Travis Benjamin (3) fights for the ball
Al Golden took over the Miami Hurricanes just six weeks before National Signing Day. In that time he and his staff have hit the recruiting trail hard.
They've managed to sign 16 players to national letters of intent, and in the process, flipped eight commitments from other schools.
Under Golden, the Canes' 2011 recruiting class ranking remarkably climbed 52 spots, from 85 to 33.
This is the third part in an ongoing series highlighting the state of the Hurricanes and how their new signees have affected each position.
Today's lesson: Wide Receivers
With the departure of senior receiver and team leader Leonard Hankerson to the NFL draft, the Miami Hurricanes have to replace the key to their passing attack from the last couple of seasons.
As a junior in 2009, Hankerson registered 45 catches for 801 yards with six touchdowns. It was an unspectacular yet solid year that saw the former St. Thomas Aquinas standout register at least one catch in every game.
As a senior in 2010, Hankerson's numbers ballooned to 72 catches for 1156 yards with 13 touchdowns. He quickly became the go-to guy for both Jacory Harris and Stephen Morris, recording at least three catches in every contest.
Hank's 13 scores also broke Michael Irvin's single season record for touchdown catches by a Hurricanes receiver.
Miami will return three seniors to the receiving corps in 2011; Travis Benjamin, LaRon Byrd and Aldarius Johnson. All three were a part of the Hurricanes No. 1 recruiting class in 2008, and each have their own unique skill sets.
Byrd is perhaps the most talented among the three.
At 6'4" and 215 pounds with 4.4-4.5 speed in the 40-yard-dash, there is no reason why LaRon Byrd shouldn't be dominating college cornerbacks.
Byrd is a big, strong target who doesn't run the cleanest routes but is deadly in man to man coverage.
Although he can make the tough catch at times, LaRon has questionable hands and he can seemingly disappear for large portions of games.
He has, however, seen his catches increase every season (21, 33, 41) and if that trend continues he could be in for a big year in 2011.
But with just two touchdowns in the past two seasons, LaRon Byrd needs to get more targets in the red zone.
Travis Benjamin is the burner among the three. With the departure of Sam Shields, Benjamin became the de-facto fastest player on the Hurricanes roster with his 4.26 speed.
"TB" as he's affectionately (if unoriginally) known is a dynamic playmaker.
He has an incredibly explosive first step, and unbelievable straight line speed to get behind college safeties. Benjamin is a true deep threat and can also be a danger when returning punts as Ohio State had the misfortune of finding out.
Benjamin's production has increased every season. After just 19 catches as a freshman, Travis recorded 29 grabs for 501 yards as a sophomore and that increased to 43 catches for 743 yards as a junior. He has averaged 17.3 yards per catch in each of the past two seasons.
Travis Benjamin can make plays, he just needs to hold onto the ball when it's thrown his way; drops are, and always have been the biggest concern for this two sport star (Benjamin has excelled for UMiami Track and Field).
Aldarius Johnson has been plagued by injuries throughout his time at UM. It was his camaraderie with fellow Miami Northwestern teammate Jacory Harris that allowed Aldarius to see the field early.
After recording 31 catches as a freshman, however, Aldarius has only managed 16 and 15 grabs the past two years.
Johnson is in the Anquan Boldin mold of receiver. He plays wideout but almost in a tight end's body, with tight end speed. Aldarius is listed at 6'3", 200 pounds. He runs great routes, he has good hands and he isn't afraid to make catches in the middle of the field.
Aldarius is a prototypical slot/possession receiver.
Although he won't make big plays down the field or generate yards after the catch, Aldarius can help move the ball between the 20's and methodically generate one first down after another. He serves as a wonderful compliment to Byrd and Benjamin.
Redshirt juniors Kendal Thompkins, Tommy Streeter and Davon Johnson, all themselves a part of that loaded 2008 recruiting class, are expected to see more playing time in 2011.
Though they have received sporadic use throughout their college careers, all three were productive players in high school and have been blocked by older players in college.
In fact, Thompkins and Streeter won a national championship with Miami Northwestern alongside Aldarius Johnson and Jacory Harris.
Both Thompkins and Booker T. Washington's Davon Johnson are speed receivers.
With the pending graduation of LaRon Byrd and Travis Benjamin, the Canes need a downfield presence going into 2012. One of the two, and possibly the track star Johnson, will emerge as Benjamin's replacement.
At 6'5", 210 pounds and with 4.4 speed, Tommy Streeter will also see more time in the coming seasons. Streeter is immensely big for his position and, for his size, alarmingly fast. He has the makeup of former Georgia Tech wide receiver and Detroit Lions star Calvin Johnson.
Streeter is bigger than any corner he lines up on the field against, and as a fourth receiver he would be a nightmare for any linebacker to cover.
Tommy Streeter is a specimen and he needs to see the field. He becomes an immediate mismatch for whoever is forced to cover him.
Beyond the six upper classmen, the Canes depth chart consists of one sophomore, Allen Hurns, and two freshmen, Phillip Dorsett and Rashawn Scott.
Hurns hails from Carol City High School and, while talented, suffered a season ending injury early in his senior year. It remains to be seen if the big, elusive, sure-handed target can get back to full strength and contribute for Miami down the line.
Dorsett signed with Miami from Class 5A state runner-up St. Thomas Aquinas. He will play early in his career because Al Golden likes receivers who run clean routes and make reliable catches.
Dorsett is a tough inside receiver who should flourish in the slot and form a connection with Stephen Morris.
Rashawn Scott was a two way player (receiver, safety) at Melbourne Central Catholic High School and was named a Florida All-State selection for his contributions. He stands 6'2", weighs 198 pounds and should only get bigger under strength coach Andreu Swasey.
Scott is a well-rounded player who recorded 845 receiving yards, 945 rushing yards, and 31 touchdowns as a senior. He also threw for nearly 600 yards and could serve in some capacity running trick plays or the wildcat.
Rashawn Scott is extremely graceful for a receiver of his size. He runs with determination and he has a nose for the end zone. It wouldn't be surprise to see this under-the-radar prospect turn into a very dangerous college receiver.
The Miami Hurricanes are relatively old, but have lots of diverse talent among their wide receiver corp. It will be interesting to see how the depth chart and playing time shakes out as the season nears.
With Miami expected to run the ball more in 2011, Leonard Hankerson's catches might be generally re-allocated into more rushing attempts.
Miami doesn't need a number one receiver to have success this year. They just need their receivers to make plays when called upon. Drops have plagued the Canes since their downturn.
It will be up to first year receivers coach George McDonald to fix the drops and remedy one of the primary recent problems that has plagued Miami and continually cost them games.