The Miami Hurricanes open spring ball looking for players to step up and fill holes of key departed players. On offense, the Hurricanes will need to replace their top players at running back, wide receiver, and tight end in addition to two starters on the offensive line and the kicker.
The defense will be looking to replace its top three defensive tackles, best defensive end, and two of their top cornerbacks.
Spring practices are an opportunity to see who will step up for a team that finished 10-3 looking to take another step in Mark Richt's third season as head coach.
Travis Homer filled in admirably for Mark Walton at running back when Walton went down with a season-ending injury, so replacing him should be a much easier transition than other positions. Homer rushed for 966 yards on 5.9 yards a carry last season with eight touchdowns.
Highly-regarded freshman running back Lorenzo Lingard will also be counted on contribute at a high level in his first season, while DeeJay Dallas showed flashes last season as a freshman, averaging 5.3 yards on 41 carries.
Braxton Berrios was the unquestioned leader of the receivers both in terms of production (55 catches, 679 yards, nine touchdowns) and his work ethic on the practice field.
Ahmmon Richards, who was plagued by injuries throughout the season and likely will be slowed during the spring, is the favored candidate to replace Berrios' production, but the Hurricanes will need someone to step up as a leader of the group. If Richards is unable to fully participate in the spring, look for Jeff Thomas and Lawrence Cager to take advantage of the extra reps.
Chris Herndon was the team's top tight end last year, giving Richt and his staff a second straight season of strong production from the group after David Njoku teamed with Herndon two years ago. This season figures to be much different unless one of the two highly-regarded freshmen, Brevin Jordan or Will Mallory, are able to make a quick adjustment when they arrive on campus, or returners Michael Irvin Jr. or Brian Polendey are able to show vast improvements in the spring.
The Hurricanes need two new starters on the offensive line at left tackle and left guard. Offensive line coach Stacy Searels will be busy this spring trying to find replacements as senior Tyree St. Louis could make the move from right tackle to left tackle or turn to George Brown, Kai-Leon Herbert, Tre Johnson, or Zalon'tae Hillery, none of whom played more than 20 snaps last season.
Navaughn Donaldson started at right guard last season and could also be an option, but after the season the staff said his best position was guard.
Hayden Mahoney, Corey Gaynor, Jahair Jones, Bar Milo, and Zach Dykstra are options at left guard in addition to Tyler Gauthier, who could be moved after starting at center last season.
Walk-on kickers will get opportunities after the graduation of Michael Badgley, but will need strong performances to hold off Bubba Baxa when he is expected to arrive in the summer.
Spring ball concludes on April 19, but the Hurricanes' spring game is on April 14 at Hard Rock Stadium. The team has not announced the dates of scrimmages.
The Hurricanes are also hosting plenty of recruits, including a defensive tackle who could change the face of the program forever. Who is it? And what other recruits are headed to The U? Visit InsideTheU for the latest on Miami football, and find out what DT could shake up the program, all from a veteran team of Miami reporters.