The Herald’s Manny Navarro grades the Miami Hurricanes by position, and also the coaching staff:
When camp opened quarterback appeared to be the biggest question mark on the roster following the knee injury to returning veteran Ryan Williams in spring practice. It isn’t anymore. Two very viable options have emerged in experienced transfer Jake Heaps (25 career starts at BYU, Kansas) and talented true freshman Brad Kaaya, who is clearly the future of the program. If the duo can keep the turnovers down, Miami could live up to expectations and win the Coastal. Grade: B.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Miami Herald
A healthy Duke Johnson could make a run at the Doak Walker Award this season. Miami has never had a winner before. Freshmen Joseph Yearby and Trayone Gray have impressed in camp and made coach Al Golden look like a smart man switching Dallas Crawford to safety. Sophomore Gus “The Bus’’ Edwards should be a nice complementary bruising back in James Coley’s offense. Grade: A-
Speedy senior Phillip Dorsett, who ran a 4.2 in the 40-yard dash this summer, will help keep the double-teams off talented sophomore Stacy Coley. Redshirt sophomore Malcolm Lewis and junior Herb Waters are finally both healthy and appear ready to take the next step. Senior Clive Walford could be in line for a big season at tight end. Grade: A.
Golden was worried about depth, but the emergence of sophomore Hunter Wells (6-6, 312 pounds) and freshmen Trevor Darling (6-5, 310), Kc McDermott (6-6, 305) and Joe Brown (6-4, 318) have made Miami’s coach confident this unit can run 10 deep. There’s plenty of returning experience with left tackle Ereck Flowers (17 starts), left guard Jon Feliciano (33 starts) and center Shane McDermott (23 starts). UM allowed only 17 sacks last season (21st fewest) and averaged 4.78 yards per carry (36th ranked). Grade: A-
The 2013 Hurricanes more than doubled their sack total from 2012 (going from 13 to 29) and gave up 41 yards fewer per game on the ground. But there’s still plenty of room for improvement as they ranked 76th in run defense and 44th in sacks. Seniors Anthony Chickillo (34 starts, 12 1/2 career sacks) and Olsen Pierre (23 starts) provide experience, but the success of this group is going to depend a lot on freshmen Chad Thomas (6-5, 265) and Trent Harris (6-2, 238) and JUCO signee Calvin Heurtelou (6-3, 315) being better than their predecessors. Grade: C+
Senior middle linebacker Denzel Perryman has 14 more career starts (24 total) and 81 more career tackles (241) than the other nine players taking snaps at linebacker in camp combined. Senior outside linebacker Thurston Armbrister (6-3, 241) is the only player with starting experience and he has struggled at times in pass coverage. Three players were moved from other positions to linebacker to help depth after JaWand Blue and Alex Figueroa were booted off the team in July following arrests. But this is clearly UM’s biggest area of concern. Grade: C.
Miami’s pass defense ranked 92nd in terms of yardage last season (249.8), and that’s an improvement over the 268.5 yards per game they gave up in 2012 (105th). They also produced seven more interceptions than in 2012 (18 total). But the troubling part is how easy any team with a halfway decent quarterback can throw the football against the Hurricanes. The combined passer rating of the seven teams with winning records who faced UM last season was 151.61. The good news: This group, led by Tracy Howard and Ladarius Gunter, is older and more experienced now. Grade: B.
The kickoff return team will once again be special. Kicker Matt Goudis returns after going 13 of 17 on field goals, including a career long 49-yarder in 2013. He was a perfect 57 of 57 on extra points. As a group, the Hurricanes blocked four kicks (tied for 10th nationally) and had the 34th-best kickoff coverage team in the country. The question mark is at punter. With Pat O’Donnell now in the NFL following a special season (he averaged a UM-record 46.26 yards per punt), walk-ons Ricky Carroll and Justin Vogel were competing for the job. Grade: B+.
Al Golden’s fourth year at the helm will be his first without having to worry about a pending NCAA decision and the hard times appear to be behind them (the 16 players Golden recruited who have transferred or booted out were all a part of his first two signing classes). Only three players recruited under Randy Shannon remain: offensive linemen Jonathan Feliciano and Shane McDermott and tight end Clive Walford. So, these really are Golden’s guys. Outside of linebackers coach Micheal Barrow going on a sabbatical, the staff remains intact. No excuses, right? Grade: B.