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2016 Miami Football Spring Preview: The Wide Receivers

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What to watch among UM's talented pass catchers as spring football kicks off.

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Hurricanes kick off Spring Practice next week. This will be the first spring under the direction of Mark Richt and his staff.

One of the most intriguing and talent laden positions to watch for this spring, and this season will the WR group.

Headlined by potential superstar Stacy Coley, there is tons of potential in this group.

But is there enough depth?

And how will the group respond to new WR's Coach Ron Dugans after the departure of the immensely talented and popular Kevin Beard?

All of these questions will take time to answer.

But for now we can look at the roster and examine how things might look on the field.

Projected Starters/Depth Chart:

WR1:  Coley - There is no doubt Coley is going to be the alpha of the group.  He came back for his senior season after considering foregoing for the NFL.  Look for the 6'1 190 pound speedster to improve upon on his impressive 2015 season when he hauled in 47 catches for 689 yards and 4 scores.  Coley can line up on the outside, or in the slot, and is most dangerous when he catches the ball in space and can run after the catch.  The effectiveness of this unit overall will largely be dependent on his consistency and explosiveness.

WR2: Lawrence Cager - This is where things get a little less clear.  The departure of Rashawn Scott leaves a hole, especially in the possession/underneath game not to mention some of the red zone targets.  Cager only caught 8 passes last season as a true freshman, but with his 6'5 215 frame, he would appear to be the front runner to line up opposite Coley in 2 WR sets.  A lot of that will depend on how well he responds to Dugans, as he will need to prove he can run precise routes, block out in space, and knows the playbook inside and out.  But Cager's upside is off the charts, so expect plenty of reps for the sophomore from Maryland.

However since he is a bit green.....

Other possibilities for this spot:

David Nkoju - You are probably expecting to see Njoku next to Chris Herndon and Standish Dobard in the TE preview. But Njoku is such a smooth and powerful athlete, he is good enough to continue lining up outside as he often did in James Coley's offense.  The 6'4 244 pound specimen is going to be a match-up nightmare for defenses no matter where he is formation wise.  I fully expect him to see more targets than anyone else on the roster not named Stacy Coley.  How many variations of how Richt uses Njoku will be something fun to watch this week.

Dayall Harris (JUCO transfer), freshmen Sam Bruce, Ahmmon Richards, Dionte Mullins, So Darrell Langham - I think the 6'3 Harris has a leg up here because he will come in with more experience and is probably the most physical of the group at this stage of the game. Bruce and Richards are explosive talents who ARE going to see the field as true freshmen.  Look for Bruce to get some reps at the slot position as well in 3 WR sets.  Richards will probably need some time to develop, but could be a starter by season's end.  Unfortunately none of these players other than Langham will be here for the spring, but when they do arrive expect them to push the incumbents hard. Langham is probably just a depth player right now, unless he has a huge spring.

WR3/Slot:  Braxton Berrios - Berrios has two years of experience in the program, and has had a few nice moments, but mostly because of injuries has yet to establish himself as a consistent weapon.  It may be now or never for the junior to be from NC.  Coley is going to take some reps on the inside, and Bruce will be pushing Berrios big time for the rest when he arrives on campus.  Senior Malcolm Lewis can also man this spot.  Berrios needs to stay healthy and have a strong week to cement himself in this spot for the fall.

Summary:

Behind Coley, Lewis, and Berrios there is not a ton of on the field experience here.

But there is a lot of talent.

Cager is one the key story lines for the coming week, as he can be a force if his mental game catches up to his physical.

Berrios is under the gun to produce NOW.  The newcomers are incredibly skilled, and have the mindsets that they can come in and play ASAP.

While Scott, Herb Waters, and recently departed Tyre Brady will be missed, because of the raw ability of the group and Coley's return, this group could/should be one of the more improved ones on the team.

It all starts with a great spring.

Stay tuned 'Canes fans.