After holding just four spring practices in 2020 before getting shut down due to the emerging coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the Miami Hurricanes hope to have a full spring session this year.
The offseason has brought about a lot of changes on the Hurricanes' coaching staff. Miami also has had to navigate through a few players leaving for the NFL draft.
Despite that, the Hurricanes have a talented group returning, led by quarterback D'Eriq King. However, there are some questions about King's availability for the Hurricanes' opener against Alabama after he tore his ACL in the Cheez-It Bowl loss to Oklahoma State in late December.
With spring practice getting going down in Coral Gables, here are some things to keep an eye on.
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1. Quarterback depth behind King
With King still recovering from his torn ACL, establishing an insurance plan if he's not able to go in the opener this fall is of paramount importance.
N'Kosi Perry has entered the transfer portal so Tyler Van Dyke could be the next man in line. The sophomore became the Hurricanes' third quarterback last year as a true freshman. In high school, Van Dyke threw for 4,600 yards and 39 touchdowns in his final two seasons at Suffield Academy, a private prep school based in Connecticut.
Miami also has true freshman Jake Garcia on the roster. Peyton Matocha should receive snaps at quarterback this spring as well.
2. Improvements defensively?
Miami's defense struggled once again as the Hurricanes finished 67th nationally last season in total defense at 408.4 yards per game allowed. Miami also surrendered 27 points per game.
The linebacker position is an area that the Hurricanes need to address. Miami could look towards the transfer portal to fortify the position. Having a veteran like Zach McCloud will help some.
Miami's secondary could be an area of strength with Bubba Bolden and the expected return of Al Blades Jr.
3. Who are the newcomers who can step up?
Miami landed the 12th-ranked recruiting class in the nation this cycle, according to 247Sports. Not only did the Hurricanes add a good group of freshmen, but they also added a few transfers.
Cornerback Tyrique Stevenson could be a player who could have an immediate impact on the Hurricanes after transferring from Georgia. After three seasons at Oklahoma, Charleston Rambo also has transferred in. Rambo recorded 25 receptions for 312 yards and three touchdowns for the Sooners last season.
Defensive end Deandre Johnson, who transferred from Tennessee, will be asked to produce right away following the departures of NFL hopefuls Gregory Rousseau, Jaelan Phillips, and Quincy Roche. Last season, Johnson led the Volunteers with 4.5 sacks.
4. Receiver competition
Mike Harley and the aforementioned Rambo will likely be Miami's top two receivers come the fall. After that, the depth at the position is something that needs to be resolved.
Mark Pope and Dee Wiggins have a lot of experience but have suffered from drops and inconsistent play. Jeremiah Payton could receive some snaps this spring, but he hasn't produced much during his time in Coral Gables.
Tight end Brevin Jordan also declared for the draft, making it even more important for the receiving corps to take a step forward this spring.
5. Can this Borregales be as good as his brother?
Andres Borregales is set to replace his brother, Jose, as Miami's kicker and he has some big cleats to fill.
Jose Borregales won the Lou Groza Award given to the nation's best kicker after connecting on 20 of 22 field-goal attempts last season. The transfer from FIU stabilized a position that had given the Hurricanes headaches. Now it's up to Andres, the No. 2-ranked kicker prospect in the 2021 class according to 247Sports, to maintain the high bar that his brother set.
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— 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.