The U: Positions Of Need for the 2018 Season

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MIAMI GARDENS, FL - DECEMBER 30: Chad Thomas #9 of the Miami Hurricanes reacts during the first quarter of the 2017 Capital One Orange Bowl against the Wisconsin Badgers at Hard Rock Stadium on December 30, 2017 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Chad Thomas
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The Miami Hurricanes ended the 2017 season with three straight losses, including the Orange Bowl to the Wisconsin Badgers. However, the ‘Canes enjoyed their first ten win season in a decade, the team looks to build that in the 2018 season. The graduation of some key players make that task harder and even more so after some tough luck this offseason with underclassmen. Since the arrival of Mark Richt into Coral Gables, the Hurricanes have depended heavily on freshmen. Going into his third season, much of those ‘freshmen’ will now be needed to step up in key roles to fill some positions of need in the 2018 season.

Notable Offseason Attrition

Defensive Line

  • Chad Thomas – Miami lost the former five-star recruit to graduation. In the past two seasons, he is responsible for 23.5 tackles for loss and nine sacks. In addition to being a standout defensive end, Thomas was also a hybrid defensive tackle for Miami in pass rush situations.
  • Trent Harris – Harris was listed as a reserve defensive end but led the Hurricanes in sacks this season. In the past two seasons, he has produced 21 tackles for loss.
  • RJ McIntosh – The Hurricanes lose their best interior lineman in McIntosh as he decided to skip his senior season and enter the NFL Draft. This past season, he led the Hurricanes with 12.5 tackles for loss, was named 2nd team All-ACC. That is in addition to being named the most valuable player on defense.
  • Kendrick Norton – Norton becomes a tough loss for the Hurricanes defense after deciding to also enter the NFL Draft early. As a sophomore, he was named All-ACC 3rd team, and this past season contributed six and a half tackles for loss.
  • DJ Johnson – Miami loses perhaps a future starter in Johnson at the defensive end position. The California native came to Miami after being named an Under Armour All-American and having over 100 scholarship offers. Due to severe family health issues, Johnson decided to transfer to Oregon to be closer to his family.
  • Anthony Moten – Moten was a quality backup option at defensive tackle, contributing 15 tackles last season. The former St. Thomas Aquinas Raider graduated.
  • Ryan Fines  Fines was in the back of the rotation at defensive tackle and only appeared in two games. Despite that, he goes down in Hurricane history as being the second person to wear the ‘Turnover Chain’. The redshirt sophomore will graduate in the spring and be free to transfer elsewhere.

Linebacker

  • Darrion Owens – Miami loses to Owens after having the most impressive bowl game performance out of all the linebackers. The redshirt junior had a nine-tackle performance against the Wisconsin Badgers. Owens opted to transfer to Houston, where former Miami defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio now coaches at. He graduated in the fall and will be immediately eligible next season.

Cornerback

  • Malek Young – Perhaps the most unexpected news this offseason for Miami, was of its best cornerback this past season. Young left early in the first quarter of the bowl game due to an injury. That injury turned out to be a career-ending neck injury that will require surgery. Miami loses its top corner that led the team in pass breakups and followed the top receiver of opponents. Young was the first player to wear the turnover chain after getting an interception against Bethune-Cookman.

Tight End

  • Chris Herndon – One of the most reliable options for the Hurricanes offense graduates after a highly productive career at Miami. His season ended abruptly during the regular season finale against Pittsburgh when he tore his MCL. He stood out enough to earn an invitation to the Senior Bowl game but was recovering from knee surgery. Herndon leaves UM with career highs at receptions, yards, and touchdowns.

Moving Forward

Miami loses leadership and production from the offensive side of the ball. Players such as Braxton Berrios, Chris Herndon, KC McDermott and Trevor Darling have all started numerous games in their career. Miami, however, has already recruited replacements to fill those voids, defensively there is still needs on the defensive line. Depth on the defensive front was one of the strengths the past two seasons for the Hurricanes. The NFL draft and transfers have reduced some of that depth but there are still reasons to be optimistic.

Two reasons for hope next season is the fact that Miami returns former five-star defensive tackle, Gerald Willis. He returns after taking a leave of absence last season, based off of his practice performance he will be a terror. Another reason for hope is the fact that Miami has one of the best defensive line coaches in the country. Craig Kuligowski has coached numerous All-Americans from his time at Missouri. The development of Chad Thomas, RJ McIntosh and Kendrick Norton during his time at Miami shows his effectiveness.

Main Photo Credit:

MIAMI GARDENS, FL – DECEMBER 30: Chad Thomas #9 of the Miami Hurricanes reacts during the first quarter of the 2017 Capital One Orange Bowl against the Wisconsin Badgers at Hard Rock Stadium on December 30, 2017, in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Chad Thomas

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