Power Ranking Miami's Positional Units for 2014
The Miami Hurricanes showcase individual talent in Duke Johnson, Stacy Coley and Denzel Perryman, but it takes a complete roster to win games.
So then, how do the Hurricanes' positional units compare in respect to one another? From skill positions to the team's bulk to specialists, Bleacher Report is taking a shot at power ranking everything Miami will put on the field in 2014.
Each position is broken down into top players and question marks, the latter of which includes current unknowns and past inconsistencies on the roster.
Remember, this is a subjective ranking, so please feel free to post your order in the comments section.
9. Defensive Line
Top Players: Anthony Chickillo, Olsen Pierre, Al-Quadin Muhammad
Question Marks: Everyone
Why They're Ranked Here: The Miami defensive line could become the surprise group on the team, or it might just be below average once again.
Chickillo has been consistent but not a star. Pierre had one solid season followed by a decent campaign. Tyriq McCord is a one-trick pony as an edge-rusher. Earl Moore and Corey King are unproven. Muhammad and Ufomba Kamalu have plenty of upside, but neither player has seen overwhelming collegiate success to date.
What is each player's ceiling? Have they truly progressed during the offseason? Will they actually produce come game day, even if only by disruption? All those questions, especially the final two, cannot be answered until the fall.
And those are some pretty major concerns.
Top Player: Ryan Williams
Question Marks: Ryan Williams, Kevin Olsen, Jake Heaps, Brad Kaaya
Why They're Ranked Here: The Hurricanes offense is caught in a predicament that will not be solved in the near future. If the season started today, Miami would have no consensus starter.
Head coach Al Golden and offensive coordinator James Coley are in the process of deciding which route will be the most effective. The 'Canes might be directed by a fifth-year senior transfer in Heaps, but the more appealing options are relying on the younger players in Olsen or Kaaya.
Then again, if the true freshman Kaaya starts immediately, the coaching staff is setting itself up for another tough call. When Williams returns from injury midseason, Kaaya could either continue on as starter or have essentially wasted a possible redshirt season.
While that decision impacts Miami's future significantly more than the 2014 campaign, it's still not an optimal situation for the coaches. Ultimately, the Hurricanes may be in a heap of trouble if no quarterback stands out during fall camp.
Top Player: Matt Goudis
Question Marks: Justin Vogel, Ricky Carroll
Why They're Ranked Here: Last season, Goudis showed he is a reliable placekicker by converting every extra point and 77 percent of field goals.
However, Miami must fill the void created by an All-American punter, and it won't be easy. Replacing Pat O'Donnell's remarkable 2013 campaign is practically impossible, so the 'Canes are looking for a 40.0-plus yards per punt.
Can Goudis achieve that mark? Or will the transfer Vogel or senior Carroll step up and win the job?
6. Tight End
Top Player: Clive Walford
Question Marks: Beau Sandland, Standish Dobard
Why They're Ranked Here: Clive Walford's decision to return for his senior campaign kept his position from being the last-ranked unit.
Since Greg Olsen graduated in 2006, Miami has been in dire need of a tight end who actually produces. However, Walford has slowly evolved into a key player in the Hurricanes' passing attack, hauling in 59 passes (six touchdowns) over the last two seasons.
Admittedly, I was over-sold on Sandland's potential impact in 2013. After a full slate of game experience, though, this year Miami will have a pair of viable targets between he and a steadily improving Dobard.
Viable is not necessarily spectacular, but the tight ends will not be considered the liability they once were.
Top Player: Denzel Perryman
Question Marks: Raphael Kirby, Jermaine Grace
Why They're Ranked Here: Perryman does not require too much attention, because the vast majority of the country knows how good the senior is.
Despite a small sample, Alex Figueroa is prepared to be a top-five tackler on the team—barring an injury to his nagging shoulder, that is. Behind him and Thurston Armbrister, though, are two players who either destroy or solidify the Hurricanes' depth at linebacker.
We can rave about Kirby's instincts and big hits all we want, but he still only has 26 tackles in 20 career games. Miami needs the outside linebacker to show his abilities during games, not just practice. Grace emerged during the spring, but the sophomore has little notable experience on anything other than special teams.
By season's end, the linebackers could be one of the Hurricanes' top three positions, or merely a subpar overall unit anchored by one elite talent.
4. Offensive Line
Top Players: Shane McDermott, Ereck Flowers, Jon Feliciano
Question Marks: Danny Isidora, Taylor Gadbois
Why They're Ranked Here: The offensive line is breaking in two new starters, but the returning three are safely among the best players on the roster.
McDermott and Flowers were both listed on one of Phil Steele's Preseason All-ACC Teams, and a 33-game starter in Feliciano could not have been far behind.
When a game gets tight down the stretch, Miami can be comfortable relying on the men in the trenches—especially on the left side—similar to the fourth quarter against North Carolina last year.
3. Wide Receiver
Top Players: Stacy Coley, Phillip Dorsett
Question Marks: Rashawn Scott, Malcolm Lewis
Why They're Ranked Here: The Miami receiving corps is a diverse, talented unit littered with track speed, superb agility and glue-like hands.
Oh, wait. That's just Stacy Coley.
While one freak athlete does not define a position that will typically need three players, he certainly makes it a dangerous one. Fortunately for the Hurricanes, Dorsett, Lewis and Scott match the listed attributes, respectively, and Herb Waters is another effective weapon.
Miami pass-catchers are waiting to see which quarterback will be slinging the football, but repetition will build both a connection and familiarity. The major question surrounding the Hurricanes' receivers is their collective ceiling, not if they will produce.
Top Players: Tracy Howard, Rayshawn Jenkins, Ladarius Gunter
Question Marks: Deon Bush, Jamal Carter, Dallas Crawford
Why They're Ranked Here: Yes, the secondary was absolutely torched a few times last season, but the defensive backs can only cover for so long before one receiver eventually finds an open space. Such is life on a team with a struggling defensive line.
Howard is expected to follow up a strong sophomore campaign with a breakout junior year, and the cornerback is certainly capable of achieving high national honors. Flanked by Gunter, Artie Burns and Antonio Crawford, the Hurricanes' corners are a dependable unit.
At safety, Jenkins does not receive the hype Bush does, but the former has contributed more on a per-game basis than the latter. Carter exploded onto the scene during spring practice, and he figures to hold steady over incoming freshmen Kiy Hester and Marques Gayot.
Tagging Bush, Carter and Dallas Crawford as question marks is more-so wondering the extent of each player's respective role. Bush is probably a starter, but how often will Carter and Crawford be on the field?
Regardless, Miami is far more comfortable with the current two-deep in the secondary than it was last season.
1. Running Back
Top Players: Duke Johnson, Gus Edwards, Joe Yearby
Question Marks: Gus Edwards, Joe Yearby
Why They're Ranked Here: So long as Duke Johnson is completely healthy, the running back position is the Hurricanes' premier unit.
And he is just that. Johnson recently told Christy Cabrera Chirinos of the South Florida Sun Sentinel that he feels "100 percent right now" and is back to "normal football workouts."
Additionally, Edwards and Yearby are an upgrade over last year's backups. Of course, that fact is primarily due to Edwards' own progression, which was supplemented by the sophomore being the first-teamer throughout March and April.
If there is only one thing for Miami fans to be most excited about, it's watching this exciting trio—at the team's best position—during the 2014 season.