Miami Football: Strengths, Weaknesses and Secret Weapons

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Miami Football: Strengths, Weaknesses and Secret Weapons
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Malcolm Lewis figures to be a key piece on offense.

Unknowns for the upcoming season are continuing to surface, but the Miami Hurricanes have some evident strengths, weaknesses and secret weapons on the roster.

Whether it be individual players and positional units, the 'Canes have a few assets they can lean on when trouble arises. Of course, the hardships are typically a result of exploited units that allow opponents to build or steal an advantage on the scoreboard.

But if the usual suspects cannot rise to the challenge, Miami has a few players who are capable of stepping up to propel either the offense or defense.

The question that will be answered from September to November, however, is if the 2014 Hurricanes are able to consistently overcome any misfortune.

 

Strengths

Duke Johnson and Stacy Coley are the type of players every coach wishes he had, and the duo is a paramount reason Miami will be in contention for the Coastal Division.

Out of the backfield, Johnson averaged well over 100 yards per game in eight appearances last season. Then, other than Johnson, Coley was the 'Canes' most explosive talent, though his kick-return duties may be limited this year.

Speedster Phillip Dorsett stretches the field, opening up the underneath routes for his fellow wide receivers and tight end Clive Walford.

The left side of the offensive line—tackle Ereck Flowers, guard Jon Feliciano and center Shane McDermott—has combined to make 73 starts since 2011. The blind side of whichever quarterback is eventually named starter should be well protected.

USA TODAY Sports
Ereck Flowers is a key offensive lineman while Miami breaks in a new quarterback.

Defensively, Denzel Perryman is touted as one of the country's best inside linebackers. He has been Miami's most reliable tackler, which the defense as a whole is attempting to emulate in 2014.

The Hurricanes secondary returns all its top players. Plus, Deon Bush will be a more significant contributor, Artie Burns will occupy a larger role and Jamal Carter has emerged as a promising backup.

Add Tracy Howard's projected rise and Rayshawn Jenkins' proven talent to Ladarius Gunter, Antonio Crawford and Dallas Crawford, and Miami will showcase a strong defensive backfield.

 

Weaknesses

The predicament surrounding Miami quarterbacks is not one that will be easily resolved. Ryan Williams' injury complicated the scenario, Kevin Olsen's poor showing threw the 'Canes for a loop and Jake Heaps' transfer made the competition an absolute mess.

That situation is certainly fluid, and personal preferences will probably change about 13 times before the season opener at Louisville.

USA TODAY Sports
Anthony Chickillo needs to pump up the crowd with on-field performance in marquee games.

At risk of beating a long-broken drum, the defensive line represents an obvious concern. Miami has plenty of talent, but results always seem to elude the men in the trenches.

Anthony Chickillo and Olsen Pierre are the veteran leaders, and quite simply, the Hurricanes need their experience to play at a new level. The influx of new bodies is encouraging, but noteworthy production from Chad Thomas, Anthony Moten, Trent Harris and others is at least one year away.

Though loaded with potential, the linebackers are unproven—save for Perryman and Thurston Armbrister in a lesser manner. Raphael Kirby, Alex Figueroa and Jermaine Grace could become solid players on the second level, but again, that's a matter of wait-and-see.

 

Secret Weapons

Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
Gus Edwards is an exciting part of the Miami backfield, and he's the third-stringer.

Gus Edwards shouldered the first-string responsibilities during spring practice, while Johnson and Joe Yearby recovered from ankle and leg injuries, respectively.

A bruising sophomore, he showed a more explosive burst and much-improved finishing power that had 'Canes fans buzzing after the spring game. While Yearby is projected to earn the second-string role, Edwards is a perfect candidate to enter in short-yardage situations and bully his way to a first down—or a touchdown.

Though wide receiver Malcolm Lewis appeared in 11 games, he managed just seven catches while recovering from ankle and groin surgeries. Lining up alongside Coley and Dorsett, Lewis may be overlooked in a few game plans, giving him a chance to showcase the outstanding agility he showed early in 2012.

How many sacks will Al-Quadin Muhammad be credited in 2014?

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Al-Quadin Muhammad is not necessarily a secret by definition, but the defensive end was seldom used as a freshman. This year, it would be shocking if Muhammad is not a full-time starter, where he has an outstanding opportunity to register more sacks than he did total tackles (eight) last year.

Another defensive end, Ufomba Kamalu finished the 2013 campaign strong, tallying a sack against both Duke and Pitt.

Per Susan Miller Degnan of the Miami Herald, Kamalu said "I'm definitely a lot better from a year ago. I'm a lot faster. I feel like I have more understanding of the defense right now."

And a defense that better understands its collective role is something the Hurricanes have been lacking throughout recent seasons.

 

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

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