Miami Football: 5 Hurricanes Poised for Breakout Seasons
College football followers are familiar with Duke Johnson, Stacy Coley and Denzel Perryman, but five lesser-known Miami Hurricanes are poised for breakout seasons in 2014.
Youth, injury and nationally popular teammates have overshadowed the members of the list, keeping them as relatively unknown commodities beyond the conference landscape.
The following 'Canes are organized by position, not by a subjective interpretation of the respective performances each player is capable of this season.
Gus Edwards, Running Back
Last season, Dallas Crawford scored eight of his 12 touchdowns when Duke Johnson was healthy, capitalizing on short-distance opportunities. Behind him, Gus Edwards had a solid freshman campaign, running for 338 yards and five touchdowns on 66 carries—a 5.1-yard average.
In preparation for earning the tough yards at the line of scrimmage and powerfully finishing drives, Edwards has bulked up to 235 pounds, per the school's athletics website.
The sophomore will try to mirror Crawford's successes, and even if Edwards' yardage matches his own 2013 numbers, the importance of the power back's carries will rise this year.
Stats are not the telltale sign of success, it's what those numbers accomplish that matter.
Malcolm Lewis, Wide Receiver
Malcolm Lewis is recognized by the kind of injury football fans hate to hear about and hope the player can eventually overcome.
Once rated a 4-star by 247Sports, Lewis compiled seven receptions for 61 yards and a touchdown along with a 39-yard kick return through his first three collegiate games. The fourth outing, however, was when the promising young receiver suffered a terrible ankle injury and was sidelined for the season.
In 2013, a groin surgery limited Lewis, leaving him in a reserve role for the entire campaign. According to Christy Cabrera Chirinos of the South Florida Sun Sentinel, Al Golden said Lewis is currently in great shape.
If Kevin Olsen is named the starting quarterback in Ryan Williams' absence, look for the redshirt freshman to target Lewis often. The two showed great chemistry during the spring game, connecting a handful of times throughout the day.
Otherwise, Jake Heaps or Brad Kaaya will have a completely healthy and dangerous Lewis bursting from the slot.
Ereck Flowers, Left Tackle
How exactly does an offensive lineman have a breakout season? His performance will not be available in the box score; rather, it will be noticeable by the lack of grass stains on his quarterback's jersey.
Offensive tackle Ereck Flowers has already started 17 games for Miami, proving himself as one of the team's best linemen.
A high school teammate of Duke Johnson, the junior has largely remained under the radar to this point because of the Seantrel Henderson saga that—for better or worse—dominated headlines.
Flowers was listed by Phil Steele as a second-team candidate for his preseason All-ACC selections, which is basically the floor of what, barring injury, he will accomplish this year.
Jermaine Grace, Linebacker
Jermaine Grace spent the 2013 season contributing on the kickoff unit and was named the most improved player on special teams following spring practice.
But the Miramar High School product will be doing more than chasing kick returners this year—Grace will be stalking running backs all over the field.
Per Susan Miller Degnan of The Miami Herald, Grace recently recorded a 4.49-second 40-yard dash, flashing speed that complements the physicality of Denzel Perryman.
The sophomore and Thurston Armbrister will rotate on the weak side, but Grace should make his mark as the Hurricanes' best coverage linebacker.
Deon Bush, Safety
At first glance, Deon Bush's inclusion on the list may raise some eyebrows. After all, he was a second-team Freshman All-American in 2012 and earned honorable mention All-ACC last year.
However, the safety has merely skimmed his athletic ceiling, evidenced by decent numbers even when hampered by injuries. According to Matt Porter of the Palm Beach Post, Bush said he was "at no point 100 percent last year."
Bush has tallied 34 and 31 tackles in his two respective seasons at Miami in addition to four total forced fumbles, four pass breakups and one interception.
The junior has logged only nine starts over 21 appearances, so a complete season in the entire starting lineup will allow Bush to showcase his potentially elite skills.
All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.