Although I was absolutely freezing my tale off at this game from the pressbox, it was certainly a great game to be at. The main reason for that was because of the post-game press conference. One of the reporters had asked Coach Johnson how he was able to guide Tech to a victory over Miami. He simply picks up the box score in front of him and reads, "Well, when you hold onto the ball for 40 minutes, it's hard to lose," or something along those lines. From last year, it was definitely my favorite Paul Johnson moment. It was a great ending to a fantastic, high intensity game. Tech played a nearly flawless game and completely wore down the Hurricanes. It was great. It was the game where we really started to realize that our defense can make some plays. Now that a year has passed, things are different. Miami's a pretty different team. Let's take a look
HB Duke Johnson
Duke Johnson has been the focal point of Miami's offense since the moment he first arrived on campus. Standing at 5-foot-9, 206 pounds, and armed with his good speed (4.54 40-yard dash), Johnson was Mr. Do it All for the Canes. He was their leading rusher and second-leading receiver last season (behind Philip Dorsett). He finished the season with 242 carries for 1,652 yards and 10 touchdowns. As a receiver, Johnson also caught 38 passes for 421 yards. Now with the Cleveland Browns, Johnson looks to help ignite the offense.
WR Philip Dorsett
I've never really like Philip Dorsett. It's nothing against him personally or the kind of player he is. He just always seemed to have his best games against Georgia Tech. This last year, he had three catches for 75 yards. The year before that, he had four catches for 66 yards and a touchdown (including a 40-yard touchdown). Back in 2012, he had nine catches for 184 yards and a touchdown (for 65 yards). And then in his freshman season, he had two catches for 32 yards (one of those being a 19-yard reception). More often than not, Dorsett proved to be a solid receiver for the Canes. I'd say reliable, but according to Bill Connelly, he only caught about half of the passes thrown his way. That's still 36 catches for 871 yards, but it could have been better.
TE Clive Walford
The last of the top three pass catchers is the tight end, Clive Walford. While not as explosive as either Duke Johnson or Philip Dorsett, Walford's reliability is what made him so effective. Miami quarterbacks sent 55 passes to Walford last year. He caught 44 of them for an 80 percent catch rate (highest on the team). With those 44 receptions, Walford gained 676 yards. It was nice for Brad Kaaya to have someone with reliable hands as a true freshman.
OLs Shane McDermott and Ereck Flowers
Out of all of the players departing from last year's offense for the Canes, I think Brad Kaaya is going to miss Ereck Flowers and Shane McDermott the most. Even though these are only two of the four offensive linemen that left, these were the two most important. As Kaaya's blindside protector last year, Flowers proved to be good enough to be named second team All-ACC and then later a top-10 draft pick. McDermott wasn't too shabby either. He finished the season being named first-team All-ACC, but went undrafted. Together, these two combined
DE Anthony Chickillo
Anthony Chickillo was a big part of the Canes defensive line last year. He lead all lineman in tackles with 30.5 and also had 4.5 tackles for loss and 3.0 sacks. While the pass rush wasn't exactly Miami's forte last year, they still lost one of their best pass rushers in Chickillo.
LB Denzel Perryman
It's never easy losing the best player on your defense, and that's exactly what Denzel Perryman was (and by a good margin). He finished last season with 94.5 tackles (nearly double of the next-closest guy), 9.5 tackles for loss, 2.0 sacks, an interception, five pass break-ups and three forced fumbles. All those stats are nice, but Perryman's asset to the defense was his leadership. He was helping all the guys around him and that will be difficult to replace for the Canes.
QB Brad Kaaya
Now that Duke Johnson is gone, this offense becomes Brad Kaaya's offense. That's not necessarily a bad thing. Last season, Johnson had a massive workload (242 carries). Now that he's gone, Kaaya should be able to help ease his workload by passing a little bit more. That was something he was pretty good at as a freshman last season. He finished the season completing 58.5 percent of his passes for 3,198 yards, 26 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. The challenge for Kaaya will be staying upright in spite of losing four starters among the offensive line and finding new targets after his top three pass catchers from last season left.
HBs Joseph Yearby and Gus Edwards
So who's going to ease the pain of Duke Johnson's departure? It very well could be a combination of Joseph Yearby and Gus Edwards. As a sophomore and junior, respectively, their difference in size makes them natural compliments to each other. Standing at 5-foot-9, 195 pounds, Yearby seems to be the more scat-back-ish of the two. He finished last season with 86 carries for 509 yards and a touchdown (eight catches for 118 yards in the air). On the other side, though, Gus Edwards is the power guy standing at 6-foot-2, 230 pounds. He finished the season with 61 carries for 349 yards and six touchdowns. I'm not sure how each would handle the full load, but the combination could prove to be formidable.
WR Stacy Coley
Miami needs someone to step up with the departure of Philip Dorsett. Looking at their roster and their stats from last year, it makes the most sense to me that it will be Stacy Coley that steps up. He hasn't totally shown what he's made of at the FBS level yet, but if he can continue to develop, he could be a great receiver. He only caught about half of the passes thrown his way, but he still got 23 catches for 184 yards. Whether or not he is ready for the role of being a No. 1 receiver is irrelevant. Miami needs one, and Coley is the best option for that right now.
LB Jermaine Grace
Denzel Perryman had twice as many tackles as nearly everyone else on the team. Only one player managed not be included in that category. That would be Jermaine Grace. Standing at 6-foot-1, 208 pounds, Grace finished last season with 48.0 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, three sacks, a pass break-up and a fumble recovery. With another year of development, Grace may be able to take the next step up and be a leader for this defense. They certainly need one.
CB Corn Elder
I'm pretty sure y'all remember this guy. After taking an official visit to Tech on February 2, the Yellow Jackets looked to be in a good spot to secure Corn Elder's commitment. But because he was a two-sport athlete, he didn't have to sign on National Signing Day, so he didn't. Instead he waited, and then about 10 days later, he sent out this tweet:
Just committed to the university of Miami been my favorite school since I was little #blessed glad this over with— Corn Elder (@AIR_CORN23) February 13, 2013
Before that, no one had seen Miami as an option for him. He never took an official visit there. And really, no one saw it coming. But alas, it's in the past and there's nothing that can be changed about it. Elder has done pretty well for himself, though. Now a junior, Elder finished last season with 29.5 tackles, three for a loss, a sack, four pass break-ups and a fumble recovery, but no interceptions.
S Deon Bush
Deon Bush was the best member of the secondary for the Canes last year. Now a senior, he has a chance to be one of the top defensive backs in the ACC. He finished last season with 46.0 tackles, four tackles for loss, two sacks, two interceptions, three pass break-ups and five forced fumbles. So, like I was saying, he was pretty good this last year. If he can continue to improve, he will most certainly be in talks to be a first-round draft pick next year.
HB Mark Walton
Miami's SB Nation site (State of the U) put out a fantastic piece profiling Mark Walton earlier in the offseason that y'all should check out. He should prove to be a vital piece in helping offset the loss of Duke Johnson. Standing at 5-foot-10, 190 pounds, Walton already has great size, and along with his awesome story, he seems to be picking up on things very quickly. If Joseph Yearby and Gus Edwards don't stay on the top of their game, Walton could easily unseat them by season's end. Walton was rated as a four-star recruit by both Rivals (6.0) and 247Sports (0.9588).
TE Jerome Washington
As a JUCO transfer, Jerome Washington will be coming in having already played at a college level. Given that and his fantastic 6-foot-6, 260 pound frame at tight end, and you have a very dangerous weapon this year. With Clive Walford now gone, the Canes desperately need someone to step up at tight end. I think Jerome Washington can do it. He should prove to be a good target for Brad Kaaya. Washington was rated as a four-star recruit by Rivals (5.8) and 247Sports (0.8913)
DE Scott Patchan
At 6-foot-6, 245 pounds, Patchan is coming to college with the right size for a 4-3 defensive end. Too bad Miami runs a 3-4. I could see Patchan getting some playing time as a rush linebacker just to get him on the field as he grows into his frame to become a 3-4 defensive end. State of the U also did a profile for him. He was rated as a four-star recruit by Rivals (5.8) and 247Sports (0.8752).
The offense should be good for the Canes this year with Brad Kaaya coming into his second year as the starter. As the defense continues to improve (specifically on the defensive line), that really just leaves one problem area for the Canes: the offensive line. I believe that will be the key to a successful season for Al Golden and the Canes. If they can successfully replace four members of the offensive line, they will definitely have a good season. I think that's a legitimate possibility too. It will take time, but by the end of the season, they will be a formidable foe for whomever they face.
As for their game against the Jackets, Georgia Tech has a major issues going against them. The game is at Miami. Tech has not won a game in Miami since the coaching matchup was Chan Gailey vs. Randy Shannon back in 2007. Looking at that and where Miami will be at this point in their schedule, I am going to give the Canes a slight edge in this game, saying they win 31-28. This is definitely a game that could go either way.