With the 2017 season in the rear view mirror, and a handful of players moving on, 2018 will be an opportunity for players to breakout. The Hurricanes are losing some key players to the draft and new faces will be asked to step up and fill the void. I wanted to take a look at a few players that I think will have a breakout season next year.
4. Demetrius Jackson DE Sr.(RS)
Demetrius Jackson was a tall skinny kid from Booker T. Washington who was oozing with raw talent and athleticism. Miami knew he was going to be a project as he had to fill out his frame to go up against strong offensive tackles. He sat out his freshman year, and played sparingly the two years after. This past year he finally had his chance at decent playing time and he made his impact felt. Jackson had 18 Tackles, 7.5 TFL and 3.5 sacks as a rotational defensive end. These are impressive numbers considering his season was ended short due to a knee injury. With Chad Thomas and Trent Harris graduating, Jackson will be asked to do even more as a potential starter on the line for Miami. If Jackson recovers well from his injury, he could be a force on the edge opposite of Joe Jackson, and could really help fill the void Thomas and Harris left. I think the emergence of Jonathan Garvin late in the season will force Jackson to up his game to the next level.
3. Gerald Willis III DT Sr.(RS)
Gerald Willis III is a former elite recruit who committed to play for the Florida Gators out of high school. After one year in Gainesville, he decided to transfer out and take his talents to South Beach. He spent his first year on campus sitting out due to NCAA transfer rules, and played sparingly during his 2nd year in Miami. He appeared in 9 games as a rotational player, but showed flashes as a disruptive DT. This season was a strange one for Willis as he spent time with the team during the spring, but then left due to personal issues. Coach Mark Richt allowed Willis to return in the fall, but as a member of the scout team. I think Willis accepting a lesser role this year to remain on the team shows that he is serious about football and is willing to put in the work. With R.J. Mcintosh and Kendrick Norton declaring early for the NFL, Willis will be given every opportunity to start and make an impact on the defensive line.
2. Deejay Dallas RB/WR So.
Deejay Dallas came in with all the talent in the world, but nowhere to put that talent. There were questions coming into the season as to which position Dallas would be playing. He started off the year as a WR, but was asked to switch positions due to the injury of Mark Walton. At first this move seemed to be made for emergency purposes, but once he was on the field, it was impossible to keep him off. No matter where the coaches put Dallas, the kid made plays. He mainly played running back, but he saw time at WR and as a Wildcat QB. With the return of Homer and the additions of Lorenzo Lingard and Cam Davis, it may seem difficult for Deejay to breakout, but plenty of teams have successfully featured two running backs on offense. I can also see him having an impact in the slot picking up the snaps that Berrios left behind. Regardless, this kid will be given the chance to make an impact on the offense and I fully expect him to breakout.
1. Ahmmon Richards WR Jr.
It may seem strange seeing our best offensive player on this list, but the truth is that Richards has yet to truly breakout. We saw flashes of what he is capable of during his freshman season, and last year he was held back by hamstring injuries and eventually the season ending meniscus injury. With the lack of playing and practice time, you saw more drops this year from Richards and he never seemed in rhythm. He also had less explosive plays due to the fact that he was held back by a bum hamstring. There were even games where he was held out for large stretches due to his conditioning and health. You saw some improvements in his game, excelling in jump ball situations, and becoming a force as a blocker. With improved health and hopefully some better QB play, this could be the year Ahmonn puts it all together and has a monster season for the Hurricanes.
Honorable Mentions: N’Kosi Perry/Jarren Williams, Jon Ford, Trajan Bandy
Is there anyone you think will breakout in 2018? Let us know in the comments below.
Go Canes !