' 2014 Roster

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Slowly but surely, the 2014 college football season is approaching for the Miami Hurricanes.

    As the final freshmen filter into campus, it's time to preview what Al Golden's whole team will look like when the fall finally arrives.

    Going from position to position, Bleacher Report will highlight the strengths and weaknesses of each Miami unit, including special teams.

    Each slide includes projected starters, key reserves and mentions any injuries that will affect the positional group.

    Note: Player information courtesy of hurricanesports.com.

Quarterbacks

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Projected Starter: Kevin Olsen, FR

    Key Backups: Brad Kaaya, FR; Gray Crow, SO; Malik Rosier, FR

    Notable Injury: Ryan Williams, SR (knee)

    Kevin Olsen is expected to be the opening-game starter, but Brad Kaaya and Ryan Williams are his main competition.

    For Kaaya, an outstanding senior year en route to a state championship made a hot commodity by the end of his recruitment. On the other hand, Williams was the anticipated No. 1 before an ACL injury, but his rehab is progressing very well.

    In order, the three most likely scenarios are:

    • Olsen keeping starting job
    • Olsen/Kaaya tabbed as No. 1 before Williams takes over after returning from injury
    • Kaaya named starter and holds position for entire year

    Essentially, the younger players will either serve as fill-in starters for Williams or stand out as one of few full-time freshmen starters in college football.

    With eight pass attempts, Gray Crow is the most experienced player at the position, but he'll be the second-stringer at best until Williams returns. Expect Rosier to redshirt in 2014.

Running Backs

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    Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

    Projected Starters: Duke Johnson, JR; Walter Tucker (FB), SO

    Key Backups: Gus Edwards, SO; Joe Yearby, FR

    Bold prediction: Duke Johnson will be the starting running back for the 2014 Miami Hurricanes. I bet that one was unexpected.

    The All-American-caliber back and true freshman Joe Yearby were unavailable for most of spring practice, which opened the door for Gus Edwards to shine.

    Fall camp will provide the first opportunity to see whether Yearby or Edwards is truly the backup, or the 'Canes might split reps between the two. Either way, Miami appears to be in solid position behind its new quarterback, especially with an elite player like Duke in the starting role.

    After spending the spring as the No. 2 running back, Walter Tucker will lead the way as the fullback.

Wide Receivers

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    Projected Starters: Stacy Coley, SO; Phillip Dorsett, SR

    Key Backups: Rashawn Scott, SR; Herb Waters, JR; Malcolm Lewis, SO; D'Mauri Jones, SO; Braxton Berrios, FR; Tyre Brady, FR

    With Stacy Coley solely occupying the top level, the Miami receivers can be organized into a three-tier system. Coley is a versatile weapon, and his ability to make plays goes unmatched by the rest of the team.

    On the next tier, Phillip Dorsett and Rashawn Scott are both looking to rebound from injury-shortened seasons and back to their team-leading 2012 form. Additionally, Herb Waters and Malcolm Lewis will be most effective from the slot.

    Finally, D'Mauri Jones is talented yet unproven, while true freshmen Braxton Berrios and Tyre Brady are the biggest wild cards. All three players should see the field, but non-garbage-time is probably limited for the trio.

    According to Christopher Stock of 247Sports (subscription required), Waters said, "I feel like we have no drop-offs. Anybody can get in the game and make a play. Everybody is stepping up and everybody is competing. That's one thing I like about our receiver group. We continue to compete and grow with our skill and talent and keep playing."

Tight Ends

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    Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

    Projected Starter: Clive Walford, SR

    Key Backups: Beau Sandland, SR; Standish Dobard, SO

    For years, Al Golden has wanted more production from his tight ends. For the first time, though, Miami is built for just that.

    Clive Walford and Asante Cleveland were the top two at the position, but Cleveland was not a receiving threat. Walford elected to return for his senior campaign, giving the Hurricanes a familiar option down the seam and in the flat.

    A JUCO transfer in 2013, Beau Sandland was highly regarded coming out of California. He made little noise last year, but he and sophomore Standish Dobard have had a full season in the offense.

    To reduce any stress on his quarterbacks, offensive coordinator James Coley should predicate the Miami passing on short, quick throws. And that's where Walford, Sandland and Dobard need to make the majority of their respective catches.

Offensive Linemen

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    Projected Starters (LT to RT): Ereck Flowers, JR; Jon Feliciano, SR; Shane McDermott, SR; Danny Isidora, JR; Taylor Gadbois, SO

    Key Backups: Kc McDermott, FR; Alex Gall, SO; Trevor Darling, FR; Sunny Odogwu, FR; Hunter Wells, JR

    From protecting a new quarterback to opening running lanes for the team's best asset, the Miami offensive line will define the Hurricanes' 2014 season.

    It is paramount that Olsen or Kaaya receive valuable time to get comfortable in the pocket, otherwise the young guns may force themselves into mistakes. If that happens, then Miami must rely even more heavily on Johnson, Yearby and Edwards, but opponents would be able to focus on shutting the running game down.

    No passing effectiveness, no ground attack, no offense, no points, no win. That's no good.

    Ereck Flowers, Jon Feliciano and Shane McDermott have combined to make 73 starts, however, so the quarterback's blindside boasts plenty of experience.

    According to Manny Navarro of The Miami Herald, Danny Isidora and Taylor Gadbois started envisioning themselves anchoring the right side of the line last year, and they have a great opportunity to earn those spots.

    Beyond Alex Gall, the second unit hardly has meaningful experience, though, so avoiding injuries is a key. Otherwise, the 'Canes would be reliant on players like Kc McDermott and Trevor Darling, who aren't expected to be starters for another season or two.

Defensive Linemen

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    Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

    Projected Starters (DE to DE): Anthony Chickillo, SR; Olsen Pierre, SR; Earl Moore, JR; Al-Quadin Muhammad, SO

    Key Backups: Ufomba Kamalu, JR; Tyriq McCord, JR; Chad Thomas, FR; Calvin Heurtelou, JR; Jelani Hamilton, JR; Michael Wyche, JR; Anthony Moten, FR; Trent Harris, FR; Corey King, SO

    While seemingly loaded, the Miami defensive line—potentially excluding Al-Quadin Muhammad—is missing high impact non-third-down players this season.

    Anthony Chickillo and Olsen Pierre, the elder statesmen of the overall unit, will be consistently involved, but rarely will they actually create disruption.

    The most interesting player is Ufomba Kamalu, who has an opportunity to challenge and maybe even overtake Chickillo on one side. Considering Chick's eligibility expires following the season, that wouldn't be such a bad thing.

    Tyriq McCord and Chad Thomas figure to be outstanding edge-rushers, but their roles are essentially limited to third down. Earl Moore and Calvin Hertelou should be decent in the middle, and it's worth following Michael Wyche's progression.

    Major contributions are not expected from Jelani Hamilton, Corey King and a pair of true freshmen in Anthony Moten and Trent Harris, but the defensive rotation will give them reps.

Linebackers

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    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    Projected Starters: Alex Figueroa, SO; Denzel Perryman, SR; Raphael Kirby, JR

    Key Backups: Thurston Armbrister, SR; Jermaine Grace, SO; Juwon Young, FR; JaWand Blue, SO; Darrion Owens, FR

    Calling the linebackers the all-potential unit would be pretty accurate. Denzel Perryman is ultimately the only established player, and he's moving to the middle.

    Alex Figueroa, Thurston Armbrister, Raphael Kirby and Jermaine Grace are certain to see plenty of action so Golden and defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio can find their top two outside guys.

    Reaching into the bench, JaWand Blue has been a wait-and-see player for a couple seasons while Juwon Young and Darrion Owens were highly touted 2014 signees.

    As a whole, the new linebackers could be really good. But they could be perfectly mediocre in their first season as starters.

Secondary

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    Gerry Broome/Associated Press

    Projected Starters: Tracy Howard, JR; Deon Bush, JR; Rayshawn Jenkins, JR; Ladarius Gunter, SR

    Key Backups: Antonio Crawford, JR; Dallas Crawford, JR; Jamal Carter, SO; Artie Burns, SO; Corn Elder, SO; Kiy Hester, FR

    The Miami secondary is the team's most improved unit, largely because the only players who graduated were backup-caliber anyway.

    Tracy Howard and Deon Bush are the big names, and Rayshawn Jenkins has been the most consistent performer. Ladarius Gunter earned 17 starts over the last two seasons, but Artie Burns will push him for the starting job.

    Dallas Crawford and Jamal Carter both demonstrated they could be legitimate backups during spring practice, and the Hurricanes are expecting that to continue. Antonio Crawford, who made a game-sealing interception against Wake Forest in 2013, will play nickelback—no, not the band.

    Lastly, Kiy Hester and Corn Elder are among the "you might hear from us but don't expect too much" crowd.

Specialists

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    J Pat Carter/Associated Press

    Projected Starters: Matt Goudis (K and P), JR; Stacy Coley (KR and PR), SO

    Key Backups: Ricky Carroll (P), SR; Justin Vogel (P), SO; Artie Burns (KR and PR), SO; Phillip Dorsett (PR), SR

    Ricky Carroll and Justin Vogel will compete to be the starting punter, but Matt Goudis is the front-runner to add that job to his field-goal duties.

    The Hurricanes have had excellent kick returners for a couple seasons, but Golden faces the same dilemma in 2014 as he did last year.

    Duke occupied that role as a freshman, but his returns were limited when he moved into the lead role in the backfield. Coley proved to be the best option in 2013, but he will be a starting wideout this season.

    Though he eventually fumbled, Burns broke a long return against Virginia Tech and could earn the responsibility as a sophomore. Plus, Dorsett has blazing speed and was previously been sent deep while at "The U," but he also could be a starter at receiver.

    Adding Berrios and Carter only complicates the situation, leaving the question far from answered. Fortunately, however, there isn't really a wrong answer.

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