From now until the season starts I will be previewing the prospects from Big-12, ACC and Big East teams for the upcoming season. My colleague at NFL Draft Monsters Justin Higdon (follow him on Twitter @afc2nfc) will be covering the SEC, Pac-12 and Big-10 and you will be able to read those posts on NFL Draft Monsters. Check them all out to get ready for the 2013 NFL Draft by identifying the prospects you need to learn about!
Today I am previewing the Miami Hurricanes. Miami has had a lot of trouble off the field, both from potential scandal and sanction and because they lost a shocking amount of juniors to early declaration for the NFL Draft. For some it worked out ok, for others it didn’t. Regardless, it left Miami with a relatively inexperienced roster that only projects to start a few seniors on either side of the ball (5 by my count on both offense and defense). That means some growing pains are in order, but I think it will make them a much more competitive team in a year or two. They have the strong armed Stephen Morris at quarterback who will hopefully breathe a breath of fresh air into the Hurricanes offense after watching Jacory Harris bumble around for so many years. They also have underrated running back Mike James back in the fold, and he is being severely overlooked by the college football community and NFL Draftniks. He’s going to have a big year this year. They are relatively inexperienced at wideout, but they have young talent in the form of Allen Hurns and Phillip Dorsett. Their offensive line is actually shockingly good, and they have four players listed at over 6’5″, 310 pounds (the only one who isn’t is their center who is 6’4″, 290 pounds) and return some experience as well. Their offense should be fine, but probably not that explosive unless Morris surprises and multiple receivers break out for them this season.
I’m not sure what to expect from the defense on the other hand. They have some talent, but I have a feeling they are going to go through some growing pains just like the offense will. The unit is highlighted by star defensive end Anthony Chickillo who tied for the team lead in sacks as a true freshman with 5 and future stud Middle Linebacker Denzel Perryman. Ray-Ray Armstrong is no longer with the team, and that means an inexperienced player will likely be replacing him in the backfield next to elder statesmen Vaughn Telemaque. I’m not sure how this defense is going to perform, but if I had to guess I’d say they will probably be an average unit this season. And with that, here are the prospects to keep an eye on:
Stephen Morris, QB*- Morris is a solid but not spectacular college quarterback and I don’t think he’s much of a NFL prospect at this point. He’s listed at 6’2”, 214 pounds and is pretty decently filled out. He’s got some experience starting, and honestly I would have preferred playing him to Jacory Harris last season. You knew what you were getting with Harris, and I would have rather let Morris try to grow and develop but that’s just me! Now Morris is the starter and he is coming into the season with 5 career starts at quarterback. He wasn’t overly efficient as a freshman, and he missed time in spring practice, but it will be interesting to see how strong his command of the offense is since he has been in and out of games so often his first two years.
Mike James, RB- James was overshadowed by Lamar Miller last season, but he rushed for 275 yards on just 72 carries and 7 touchdowns. He also had 9 receptions for 80 yards and another touchdown. I am actually a big Mike James fan. He’s got the size you love in a running back at a compact 5’11”, 222 pounds and he has a very strong lower half. He doesn’t have the elite speed that Miller does, he’s probably more of a 4.48-4.5 guy, and he doesn’t have the same explosion and acceleration. However, he has fantastic leg drive and absolutely doesn’t go down to arm tackles. He was reportedly struggling with turf toe last season which might explain why he didn’t look as explosive to me, and Al Golden was quoted as saying that he looked faster and quicker in the spring. If that’s the case then James is going to shoot up draft boards this year because his vision, leg drive, shiftiness to make guys miss, his ability to push a pile, balance and his tendency to lower his pads and initiate contact with the defender will endear him to evaluators. And if he’s faster and quicker then he is going to rush for over 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns easily in my opinion. He has soft hands and can catch the ball away from his body even though he hasn’t been used much in that capacity outside of screens. I haven’t seen him in pass protection a lot, but when I have he has shown good effort as a blocker and has even lined up at fullback at times and blocked for Lamar Miller. He’s a complete back who is ready to be a top 100 pick. Keep an eye on him, I’m a big James fan and he’s easy to root for, especially since his mother died in a car accident a couple of years ago. I’m looking forward to him blowing up and shooting up draft boards this season.
Allen Hurns, WR*- Hurns is a 6’3”, 190 pound junior who had 31 receptions for 415 yards and 4 touchdowns in 7 starts as a sophomore last season. He’s got 4.4 speed and he may be ready for a breakout season this year. He’s the leading returning receiver and with Tommy Streeter, Travis Benjamin and LaRon Byrd moving on to the NFL there is going to be a lot of production to replace. I’m excited to see if Hurns can step up and become the go-to guy for Morris. I really think he is capable of filling that void.
Phillip Dorsett, WR**- Dorsett is a speedster who supposedly has sub 4.4 speed. He’s undersized at 5’10”, 186 pounds but his speed and burst compensates for it. Not only will he likely play frequently in the slot, but he will be replacing Travis Benjamin as the team’s primary return man on kick-offs and punts. I haven’t seen him before since he is just a true sophomore, but he’s explosive and he’s going to make an impact in the slot and on special teams this season.
Clive Walford, TE**- Walford may be the next Miami tight end to head to the NFL and make an impact. He’s listed at 6’4”, 250 pounds and has 4.6-4.7 speed. Walford was a redshirt freshman last season and only had 18 receptions for 172 yards and 1 touchdown, but I’m intrigued by him and I think that he is going to build off of his 8 starts as a freshman and take big steps forward as a sophomore. Technically he will be eligible for the draft after this season, but I think he will be in Miami for at least two more years. Keep an eye on him, I have a feeling Morris will be getting the ball to him frequently this season.
Malcolm Bunche, OT**- Bunche is a redshirt sophomore this season and he is the guy who has held off Seantrel Henderson from being the left tackle (in addition to Henderson’s injury issues). Bunche is no small lineman either, he’s listed at 6’7”, 325 pounds and while he only had 1 start last year he played in 8 games despite struggling with a back injury last year. According to offensive line coach Art Kehoe he was the ‘Canes best offensive lineman in the spring and is also the strongest player on the ‘Canes, allegedly having done 36 reps at 225 pounds on the bench press despite being only a sophomore! Bunche strikes me as a potential NFL left tackle because despite his size he has pretty good feet and really seems to “get it.” He supposedly watches a lot of film, makes sure he eats healthy, and frequently does extra work with star defensive end Anthony Chickillo. Bunche has never started a game at left tackle, and I’m sure he will have some growing pains at the position but I think he has a lot of upside.
Seantrel Henderson, OT*- Henderson was a top recruit who actually played high school football in Minnesota. He was heavily recruited and was considered the top offensive tackle recruit in the country at the time. When I watched him in high school it was evident he was dominating because he was bigger than everyone else, and I never thought he could play left tackle in college. I also questioned how well he would transition to blocking players that he can’t dominate quite as easily thanks to his size, length and brute strength. We haven’t gotten much of a taste for that as he has only started 11 games in two years with Miami and 9 of those came as a redshirt freshman. He has dealt with injuries and while he has a lot of upside thanks to his size and strength he needs to stay healthy and keep his head on straight if he’s going to have any chance of living up to his potential. Because of how highly he was recruited many people think he has 1st round potential, but Bunche is the tackle on Miami who has upside that high. Henderson has a lot of unrealized potential, but I’m not sure he is ever going to live up to his high school billing.
Jon Feliciano, OG**- I don’t know much about Feliciano’s game since he was a redshirt freshman last season, but he started 8 games at right tackle and didn’t allow a single sack. The 6’5”, 320 pound lineman has moved inside to left guard, and should help form a formidable left side playing next to Malcolm Bunche. It will be interesting to see how he adjusts to playing on the opposite side of the line and inside at guard, but his size and work ethic makes him a very intriguing player.
Brandon Linder, OG*- Linder is another mammoth sized offensive lineman who is projected to start for the ‘Canes this season. He is the fourth offensive lineman who is listed at 6’5” or taller while weighing 310 pounds or more. Linder is listed at 6’6”, 310 pounds and still has plenty of room to add weight to his frame. He enters his junior season with 14 career starts, including 12 last season all at right guard. He’s considered the leader of the offensive line since he is the most experienced member of the front five. I’m not that familiar with his game, but he should help anchor a surprisingly talented offensive line.
Anthony Chickillo, DE**- Chickillo is my favorite prospect on the entire Hurricanes roster. He’s only a true sophomore but he is listed at 6’4”, 258 pounds and was tied for the team lead with 5 sacks last season while starting 9 games as a true freshman. He’s going to be a 1st round pick in a couple years and I can’t wait to see what he does this season. He’s already assuming leadership of the defensive line thanks to all the losses they sustained last season, and I think his combination of size, athleticism, work ethic and intangibles are going to culminate in at least two more special seasons before he leaves for the NFL Draft. If you don’t know him, watch him.
Darius Smith, DT- Smith has only flashed some potential at Miami, but his previous listing of 6’2”, 360 pounds meant that while he is a short, squatty player who has the potential to clog up the middle of the defense he also needed to improve his conditioning considerably. He had 21 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 sack and 1 pass break-up during his first season with the ‘Canes after transferring from a junior college last season. His conditioning should be much better this year, as he is supposedly weighing in at about 324 pounds now and should move better and be more explosive this season. He is very strong and has big, strong hands that he uses to effectively occupy blockers to plug up the middle of the defense. That earned him the nickname “the Plug” and if he can show that he can stand up to double teams and collapse the pocket as a pass rusher he could move up draft boards this season.
Curtis Porter, DT*- Porter is a 6’1”, 300 pound junior defensive tackle who has a lot of ability but has had a tough go of it with injuries. He suffered a season-ending knee injury in 2010, and then in August of 2011 he broke a bone in his finger (it actually broke the skin) and unfortunately got infected not once but twice after that. He’s finally healthy and ready to start this season, and he’s got a lot of potential. Despite the injury to his knee two years ago his teammate Darius Smith said that Porter is the quickest and most explosive off the ball of all of the Miami defensive linemen. He only had 10 tackles last year because of his problems with his finger, but hopefully he can stay healthy and prove to be a disruptive force on the Hurricanes defensive line.
Denzel Perryman, MLB**- Perryman is a 6’0”, 225 pound linebacker who had a great season as a true freshman. He started 5 games but played in 12 and totaled 69 tackles, 5.5 TFL and 1 sack. Some have gone so far as to compare him to Miami Hurricanes great and future Hall of Famer Ray Lewis this offseason. I won’t go that far, but Perryman has boatloads of potential and should do a fantastic job replacing Sean Spence at middle linebacker for the ‘Canes. He plays aggressive and loves to hit, and stepping into the middle linebacker spot as a true sophomore is a testament to his ability. He may not be Ray Lewis yet, but he did have similar statistics as Ray did as a freshman at Miami and he also wears #52, just like Ray. Perhaps the stars are aligning for the second coming of Ray Lewis, but if Perryman plays as well as Ray on the field and comes anywhere close to his intangibles and leadership capability the ‘Canes will have a special, special player on their hands. I look forward to seeing how he does this season.
Ramon Buchanan, OLB- Buchanan is back for another season with Miami after receiving a medical hardship waiver for a knee injury he sustained last season. Hopefully he is back to 100%, and the 6’1”, 222 pound Buchanan can end his Miami career on a high note. Like many players recruited to Miami he has tons of athletic ability and is very rangy, but struggles to get off blocks once engaged and prefers to avoid blockers and work through the trash to make plays. If he’s all the way back from his knee injury he could be in for a surprisingly good season, and his experience will be helpful as there are only a couple other projected starters on defense that are seniors.
Brandon McGee, CB- McGee is another very talented Hurricane who came to Miami with high expectations but has yet to live up to them. He’s listed at 6’0”, 190 pounds and has a lot of speed and smooth hips, but all of his athletic ability hasn’t translated into production on the field. He had 38 tackles, 1.5 TFL, 1 sack, 2 pass break-ups and 1 interception last season, but a player with his ability is capable of more than that. It will be interesting to see if he steps up his play this year, as I think his technique and awareness could use improving. Whether that happens or not will determine whether he’s a late bloomer or a player who never put it together. If the light starts to come on some teams will begin to wonder if his best football is ahead of him, while others will worry that he was motivated by a NFL pay day.
Vaughn Telemaque, SS- Telemaque is the most experienced returning defender for the Hurricanes as he has 36 career starts. The 6’2”, 211 pound safety has a lot of potential and is a rangy defender that tackles well, but he only had 59 tackles, 0.5 TFL, 1 pass break-up and an interception as a junior. I expect more from him and so does the rest of the Miami coaching staff and fan base. He’s got the upside of a top-100 pick, I’m just not sure whether or not he will live up to that this season.