Three things we learned in the spring about the Miami Hurricanes:
1. Dallas Crawford will help on D. Miami surprised many when it decided to move Crawford from running back to safety. But the switch should end up benefiting both the Canes' D and Crawford in the long-term. Initially recruited to play safety, Crawford made himself at home in the defensive backfield and impressed coaches. He was named most improved player on defense for the spring.
2. Bulked-up Duke Johnson. While Johnson was held out of contact drills as he rehabbed a broken ankle, he did participate on a limited basis this spring. But bigger than that was the way he transformed his body. Johnson put on 10 pounds and is now up to 205. The hope is that more weight translates into better durability. Miami will need to rely on him more than ever in 2014.
3. Depth at linebacker. Coach Al Golden said one of the biggest accomplishments his team made this spring was building depth at linebacker. Miami hopes to count on all-ACC performer Denzel Perryman (now in the middle), along with Alex Figueroa, Raphael Kirby, Thurston Armbrister, Jermaine Grace, JaWand Blue and early enrollee freshmen Juwon Young and Darrion Owens.
Three questions for the fall:
1. Who will cut it at QB? Miami caught a tough break when projected starting quarterback Ryan Williams tore his ACL during a scrimmage and underwent surgery. Though there is some hope Williams could return before the season ends, Miami has to prepare Kevin Olsen and Gray Crow for the starting job. Olsen, the favorite to win the starting job, did not impress in the spring game. Neither did Crow.
2. Improvement on D? Coaches insisted this spring that they saw a better, more cohesive defensive unit, one in which leaders emerged in Perryman and Tracy Howard, among others. Will the progress coaches saw in the spring translate into more consistent performances during the season? Chief on the list of improvements is a better four-man rush and improving on third downs.
3. Pass rush. Speaking of pass rush, Miami was pleased with what it saw out of hybrid rush ends Al-Quadin Muhammad and Tyriq McCord this spring. Their emergence will be a huge key toward improving the Hurricanes’ pass rush. Ufomba Kamalu and Jelani Hamilton also started playing better as the spring went on, so Miami feels better about its depth across the line headed into the fall.
One way-too-early prediction:
Miami will take a step back this year. The Hurricanes go into the season with question marks at quarterback and continued questions on defense. Couple that with a difficult schedule -- featuring perhaps the most difficult crossover games in the ACC against Florida State, Louisville – and it will be tough for the Canes to match their nine-win total from last season.