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Canes Camp: Then & Now - Offense

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The 2014 Miami Hurricanes entered camp with the biggest question being unanswered. In 2015, the team has that answer, but now enters camp with a plethora of questions on the offensive side of the football. Let's see how this year's team compared to last year's team at this point in the season.

Golden & Co. prepare for the 2015 season with just as many questions as answers.
Golden & Co. prepare for the 2015 season with just as many questions as answers.
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Last season, the Canes were entering fall camp with virtually every position locked in. If not locked in, the team, coaches and even the fans knew who would play. With the exception of one position, and the most important...the QB. Now, Miami has their QB of the future in Brad Kaaya. But Kaaya cannot do everything on his own. He will be looking for young and unproven players to step up as he did as a true freshman in 2014. We're going to look back at the shape that the Miami program was in in 2014 compared to this year's squad.

Quarterback

2014: The Miami Hurricanes' faithful collectively held their breaths all throughout the spring and summer last year as the Canes did not have a starting QB going into fall camp. RS senior Ryan Williams was projected to be the starter after backing up the beloved Stephen Morris for a couple seasons. All was well in the Canes program until Williams tore his acl in a non-contact drill during the spring. But again, all was well because Miami already had their QB of the future on the roster:

Yeah...it was pretty bad.

Thankfully, Miami brought in Kansas transfer and former BYU signee Jake Heaps to come save the day, or the season for that matter. That is how desperate Miami was to find someone who could throw a decent football. But lo and behold, Miami's best QB was the one who hadn't thrown a collegiate pass, like, ever. At this point last year, Kaaya and Heaps were battling to become the starter of the most talented team Miami had under Golden. But buzz inside the program said one QB in particular was in the driver's seat...

2015: I'm going to keep this one short. They have a QB, and he's really, really good. I rejoice everyday that Miami has him for two more seasons after going through a decade of inconsistent QB play. Only other name to keep an eye on is dual-threat QB Malik Rosier. The RS freshman will be vying for playing time to spell Kaaya, or come in and run some plays out of the wildcat. Other than that, rejoice Canes fans...rejoice!

Running Back

2014: I'll just put this here.

Duke Johnson. That is all.

2015: This season, the running back position isn't so cut and dry. While Miami has options, quality ones at that, there is no Duke Johnson in this backfield...or on the team for that matter (sorry Brad). But this year, Miami is putting all their chips into junior Gus Edwards, sophomores Joe Yearby & Trayone Gray, and freshman Mark Walton. Edwards and Yearby should receive the majority of the carries, but do not sleep on the freshman, nor Gray. Walton is as much of a good back as Yearby and Edwards, he is just young. As for Gray, I liked him coming out of high school, just struck you as a natural athlete and football player. He doesn't come across as a natural running back and I'm still not 100% sold on him, but the Canes need to find ways to get him the football. Edwards (6'2" 235 lbs) should provide thunder to Yearby's (5'9" 195 lbs) lightning. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT look at Gus' size and assume he is just a goal line/short yardage back, because he is much more than that. As of now, Edwards looks like the incumbent starter and could be poised for a breakout season. That is, if the offensive line figures things out.

Wide Receiver

2014: Going into last season, Miami knew they had one of the deepest and most talented receiver group in the conference, better yet, the entire country. Only problem was that they had no idea who was going to be throwing them the ball on Saturdays. The Canes had speedster Phillip Dorsett, were looking for a resurgence of Malcolm Lewis, incoming freshman Braxton Berrios was sure to get some playing time, and Stacy Coley was SURE to have another phenomenal season after an All-American freshman campaign. The bad news was Stacy Coley suffered from the infamous Sophomore Slump and was a shell of himself. Miami also got inconsistent play from Lewis and Waters, and senior wideout Rashawn Scott was lost because of another shoulder injury. While blame can surely be allocated to all facets of the offense, Miami did not get what was expected out of the receiving corps. Hopefully, the Canes can avoid such disappointment this season.

2015: This season, Miami has to replace its top-3 leading receivers from last season. Funny, because only one was actually a wide receiver. Granted, one was a tight end, a QB's best friend, and the other is arguably the greatest back in Miami's history. Coley is ready to bounce back from a down year, as well is Herb Waters and Malcolm Lewis. Braxton Berrios is looking to build on a good freshman season, and Rashawn Scott will look to be Kaaya's favorite target as Miami's most physical receiver. Also keep an eye out for freshman wideout Lawrence Cager. At 6'5", he is making himself known in camp so far, so do not be surprised to see him on the field this fall. The Canes have more than enough talent at the receiver position, but frankly, it's 'put up or shut up' at this point. Miami's hire of wide receiver coach Kevin Beard will certainly help this group reach their potential.

Tight End

2014: While the Canes weren't the deepest at this position, it was definitely productive. Miami remained the undisputed "Tight End U" with the emergence of Clive Walford. Walford at this point last year was being challenge by then-sophomore Standish Dobard. Walford was good in his time at Miami, but had some inconsistencies that he made an emphasis to work on during the offseason. That work translated into Clive's final season. Without Walford, Brad Kaaya doesn't become the QB that he does. Walford became his safety blanket, but was much more than that. His production propelled Walford to third team All-America by the Associated Press, and was a Mackey Award finalist, which is given to the best tight end in the country. Dobard was a quality second stringer, who absolutely mauled people in the run game.

2015: I'll start with the bad news, Walford graduated. The "good-er" news is that Dobard is back and has apparently progressed as a pass catcher and overall player. Miami also brought in the country's best JUCO tight end, Jerome Washington. Hopefully he's better than Cam's boy Beau Sandland. Even better is that Chris Herndon and David Njoku have a year under their belt and look to contribute in any way they can. Njoku (6'4" 240 lbs), who redshirted last season, was the national high jump champion his senior year in high school. So while the team's best tight end in school history (statistically) graduated last year, Miami is not short on options for Brad Kaaya.

Offensive Line

2014: The offensive was supposed to be one of Miami's strengths last season. At least the left side was. The right side of the line was not figured out until the latter half of camp. Miami had future first rounder Ereck Flowers at LT, future fourth round pick Jon Feliciano at LG, and undrafted free agent center Shane McDermott, who is now on the Dallas Cowboys' roster. The right side of the line was virtually unsettled, but Danny Isidora emerged as the leading candidate to take the RG position, while former Cane Taylor Gadbois and freshman Kc McDermott battled for the RT position. Last season, the injury bug struck the o-line, which left coach Art Kehoe shuffling the line and throwing players into the fire. Miami NEEDS to stay healthy along the line this year.

2015: Oh boy...this should be fun. I can say that because I'm not the QB. To put it lightly, if this offensive line puts on an average showing this season, it is a success. Miami is replacing all but one starter this season, the lone wolf being RG Danny Isidora. According to multiple reports, the first-team o-line in camp is (left to right) Trevor Darling, Alex Gall, Nick Linder, Isidora, and Sunny Odogwu. The potential of this line is amazing. To quote an old football coach of mine, "POTENTIAL MEANS (insert four letter word)!" Linder at center will surprise people, if he hasn't already, Isidora will continue to produce, and Darling could/should live up to his potential. Gall will be a good replacement at LG, but that right tackle...uhh. Look, I know Sunny is 6'8" and 325 lbs., but I'm not convinced he's that good. His potential (there goes that word again) is sky high, as he has only been playing football since his senior year of football. Why am i so skeptical? I personally played against that mammoth of a human being twice in his lone year of high school football - I'm really showing my age here. Any coach would fall in love with someone of that size, completely raw, and who is a converted basketball player. I'm not sold one bit, but I pray he and the Canes staff prove me terribly wrong.

The second stringer behind Odogwu, who is in his fifth year of football...FIFTH, is high school all-american and five-star recruit, Kc McDermott. While high school accolades are great, that means nothing if you cannot produce at the collegiate level. Not saying that McDermott did not or cannot, but this position is there for the taking, and has been for a good four years with all of the shuffling that has taken place there. Not only is the offensive line the most important position group, it is also the most difficult to gel. Every lineman has to be on the same page, at the same time, for the same play. ONE missed assignment and the play blows up in everybody's face. While this o-line has the potential (THERE IT IS AGAIN) to be good, it will take some time, so to everyone at home watching, be patient, give it some time and just ride this out.

Comparison

On paper, and I repeat, ON PAPER, the 2014 offense wipes the floor with this years team at this point in the season. Yes, Brad Kaaya was a freshman then, but we all saw what the kid can do. But in case you forgot because I'm sure you all did, the 2014 Canes only won 6 games. This year's team has potent......can be good this season if they figure it all out. But it will start and finish up front. The offensive line will be the determining factor in how good this offense can be. With Kaaya in his second year, he's sure to build on an unbelievable freshman campaign. A year more mature, a year more experienced, and another year building a relationship with his receivers, Kaaya is almost certain to lead the Canes to greater heights.

The running back situation is still a work in progress because Duke Johnson is gone, but there shouldn't be too much of a collective drop off in production. As for the receivers and tight ends, I do think Miami is better off this year than last year knowing what we know now. It seemed like the receivers last year were all supposed to go for 100 rec/1,000 yds/10 tds last year, but that didn't happen. With the acquisition of Kevin Beard, this year's group is better off and Beard's presence will yield dividends to this group. Walford will be missed, but his receiving production will be distributed among a deeper tight end group and a better receiving corps. As for the o-line, last season was definitely better off at this point. No question about it. If each offense were to play a 7-on-7 matchup, I'd go with this year's team. If they were to play an 11-on-11 scrimmage against the same defense, last year's team wins it.

Offensively, I'm going to give the edge to last year's team at this point in camp. Duke Johnson is mainly the reason I'm doing this. Miami should be better and more consistent throwing the football this year, but what is to be seen out of the running backs and offensive line remains a question.