In the spirit of fantasy football draft season, I've decided to come up with a list of the top players at UM in terms of who I believe will provide the most quality production and leadership during the 2012 season.
Again, we haven't seen any of these guys beyond 15 to 30 minute sessions at practice. I'm formulating these rankings based on those brief glimpses and interviews I've done with players and coaches. Basically, if you were to ask me who I would take off this team to try and win, these are the guys I would take in order right now:
1. Denzel Perryman, So., LB: I think we took for granted last season the immediate impact this kid provided. He finished second on the team behind Sean Spence with 69 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, a sack and two forced fumbles in 12 games, five starts. Because of the struggles at defensive tackle, Perryman (6-0, 230) could end up getting swallowed at middle linebacker on some plays. But he's UM's best defensive player and in the end whom Mark D'Onofrio will count on heavily to make up for the mistakes of others in his front seven.
2. Anthony Chickillo, So., DE: Again, another guy who made an immediate impact as a true freshman, tying for the team lead in sacks with five and starting nine games. He's head and shoulders above anybody on the defensive line right now and will be the second guy on defense opposing teams focus on taking out of plays. Like Perryman, Chickillo made huge gains in conditioning and strength in the off-season so he won't be pushed around in the least. But at times -- like Perryman -- he could get swallowed up because of double-teams, etc. Still, Chickillo is the best pass rusher on the team and should lead the team in sacks again.
3. Brandon Linder, Jr., RG: He's the glue on UM's best starting unit. If you talk about a guy on the offensive line who is probably irreplaceable, the 6-6, 312-pound former St. Thomas Aquinas standout is that guy. Linder has the most experience of any returning lineman (17 starts) and graded out at 90 percent last season, tied for the best mark on the team. He allowed 1.5 sacks, made only seven mental errors and was flagged five times in 2011. UM can't run the football effectively without him.
4. Stephen Morris, Jr., QB: He shot up my rankings by winning the starting job easily over Ryan Williams and looking as though the back surgery he had was no big deal. We'll see what happens when Morris starts taking hits. But his arm strength and athleticism has never been questioned. It's been the interceptions he's thrown early in his career. Seeing the job Jedd Fisch did with Jacory Harris last season (he finished 19th nationally in passer rating), though, gives me Morris has a bright future ahead of him.
5. Vaughn Telemaque, Sr., S: He never turned out to be the Ed Reed, turnover magnet Randy Shannon said he would be (4 career INTs, 5 career fumble recoveries). But Telemaque has been reliable in terms of tackling (he's been top five on the team three straight seasons) and is the most experienced player on the roster (36 career starts). He's currently ranked 20th at free safety among potential prospects who could get drafted by CBSsports.com. With a Reed-type senior season, Telemaque would drastically improve that and I think with a better supporting cast around him in the secondary, we'll finally see that.
6. Tracy Howard, Fr., CB: I'm sure Brandon McGee and Ladarius Gunter have done all they're supposed to do to put their names above others on the depth chart at cornerback, but this is the guy who makes you hopeful for the future. Howard wore a black jersey a lot during camp and will eventually be on the field as a full-time starter. He was an All-American and the No. 1 player at his position in high school. I've seen him play and believe the hype. He's going to make an impact.
7. Duke Johnson, Fr., RB: Even if he doesn't get the bulk of the handoffs early, Johnson figures to play a lot on special teams and get his touches because he's explosive. I'm thinking the ball will be in his hands 10 to 15 times a game between handoffs, catches and returns. Like Howard, Johnson is the future of this program and a huge building block moving forward. He's going to be who you want with the ball in their hands as the season goes on.
8. Phillip Dorsett, So., WR: He's the fastest receiver Miami has and my pick to lead the team in receiving this season. At 5-9, 187 pounds, he's the guy who will replace Tommy Streeter as the deep threat. I expect Dorsett to also do a pretty good job with Johnson on kickoff and punt returns.
9. Malcolm Bunche, R-So., LT: The strongest guy on the team with 36 reps of 225 pounds, Bunche is finally healthy enough to where it appears he can be dependable. He's always been fit, trim and athletic. All you worry about with him is experience. Bunche played in eight games last year and started just once against Virginia (at right tackle). Coach Al Golden said he just needs to show consistency. I'm banking on it.
10. Brandon McGee, Sr., CB: Like Telemaque, I'm expecting McGee to take the next step in 2012 and become more of a playmaker. He has one career interception. But being in the dog house with Al Golden and defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio -- as well as the push from the freshmen -- should make him better this season. McGee's tackling abilities are also a bit underrated. He had 38 last season and also had a sack. He's always been lightning fast.
11. Seantrel Henderson, Jr., OT: He's been through a lot this off-season and missed all of camp, but he did look physically good coming into the fall. He was lighter, healthier and appeared to be headed toward a breakout season. Now that he's back at practice and on campus, Henderson should put his troubles aside and start making the trek back. He knows there is a lot of money to be made if he gets his act together. He's still the highest listed player among potential 2013 NFL draft picks (CBSSports.com has him 152nd overall, 13th at OT, 4-5th round pick). In the end, UM is a better team with a good Seantrel Henderson on the field.
12. Rest of UM's starting offensive line: I'm going to cheat and list center Shane McDermott, left guard Jonathan Feliciano and freshman right tackle Ereck Flowers here because to me they're all about the same. Feliciano has more experience having started some last year. But talent-wise and ability he's on par with the other two guys in the starting lineup. As I said earlier, I think the offensive line is the best overall unit on the field for Miami.
> Ranking the rest of the Top 30: 13. RB Mike James (Sr.), 14. WR Allen Hurns (Jr.), 15. CB Ladarius Gunter (Jr.), 16. RB Eduardo Clements (Jr.), 17. LB Ramon Buchanan (Sr.), 18. P Dalton Botts (Sr.), 19. K Jake Wieclaw (Sr.), 20. WR Rashawn Scott (So.), 21. DE Shayon Green (Jr.), 22. TE Asante Cleveland (Jr.), 23. LB Jimmy Gaines (Jr.), 24. S Kacy Rodgers (Jr.), 25. DT Olsen Pierre (So.), 26. S Deon Bush (Fr.), 27. CB Antonio Crawford (Fr.), 28. LB Gionni Paul (So.), 29. DE Jelani Hamilton (Fr.), 30. TE Clive Walford (R-So.).