Underachieving 'Canes quell doubt about their draft stock
January 23, 2014
The Senior Bowl provided the perfect illustration of how iron is supposed to sharpen iron.
Phillip Dorsett's quickness had given cornerbacks trouble all week in practice, so few opted to press him tight. But Hurricanes cornerback Ladarius Gunter knows his college teammate's tendencies well enough, so he accepted the challenge in their red-zone rep of Thursday's afternoon practice.
Gunter crowded Dorsett at the line of scrimmage, took the inside position on the slant and jumped the route for an interception.
One Hurricane used the other to showcase his ability in this critical phase of the draft's evaluation process. But UM fans shouldn't be too concerned because all four of the Hurricanes who participate in this week's practice, and the two expected to play Saturday's Senior Bowl showcase game shined all week, enhancing their draft stock.
Dorsett, who pulled out of the game due to a strained back, was named the Senior Bowl's top performing receiver in practice. Gunter, who most experts projected as a late-round talent, drastically improved his stock showing off solid press skills.
Walford dominated practice, proving he's past the knee injury that kept him from participating in the Independence Bowl, and Denzel Perryman established himself as one of the week's most instinctive inside linebackers before coming down with an illness that will sideline him.
"All the Miami kids came here and play pretty well. Clive Walford has been a stud. Dorsett has got ludicrous speed," said Daniel Jeremiah, a draft analyst for NFL Network. "I'm kind of wondering, I don't remember Miami winning the national championship. They have a lot of good players!"
In fact, the Hurricanes, which produced a 6-7 record last season, are projected to have more players drafted in the three days of the NFL draft, which begins on April 30, than wins. As many as 10 will be drafted, if not invited to training camp, and most have a strong shot of making it onto an NFL roster.
The Hurricanes have two prospects - offensive tackle Ereck Flowers and Perryman - who are viewed as possible first round prospects, and another three – tailback Duke Johnson, Dorsett, Walford - who are considered to be top 100 talents in the 2015 draft.
And then there are sleepers like Gunter, who is quickly rising up the draft boards because of the Senior Bowl.
"The Miami cornerback is the only one that really impressed me this week," one NFC scout said about the Senior Bowl crop. "He fits what we do because he's got pressing ability."
Gunter also has decent size (6-2, 198 pounds). Problem is UM didn't use him much in a coverage that allowed him to press, and be physical.
The 3-4 scheme UM uses on defense, and style of coverage inn the secondary has become one of the major criticisms of Al Golden's four-year tenure, where he's produced a 28-22 overall record. And many NFL insiders believe it could be holding UM's prospects back.
Defensive end Anthony Chickillo, a four-year starter, shined during the East-West Shrine game last week, and during an in-game interview that immediately followed NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock singing his praises, Chickillo credited his success to not being in a two-gap scheme, which allowed him to be more aggressive, and get up field.
There's plenty of NFL whispers that like many Hurricanes who have become solid pros within the last eight years - Calais Campbell, Allen Bailey, Jimmy Graham, Sam Shields, Olivier Vernon, Orlando Franklin, Seantrel Henderson, Luther Robinson, Ray Ray Armstrong, Colin McCarthy and Allen Hurns - Chickillo and many others in this batch of UM talent might have better pro careers than they did in college.
There was once a day when NFL teams knew UM's draft prospects were ready to become immediate starters, if not impact players in the pros. These days UM's reputation is that the school produces underachievers.
"They had a great reputation, but those days are gone," one AFC executive said. "It's been a miracle what they've been able to accomplish with the resources they have. They might have the worst facilities in the ACC, and that's including their newest renovations. Wake Forest laps them."
This crop of draft prospects will probably have a chance to restore UM's good reputation, but to do that they must excel at the next level. And to do that they must clean up their flaws.
That's why Dorsett labeled the opportunity to showcase his all-around game a blessing.
"I'm just trying prove I'm a complete receiver, not a one trick pony. Not just a vertical guy. I'm a guy that can do the dirty work and make the catches," said Dorsett, who caught 121 passes for 2,132 yards (17.6 per reception) and scored 17 touchdowns during his four-year UM career. "I've always been a guy who can run good routes. I just never got a chance to show that at Miami because we didn't run many intermediate routes."
not recruiting news, but just more of what we know, scouts are scratching their heads why we are underperforming