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Miami Hurricanes Position Preview: Cornerback

During the offseason, we at State of the U will bring you previews of opponents, current players and position breakdowns. This installment brings you a breakdown of the position where Miami has loads of talent but perhaps not the best depth: Cornerback.

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Best or worst unit on the team?

If there is a position on the field that is a microcosm of the UM roster as a whole, it is definitely CB.

It's a talent laden unit with star potential, and there are reasons for high hopes and expectations.

But it is also one with plenty of question marks, depth concerns, potential misuse of players, and underachievers,

It all starts with Tracy Howard, who looked like a star in the making 2 years ago. That was before last year when his snaps and production dropped off precipitously.

The former 5 star recruit needs a big senior campaign.

Almost equally as talented is Artie Burns.  Burns has shown signs of being a lock down #1 cover corner type, and has incredible natural athleticism (4.4 40 range).

It is time for him to break out.

Too often last season though, he and Howard both were in perfect positions to make plays but got caught face guarding. Both are too good not to clean that up and make a few more picks.

Corn Elder is another young player with a world of skills.  Elder has a very big spring, and could easily push Howard and/or Burns if they aren't on top of their games.

He also appears to have the ideal size and skill set to be a terrific slot corner.

And all three of the above are also very good tacklers.

Pretty good start huh?

But beyond those three are a myriad of question marks.

The coaching staff is playing around with the idea of moving star (and future NFL draft pick) S Deon Bush to CB.

That's how uncertain it is beyond the top 3.

And while you might be thinking, "How many corners does a team really need?"

Remember, beyond the fact that injuries could strike, this is a position that Al Golden and Mark D'Onofrio love to rotate a lot of players in and out of the game to keep players fresh.

They might not have that luxury in 2015.

An inexperienced player or two could very well be counted on this season before it's all said and done.

Breaking down the roster -

Key Losses:

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2015
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Ladarius Gunter CB
13 24.5 3.5% 0 0 2 6 0 0
Antonio Crawford CB
13 18.0 2.5% 1 1 0 5 1 0

What they have returning:

Tracy Howard CB 5'11, 191 Sr. 5 stars (6.1) 0.9884 13 18.0 2.5% 0 0 1 1 1 0
Artie Burns CB 6'0, 193 Jr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.9533 13 32.0 4.5% 2 2 0 6 0 0
Corn Elder CB 5'10, 183 Jr. 4 stars (5.9) 0.9185 13 29.5 4.2% 3 1 0 4 0 1
Ryan Mayes CB 6'1, 203 RS Fr,

0 0 0 0
Freshman who could see time:

Michael Jackson CB 6'2, 192 Fr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.8643
Sheldrick Redwine DB 6'1, 183 Fr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8563

Projected starters:

CB 1 - Howard

CB 2 - Burns

CB 3/Slot - Elder.

Intriguing caveat worth watching:

Who steps up, and how good does this unit end up?

I think this season that Howard steps up, picks off 4+ passes and becomes an All-ACC performer. That will help out tremendously.  And Burns at worse should be a very, very solid #2 and put together something in between what Howard does and what Ladarius Gunter gave the team last year.

Elder will be a dynamo blitzing off the corner, making slot receivers lives miserable, and factoring in big time on special teams as well.

But what happens when they face say Cincinnati and these guys have to stay on the field 70-80 snaps?

Can they hold up?

What happens when there are injuries?

Will a 4th CB like Ryan Mayes emerge as a reliable option?   Will Deon Bush be able to shuttle between the roles of All-World S and part time CB?

Can freshman Sheldrick Redwine and Michael Jackson mature quickly enough to factor into the equation?

The most logical outcome is that you get some very good play at times, but the back end of the unit also gives up huge chunks of yardage at others.

Mayes did some nice things last spring, but with the depth of skill position players on most rosters, is he good enough to hang with the type athlete he may face (as an example UM's 4th WR could be Herb Waters, Braxton Berrios, or Tyre Brady)?

I think Redwine steps in and has some ups and downs.

Bush seems fluid enough to play the position. But that weakens (albeit a much deeper) the S unit.

The healthier they stay, the less concerned 'Canes fans can be.

If there is a plethora of injuries, watch out.

Overall unfortunately, the overall feel of this unit resembles that of the team.  The talent is there, the depth is not, and they still have a lot of things to figure out.