2013 Miami Preview - Offense
CollegeFootballNews.com 2013 Preview - Miami Hurricane Offense
Preview 2013 - Offense
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What You Need To Know: Miami has no good excuses for not being one of the most potent offenses along the Eastern Seaboard. And coordinator James Coley was lured away from Florida State to ensure that the Canes fulfill their potential. He'll attempt to blend his own penchant for an up-tempo, passer-friendly attack with head coach Al Golden's philosophy of a more conservative pro-style system. Egos will need to be left at the front door this season. Coley inherits a slew of ready-made talent. His quarterback, Stephen Morris, will play in the NFL. His running back, Duke Johnson, is one of the game's emerging young stars. And his corps of receivers and collection of offensive linemen are flush with gifted returning starters. The key in 2013 will be to get this unit, which misfired too often a year ago, to perform at a much higher level of efficiency. In 2012, the Hurricanes were just 68th nationally on third-down conversions, and 97th in red-zone touchdowns, numbers that need to be turned around this year.
Star of the offense: Senior QB Stephen Morris
Passing: Stephen Morris
245-421, 3,345 yds, 21 TDs, 7 INTs
Rushing: Duke Johnson
139 carries, 947 yds, 10 TDs
Receiving: Phillip Dorsett
58 catches, 842 yds, 4 TDs
Player who has to step up and become a star: Senior RT Seantrel Henderson
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore LT Ereck Flowers
Best pro prospect: Morris
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Morris, 2) Sophomore RB Duke Johnson, 3) Senior OG Brandon Linder
Strength of the offense: Quarterback, running back, depth at receiver and tight end, the O-line, protecting the ball
Weakness of the offense: Consistency of the receivers, third-down conversions, red-zone conversions
Elevating from good to great—that's the goal of senior Stephen Morris and everyone coaching him this season. The 6-2, 214-pounder made a triumphant return from back surgery, winning the job and finishing as one of the ACC's hottest quarterbacks. His final line read 245-of-421 for 3,345 yards, 21 touchdowns and seven interceptions, fewest by a Miami quarterback in seven years. However, the fine print indicates that Morris was unstoppable over his final four games, tossing 11 touchdowns and no picks. It's been a long time since Miami featured anyone capable of validating the "Quarterback U." moniker, but No. 17 clearly has that potential. He oozes poise in the pocket, exhibits excellent arm strength and has the footwork to prolong plays. This is a pivotal year for Morris, both for his long-term future and for the immediate future of the Canes program.
At this time last year, junior Ryan Williams was competing for a starting job at his new school. Today, the 6-6, 228-pound Memphis transfer is resigned to being the backup, fighting to fend off 6-3, 224-pound redshirt freshman Gary Crow. Williams doesn't get as much zip on his throws as his frame might indicate, but he's experienced and in control of the system, seeing brief action in five games a year ago.
Watch Out For … Morris to make the most of his only season under the tutelage of new coordinator James Coley. Coley is energetic, inventive and open to allowing his quarterbacks to open up their arms to test defensive backs deep. Morris took a quantum leap in 2012. The new offensive leader is around to make sure that No. 17 has only just begun to evolve as a passer.
Strength: Poise. There's a lot to like about Morris. Above all else, though, is the presence and calm that he brings to a huddle. Yeah, he can make all of the throws. But it's his ability to lead and to make teammates around him better that are so appealing to the Hurricanes' staff and to NFL observers.
Weakness: Consistency. Is Morris the quarterback who was unstoppable in November? Or is he the one who produced just four total touchdowns in his six worst games? For all of the excitement about the hurler as he enters his senior, he's still the leading man of an offense that was just 44th nationally in passing efficiency.
Outlook: Not since Ken Dorsey more than a decade ago has the Miami program been this excited about the final year of one of its quarterbacks. Morris is the real deal, a trending passer on the brink of his best season as a Hurricane. If he can pick up where he left off last November, and there's no reason to believe he won't, Miami will be home to a fringe Heisman contender, and a player capable of rewriting the school record books.
Unit Rating: 8
The Hurricanes knew they'd landed a good one when Duke Johnson signed with the program a year ago. No one realized for sure, though, that he could be this good, this fast. In one of the most prolific seasons ever for a Miami rookie, the 5-9, 194-pound ACC Rookie of the Year rushed for 947 yards and 10 scores on only 139 carries, caught 27 passes and returned a pair of kicks for scores. Johnson runs with balance and determination, often bouncing off defenders for additional yards. And when he bursts into daylight, there aren't many players who'll catch him from behind. Johnson is one of the game's emerging stars, a key cog of the Canes for at least the next two seasons.
Behind Johnson, 5-10, 196-pound sophomore Dallas Crawford has saddled up into the No. 2 hole. The former defensive back, with the shifty feet, is filling a need by moving to the offensive side of the ball. He carried the ball just six times for 23 yards in 2012, but has spent the offseason preparing in the weight room as if his workload will increase.
The Canes' fullback will again be 5-11, 247-pound senior Maurice Hagens. Strictly a north-south blocker, he carried the ball one time for three yards in 2012, adding five receptions for 25 yards.
Watch Out For … rookie Augustus Edwards to be given every opportunity to avoid a redshirt season. In fact, he may have no choice. The three-star recruit form Staten Island, NY is being counted on to be an immediate contributor for a backfield with a dearth of depth behind last year's precocious true freshman, Johnson.
Strength: The Duke. Johnson left no doubts in 2012 that he's one of the rising stars among young running backs. As good as advertised coming out of high school, he's a big-play weapon who can hurt opposing defenses in so many different ways.
Weakness: Depth. Mike James has graduated. Eduardo Clements remains on IR. Johnson is the undisputed workhorse, but can anyone else on the roster be counted on to carry the ball 75-100 times this season? The gap between the starter and the backups is wider than the coaching staff prefers it to be.
Outlook: You've got to go back to Willis McGahee in 2002 to find a Miami back who's creating as much excitement as Johnson. No. 8 is a dynamite all-around playmaker who figures to be even more lethal now that he has a season of experience under his belt. He'll again be one of the ACC's top backs, but maintaining durability as the workload increases is a must. The Hurricanes do not want to test their Plan B in the event that Johnson is lost for any length of time.
Unit Rating: 8
When QB Stephen Morris wants to connect on a deep ball, there's a very good chance he'll be looking for No. 4, speedy WR Phillip Dorsett. The classic long ball hitter stays in shape during the offseason by running indoor track, an indication of his jets and acceleration. A year ago, the 5-10, 185-pounder turned a team-high 58 receptions into 842 yards and four touchdowns. On four separate occasions, Dorsett went over the 100-yard mark, capped by a heroic effort in the Sept. 29 win over NC State. He'll get even more opportunities to excel this fall by eliminating the drops that plagued him at times a year ago.
If the post-spring depth chart is gospel, Dorsett is still no lock to win a starting job. In fact, 6-2, 188-pound sophomore Herb Waters will carry a lead into the summer. After showing flashes with 10 catches for 227 yards and two scores, he built on his debut with a terrific spring. Long lean and athletic, he gives the Canes another deep ball threat on the outside.
Senior Allen Hurns has an edge to start on the opposite side of either Dorsett or Waters. He battled through an injury-plagued 2012 to catch 28 passes for 314 yards and four scores. At 6-3 and 195 pounds, he, like Waters, possesses the type of frame needed to glide past defenders or elevate above them to pluck the ball out of the air.
Hurns' chief competition is coming from 6-2, 204-pound junior Rashawn Scott, who was enjoying his best season with the program before being suspended for the final three games. He still wound up with 35 receptions for 512 yards and three touchdowns, including a torching of NC State on Sept. 29. If his off-field problems are a thing of the past, he'll play a vital role in the rotation.
The Hurricanes are no less deep at tight end, where two student-athletes are good enough to start. Senior Asante Cleveland stood atop the depth chart exiting spring. The 6-5, 258-pounder has been an offseason star the last two years, but needs to deliver in the fall as well. Big and surprisingly athletic, he only caught two balls in 2012.
The more productive last fall, 6-4, 259-pound junior Clive Walford, is currently listed as the backup. But can that last? The five-game starter missed time in the spring to lose some ground on the competition. However, he showed late in 2012 that he has the fluid athleticism of an H-back to create mismatches with linebackers. Walford caught fire late in the year, finishing with 25 catches for 451 yards and four touchdowns, and needs to be used more in 2013.
Watch Out For … competition to be incredibly intense this fall. The wide receivers and tight ends are already going toe-to-toe, and now a dynamite collection of true freshmen are about to join the fray. TE Standish Dobard and receivers Derrick Griffin and Stacey Coley were all ranked among the top 10 nationally at their respective positions.
Strength: Depth of talent. The Hurricanes are absolutely loaded with viable weapons for Stephen Morris in the passing game. There's ample speed, depth and experience, both at wide receiver and at tight end. Plus, the culture of competition that exists on this unit will force everyone to raise the level of his game in the summer and fall.
Weakness: Consistency. It's the one rub associated with the Miami targets. They're gushing with talent, but for a number of reasons, from injuries to general inconsistency, that talent doesn't always rise to the surface. The Canes need one or two wide receivers to pull away from the crowd, and force everyone else to chase them.
Outlook: If this unit was ever going to coalesce and become one of the ACC's best, the time for that would be now. The receivers are not only flush with a slew of quality veterans and newcomers, but they're also teamed up with Morris, an ace at quarterback. The group, though, needs to be more than a mass of hit-or-miss mediocrity, producing at least one player who commands the constant attention of opposing defensive backs.
Unit Rating: 7
Miami's secret weapon this season might be an offensive line that welcomes back all five starters, each of whom is hoping to play on Sundays. Three of those holdovers, senior RT Seantrel Henderson, senior RG Brandon Linder and junior LG Jon Feliciano are hoping to build on seasons that ended with honorable mention All-ACC recognition. It'll be a crucial final year for Henderson, the former mega-recruit who hasn't quite reached his full potential in Coral Gables. Injuries and personal problems have stunted the growth of the 6-8, 345-pound behemoth, but he still has an enormous ceiling if he can put it all together in 2013. He's matured considerably, and is still the guy who handled Florida State DE Bjoern Werner when the teams met last Oct. 20.
Linder is arguably the Hurricanes' most complete all-around blocker. At 6-6 and 317 pounds, he's built like a tackle, yet possesses the strength to battle effectively on the interior. He's a very clean blocker, rarely making the kinds of mistakes that stalls a drive or sets his team back five yards. A former top recruit from the 2009 class, Linder put off the NFL in January in order to fine-tune his skills and improve his draft grade for 2014.
Forming a bookend with Linder at left guard will be Feliciano, the 6-5, 318-pound third-year starter. He didn't miss a game last season after starting eight at tackle as a freshman in 2011. The junior is clearly better suited for the interior, where he's more likely to maul opposing linemen in a phone booth. Feliciano was the most subbed of the starting linemen in 2012, so there's still room for him to improve his conditioning and overall skill set.
Feliciano will still have his hands full trying to fend off 6-7, 327-pound junior Malcolm Bunche, who is making the shift from full-time starting left tackle in 2012 to left guard. Coveted for his versatility, he could wind up starting or playing a reserve role at multiple positions. Bunche doesn't possess the footwork of, say, Ereck Flowers, which is why he might be able to do his best work in an interior, phone booth-type setting.
The youngest member of the line, 6-6, 312-pound sophomore Ereck Flowers, could someday soon be the best member of the line. The four-star recruit from the 2012 class started last year's first four games at right tackle, but has made a successful switch to left tackle. He continues to draw praise from the coaching staff for his strength, light feet and hunger to blow up into an All-ACC blocker real soon.
Junior Shane McDermott started all 12 games at center last season, and performed well, but a shoulder injury set him back a little in the spring. Senior Jared Wheeler took advantage, finishing the session in a dead heat on the depth chart. The veterans will continue their battle in August, though the 6-4, 296-pound McDermott is expected to pull away. He played all of last season with a torn labrum, never sharing the problem with the staff, and will be better prepared for success this fall.
Watch Out For … Feliciano vs. Bunche to become very interesting in August. Feliciano has been a solid contributor for the Canes over the past few years, but the shift inside of Bunche has changed the dynamic at guard. If Bunche gets the nod, it will chip away at the program's limited proven depth at tackle.
Strength: First-line talent. Six Canes started at least four games a season ago. Three of them were on the periphery of All-ACC contention. And Flowers, who spent the final two months on the bench, is quickly gaining ground on his teammates. This unit houses multiple players likely to be drafted in the next couple of springs.
Weakness: Depth at tackle. This will be an especially big concern if Bunche winds up staying put at guard. The Hurricanes are not especially deep on the outside, a reality that could require some midseason shifting of linemen of someone gets hurt. Miami goes seven-deep, which is the good news, but will need to avoid digging any further into the bench.
Outlook: The O-line is a microcosm for a program poised to take a considerable step forward in 2013. The talent is clearly in place for Miami to boast the premier blocking unit in the ACC, which hasn't been the case since the program joined the league. If everyone comes together, and Henderson even approaches his one-time can't-miss label, this offensive line is capable of dominating the line of scrimmage on a week-in, week-out basis.
Unit Rating: 8
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