Some thoughts after yesterday's 38-21 victory over Georgia Tech:
***The Canes will likely lose some players early to the NFL Draft, and the ones probably pondering are good ones, too.
The players who might be pondering their future football careers are redshirt sophomore linebacker Al-Quadin Muhammad, junior cornerbacks Artie Burns and Corn Elder and junior wide receiver Stacy Coley. I also think junior weakside linebacker Jermaine Grace is a tremendous talent, but he should be a major force next season while he continues to bulk up a bit. Besides, Jermaine seems to be really devoted to the school, and I just see him sticking around.
If all those guys stayed, this team could be very good next season. But I don't think they'll all stick around.
Muhammad, who was suspended all last season from the university because of a fight he got into after the 2014 spring game, was basically asked after the GT game if it would be his last time playing at Sun Life. "It's never about me,'' he said, standing at the lectern with Juwon Young (great game by the way, with 13 tackles and a forced fumble). He went on to say that he plays for his coaches and the seniors and his son.
He was then asked, ''Do you know about what you want to do after the season?" Muhammad, after pausing: "I don't want to talk about it now. Sorry.''
Muhammad had a career-high 11 tackles last night, his team-high fourth sack of the season and a forced fumble and three tackles for loss.
As for the others: Burns is tied with Boston College's Justin Simmons for first in the ACC with five interceptions and has eight passes defended; Elder has 11 passes defended and nine passes broken up, with two interceptions -- and on special teams, a touchdown on a punt return and a touchdown on a kickoff return.
And after early-season hamstring issues, receiver Coley, in only nine games (as opposed to 11 for Rashawn Scott and Herb Waters, for instance) leads UM with 600 yards receiving. That's good for third in the ACC. He averages 14.6 yards a catch and 66.7 yards a game. He has three touchdowns.
My take is that Muhammad should stay for next season, which would technically be his junior year. With a new coaching staff, and likely a more aggressive defense, he should dominate next season and significantly improve his draft stock. He could also prove for one more season that he's a team player and stay focused on school and his responsibilities and not wander from that path.
Would be great if they all stick around, but not sure how Artie is feeling with his mom's passing, and being the father of a little one. He also has a couple younger brothers still in school here, so... Just not sure on that. He'd be tremendous next season, as would the others.
*** Joe Yearby has quietly had a very solid season, and is 160 yards away from 1,000 yards. Yearby is tied for third in the ACC with 36 plays of 10+ yards rushing. He's tied for second with 13 plays of 20+ yards. He's sixth in the ACC with his 76.3 yards a game rushing. He averages just under five yards a carry.
*** Freshman Mark Walton is getting progressively better and now has 819 all-purpose yards -- 419 rushing, 156 receiving and 244 in kickoff returns. He has also scored a team-leading nine touchdowns.
Both those guys play very hard. Yearby, who has six touchdowns rushing, has 273 receiving yards and great hands.
*** Who doesn't think tight end David Njoku is a star in the making?
*** And quarterback Brad Kaaya next season? Forget about it. He just keeps getting better and better and better. He leads the ACC with 275.8 yards a game, and his timing on those big plays is impeccable. He has 14 touchdowns to four interceptions.
SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN