There’s a lot of buzz surrounding the University of Miami’s football program and for good reason. The team hired former Georgia head coach Mark Richt last December and has arguably one of the best quarterbacks in college football in Brad Kaaya returning for his junior season.
Miami will need more than Kaaya if the team is going to reach its first ACC Championship Game since joining the conference in 2004. But other than Kaaya, who are some of the other players who could potentially have a huge impact during the 2016 season?
Stacy Coley, WR
After deciding against entering the 2016 NFL Draft, Coley enters fall camp as the team’s clear-cut No. 1 receiver. Last season, Coley ranked second on the team in receptions with 47. He also finished with a career-high 689 receiving yards despite playing in only 11 of Miami’s 13 games.
Miami will need Coley to have a big season because there is not much depth at receiver. Lawrence Cager, who was expected to have an increased role the offense, will miss the season with a knee injury.
With no other returning receiver having more than 30 catches last season, Miami will need Coley to improve his stats from the 2015 season and to remain healthy.
Joseph Yearby, RB
Miami’s most consistent player throughout the 2015 season was probably Yearby, who rushed for 1,002 yards and six touchdowns.
Yearby also recorded 23 receptions for 273 yards and two touchdowns, averaging 11.9 yards per catch. While the Hurricanes will have a loaded backfield with Gus Edwards and Mark Walton also in the mix, Yearby should still have another strong season.
David Njoku, TE
Another weapon that should receive a lot of targets from Kaaya this fall is Njoku. As a freshman last season, Njoku caught 21 passes for 362 yards and a touchdown.
In 2016, Njoku should have a big season. His 17.2 yards per catch in 2015 were the most for a tight end in the ACC. During this year’s spring game, Njoku had six catches for 76 yards and two touchdowns.
Al-Quadin Muhammad, DE
There might not be a player that will benefit more from defensive coordinator Manny Diaz’s new system than Muhammad. The defensive end started seven games for the Hurricanes in 2015, finishing the season with five sacks.
Muhammad led the team in tackles for a loss (8.5) and ranked third in tackles with 54. New defensive line coach Craig Kuligowski, who comes over from Missouri, should be a great benefit to Muhammad.
While at Missouri, Kuligowski coached 24 players on his defensive line to all-conference honors and four first-round NFL Draft picks. Players Kuligowski has previously coached include Kony Ealy, Shane Ray, Markus Golden, Michael Sam and Ziggy Hood.
Corn Elder, cornerback
Last season, Elder had a breakout season for the Hurricanes. He started seven games for Miami and led the team with 12 passes defended, which tied him for fifth in the ACC. Elder also recorded two interceptions and recovered a fumble.
Not only did Elder have a big presence on defense, but he also made an impact in the return game. He returned a 72-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against Bethune-Cookman. Elder also was part of one of the greatest finishes in college football history as he returned a 75-yard kickoff return to defeat Duke as time expired.
— Written by Antwan Staley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and has extensive experience covering Florida sports teams. Staley has written for Bleacher Report, Pro Player Insiders and is a reporter for Sports Talk Florida. Follow him on Twitter @antwanstaley.