This could be the time for the Miami Hurricanes to finally turn the corner.
Over the last few seasons, the Canes have struggled to prevent teams from scoring points—and somehow defensive coordinator Mark D’onofrio still has his job. Whether or not the problem is schematic or solely on the players, there needs to be significant improvement in 2014 for this team to have any success.
Miami will hold its annual spring game this Saturday, so let’s take a look at what coach Golden wants to learn about the current state of his program:
1. Is Redshirt Freshman Quarterback Kevin Olsen Ready to Be a Starter?
With the tragic ACL injury that Ryan Williams suffered, Miami desperately needs Olsen to step up and lead the team. There’s little doubt that Olsen has the ability to make the throws, the question is can he line up the offense consistently and make his pre-snap reads. It’ll also be interesting to see if Olsen is able to become a team leader.
Olsen has been taking his job more seriously this season—even before the injury to Williams—especially when it comes to studying film. He’s been much more prepared this spring and seems like he’s certainly matured since last year. It’s going to be his job to lose, but expect Brad Kaaya to challenge Olsen during training camp.
2. Is the Defensive Line Finally Improved?
Any Hurricane fan knows that the defensive line has been atrocious in recent years, especially in terms of getting pressure on the opposing quarterback. Anthony Chickillo is a senior now; it’s time for him to have a breakout season. Ufomba Kamalu has been the surprise this spring and he is looking to become a starter this fall. You also have guys like Al-Quadin Muhammad and Tyriq McCord, who need to be consistent pass rushers.
The biggest weakness up front has been the defensive tackle position. Earl Moore and Calvin Heurtelou are battling for one of the spots, while Jelani Hamilton and Olsen Pierre are left fighting for the other. The coaching staff is also hopeful that junior college transfer Michael Wyche will be able to step in right away and make an impact. If this group doesn’t finally produce in 2014, it’ll be the same ol’ story for this Hurricane defense—no matter how improved the other positions are.
3. Who Will Take the No. 2 Running Back Spot?
Duke Johnson is hands down the best running back Miami has on its roster, and he’s also the best player on the team. But who will back him up? Gus Edwards and Walter Tucker are taking all of the snaps this spring, but early enrollee Joseph Yearby will be thrown into the mix this summer after fracturing his fibula.
I could see Edwards winning the spot, simply due to his physical style of running, but Yearby could easily surpass him this summer. This battle may come down to the very last week of training camp.
4. Will There Be Consistency in the Secondary?
This unit has also been a concern for Miami over the years, but it seems that there may finally be some experience and leadership in the secondary. Tracy Howard and Artie Burns seem to have the two corner spots locked up. The big question will be who lines up behind them at safety. Deon Bush is finally healthy and seems to be hitting his stride again. However, former running back Dallas Crawford seems to be excelling at his new position this spring.
Jamal Carter has been a beast thing spring; he seems to be making a highlight hit every practice. Look for him to be the favorite to win the strong safety position, but it will be interesting to see what happens when Rayshawn Jenkins comes back from injury. He started 12 games in 2013 and seems to always find the ball. Don’t be surprised if the coaching staff uses Carter to handle tight ends coming off the line in 2014.