The Miami Hurricanes are back — in the draft, that is.
A program that finished 6-7 in 2014 and was dissected in every which way by fans and analysts will have several players rejoicing between Thursday and Saturday nights.
For the first time since 2008, the Hurricanes will likely have at least one player, be it receiver Phillip Dorsett, offensive tackle Ereck Flowers, or both, drafted in the first round among an NFL Draft crop expected to be Miami’s most fertile in years.
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Eight players could be gone when the draft concludes Saturday night. Others will be given a chance through free agency.
“I’ll be satisfied with any round,” said tight end Clive Walford, 23, projected as a second-rounder. “It’s an unbelievable opportunity for me to even be mentioned by NFL teams. Whether it’s free agent, seventh, sixth, fifth, fourth, third, second or first.
“I’m going to be happy regardless.”
Dorsett, whose status has soared since outstanding showings at the NFL Scouting Combine in February and Miami’s Pro Timing Day on April 1, is projected to be chosen between the middle and end of the first round, with Flowers right around there.
“I told several people that I talk to in the league that my favorite players in this draft are Miami Hurricanes,” said former NFL coach and ESPN analyst Jon Gruden. “I love Flowers at left tackle. I think he’s going to be a Pro Bowl lineman. He’s just a pup. But he is big, he is powerful, and he has the playing style I love.’’
ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr., who this week alternated picks with Todd McShay in a mock draft, chose speedster Dorsett 16th to the Houston Texans.
“He’s not the same kind of down-the-field threat as the departed [former Cane] Andre Johnson, because he doesn’t have the same size,” Kiper said of the 5-10, 185-pound Dorsett, who graduated from Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas. “But Dorsett can blow away even some of the fastest safeties. … Serious big-play addition here.”
Dorsett ran the 40-yard dash in 4.33 seconds at the Combine in Indianapolis, then blew away NFL coaches with a 4.25 in Coral Gables.
“Speed kills,” said UM strength and conditioning coach Andreu Swasey, who has been training Dorsett, linebackers Denzel Perryman and Thurston Armbrister, running back Duke Johnson, quarterback Ryan Williams and defensive tackle Olsen Pierre. “I have a good feeling about this draft. They had great pro days here, and the hard work is paying off.
“The NFL teams are in their war rooms, and now we just wait and see.’’
Johnson, like his former Miami Norland teammate Flowers, will skip his senior season to enter a draft heavy with running backs. Analysts think he will be a steal in the third round, if he doesn’t get taken before that.
Johnson set the career rushing record in three seasons with 3,519 yards and 26 touchdowns — despite a broken ankle that kept him out of the last five games of his sophomore season.
Perryman, a 2015 Butkus Award finalist and another highly touted hometown player who graduated from Coral Gables High, is expected to go in the second round.
Gruden said Perryman is on his “All-Gruden Grinder Team. He’s like [Jon] Beason, like all those Jonathan Vilma guys that have come through there. He makes a lot of tackles. He’s a great communicator, biggest hitter in the draft.”
And if that’s not enough, there’s defensive end Anthony Chickillo, cornerback Ladarius Gunter, guard Jon Feliciano and center Shane McDermott, all of whom could be drafted.
Add Pierre, Armbrister, Williams and quarterback Jake Heaps to the list of free agent potentials, and the weekend should be a real coup for the Hurricanes.
“I’m excited,” said McDermott, who said he’s heard he could go “anywhere between the fourth and seventh rounds — with the chance of priority free agency. Obviously, you want to be the top guy, but I put in all the work I possibly could, and now it’s a waiting game.’’
Miami Herald sportswriter Manny Navarro contributed to this report.
UM draft prospects