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Miami Hurricanes Football Spring Preview: Wide Receiver

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Ahmmon Richards returns to the field this spring as the Hurricanes boast an abundance of passing threats entering 2018.

NCAA Football: Miami at Pittsburgh Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The positional previews continue here at State of the U today with a look at Miami’s wide receivers. I’ve been on record this off-season saying that there is no deeper position on the roster than receiver for the ’Canes in 2018. From a national star to a speedster to a trio of phenomenal freshmen, there is talent from top to bottom in our hypothetical depth chart.

Ahmmon Richards is BACK… (kinda)

When it comes to any discussion about the Hurricanes’ receiver depth chart, it is required by law to start with Ahmmon Richards. We all witnessed the unfortunate ailments that cost Miami its top playmaker for various games throughout the season.

While other receivers picked up the slack in his absence a season ago, the Hurricanes’ offense is significantly different when #82 is playing at 100 percent. Richards’ best performance came from a September game against Duke where he caught three passes for a total of 106 receiving yards and made one spectacular 49-yard touchdown reception to put the game out of reach. But after undergoing surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee, his availability as the season draws closer remains in question. While Richards is slowly regaining his mobility, he will not be an active participant during the spring portion of the off-season. There is no rush to get Richards back onto the field since the risk of re-injury when Miami is months away from facing LSU is not worth it—especially when you consider that Richards also pulled his hamstring during fall camp last year and still somehow managed to finish third on the team with 29 receptions, 439 receiving yards and three touchdowns. However, when the time is right, expect a healthy Ahmmon Richards to be the impact player that Hurricanes’ fans presume to see anytime he touches the ball.

Miami’s offense does not function as efficiently as it could when Richards is not in the line up. As you can see for yourself from a tweet by Matt Porter of the Palm Beach Post, Richards still has some ground to make up before he’s back to his playmaking best. In 2018, let’s hope Miami does not have to relive that circumstance.

Depth on Board

Richards working out on his own for the spring opens a path for some other Hurricanes’ receivers to catch the eye of receiver coach Ron Dugans and head coach Mark Richt as the group jockeys for position before the depth chart when Miami travels to Dallas to play LSU.

Returning Receivers

Ahmmon Richards

Lawrence Cager

Jeff Thomas

Mike Harley

Dayall Harris

Darrell Langham

Evidence Njoku

As pointed out in the slot receiver article, the biggest departure from the UM receiving corp is Braxton Berrios who manned the slot receiver position. Expanding our outlook of the position as a whole, every spot aside from WR 1 is up for grabs. Can Jeff Thomas hold off Lawrence Cager from pushing for an outside receiving position? Will the legend of Darrell Langham continue his final season at Miami? Are we sleeping on Dayall Harris, a player that does whatever is asked of him? After flashing last spring, those questions will only start to be answered when spring practices get underway. You’ll see a small glimpse of progress when Miami hosts their spring game on April 14th at Hard Rock Stadium.

NOTE* There has been no update on the status of redshirt freshman Evidence Njoku, who is working his way back onto the field after suffering a season-ending knee injury last October.

So Freshman, So Clean

Mark Pope

Brian Hightower (early enrollee)

Daquris Wiggins (early enrollee)

Marquez Ezzard

So as you can see, with the exception of Ezzarda and Pope, most of Miami’s receiver recruits will take part in spring practice. It will be intriguing to see who among this group will be able to acclimate themselves to the speed and subtleties of the game. Can one of the new guys push for playing time early this season? This is one of the more fascinating storylines of the season.

With so many bodies lining up to run routes, there will be plenty competition to see who can earn playing time among the new blood.

Breakout Player

Jeff Thomas

Syracuse v Miami
There nothing new about WR Jeff Thomas leaving defenders in his dust. ’Canes fans only want to see more images such as this when the 2018 season gets underway.
Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

He may be the fastest Hurricane on the roster and could threaten Ahmmon Richards as the team’s best deep threat. In 2017, Thomas brought in 17 receptions for 374 receiving yards, two touchdowns and 22 yards-per-catch rate on the season. There was concentration on his part, as well as utter misses. However, with a season worth of reps on his cleats, Thomas’ sophomore season could see him not only continuing to get massive separation from defensive backs in coverage, but to also be in position to make more plays on targets in his vicinity.

Summary

Potential: it gets fans excited, but if it goes unharnessed, it can turn quickly on the those who do not learn to apply it constructively. A season ago ’Canes fans witnessed WR coach Ron Dugans get the most out of his receiving corp. A season later, Dugans brings in more talent in the form of freshmen, along with a receiving group that for the most part has enjoyed moments of success over the past year and a half. Which raises the question, what’s the ceiling of expectation for WR group as talented as the one Miami will be able to run out onto the field next season? Of course, a large part of the success of receivers reflects on quarterback play and to another degree pass protection. Miami must make the most of the talent it has built up at the receiver position because it would be such a shame if the Hurricanes failed to capitalize on a position of strength in 2018.

IT’S ALWAYS ABOUT THE U!