Since the UM hoops team is out of action until Saturday against FAU, my attention has been diverted to football, at least temporarily. 2011 was an up and down year, but some real talent emerged. In 2012 I expect some players to make even further progress, and even a few who were lost in the shuffle to re-emerge. Here are my 5 to watch in 2012.
Allen Hurns. The 6’3 180 pound Hurns really reminds me a lot of Leonard
Hankerson. Early on Hurns was Jacory Harris’ go to target, but the emergence of soon to turn pro Tommy Streeter limited Hurns’ targets by the end of the year. I expect Hurns to start opposite deep threat Phillip Dorsett, and be the Canes’ top receiver in 2012. It would not surprise me to see him to nearly double upon last year’s 31 catches 415 yards and 4 touchdowns.
Brandon Washington. The 6’4 330 pound Washington was a breakout star in 2010, earning all ACC honors as a guard. This year however Coach Al Golden and staff moved Washington to tackle, where he seemed to take a step back. With Seantrel Henderson healthy and the emergence of Jon Feliciano, I expect Washington to move back to guard. Washington has the ability to be a Brandon Moore (Jets) type at guard on the next level.
Clive Walford.The tight end position has been one of many
traditional power positions at “The U”. Bubba Franks, Jeremy Shockey, Kellen Winslow, and Greg Olsen among others have created quite the tradition. If Walford can continue to improve, the 6’4 235-pounder will easily surpass the 18 catches and 172 yards he produced in 2011. With his size and athleticism he reminds me some of Packers star Jermichael Finley.
Olivier Vernon. Vernon missed the first six games of the season due to suspension for his role in the Nevin Shapiro scandal. When he returned the rust showed as Vernon tallied just 1.5 sacks on the season in 6 games. Everyone knows Anthony Chickillo is going to be a star at the other defensive end, so expect Vernon to get more one-on-one chances next year. The 6’4 260-pounder has Jason Taylor type abilities if he can stay out of trouble.
James Gaines. With fellow Linebacker Denzel Perryman named a freshman
All-American by the CBS Sports, Gaines flew under the radar with 58 tackles including 3 for loss. He needs to add a little more bulk to his 6’3 220 frame to shed blockers, but I like how he finishes tackles and finds the ball. Perryman has been compared to Jonathan Vilma, but I liken Gaines to former Giant great Carl Banks.
Thomas Finnie. The 5’10 170 pound Finnie was mentioned early and often by Coach Golden as a potential starter as a true freshman in the spring. When the season began the coaches went with more experienced guys in Brandon McGee and Wake Forest transfer Mike Williams. With a year of experience under his belt, expect Finnie to find his way back in the good graces of the coaches and use his 4.4 speed to make an impact to the Canes’ secondary.
Randy “Duke” Johnson. We fully expect Johnson to stick by his verbal commitment and come to UM next year. With Lamar Miller off to the NFL he may even start. Coming off of 375 yards and 3 touchdown in the class 5A Florida state semifinals, I am hearing folks compare “Duke” to former UM great Frank Gore. (check out his highlights below)