UM’s Manny Diaz says he respects LSU quarterback Joe Burrow
A position-by-position breakdown of the Miami Hurricanes football team ahead of the 2018 season.
Quarterback | B+
Malik Rosier set UM’s single-season record for “touchdowns responsible for” last season with 31, topping the mark set by Vinny Testaverde (30) when he won the Heisman trophy in 1986. Still, the 6-1, 212-pound redshirt senior sputtered down the stretch. He completed less than 45 percent of his passes and threw more interceptions (5) than touchdowns (3) over his final three games (92.2 quarterback rating). Rosier has to prove he can rebound, turn the ball over less than he did last season (14 INTs) and complete his passes at a higher percentage (54.0 percent) or he will be in danger of losing his job. Redshirt freshman N’Kosi Perry (6-4, 195) struggled picking up the playbook last season. So true freshman Jarren Williams (6-2, 210) could surge past him as he continues to develop.
Running back | A-
Junior Travis Homer (5-11, 205) came on strong after Mark Walton was lost to a season-ending knee injury, running for 966 yards, eight touchdowns and 5.9 yards per carry en route to All-ACC Second Team honors. He’s rated the ninth-best draft eligible running back in the country by CBS Sports. Sophomore DeeJay Dallas (5-10, 220), converted from receiver, showed flashes in spot duty last season and redshirt senior Trayone Gray (6-2, 240) will provide depth. The future looks bright with blue chip recruits Lorenzo Lingard (6-0, 195) and Cam’Ron Davis (5-10, 190) waiting in the wings.
Receivers | A-
Coming off an injury-plagued sophomore season, big things are expected of junior Ahmmon Richards (6-1, 205), a consensus Freshman All-American in 2016 rated the fourth-best draft eligible receiver in the country by CBS Sports. There’s plenty of talent behind him, but no proven high-volume pass catchers at the collegiate level. Redshirt senior Darrell Langham (6-4, 235) had big catches late in wins over Florida State and Georgia Tech, but had only 11 catches total for the season. Speedy sophomores Jeff Thomas (5-10, 180) and Mike Harley (5-9, 175) have big play potential. Freshmen Mark Pope (6-1, 180) and Brian Hightower (6-3, 210) are highly regarded.
Tight tends | B-
When projected starter Michael Irvin II (9 catches, 78 yards in 2017) went down with an MCL tear earlier this month it forced freshmen Brevin Jordan (6-3, 245) and Will Mallory (6-5, 230) into a heavy workload faster than anticipated. The good news: both Jordan, a consensus four-star recruit rated the No. 1 tight end coming out of high school by ESPN and 247Sports.com, and Mallory, a consensus four-star recruit rated the third-best tight end coming out of high school by ESPN, are highly-touted phenoms. The question is if they’ll be able to handle the bumps and bruises of an entire season because there’s nobody else on scholarship at tight end beyond them.
Offensive line | B+
Three experienced starters are back. Senior Tyree St. Louis (6-5, 315) has moved over to left tackle after making 21 consecutive starts at right tackle over the last two seasons. Navaughn Donaldson, a 6-6, 340-pound Freshman All-American, moves over to right tackle after making 10 starts at right guard in 2017. Senior Tyler Gauthier (6-5, 300) is back to start at center after 17 consecutive starts in the interior of Miami’s offensive line. The new starters: junior Hayden Mahoney (6-5, 305) at right guard and senior Jahair Jones (6-4, 316) at left guard. Jones is being pushed for playing time by Tennessee transfer Venzell Boulware (6-3, 306). Highly touted freshman DJ Scaife (6-3, 300) and sophomore Corey Gaynor (6-4, 305) are also considered top reserves.
Defensive line | B+
Replacing tackles RJ McIntosh and Kendrick Norton, who left school a year early for the NFL, will take a team effort. Coach Mark Richt said redshirt senior Gerald Willis III (6-4, 300) is on the level of McIntosh and Norton, but UM needs a combination of junior Pat Bethel (6-3, 285), sophomore Jonathan Ford (6-5, 300) and Illinois graduate transfer Tito Odenigbo (6-3, 300) to fill the other gap. At end, Miami remains solid with junior Joe Jackson (6-5, 265), rated the fifth-best draft eligible player at his position by CBS Sports, and redshirt senior Demetrius Jackson (6-3, 260) anchoring a deep unit. UM expects big things out of sophomore Jonathan Garvin (6-4, 250) and freakish freshman Gregory Rousseau (6-6, 250).
Linebackers | A
Juniors Shaquille Quarterman (6-1, 235), Michael Pinckney (6-1, 220) and Zach McCloud (6-2, 235) helped UM hold opponents to only 3.5 yards per carry last season and ranked behind only Alabama and Michigan for the best linebacker unit in the country according to Athlon Sports. Defensive coordinator Manny Diaz said he likes the depth at inside linebacker even if there isn’t a lot of experience. Senior Mike Smith (6-1, 235) has played mostly special teams throughout his career. Redshirt freshman Waynmon Steed (5-11, 220) had a nice spring and sophomore Bradley Jennings (6-1, 230) showed flashes on special teams last season.
Defensive backs | A
The top three cornerback spots are set with senior Michael Jackson (6-1, 205), who earned All-ACC Second Team honors last season, senior Jhavonte Dean (6-2, 192) and sophomore Trajan Bandy (5-9, 188). Highly touted freshmen Al Blades (6-1, 185) and DJ Ivey (6-1, 194) appear to have emerged from fall camp having earned reps as backups. At safety, the Canes appear to be even more loaded than expected. Senior and preseason All-American Jaquan Johnson (5-11, 195) forms an experienced starting unit alongside Sheldrick Redwine (6-1, 205). Freshman Gurvan Hall (6-0, 200) and sophomore Amari Carter (6-2, 200) have flashed throughout camp along with redshirt junior Robert Knowles (6-1, 200).
Special Teams | A
All-ACC First Team kicker Michael Badgley (17 of 23 on field goals) is gone and the Canes have replaced him with freshman Bubba Baxa, rated the No. 4 kicker in the nation by ESPN in the Class of 2018. Punter Zach Feagles had a rough freshman season averaging only 38.6 yards per punt, but should only get better with time. Sophomores Jeff Thomas and Deejay Dallas will handle return duties again with Thomas adding punt return duties.
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