Posted February 7, 2014
By LONELLE LEWIS
With the NCAA scandals behind them and All-ACC caliber players returning, Canes fans should expect a monster football season in 2014. If that is not enough to have fans raving, then three consecutive top-10 recruiting classes that emphasized South Florida recruiting should.
The Hurricanes finished the 2013 season with a 9-4 record. This looks good on paper, but players come to the “U” to win national championships. People associated with the program, will use these numbers as motivation next year.
Chris Yandle, assistant Athletic Director, said he has high expectations.
“With a core group of players returning, Coach Al Golden and his staff are committed to continuing their efforts to rebuild the program. A nine-win season and a trip to the Russell Athletic Bowl will provide momentum for this program as it enters 2014,” he explained.
Yandle clearly believes in Golden’s system. If we consider where the program has come from prior to Golden’s tenure, it can be said that the program has progressed under his direction.
Rumors broke in the media earlier this month about the chance Golden may leave to coach at his alma mater Penn State. Manny Navarro, UM football beat writer for The Miami Herald, discussed his thoughts on Golden.
“This is his first senior class right after the Randy Shannon era. Chickillo, Dorsett, Perryman have been through a lot. With sanctions gone and Coach Golden returning, he should continue to move the program forward.”
This month, a few key players decided to forego the NFL draft and return for their senior seasons. These players include linebacker Denzel Perryman, defensive end Anthony Chickillo, tight end Clive Walford, and offensive lineman Jon Feliciano.
Senior linebacker Perryman (6-0, 240) received a third-round grade from the NFL Draft Advisory Board. Perryman was a first team All-ACC honoree this past season after leading the team with 108 tackles, including five for losses. This was big news for the team and it encouraged other players to return.
Senior defensive end Anthony Chickillo (6-4, 277) decided to come back to Miami to improve his draft stock and receive his degree. The character of UM’s team is evident as players want to earn degrees instead of thinking about potential money.
Senior Jon Feliciano (6-5, 320) is a veteran on the offensive line and decided to come back for his senior season to a line that helped the offense put up 425.8 yards of total offense and 33.8 points per game. Senior tight end Clive Walford (6-4, 259) finished the season with 454 receiving yards and two touchdowns. Kevin McGuire, NBC Sports writer, commented on Walford’s return for his senior season.
“Consider the 2014 return a bit of unfinished business for one of the top tight ends in the country.”
According to ESPN.com and Rivals.com, Walford’s return was a big keep for the offense as the program brings in a new starting quarterback to take over for Stephen Morris.
The transition from Morris at quarterback should not be hard because the Canes have adequate competition at the quarterback position. This includes redshirt Freshman Kevin Olsen, brother of Carolina Panther tight end Greg; Ryan Williams, a backup to Morris for two years; and Brad Kaaya, the No. 5 ranked Pro-Style quarterback in the nation. Kaaya has been recruited heavily because of his arm strength and pro potential. The quarterback battle will be the talk of spring practice and preseason workouts. Susan Miller Degnan, UM football beat writer for The Miami Herald, commented on the fascination of recruiting.
“The star system is overrated. A lot of players who were not rated as highly coming in, end up being better than the ones who were. This class has a great offensive line and excellent quarterbacks.”
Whoever starts will have deep threats to throw to including wide receivers Stacy Coley and Phillip Dorsett. Sophomore Coley (591 yards, 10 TDs), No. 4 ranked wide receiver in 2012, proved his worth as an all-purpose player and was a Football Writers Association of America First Team Freshman All-American as a kick returner. Senior Phillip Dorsett (842 yards, four touchdowns in 2012) should return to 2012 form after a medial collateral ligament injury last year.
Included in the Hurricanes’ No. 10 ranked recruiting class was the No. 4 ranked running back in the nation, Joseph Yearby (1,700 yards, 19 touchdowns). Yearby is one of many local products playing at the University of Miami.
One that has seen success is 2014 Heisman Watch list candidate, Junior running back Duke Johnson (920 yards, six touchdowns). Everything starts with the former five-star Under Armour All-American. When Johnson is in the game, points go up, and when he is out, points go down. Finding a way to keep Johnson healthy will be a key for this year’s team.
This task falls on the offensive line, which has senior leadership and the best offensive line class in the nation. Signing third generation players and brothers of former Hurricane players has been the staple for recruiting. This case stands true for K.C McDermott, a four-star offensive tackle from Palm Beach Central. He is the brother of starting offensive lineman, Senior Shane McDermott.
Chip Brierre, the voice of WVUM sports, talked about how he felt about the recruiting class and the future of UM football.
“It’s exponentially on the upward trend. ”
On the other side of the ball, several players return. Junior CB Tracy Howard (No. 1 cornerback 2012 class) led the team with four interceptions. Senior CB Ladarius Gunter (three interceptions) led the team with nine pass break-ups and 12 pass deflections. Players on the team, especially defense, have attributed their success to practice. Safety Nantambu Fentress said the team wants more next fall.
“With a nine-win season, we are not content. We are hungry and will strive for perfection. It starts from individual improvement, which leads to better success for the
team as a whole,” he said.
If individual improvement proves true, then linebacker Tyriq McCord (four sacks, three forced fumbles, two interceptions) a former four-star U.S. Army All-American, should have a big year. There was one game against Georgia Tech last season where he made a massive hit on the quarterback. This explosive hit was talked about through social media by fans.
With the Canes third consecutive top-10 recruiting class, NFL potential on both sides of the ball, and Al Golden back, fans should be jumping for joy.