Canes' Top 5 Impact Players for 2011

Danny DolphinAnalyst IJune 29, 2011

MIAMI - NOVEMBER 20:  Lamar Miller #6 of the Miami Hurricanes runs for a touchdown during a game against the Virginia Tech Hokies at Sun Life Stadium on November 20, 2010 in Miami, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

With an epic basketball season in the books, it’s time to shift our sports cravings towards the gridiron.

Why not baseball, you say? Apart from me failing at it as an athlete, baseball is boring, and it’s always going on. It’s like background music, it leaves you unsatisfied on it’s own but acceptable in a complimentary role, such as when I’m sleeping.

The Miami Hurricanes begin a new era with Al Golden taking the reigns of a football program clawing to get back to it’s prestigious roots. They boast a young, talented roster and expectations are sky high for a first-year coach.

This isn’t some rebuilding plan. The time to win is now.

Let’s take a look at the top five impact players on this talented Canes roster for the upcoming 2011 season. Any position is eligible.

Honorable mention: QB Stephen Morris (Should be the starter), OT Seantrel Henderson (Most physically gifted specimen in ACC), OG Brandon Washington (Potentially dominant interior lineman), RB Mike James (A bull)

5. Travis Benjamin, WR (Sr.)

Nobody questions the track speed of one of the fastest players in all of college football. Now whether that speed (recorded in the 4.2-4.3 range in the 40) ever correlates to a special career on the field is up to Benjamin.

The senior wideout has underachieved in his three-year career at Miami. Frequently, he is the culprit of dropped passes and not fighting for live balls. Benjamin, in part, was responsible for many so called “mistakes” from the quarterbacks.

For him to become a true impact player, he needs to add aggression to his game. He needs to give his quarterback the confidence that either he’s catching it or no one is.

4. Marcus Forston, DT (Jr.)

Widely regarded as the top defensive tackle out of high school, Forston is another player who’s yet to fulfill his monstrous potential. The 6’4″, 300-pound behemoth needs to be a force every time he touches the field.

The great Canes defensive lineman over the years—including but not limited to Warren Sapp and Vince Wilfork—were special by the end of their Canes’ careers.

They put immense pressure on the opposition’s line from start to finish. Forston has the same type of ability, but hasn’t shown the consistency. Can this young coaching stuff rip it out of him?

3. Ray-Ray Armstrong, S (Jr.)

From the late Sean Taylor to Ed Reed, the Hurricanes poot out superstar safeties like nobody’s business. Armstrong was supposed to be the next great safety to roll through Coral Gables. Rivals ranked him as the 13th overall recruit in his class.

Two years later, he doesn’t have much to show for his freakish natural ability and prototypical 6’4″, 220-pound frame besides an All-ACC 2nd Team selection last season. For most players that’s more than enough, but for Ray-Ray that’s only the cusp.

Armstrong made a ton of mental mistakes last season. Taking poor tackling angles was a big one. If he can parlay his electric physical skills with smart decision making and fundamental tackling, there’s no telling how high this kid can climb.

2. Sean Spence, LB (Sr.)

The tackling machine finished with 110 takedowns last season, including a team leading 17 tackles-for-loss. While Spence doesn’t have great size for the position (6’0″, 220), he has the range and awareness to control the line of scrimmage.

A ferocious hitter who can change the game on one play, Spence is a surefire All-American candidate and the leader of what could be a dominant defense.

1. Lamar Miller, RB (So.)

Y’al better enjoy Lamar’s talents while they have him. With his breakaway speed, vision, and strength, the NFL will come calling, and as a redshirt sophomore he will be eligible.  This is his year to get a heavy dose of carries in what should be a run-first offense.

I’ve always thought Miller’s greatest strength wasn’t his home-run speed, but his ability to always get positive yardage, a true sign of an elite back.

His slithering feet allows him to always gain ground although it looks like he’s barely moving. His style reminds me of a smaller, but tad faster Willis McGahee (Pre-Fiesta Bowl injury of-course).

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