2012 Miami Preview - Offense
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CollegeFootballNews.com 2012 Preview - Miami Hurricane Offense
Preview 2012 - Offense
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What You Need To Know: So who gets the ball from head coach Al Golden when the ‘Canes travel to Boston College on Sept. 1? It’s the seminal question on fans’ minds as fall camp approaches. Memphis transfer Ryan Williams took all of the first-team snaps in the spring, and generally played well, but he wasn’t challenged in April the way he will be in August. Junior Stephen Morris is expected to return after being sidelined with a back injury in the spring. Whoever wins the job will be challenged by a dearth of returning talent. Miami must develop replacements for last year’s best back, Lamar Miller, top receiver, Tommy Streeter, and two most reliable linemen, C Tyler Horn and G Brandon Washington. The running game appears to be the domain of Mike James and Eduardo Clements, who’ve stood out in practice. However, rookie Duke Johnson wasn’t signed in February to redshirt his first year. The rebuilding receiving corps is looking for breakout years from Allen Hurns, who caught 31 passes in 2011, and up-and-coming sophomore Rashawn Scott, one of the stars of spring. The Hurricanes need to improve up front, especially if they’re going to run the ball up to Golden’s expectation. RG Brandon Linder is the new anchor in the trenches, but he has to get more support from the likes of LT Malcolm Bunche and new center Shane McDermott.
Star of the offense: Junior RG Brandon Linder
Passing: Stephen Morris
26-37, 283 yds, 0 TDs, 2 INTs
Rushing: Mike James
72 carries, 275 yds, 7 TDs
Receiving: Allen Hurns
31 catches, 415 yds, 4 TDs
Player who has to step up and become a star: Junior QB Stephen Morris or sophomore Ryan Williams
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore WR Phillip Dorsett
Best pro prospect: Junior RT Seantrel Henderson
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Linder, 2) Henderson, 3) Senior RB Mike James
Strength of the offense: Run blocking, speed and athleticism, tight end
Weakness of the offense: Uncertainty at quarterback, a proven feature back, wide receivers
For the second straight year, Al Golden will take a difficult decision about his quarterbacks into the summer. Unlike last season, though, Jacory Harris will not be one of the two competitors. The newcomer in the hunt is 6-6, 220-pound sophomore Ryan Williams, a transfer from Memphis. The Sunshine State product took most of the snaps with the first team in the spring, showing off his pocket presence, accurate arm and overall poise in his new surroundings. Despite sitting out last season per NCAA rules, he won’t be a newcomer to the field. In fact, he started as a rookie for the Tigers in 2010, throwing for 2,075 yards, 13 touchdowns and 10 picks under difficult circumstances.
Now that 6-2, 210-pound Stephen Morris has been medically cleared for contact, the battle behind center is about to really heat up. The junior underwent back surgery in the offseason, which prevented him from challenging Williams in the spring. However, he likely would have topped the depth chart in March had he been at full strength. He played extensively in 2010, but took a backseat to Harris after the opener, finishing just 26-of-37 for 283 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions. Morris relies on a very strong arm, light feet and a good feel for the pocket.
Watch Out For … Golden to wait until right before the opener to make his final decision. This is going to be a tough call, a close competition that requires every practice and every last snap before the final verdict is made. The staff doesn’t plan to rush the decision, especially since it did not have the luxury of comparing Morris and Williams side-by-side.
Strength: Two players with starting experience. Morris and Williams both started multiple games in 2010, before essentially going into dry dock last fall. The Hurricanes feel as if both players possess the poise and physical ability to adequately lead the offense this fall.
Weakness: Rust. Morris is coming off back surgery, and didn’t start a game after the opener last season. Williams sat out the entire 2011 season, and has only faced Conference USA competition during his two-year career. It might not be until October before the eventual starter actually finds his groove, and really gets comfortable in the pocket.
Outlook: The hope in South Florida is that competition will bring out the best in Morris and Williams this summer. The encouraging news is that the latter performed well in the spring, and the former is close to being back at full strength. The ‘Canes would be pleased if one of the two can build on the 2011 performance of Harris, who completed nearly two-thirds of his passes, threw for 20 touchdowns and was picked off just nine times.
Unit Rating: 6.5
Lamar Miller’s decision to bolt early for the NFL Draft, where he was selected in the fourth round by the Miami Dolphins, has left his alma mater in a tough spot in the backfield. Miller went for more than 1,000 yards, the first from the program to do so in almost a decade. Opportunity is knocking at Miami. The staff is hoping senior Mike James will answer. The blue-chipper from the 2009 class has yet to fulfill expectations, rushing for only 719 yards and 11 touchdowns in three seasons. However, Miller’s departure means that he’ll be first in line to shoulder the load on the ground. James is a rugged between-the-tackles runner who’s effective in shortage, reliable as a receiver and solid in blocking.
Right behind James at No. 2 is 5-9, 195-pound junior Eduardo Clements , a little-used runner up to this point. Buried on the depth chart, he only had 15 carries for 82 carries and a touchdown, but did catch 14 passes for 163 yards. The four-star back from the 2010 class makes nice cuts, and will remain on his feet if not wrapped up.
The thumper opening holes for James and Clements will be 5-11, 240-pound FB Maurice Hagens , a proven blocker for the Hurricanes. He won’t touch the ball often, but when he does, he’s the kind of physical runner who can move a pile near the goal line.
Watch Out For … Duke’s arrival. The Hurricanes are excited to inject rookie Duke Johnson , the local five-star pickup, into the equation. He’s an electrifying 5-9, 188-pounder who runs with more power than his modest size might indicate. Forget the redshirt. He’ll be rising up the depth chart shortly after practice begins.
Strength: Hands. The backs are going to serve as outstanding outlets for the quarterbacks in the passing game. All of them, from James on down, have soft hand and do a nice job of setting up their blocks. In James’ case, he’ll also recognize and pick up blitz, making him even more valuable on passing downs.
Weakness: A proven workhorse. James is a veteran, but he’s also been used sparingly throughout his career, never carrying the ball more than a dozen times in a game during his career. And after the senior, the backfield gets young in a hurry, with only Clements having earned a letter as a running back.
Outlook: Unlike a year ago, when Miller was practically a solo act on the ground, the ‘Canes plan to spread the wealth in 2012. While Al Golden isn’t prepared to call it a committee, it’s unlikely that one Miami back will carry the ball 200 times this year. James will be the front man, but Johnson has the drive and talent to begin commanding a bigger role as early as September.
Unit Rating: 7
Miami has its work cut out for it in the receiving corps after last year’s top two receivers, Tommy Streeter and Travis Benjamin, left school early and graduated, respectively. The leading returning pass-catcher, junior Allen Hurns , is in a fight just to win a starting job. The 6-3, 190-pounder did play well a year ago, starting seven games and making 31 catches for 415 yards and four touchdowns, but lost a little traction after sitting out the spring to recover from surgery.
As Hurns recovered, 6-2, 198-pound sophomore Rashawn Scott took full advantage of the opportunity to work with the first team. Somewhat overlooked and overwhelmed since being recruited from a small private school, he acted like a different player in the spring, making a case for a starting job by consistently getting open and making plays.
While Hurns and Scott will duke it out for one spot, 5-10, 186-pound sophomore Phillip Dorsett is in pretty good shape to nab the other wide receiver job. He could be the most physically gifted of the Miami receivers, a 4.4 guy who can leap into the second row of the stands. He put down the ground floor in 2011 with 14 receptions for 147 yards and a touchdown, and expects to start building on it this fall.
Backing up Dorsett will be the most seasoned member of the group, 5-10, 182-pound senior Kendal Thompkins . He’s never been more than a special teamer and spot duty guy, but five years in the system will make him a father figure for a unit that can use more veteran leadership.
Junior Asante Cleveland is making a strong push to win the starting job at tight end, a position the Hurricanes like to use in the passing game. After showing well in 2010, he disappeared last year, but has rebounded with a notable offseason. At 6-5 and 270 pounds, he’s a surprisingly athletic big man, who can be an imposing target for the team’s quarterbacks.
Hanging close to Cleveland is last year’s most productive pass-catching tight end, 6-4, 250-pound sophomore Clive Walford . An eight-game starter as a rookie, he caught 18 balls for 172 yards and a score, outmuscling defenders with his physicality.
Watch Out For … Dorsett to be used on a lot of short slants designed to get him into space and matched up with linebackers. He’s posturing to become this year’s version of Benjamin, a slippery gamebreaker capable of turning quick-hitters into long-gainers.
Strength: Tight ends. No disrespect to the wide receivers, but the two tight ends might be just a little more reliable entering the 2012 season. Walford has already proven himself to be an effective pass-catcher, and Cleveland is on the verge of a breakthrough third year on campus. If he can build upon what he started in the spring, the quarterbacks will use the junior early and often this fall.
Weakness: A sure-fire No. 1. This was the problem last offseason, but Streeter rose up to accept the challenge. Is there another Streeter on the roster? Hurns would be the most obvious choice, but he’s recovering from surgery, and about to be challenged by a teammate with just a single career catch.
Outlook: The raw talent is in place at Miami. When is it not? However, it’s going to take some time before the current collection of wide receivers can be considered a cohesive and consistent group. It lacks leaders or proven players who have earned the confidence of the quarterbacks. Hurns and Dorsett, in particular, have playmaking qualities, but it might take until 2013 before the receivers can truly frighten opposing defensive backs.
Unit Rating: 6.5
In a word, the competition in the trenches this summer will be intense. After losing three starters, the Hurricanes are diligently trying to find the right match of blockers on the two-deep, mixing and matching liberally. One of the sure-things is 6-6, 310-pound RG junior Brandon Linder , who is about to become one of the ACC’s emerging offensive linemen. He tied for the team lead with a 90% grade in 2011, limiting his mental and physical mistakes. The former top recruit has started to perform like it, showing excellent strength at the point of attack, and the footwork to neutralize pass rushers.
At left guard, a starter won’t be named until the summer. Sophomore Jon Feliciano has joined the fray after starting eight games at right tackle as a rookie. He held up better than expected, grading out at 84%, and not allowing a sack. However, the staff believes he’s better suited on the inside, where he can maul opponents with his 6-5, 320-pound frame.
Feliciano has the edge, but not if he isn’t at full strength. A knee put him on the shelf at the end of spring, opening the door for 6-6, 320-poun junior Jermaine Johnson to pull into a dead heat at left guard. After starting five games in 2010, he regressed last year, struggling to get off the scout team. He’ll need to improve his technique markedly in order to beat out Feliciano.
At the pivot, the coaching staff is showing increased faith in 6-5, 290-pound Shane McDermott , who has pulled ahead in the competition to replace all-star Tyler Horn. The sophomore’s experience is limited, but he has quickly made up ground with excellent awareness at the position and clean snaps throughout the spring.
Left tackle belongs to sophomore Malcolm Bunche , a massive presence up front for the ‘Canes. At 6-7 and 325 pounds, he has the long arms needed to jolt pass rushers off balance before they have a chance to build a head of steam. However, he’ll need to play with more consistency in 2012. A year ago, he was revelatory in the spring, but sort of petered out once the season began.
Backing up Bunche on the left side will be 6-5, 320-pound senior Ben Jones , the reigning Scout Team Player of the Year. Although he’s played sparingly during his career, he showed enough in pass protection to move from right guard to left tackle in the spring.
The upcoming season could be a pivotal one for junior Seantrel Henderson , who’s about to lock down the spot at right tackle. The 6-8, 350-pound uber-recruit from two years ago exploded out of the gate in 2010, but was stunted last fall as he recovered from offseason back surgery. While his potential, especially as a drive blocker in the running game, is as immense as his immense, Henderson still needs to get into top shape, and continue honing his pass protection skills.
Watch Out For … Henderson’s progress from a year ago. When 2011 began, just about everyone was prepared to add big No. 77 to the list of Outland Trophy finalists. And then reality struck in the form of a back injury. The staff is keeping its fingers crossed that its prized tackle is set to resume being the precocious tackle who can block out edge rushers much the same way he can block out the sun.
Strength: Run blocking. The Miami blockers are enormous, physical and capable of blowing open holes for the program’s backs. As the projections stand right now, the ‘Canes could boast one of the biggest front walls in America, averaging 6-6 and 330 pounds. This group should win the majority of its battles at the point of attack by simply overpowering opponents with their size and brute force.
Weakness: Chemistry. A lot has changed since last year, when Miami blocked rather well. There have been graduations, a key early departure and position changes designed to get the five best players on the field at the same time. The result will be a unit that hasn’t played a lot together, and could take until the midway point of the season to find its groove.
Outlook: This is going to be a big summer for the Miami O-line, which is still holding auditions for jobs, and trying to find the right combination of linemen to carry into the opener. There’s no question that the starting five will have talent, but how well that translates on to the field will depend on how quickly the likes of Henderson, Bunche and McDermott can fulfill their sizable potential.
Unit Rating: 7
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