The Miami Hurricanes’ 2017 campaign felt like the tale of two different seasons. The team began the season 10-0, but the Hurricanes lost their last three games including to Wisconsin in the Orange Bowl.
The bright side of last year was Miami finally won the ACC Coastal Division and played in its first-ever conference championship game. Now Mark Richt and the Hurricanes will look to build upon last season in hopes of claiming their first ACC crown.
5 Storylines to Watch During Miami’s Spring Practice
1. Can Malik Rosier remain the starting quarterback?
Last season, Rosier threw for 3,120 yards and 26 touchdowns, numbers that ranked him in the top five in the ACC in both categories. The problem was that he completed just 54 percent of his passes and led the conference in interceptions with 14. His accuracy issues were a factor in the losses to Pittsburgh, Clemson and Wisconsin to finish out the season.
Mark Richt has said Rosier will remain the starting quarterback heading into spring practice, but will he keep the job? The Hurricanes have two talented young quarterbacks in N'Kosi Perry and Cade Weldon that will compete with Rosier for the starting job. Perry is a former four-star prospect who starred at Ocala Vanguard High School while Weldon was a former three-star recruit from Tampa.
2. Running back depth
Despite Mark Walton being lost for most of last season, the Hurricanes’ rushing attack didn't miss a beat with Travis Homer (above, right) leading the way. The rising junior rushed for 966 yards and eight touchdowns. With Walton now focused on the NFL, Homer is the undisputed No. 1 back on the depth chart. But how do the others line up behind him?
DeeJay Dallas saw action in 12 of the Hurricanes 13 games last year and finished with 217 rushing yards and three touchdowns. Miami also adds five-star recruit Lorenzo Lingard to the mix.
3. How much can the wide receivers improve?
Ahmmon Richards is by far the Hurricanes’ best and most productive receiver returning. Miami also will have Lawrence Cager, Jeff Thomas and Darrell Langham at the position. But how good can this group of receivers be in 2018?
A year after suffering a torn ACL, Cager slowly returned to form as the season progressed. Cager’s combination of size (6-5, 218), athleticism and route-running make him a potential breakout candidate and he could emerge as the Hurricanes’ top receiving threat as early as this spring.
Someone will need to following the departure of Braxton Berrios, who led the team with 55 catches for 679 yards and nine touchdowns last year.
4. Defensive tackles
Miami’s defensive line will undergo an overhaul this spring following the departure of its three top tackles. In RJ McIntosh, Kendrick Norton and Anthony Moten, the Hurricanes are replacing a trio that combined for 93 tackles, 20 tackles for a loss and 4.5 sacks last year.
Gerald Willis III and Patrick Bethel are the two players expected to start at the vacant spots. Willis is a former four-star defensive tackle that originally signed with Florida. As a freshman, Bethel recorded 18 tackles, a tackle for a loss and a sack.
Jaquan Johnson and Sheldrick Redwine are expected to start again at the safety spots but what about the cornerbacks? Michael Jackson will lead a talented but young group at the position. Jackson was a second-team All-ACC selection last season after recording four interceptions. Trajan Bandy is another player expected to step into a bigger role this season. He had a memorable 65-yard interception return for a touchdown in the blowout victory over Notre Dame last year.
— 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.