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Canes' Top 40 Player Countdown: No. 40-36

Hurricanes linebacker Sean Spence was rated No. 59 on Rivals.com's list of the 100 best college football players entering the 2011 season on Tuesday.

In honor of that distinction and because we could all sorely use some University of Miami football chatter during these dull summer months, I've brought back the player ranking system I used a couple years ago.

This one, unlike the last one, is much shorter and sweeter. And, I'm only ranking the Top 40 current Canes, based on what they've accomplished thus far and potential. I've also got a separate list, called The Fresh 15, where I'll rank players who have yet to do anything at UM but are expected to be contributors in 2011.

Enjoy. And remember, there is only a little more than five weeks left before camp begins...

A.J. Highsmith 40. DB A.J. Highsmith (6-0, 195, Jr.): The word on A.J. coming out of high school was that he would probably end up playing something other than quarterback at Miami. Two years and a coaching change later, that's finally the case. After winning the backup job to Jacory Harris as a freshman in 2009 -- and helping two other quarterbacks (Tayler Cook and Cannon Smith) head out the door -- Highsmith moved to defensive back this spring. The move isn't entirely foreign to him. Before he moved from Florida to Texas for high school and made the switch to quarterback, Highsmith played in the secondary growing up. How quickly he makes the transition back and becomes a regular contributor remains to be seen. But after the spring, he was third on the depth chart at strong safety. With as many holes as there are in the secondary, nobody would be surprised if Highsmith eventually finds his way on the field and contributes.

39. OG Joel Figueroa (6-6, 323, Sr.): It seems like a tradition at UM. A player battles through injury throughout their career and eventually they end up staying for six years. Figueroa, who played in UM's first four games last season before missing the rest of the season with back problems, becomes the latest Cane to extend their career beyond five years. Fig, as he's affectionately referred to by teammates, has made 15 starts in his career. Last year, we saw him make two starts at tackle, where it became painfully obvious he was much more suited for guard. Problem is now he's got players in front of him that are not only more talented in Brandon Washington, Harland Gunn and Brandon Linder, but they're also a lot healthier. If Fig can somehow fight his way back and become a contributor in the rotation, it will be a victory. If he doesn't, well, Miami is still in good shape at guard.

38. DE Andrew Smith (6-3, 250, Sr.): Regarded as a project with a lot of upside coming out of Coconut Creek Monarch in 2007, Smith has had a few brief moments of glory. He had two sacks against Pittsburgh last year and forced a fumble at Clemson. Other than serving his role as a third down rusher who hurries the quarterback here and then, Smith wasn't able to beat out his teammates last season to get on the field for more than 15-20 plays. He made seven starts as a sophomore -- zero as a junior. With freshman phenom Anthony Chickillo arriving this fall, it's conceivable Smith could lose even more snaps. My guess is he'll come up with a couple big plays here and there like he's done in the past and then we won't hear from him in 10 of the other 12 games.

37. DT Luther Robinson (6-3, 295, So.): Injuries last season eventually forced Robinson into a starting role as a redshirt freshman for two games against North Carolina and Maryland. He didn't do poorly. But he didn't exactly shine either, recording three tackles, including one for loss. Ranked by Rivals.com as the 18th best defensive tackle in the Class of 2009, Robinson is a player who should see a lot more playing time as the year goes on and injuries add up. With plenty of upperclassmen in front of him, ultimately, Robinson is the future at defensive tackle for the Canes along with Porter.

36. DT Curtis Porter (6-1, 300, So.): After arriving early at UM in January 2009, Porter played in eight of the Hurricanes final nine games and did a decent job holding his own as an injury fill-in. Then, last season, he started against Ohio State before being carted off the field with a knee injury. Porter worked his way back into a backup role this spring behind starter Micanor Regis. If he can stay healthy, Porter should become a valuable run-stopping sub for Regis and Forston, who will get the majority of work in the middle.

Comments

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Manny making a comeback! without you sir, this cane domain on miamiherald will dwindle, glad you're putting effort to feed us the info we need!

Thank God you're back Manny. Tweeting about Marlins games is a waste of your talent (and duplicated by any gamecast software online or on iphones). Stay here and talk UM with us!

Marlins??? What is this Marlins you all speak of??? I heard that Miami once had a baseball team by that name, but no one cared about them or ever went to their games. Surely that team can't still be around, can it?

Seriously, we need you on the Canes beat Manny. If summers get slow with lack of Canes stuff to talk about, maybe you can help out the NCAA and take a couple trips up to Columbus and Gainesville and do some reporting on all their hidden violations!

To all the GAY-TURDS who are obsessed with our blog: GREAT WIN ON YOUR FIRST NATIONAL BASEBALL TITLE--NOT. Idiots.

Thanks Manny for talking with us. Your blogs are like therapy when there is no Cane ball going on.

Can't wait to see DALLAS CRAWFORD hit somebody. Living in the 239, I've see how hard this guy can hit. Unbelieveable. Incredible player.

CANE4LIFE

Great stuff Manny.

To the UM football players:

Ohio State players told ESPN that the whole mess they are in has just made them "more pissed off"

well, I would say, use this as fuel to you all's fires. Be even morepissed off than them. remember, the U has more to prove at this time than OSU. They have finished high and been in the BCS hunt the last several years. UM leadership need to come out like Ed Reed and Mike Irvin and motivate the young players by example! we need to show the world that we're back. The O-line needs to dominate intimadate and destroy. The D-line needs to make opposing QBs and rbs tremble. LBS need to hurt (figuratively) opponents. The Offense should destroy opponents and never loook back. No mercy. 60 point games who cares. even nice guy Coker put >60 points on opponents- ranked U Wash got theirs when they came to the OB. why not? At the very chance other schools will do that to UM. Recall Syracuse and D McNabb putting 60 on Miami in 1998? Do you think they held back?

Crash Burn Destroy baby./ That should be the U 's motto

Manny went to FIU

Manny being Manny.

I know Susan is on 5 week vacay so manny has to do double duty with starving canes fans during famined summer months and, well, starving marlins fans during famined 2011 summer months. the Canes have a lot more to write about. A new verbal recruit every week! All 2011 commits now on campus. Al Goldens camps. Returning NFL players to campus. Season ticket sales are up. Al Goldens amazing PR strategy. Please apologize to the Marlins for me but a losing season loses everyone's interest :-(

Golden can't keep wasting scholarships on average players. How are we going to win an ACC championship, less know a national championship. I hope he uses the remaining scholarships on four and five star players only.

hey manny instead of doing pointless top 40 stuff (no offense, and im actually glad ur back covering UM), is there anyway you could give us some recruiting updates/coverage/insight? ...kind of like what you did with those H.S. player interviews on youtube last year? or maybe some write-ups on them with their current recruiting status?

preferrably anyone on this WISHLIST:

tracy howard
deon bush
avery johnson(LSU commit)
evan goodman
kelvin rainey
jarontay jones(VT commit)
amari cooper
patrick miller
donaldven manning(VT commit)
dj singleton
jordan watkins
jessamen dunker(UF commit)
leonard williams
stefon diggs
sean price(USF commit)
marvin bracy
chris black
james burgess jr
bryan cox jr

Mannys BACK!

I actually like Andrew Smith, i think U got to develop his kind of player. I'm not sure why RS didn't play him more consistently. RS knew how to put together a team, U have to give him that. Thing is, he was just getting settled in, and then...U need to start recruiting some 5-Starr players and fast.

Hey Manny, can you split your Twitter accounts off into UM/Canes only and the rest on another account? I had to quit following you on Twitter because of all the non UM stuff you were tweeting like 15 times a game I don't care about.

Manny, I may not post on the blog everyday, but I come to your site 6 to 8 times a day. Thanks for coming back. It felt almost like a year since your blog article on Vernon. I personally am grateful to have you back writing for us.

I'm waiting to see who steps up after Golden's Utough program. Will Marcus Forston play more downs without having his engine overhauled or will he only give us 2 solid quarters of plays. Will Ray Ray do more than try to blow people up every chance or will he learn how to wrap up first. Will anyone step up and play Middle Linebacker like Jonathan Vilma, Ray Lewis, or Dan Morgan or will we have to play Spence out of his best position. Will we ever have another lock down corner back like Antrel Rolle or will we have to wait until they get to the NFL to learn that they really do know how to play Corner.

Will Jacory ever learn how to throw the short and intermediate U know the 5-15 yard passes or will he always try to go for the home run. What made Ken Dorsey so great was understanding of the offensive philosophy. When you have playmakers all over the field then a 5 yard pass can turn into a big time play. A 15 yard pass can easily be a 40 yard gain like the ones Oklahoma's Sam Bradford beat us on time and time again when we played them in Norman, Oklahoma. Will we ever get back to being Tight End U.

Are these the best recruits that we plan on getting, U know, the kind that have to wait 3 years before they really start contributing or can we land some more studs like Forston or Spence that can play right away. Is Golden going to be the next Frank Beamer going after underrated players or can he get the players with all the hype and development into first rounder talent.

The Biggest question of the Hurricane Dynasty is whether or not we will ever play for the ACC championship game. Forget national titles if we are not even the big fish in our own back yard.

Only time will tell. The good thing is I like the idea of running the ball more often, but that is only if we have a passing game to compliment the running game. It's no fun running the ball 30 plays if we can't get it into the end zone cause there are not to many defenses struggle to stop a one dimensional offense like the one Ga. Tech had last year. Throw in a passing attack like the one Ga. Tech had when they had Calvin Johnson to a team that runs the ball 90% of the time and you have an ACC championship team.

I think Golden is doing a great job.From what i been reading on maxprep.com,we have the 5th best recruiting class.need wes 2 come along, the 4star runing back from maryland.We are going 2 suprise a lot of people.Early prediction 1o-2,beating florida state 4 the Acc championship,and orange bowl champions 2 start our Golden era!!!!!!!!

Will the Wide Receivers ever learn how to run their routes like the 2001 championship team or will they continue to make Jacory like a lot worse than he actually is. Will the Wide Receivers ever learn to catch the ball consistently or will we have to watch another meltdown like we did at OSU when Benjamin doesn't even know it's a passing play as the ball is thrown his way into the arms of an OSU player who is more aware of the play call than our own receiver.

How many more drives will we lose this year due to turnovers? How many more penalties will kill a drive on offense or keep an opposing teams drive going on offense.

hey manny instead of doing pointless top 40 stuff (no offense, and im actually glad ur back covering UM), is there anyway you could give us some recruiting updates/coverage/insight? ...kind of like what you did with those H.S. player interviews on youtube last year? or maybe some write-ups on them with their current recruiting status?
Posted by: IIIUMINATI | June 29, 2011 at 05:13 PM

A: I'll provide recruiting updates when there is news. I'll provide insight when I have some, which right now isn't going to happen often since I'm not covering the Canes or recruiting as often as I do during football season. That's what Rivals, Scout, ESPN and InsideTheU do.

Honestly, we are so far away from National Signing Day I think it's just silly to interview kids about their decisions -- because it can change. Reporting news is one thing, but speculation or how a kid is leaning this far away from NSD is another. We have our annual high school football media days in August and I'll get a chance to talk to a lot of local kids then. I'll post their video interviews online like I've done in the past.

I'm still covering the Marlins often, so on days I don't come on report recruiting news right away it's because I'm on the other beat. I leave for Dallas Friday for the Marlins-Rangers series. If something happens on the recruiting front and I'm not on it right away, I'll try and play catch up. Just the way it is these days in the newspaper industry.

As for the person who asked about Twitter. I'm sorry, but I'm not going to split it up. It's hard enough to Tweet sometimes when I'm in a clubhouse, locker room. Having to switch sign-ons is too complicated. The goal of Twitter is getting the news out quickly.

Cat, all Randy Shannon knew how to do is screw up. He and Larry Coker have wasted more talent and blue chippers than Schnelly, Johnson, Butch ever had. After 10 agonizing years of watching those two nimrods destroy what Butch built back, we finally have a coach that knows how to develop talent and what he's doing.

The hell with the marlins. Who gives two piece's of monkey crap what they are doing? The Marlins and their owner can both haul arse out of here for all I care and then maybe we can get our field back.

I second that, championships is all that matters!
The Marlins can take the next thing smoking out of town. Because our Canes certainly can make better use of that high tech stadium!
...Hell, it cost more to go to the movies than it does to see those sad sacks play that boring sport!

Till you geniuses pay manny's salary, how about you stop telling him who he should cover. And by the way, our Canes crowds are just as bad as the marlins so its not like anyone cares about the canes either (besides us idiots in here).

Since U used the term genius, I can assume U are speaking at me. Everybody knows he has to cover who his boss tells him to, but lets be real about this, who gives two shits about the Marlins and what they are doing compared to the Cane's football team. The Canes are the pride of Miami, not the Heat, not the, Dolphins, or dare I say the Marlins. The Miami Hurricane Football team has done more to put Miami on the map as far as Winning than any of the rest. And what do they get in return. They get shipped off to another stadium just so the Marlins, who by the way had to buy their World Series Titles, could get them a new stadium. And where do they put it, right on top of the Orange Bowl. All this just so the owner wouldn't pull up and leave. The Canes brought us 5 titles and yeah they are the true Kings of Miami, and they deserve better.
And the crowds being bad, can be attributed to the incompatence of the last two loser's for head coaches we had. Now that we have a real head coach, we will start winning like the Canes of old. Can't wait

thanks manny! you should give ur editor some suggestions... like giving the people what they want for instance lol and NOT covering the marlins. champ said it, the CANES are MIAMI's team.

new coaching.... nough said...

Golden can't keep wasting scholarships on average players. How are we going to win an ACC championship, less know a national championship. I hope he uses the remaining scholarships on four and five star players only. Posted by: greg | June 29, 2011 at 05:02 PM
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Greg... everyone wants the star players, but getting allot stars requires a winning program or at least a program on the rise in the top 15. Then they look at what teams have opening where they can start immediately. That's the way it is, it's called instant gratification and if a team is loaded with top competition many will look elsewhere.

The answer is easy... Just Win.


First of all "star" players don't mean crp. You all know that, everyone knows that. If the #1 recruiting class of Miami didnt tell you all what having a recruiting class full of 4 and 5 star reruits in the overall scheme of things, by now, then you all a bunch of dummies

The cane class of 2001 was ranked 20 th in the country by the so-called geniuses. LOL. That "class" went on to become what is widely regarded at the best college football team ever. EVAH!
That clas was choc full of 2 and 3 star recruits. Sure you need your occasional 4 and 5 stars at key positions, but coaching up these kids, and talking down their 'assumed entitled attitudes" is what top coaches fdo, and THAT is what i wholeheartedly feel Coch G and his crew will do, starting with conditioning up all of these fat lazy slow punk a%%es thatthought they were all that.

Cool cat: Al due respect for your opinion, but when are you going to admit, or realize that Shannon was a bad coach overall? he did not "put together" any good teams. are you serious? beginning with the fact that he allowed by his own actions the decimation of the QB position with 3 QBs running out the do' because of his favoritism. Then, he couldnt figure out how to make use of Arthur Brown and others who had significant potential. Please. he couldnt coach, he couldnt lead, and the fact that many of these flat out busts (Sam Shields, Calais campbell ) turned around and made it in the NFL, is proof enough

Been starting to see the pre season Magazines coming out, the Canes aren't getting much love. Maybe that's a good thing.

Posted by: Welcome to the U | June 30, 2011 at 12:31 PM

i dont know where to correct your statement first...

Hey Canes Fan, get ready for a 6-5 season.....hahahahahahahah. You guys dont have a stadium, QB, facilities, and swager. Your the 4th best team in the State of Florida. The "U" aint winning anything.

P.S. Dont talk about championships any more until you at least win the ACC championship, which by the way, you havent even played in that game. How sad!!!!! hahahahahahaha

Last time I checked, we had more championships than anybody in the State of Florida. How did that Gamecock feel slapping you in the mouth the other night. Don't choke on it.

Welcome to the U, Amen my fellow Cane.

He Ford Expidition Golden will not stand for disorganized, everyone on the staff will be accountable. Kehoe will produce or answer, thats the way Championship programs operate in todays College FB world.
As championshipallthatmatters posted Coker, and Shannon, and I know his operation first hand did as little as possible. Didn't make players or staff accountable.
10-2 , With a tough game with FSU for ACC????

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