Miami Football: Hurricanes' 2019 Spring Preview

Jeff Thomas' unexpected return provides continuity to an otherwise revamped receiving corps

The Miami Hurricanes with new head coach Manny Diaz are scheduled to begin spring practice on Tuesday. This year, the Hurricanes will hold their spring game on April 20 in Orlando at Camping World Stadium. That's also the venue for Miami's 2019 season opener against the Florida Gators on Aug. 24.

 

The Hurricanes will hold three scrimmages, including the spring game, with another one of them open to the public at noon on April 13 at Traz Powell Stadium in Miami.

 

Miami hopes to begin the road to recovery after going from a 10-win team in 2017 to just seven last season.

 

5 Storylines to Watch During Miami's Spring Practice

 

1. Who will be the Hurricanes' starting QB?

The biggest question to this involves the NCAA and whether Ohio State transfer Tate Martell will be deemed eligible for this season. If he is, then the former top recruit who was the national player of the year for several outlets coming out of Las Vegas' Bishop Gorman instantly becomes the front-runner to start under center.

 

If not, the competition for the starting quarterback job will likely come down to N'Kosi Perry and Jarren Williams. Although Perry received a lot of snaps in 2018, Williams is considered more athletic and possesses more upside, which could be the deciding factors for Diaz.

 

2. Wide receivers group

This is a position group that has seen a lot of turnover during the offseason. Gone are Darrell Langham (eligibility exhausted), Lawrence Cager (transferred to Georgia), and Marquez Ezzard (transferred to Georgia Tech).

 

Newcomers include Buffalo transfer K.J. Osborn and four-star freshman Jeremiah Payton, both of which will be taking part in spring practice. Additionally, Jeff Thomas, who was dismissed from the program in late November by former head coach Mark Richt and then in December said he was going to transfer to Illinois, has decided to stay at Miami. He was reinstated in mid-February by Diaz and is the team's top returning receiver after recording 35 catches for 563 yards with three touchdowns in 11 games last season.

 

3. How much growth can their OL have?

Tommy Kennedy, who transferred from Butler, could start at left tackle this fall. The Hurricanes will also have depth at tackle in George Brown Jr., D.J. Scaife, and John Campbell.

 

At center, Corey Gaynor is expected to take over for Tyler Gauthier, who graduated. At guard, Navaughn Donaldson will likely figure in on the right side, but there are questions on the left side as there's no clear-cut starter at the position.

 

4. Who can be the next star on DL?

Joe Jackson declared early for the NFL draft. While Trevon Hill figures to be a big part of the Hurricanes' plans, the Virginia Tech transfer isn't expected to arrive on campus until the summer.

 

That means Jon Garvin and Greg Rousseau should receive a lot of work this spring. Garvin recorded 60 tackles and 5.5 sacks in 13 games while Rousseau is coming back from a season-ending injury.

 

Although Gerald Willis' departure leaves a huge hole, the Hurricanes have plenty of depth availlable, including UCLA transfer Chigozie Nnoruka, as well as Jalar Holley, Jason Blissett, and Jared Harrison-Hunte.

 

5. Who can make an impact in secondary?

There isn't a lot of depth in the Hurricanes' secondary, especially at cornerback. But Miami does have some familiar faces returning.

 

Trajan Bandy, who was named third-team All-ACC last season will undoubtedly start at one cornerback spot. The other side is less settled with Al Blades Jr., D.J. Ivey, and Nigel Bethel competing for a starting job.

 

At safety, Jaquan Johnson and Sheldrick Redwine are gone, and USC transfer Bubba Bolden won't arrive until the summer. So expect junior Amari Carter, senior Robert Knowles, and sophomore Gurvan Hall to be on full display this spring.

 

— 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, the Miami Herald and the Palm Beach Post and is a reporter for Pro Player Insiders. Follow him on Twitter @antwanstaley.

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