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5 Returning Players Who Must Fend Off Incoming Freshmen with Strong Spring

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With National Signing Day in the rearview mirror, several of Miami’s returning players will have to succeed during spring football to beat out freshman for starting jobs.

Russell Athletic Bowl - Miami v West Virginia Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

After dealing with depth issues in his first season, Mark Richt and his staff signed 28 freshman in the class of 2017. The ‘Canes are expecting competition at many positions that lacked athletes in previous years, forcing many returning players into a crucial month of Spring football with their jobs potentially on the line.

5.) Dionte Mullins

After handling his academics late in the process, Dionte Mullins became a ‘Cane shortly before the 2016 season. Mullins was not redshirted before the year and played early in the season, but did not see the field as big games took place. Miami’s wide receivers had success late in the year, but despite the loss of Stacy Coley and Malcolm Lewis, the Hurricanes receiving corps will be as loaded as ever in 2017. Four star receivers Jeff Thomas will enter the fold for Miami next season, and top 2015 recruit Lawrence Cager returns from injury. On a depth chart that will also bring back senior Braxton Berrios, Miami will have a lot of competition in the slot. Richards and Cager are expected to start on the outside, but with Thomas, Harley, and Berrios also jockeying for playing time on the field, Mullins will need to have a big Spring to make sure he does not get lost in the shuffle.

4.) Sheldrick Redwine

NCAA Football: Miami at Appalachian State Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

After starting in several games as a sophomore last season for the Miami Hurricanes, Sheldrick Redwine’s playing time diminished late with the emergence of Malek Young in the secondary. Redwine will be entering his junior year in 2017 after signing with the ‘Canes two years ago, and Miami likes his potential. Due to the entrance of Jhavonte Dean and Trajan Bandy; however, Redwine will have more competition for playing time. Dean is expected to be a replacement for the departing Corn Elder, but Bandy will battle with Redwine as well. The Columbus product will not enter campus until the summer, but has already studied film with Coach Rumph and will be a relentless worker once he begins. Redwine will have an advantage over him in the Spring, but if the veteran corner wants to fend off the incoming talent, he must have a successful Spring and improve his game to match up with his potential competitors.

3.) Robert Knowles, Romeo Finley and Cedrick Wright

NCAA Football: Florida A&M at Miami Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

More than any individual player, Miami’s returning safety group must work relentlessly to take over the jobs Jamal Carter and Rayshawn Jenkins left behind. Unlike Redwine, one of the group’s biggest competitors, Amari Carter, is already on campus for the Spring and is expected by many to start alongside JaQuan Johnson. Knowles, Finley, and Wright all now have a year of experience under their belt, but one will need to rise from the rest if they want to make an impact. Hard-hitting Trinity Christian safety Derrick Smith will also enter the fold after Spring, and provide even more competition than they already have. The staff is confident that both incoming freshman could receive playing time, so Knowles, Finley, and Wright all must have standout Springs to avoid getting left out on the depth chart.

2.) The Offensive Line

North Carolina v Miami Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

At this position everybody is on notice.

The ‘Canes have brought in 5 new offensive lineman in the class of 2017, and LSU transfer George Brown will be eligible to play after sitting out 2016. It is no secret that Miami’s offensive line struggled in many big games last season, and allowed key sacks against ACC rivals such as North Carolina and Virginia Tech. Freshman Navaughn Donaldson and Zach Dykstra are already on campus, and tackles Kai-Leon Herbert and Zalonte Hillery are expected to compete for a job right away. Add sleeper Corey Gaynor to the equation, and the potential of 3 to 4 new starters has emerged.

In an interview this week on 560 WQAM earlier this week Mark Richt said “who knows what those guys will look like 2 or 3 years from now,” but with an immediate need at tackle it is clear Miami’s returning players must have an impressive Spring to keep their playing time.

1.) Jack Allison

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Will there be a more talked about position battle than quarterback this offseason?

Allison isn’t the only returning quarterback who will compete in the Spring, with Malik Rosier, Evan Sherrifs, and Vinny Testaverde Jr. also vying for playing time, but none have as much pressure on them as Jack Allison. Allison came to Miami last year as a four star Under Armour All-American, and was viewed as a possible heir to Brad Kaaya’s throne. Allison was praised throughout the season for his job on the scout team, and developed under Brad Kaaya for a full season after coming in the Spring. Allison should have the experience to start next season for the ‘Canes, but with veteran Malik Rosier holding more in-game experience and highly touted freshman Cade Weldon and N’Kosi Perry entering campus, Allison will have his work cut out for him in the Spring. Cade Weldon is already on campus and N’Kosi Perry will enter in the summer, but it appears as if Jack Allison may have to take over early this offseason to be named the starter.