1) The process of improving or developing something over a period of time
2) Movement forward or toward a place
If I had to sum up the 2013 Miami Hurricanes season in one word, it would be that. Progress. And honestly, that is all you can hope for. Sure, you would have liked to have seen the defense be better. Sure, you wish the offense was more consistent on 3rd down, but 9 wins with the bowl game to go is still progress (as opposed to 7 wins last year). It might not be what Canes fans want to hear, but the key phrase in that definition above is "over a period of time". Progress takes time, and this year's team was one step in the process of getting back to what we all want as hurricanes fans, and that is national relevancy.
With that in mind, I wanted to take a glimpse into the future and see what next year's depth chart might look like and see who the players are that will continue the progress that this year's team has made.
(Keep in mind this includes recruits who have not yet signed to play for the team but have made a verbal commitment to attend Miami)
Brad Kaaya or Kevin Olsen
Unless Olsen or Kaaya blow people away in camp I think the coaching staff goes with the veteran. Williams has proven to be serviceable and accurate with the ball when seeing limited action the past 2 seasons, but he knows the offense and will have plenty of weapons at his disposal. I think the real competition comes in 2015 when Olsen and Kaaya will battle it out, excited for that.
Gus Edwards or Joe Yearby
It will be a sight for sore eyes when number 8 is back in the Miami backfield. Losing Duke this year was awful; there is no other way to put it. You can try all you want to replace him, but there is no replacing somebody that special and talented. If he is healthy, there is nothing anybody on the roster can do to take his starting spot. The back-up job will once again fall to Dallas Crawford, but don't be surprised if Gus Edwards starts taking some of his back-up carries. The Bus really showed some promise in his limited action this year. Yearby is a highly regarded recruit who will be coming off a broken ankle himself, which may put him behind to start his career. Once he is healthy and learns the offense he could be explosive. Then again, he could redshirt. This is one of Miami's deepest positions.
It should also be noted that Miami is still in the running to land Yearby's teammate, Dalvin Cook. There is a lot of speculation and rumors going around about where he might actually land, but IF he does end up at Miami he will an instant impact guy and could push his friend Yearby into a redshirt season.
Wow, you want depth? I present to you arguably the most talented group of receivers in the country next year (in my opinion, anyway). Stacy Coley has shown potential to be a superstar, the likes of which don't come around very often (we are talking future first round draft talent here). We all know how good he is as Canes fans, but I think he introduces himself to the rest of the country in 2014. Dorsett is coming off and knee injury, but he played a little in the Pitt game and should be good to go against Louisville in the bowl game. He should be back to his normal, taking-the-top-of-defenses self next year. Waters has shown flashes of great athletisism but has been inconsistent this year, another offseason of development should do wonders for him. Lewis and Scott both played sparingly this season due to recovery from injuries, but both have the talent to contribute. Berrios is an incoming freshman that will be around for spring practice, so look for him to contribute early as a slot receiver. There are other talented recruits coming in, but the talent at the top leads me to believe they will only see time should there be injuries on the front line. VERY talented and deep group here.
Walford is a good-not-great tight end that has had his ups and down, but he started every game this season, which leads me to believe the job falls to him again in his senior campaign. I would have loved to have seen more from Sandland this year; he had a lot of hype coming in as a JUCO transfer, but never found the time or the groove he needed to succeed. I look for him to be much more involved in the offense next year. Dobard saw a lot of time on the bench as a true freshman this year; he will have to fight for whatever playing time he gets with two seniors in front of him. He was a very talented recruit that has to wait his turn until he proves himself in practice.
(It should be noted that Derrick Griffin will see time at Wide Out or Tight End should he qualify academically, which is still up in the air at this point.)
This is probably the most difficult to project because of the flexibility of lineman to be able to play multiple positions. The left side of the line remains intact from this year, but there will be some new faces on the right side with Seantrel Henderson and Brandon Linder graduating. Bunch has experience, so I think he gets the nod at tackle, and Isidora has been a part of the rotation since returning from an injury this year. Some young guys like KC McDermott and Sunny Odogwu will see some time in the rotation all along the line.
Defensive Line (3-4 Scheme)
Yikes. Here is where things get interesting. I am of the belief that the lion's share of the blame for Miami's defensive woes in 2013 came from the struggles along the defensive front (which includes the outside linebackers in the 3-4 set, which I will get to). Their inability to get any sort of a push and getting manhandled on a weekly basis had a ripple effect throughout the entire defense. All good defense starts at the point of attack, and the athletes were just not there the past 2 season. Thankfully, help is on the way in 2014. Pierre and Chickillo get the nod as seniors to start, but we will see a lot of verbal commits Valentine and Moten at the end positions (or tackles when they move to the sub packages). There is a gaping hole at nose tackle, so I think that duty falls to the JUCO transfer Wyche, who is a very big and strong run stuffer. Incoming recruit Courtel Jenkins probably isn't ready to see live action yet and may redshirt.
This unit is where Golden and staff made their money the past 2 years, and it should start to pay dividend in 2014. I think Chad Thomas is a game changer and could be the best player in our front seven the moment he steps on campus. That, coupled with Tyriq McCord's slow development in run support leads me to believe Thomas will win the starting job. IF Perryman comes back next year he will be the unquestioned leader of the defense. Kirby is the best kept secret on the roster. Extremely gifted athletically and will finally have his chance to shine next year. Muhammad is a prototype for a 3-4 rush linebacker and has all the tools to be an impact player. There are a ton of young guys that could see time rushing the passer, but the one I am most intrigued about (who isn't mentioned above) is incoming freshman Darrion Owens. He was a safety his junior year, but keeps growing and played linebacker this past season for his high school team. He could see time inside or outside early on. Golden has said he likes playing the 3-4 scheme to get more speed and athleticism on the field. I think next year we begin to see what his plan could look like with the right personnel.
For as badly as the defense played in 2013, the secondary showed a lot of upside. Tracy Howard and Artie Burns will both play in the NFL one day in my opinion, and Gunter has played very well for someone without much hype coming into college. Jenkins has steadily improved but will need to play better next year if he wants to keep his job, and I expect Bush to be closer to the guy we saw his Freshman year once he gets healthy. Hester and Carter are both talented athletes and will challenge for playing time.
So there you have it. The actual 2014 depth chart will most likely not be exactly what you see above. Some kids will leave the program, some recruits will flip their commitment and sign elsewhere, and some recruits who have not yet made their intentions known will sign with the Canes. However, as of today, this is what is could look like. We will leave you with this for now, and take another look at the depth chart after signing day and compare it to this on.
The theme of the offense in 2014 will be if the returning playmakers can maintain the momentum from this season while breaking in a new quarterback, while the theme of the defense will be if some new faces can make an impact and help out one of the worst units in the country from 2013. We as Canes fans just have to remember that progress is good, and as long as this team keeps trending in the right direction, it will be in the place we want it to be.