Welcome to the off-season, everyone! National signing day is right around the corner and the 2015 football roster is already beginning to take shape. Some players have left the program, some have decided to stay and some new faces are showing up around campus. It is a time of transition for all college football programs, and we here at State of the U want to make sure that you are up to date on where Miami stands in terms of roster moves. In this series, we will be taking a look at the construction of the Miami roster piece by piece and give you a breakdown of how each position group is shaping up and which players you should be paying attention to.
Today, we are going to take a look at the defensive backs, a group returning nearly all of it's main contributors from the 2014 season.
Who We Lost
Ladarius Gunter, CB/S - Gunter was a very solid contributor throughout his career at Miami and his presence will be missed by the Miami defense. He came from Junior College without much hype surrounding him, but started games at both Corner and Safety from the beginning to end of his career in Coral Gables.
That's it for this section, Miami only loses one scholarship player from the secondary this off-season, which brings us to our next section...
Who We Have
Deon Bush, S - Bush will be entering his senior year as not only one of the leaders of the defense, but the team as a whole. Deon is a very solid all-around player that can cover and provide run support as well as the occasional safety blitz. His Sophomore season was derailed a bit by nagging injuries and he spent much of the 2014 season rounding back into form. Look for him to make a big impact in his senior season.
Artie Burns, CB - Burns is probably the most physically gifted player in the Miami secondary. He is an ACC champion track star with great size to go with that speed. Coming into his Junior season, the former 4 star recruit is looking to continue the development he has shown the last few seasons.
Corn Elder, CB - The post NSD addition from the 2013 class, Corn has made a nice adjustment to the Cornerback position after playing running back in high school. Corn is a very athletic player that plays the ball very well in the air. Elder is a multiple-sport athlete that would probably be playing for Coach Larranaga and the 'Canes basketball team right now if they were not already so guard heavy.
Tracy Howard, CB - The number one corner prospect from the 2012 class and former 5 star recruit. Howard has not developed into the superstar people thought he would be coming out of high school. Still, Tracy is a very solid corner that has plenty of experience and will need to play plenty this year with a lack of depth at that spot. Howard will have plenty to prove going into his senior season.
Rayshawn Jenkins, S - Jenkins missed all of of the 2014 season after undergoing back surgery in training camp. If he is able to return to his form from the 2013 season, Miami is going to get a big boost in an area that could really use one. That remains to be seen, however, as back injuries can be tricky to deal with. Let's hope he can come back better than ever.
Jamal Carter, S - Carter brings some much needed athleticism to the safety position. He is still developing as a coverage player, but there is a lot to like about him as far as finding ball carriers in traffic and delivering hits.If he can develop some more refined coverage skills, he could be a very good player for Miami next year.
Dallas Crawford, S/ PK Holder - Many of you remember Crawford as the hero from the UNC game in 2013... as a running back. He made the switch to safety before last season and, at times, he struggled to re-acclimate himself to the position he played in high school. Crawford is best playing near the line of scrimmage and delivering hits to ball carriers. He is also the team's field goal and extra point holder, so there is always the possibility he can be a part of some fake kicks (although there were no such attempts last year).
Antonio Crawford, CB - Crawford is a guy that has worked to earn his spot and that hard work has paid off for him. As a kid without much fanfare coming out of high school, he has made it impossible for coaches not to include him on the corner rotation. He is not particularly big or fast, but he knows how to play the position and get the job done.
Marques Gayot, S/LB - There are some rumors that Gayot is making the move to linebacker for the 2015 season, but the team website still technically lists him as a safety. Regardless of where he plays, I just hope he does more stuff like this:
Ryan Mayes, CB - Mayes was a part of last year's recruiting class but took a redshirt year to adjust to the college game. He is a long, lanky player that could end up at either corner or safety depending on team needs and how his skills develop. Still too early to tell what kind of player he will be.
Who We are Getting
Now, keep in mind this is a PRE National Signing Day article, so all the names I am about to tell you are subject to change. Heck, they could change the minute after I post this (Crootin'). But, at the time of this article being written, these are the players Miami has committed for the 2015 recruiting class. .
Jaquan Johnson, S - Now, this is one that will not be changing. Johnson is already enrolled at Miami and is someone 'Canes fans have very high hopes for. He is a 4 star Athlete out of Miami Killian High School.
Michael Jackson, CB - No, not that Michael Jackson. This Jackson is a 3 star corner out of Alabama that has very good size. He actually reminds me a bit of Gunter (who coincidentally is also from Alabama) so Jackson could be a good replacement for the departing senior.
Robert Knowles, S - Knowles is a player that did not receive much attention on the recruiting trail, many believe because his grades were not good enough. If Miami is able to get him on campus, he could be a huge steal as far as talent.
Miami is in decent shape as far as secondary depth for this season, but four of the 10 players on the roster are incoming seniors and four more are incoming juniors. The coaching staff needs is going to need to get a few more prospects, both in this class and next, in order to replace the departures after next season. Still, for this season Miami is going to have an experienced group roaming the defensive backfield and, hopefully, that will translate to some better defensive play.