As every team heads into camp they try to avoid ‘the bug’. During the season, teams are still trying to avoid ‘the bug’. Even after the season teams try to avoid the same ‘bug’. This bug that I am referring to is the ‘injury bug’. The injury bug can be crippling to any program, whether it is caught by the superstar player or multiple role players. Building depth almost acts as an antiviral drug, while not completely eliminating the bug but rather being able to still function if it does hit your football program.
As I look at the roster of the 2014 Miami Hurricanes, there is sufficient depth at most positions but not all of them. I looked at the depth of each position as well as the experience of the players in each position. The 5 positions on this team that must absolutely avoid the injury bug are:
We all saw what happened to this team last year after Duke Johnson went down. Duke is a special player who can turn a good team into a great team. Behind Duke on the depth chart is a solid one-two punch in true freshman Joe Yearby and sophomore Gus Edwards. As good as those guys are, Johnson is the player who Miami desperately needs to stay healthy this year.
There is a lot of unknown at the Defensive Tackle position. As of the first depth chart, the starters are JUCO transfer Calvin Heurtelou and senior Olsen Pierre. Pierre has shown solid play in the past, and all we know about Heurtelou is that he had 14 tackles, 2 sacks, 4 tackles for loss and a fumble recovery in 8 games played at Scottsdale Community College last season. Many folks are excited about the potential of 6’4 335lb junior college transfer Michael Wyche, it will be interesting to see what he can do. The Canes also return junior Ufomba Kamalu who has shown signs of promise. The rest of the defensive tackles include junior Earl Moore (who has practiced well), junior Corey King, and freshmen Courtel Jenkins and Anthony Moten. There are a lot of rotation players at the defensive tackle position, so many of these players will see the field at some point. The lack of experience, however, is what makes the importance of health that much more crucial.
The anchors for the offensive line are: junior left tackle Ereck Flowers, senior left guard Jon Feliciano, and senior center Shane McDermott. I expect redshirt sophomore Danny Isidora at the right guard spot. The right tackle spot has had some competition between true freshman Trevor Darling and redshirt sophomore Taylor Gadbois. Backing up the starters we will have sophomores Hunter Wells and Alex Gall along with true freshmen Kc McDermott and Nick Linder. Also available are true freshman Joe Brown and redshirt freshman Sunny Odogwu. There is already inexperience on the right side of the offensive line and if one of the anchors (Flowers, Feliciano, S.McDermott) go down, Canes fans should get a little bit nervous. It is essential that Miami maintains a healthy offensive line this season, especially with a new quarterback under center.
As we all know that, your Miami Hurricanes will start the 2014 season with a new quarterback at the helm. The starter this year will either be senior Jake Heaps or true freshman Brad Kaaya. No matter the starter, the Canes need to keep the quarterback healthy the entire season. It is paramount for the starting quarterback to establish a relationship with his receivers and to get the timing down between the two. Once the starting quarterback goes down, the team has to find a way to regain its rhythm. The depth at quarterback becomes shaky after Heaps and Kaaya with Ryan Williams (who is recovering from ACL surgery) and the frequently-suspended Kevin Olsen. It is vital that Miami protects the starting quarterback and keep him upright in order to have a successful season.
The situation at linebacker is very unfortunate. The Canes have lost a couple of very promising linebackers in Eddie Johnson and Alex Figueroa due to some unfortunate circumstances. Canes fans should be very grateful for the return of senior Denzel Perryman, otherwise this linebacking core would be extremely thin. Currently the starting outside linebackers are senior Thurston Armbrister and junior Raphael Kirby. Many feel that Armbrister could have a breakout season, and if that is the case Miami could have a solid group of starters. Another linebacker that could potentially have a breakout season is sophomore Jermaine Grace. The rest of the linebacking group is young and/or inexperienced, they are senior walk-on Nantambu-Akil Fentress, sophomore Walter Tucker (also playing RB), and 3 true freshman in Darrion Owens, Juwon Young and Terry McCray. Miami must pray and hope that the linebackers stay healthy, particularly Denzel Perryman, who is the leader of this group and our entire defense.
Coach Golden has done fairly well in building depth on this roster, especially considering the NCAA cloud that had been hanging over the program the last four years. Miami has lost some valuable players over time due to various reasons which hasn’t help the process of building up this team. Does this team have the depth it needs to be elite? No, it does not. Is it getting there? I believe so. I have seen the list of verbal commits for 2015 and 2016 and it should get everyone excited. In the meantime, lets hope ‘the bug’ doesn’t bite the Miami Hurricanes this year.