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Grading UM at end of camp: Offense, special teams

With school starting Wednesday, the Canes getting a day off Thursday, and preparation for Boston College beginning in earnest Friday, here's a closer look at where the team stands position-by-position at the end of camp based on observations and interviews with players and coaches.

Stephen Morris> Quarterbacks: It didn't really take junior Stephen Morris long to wrestle the starting job from sophomore Memphis transfer Ryan Williams. Even before he went out and performed well in the team's first fall scrimmage, Morris (6-2, 214) pretty much had it in the bag by showing his leadership and displaying his physical strength and ability coming off back surgery in the spring. Scouts will tell you Morris has a stronger arm and is a more elusive quarterback than 6-5, 221-pound Williams, who should make for a decent backup because of his accuracy, but at times lumbers in the pocket too long. The key for Morris in keeping the job will be avoiding turnovers. He's thrown seven touchdowns compared to 11 picks in his career. Coach Al Golden said he would like for a third-string quarterback to emerge between freshmen Preston Dewey and Gray Crow. So far, nobody really has, which means both could end up red-shirting if Morris and Williams stay healthy the whole season.

Grade: B. Believe it or not, Jacory Harris finished 19th in the nation last season in passing efficiency (150.61). Now let's see what offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch can do with a quarterback who has a stronger arm. I'm expecting good things from Morris if receivers emerge.

> Running backs: Replacing the team's first 1,000-yard back in a decade in the explosive Lamar Miller won't be easy. But so far senior Mike James (5-11, 220) has received a lot praise in camp. While James will get the bulk of the work early, don't be surprised if true freshman Duke Johnson (5-9, 188) runs past everybody and into the leading role quickly. The former Miami Norland All-American has already worked himself into a backup role alongside junior third-down and short-yardage specialist Eduardo Clements (5-9, 195). Junior Maurice Hagens (5-11, 240) will probably hardly see the field since Miami will rarely be in two-back sets. But when he's in there, he will be the guy opening up holes at fullback.

Grade: B. Miller finished 18th in the country last season in rushing and the Canes finished 71st as a unit. Johnson could eventually provide the same explosion as Miller. But there's no doubt losing Miller hurts. It's like losing your cleanup hitter in baseball. Everyone in the lineup is affected.

> Receivers: The Hurricanes need some youngsters to step up here -- and fast. With last year's top two targets in Tommy Streeter and Travis Benjamin gone, the hope was junior Allen Hurns (6-3, 192) and sophomores Phillip Dorsett (5-10, 185) and Rashawn Scott (6-2, 198) would elevate themselves. But injuries have slowed Hurns and Scott, opening the door for fifth-year seniors Kendal Thompkins (5-10, 182) and Davon Johnson (6-0, 188) to work themselves into the mix. Johnson hasn't caught a pass since 2008. Thompkins has six catches for 66 yards in his career. The only freshman who appears to know the playbook well enough to play is former Miramar High standout Malcolm Lewis (6-0, 192). At tight end, Fisch believes junior Asante Cleveland (6-5, 260) and redshirt sophomore Clive Walford (6-4, 248) can combine for 50 catches. Together, they have 27 catches for 292 yards in their careers. I'm betting on the under.

Grade: C. I've got no doubt Hurns, Dorsett and Scott are talented, but you have to wonder how Thompkins and Johnson -- not good enough to sniff the field in their first four seasons -- are suddenly in the mix for real playing time. This unit worries me the most on offense.

Seantrel Henderson> Offensive line: Junior Seantrel Henderson (6-8, 340) finally made it out for a fall practice on the first day of school Wednesday, but only after missing 21 practices and all of training camp. Henderson, penciled in to be the starting right tackle and the second-most experienced starter on the line (11 starts), has since lost his job to true freshman Ereck Flowers (6-6, 314). What may be more troubling than Henderson's absence (he lost a friend and a relative and was involved in a car accident) and having a true freshman at right tackle, is that Flowers was able to surge past older players such as fourth-year junior Jermaine Johnson (6-6, 318) and fifth-year senior Ben Jones (6-5, 315) with ease. Those two at the moment are the primary backups at tackle and guard on the right and left sides respectively. Outside of that, the starting lineup looks solid with junior right guard Brandon Linder (6-6, 312) and sophomore left guard Jonathan Feliciano (6-5, 314) providing 25 games combined of starting experience. New sophomore starters Shane McDermott (6-4, 295) at center and Malcolm Bunche (6-7, 323) have received solid reviews throughout camp. But staying healthy will be a huge key as it appears quality depth is light. Freshman Danny Isidora (6-4, 320) could be an option later in the year.

Grade: B. Linder, Flowers, McDermott, Feliciano and Bunche should provide a solid starting five and something for opponents to respect. But when Johnson, who was almost switched to defense, and Jones, who hasn't played his entire career, are your sixth and seventh options, it's time to worry a little about depth. Canes fans eager to wave good-bye to Henderson should think twice. Miami, by the way, gave up 19 sacks last year (43rd fewest in the country).

> Special Teams: Punter Dalton Botts, the only Hurricane to make the All-ACC Preseason Team, has been the only player to wear a black jersey from the start of fall camp until the end. He finished season second-best in the ACC in punt average at 42.7 yards per punt last season and should be a strong asset. Senior kicker Jake Wieclaw was 11 of 14 on field goal attempts last year and limited opponents to a 18.6 kick return average, which ranked 13th nationally. With Benjamin gone, UM will turn to Dorsett and Duke Johnson to handle punts and kickoffs. Johnson excelled at it in high school. Dorsett handled four kickoffs and averaged 20.5 yards a return last season as a freshman

Grade: B. Johnson and Dorsett will end up being just as explosive as Miller and Benjamin were in their careers, if not better. Botts and Wieclaw should both have very good senior years. It will be interesting to see how the NCAA kickoff rules change the game. Now, kickoffs are at the 35 and balls that end up in the zone go out to the 25.

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