Miami Football: 5 Hurricanes Who Could Surprise People This Spring
College football has officially returned to South Florida now that the Miami Hurricanes have officially opened spring practice in preparation for the 2014 campaign.
The 'Canes are definitely shorthanded for the spring session, missing the likes of starting running back Duke Johnson, center Shane McDermott and cornerback Ladarius Gunter. While certainly not an optimal scenario, the injuries allow more reps for the backups, including some lesser-known reserves from the 2013 season.
Not every highlighted athlete is under the radar, but his respective level of performance this spring could be surprising.
Note: Miami has released its full schedule of spring practices—most of which are open to the public—and scrimmages.
Ryan Williams, Quarterback
Ryan Williams may be a senior, but redshirt freshman Kevin Olsen and incoming quarterback Brad Kaaya have stolen the headlines.
But heading into spring practice, Williams appears to be the most prepared, and Christy Cabrera Chirinos of the South Florida Sun Sentinel notes Williams is earning praise during Canes camp.
Head coach Al Golden said of Williams: "Ryan is seeing it really well. He’s stepping up real well. I’m really excited about the way he’s throwing the ball down the middle of the field."
Plus, Matt Porter of The Palm Beach Post believes star wide receiver Stacy Coley is expecting Williams to be the starter this fall.
Williams may not be a flashy option or highly recruited—he transferred from Memphis in May 2011—but the Miramar High School product is on track to leave spring practice as the clear starter.
Alex Gall, Offensive Line
Alex Gall appeared in 11 games as a true freshman, primarily playing on special teams.
Gall did play the most snaps of any offensive lineman against Savannah State, but he did not see much action on the line otherwise.
This spring, however, Gall has assumed the role of starting center in the absence of McDermott.
A three-year starter, McDermott is missing his second consecutive spring, and Gall has a chance to repeat what Jared Wheeler did last year. After playing alongside the first-stringers, Wheeler earned playing time in every game, making six starts at three positions.
Plus, consequent to Hunter Knighton's unfortunate trip to the hospital, the 'Canes are looking for Gall to step up and lead at the line of scrimmage.
Larry Hope, Cornerback
Larry Hope has only played in two games and accumulated three tackles, but the minimal game action hasn't stopped him from impressing Miami coaches.
Susan Miller Degnan of The Miami Herald notes the redshirt sophomore is donning a black jersey, denoting the hardest workers on the team.
Additionally, with Gunter and Nate Dortch sidelined and Artie Burns running track, Hope is currently a first-string cornerback opposite junior Tracy Howard.
Hope is being tested against the 'Canes' top receivers—Coley, Herb Waters and Rashawn Scott—even more so than last year, so lining up against big competition will help Hope become a viable backup.
And by doing so, the 6'0" defensive back can earn more time during the regular season, too.
Gus Edwards, Running Back
Gus Edwards has bulked up, and he is currently the No. 1 running back.
Johnson and top recruit Joseph Yearby are sidelined for the spring, and Dallas Crawford was moved back to safety which was an unexpected development to Miami followers.
The position switch leaves the 'Canes extremely shorthanded at running back, and Edwards is clearly the best option ahead of Walter Tucker and De'Andre Johnson.
Of course, there's always the angle that Miami is leaning on Edwards to surprise, considering he is the only healthy running back with non-Savannah State experience.
Regardless, as noted by Porter, the sophomore added 10 pounds, and Edwards is physically ready to be the featured back during March and April.
Jamal Carter, Safety
Jamal Carter started to earn some more playing time near the end of the 2013 campaign, and he played reasonably well during his limited snaps.
Kacy Rodgers and A.J. Highsmith played extensively last season, so Miami is looking for another safety to replace the departed seniors.
Crawford returned to safety, so he and Carter are battling alongside Deon Bush, but Carter has the benefit of being immersed in the playbook for a full season.
And because of that, Carter may emerge as a top performer this spring.