Miami Hurricanes football ranked in Athlon Sports’ 2017 preseason top 25

Mark Walton runs free against Florida State. (Getty Images)

Mark Walton was outstanding as a sophomore, and will be leaned on as a junior. (Getty Images)

[N’Kosi Perry among newcomers on campus]

[Mark Richt interview: Spring | Expectations | QB talk | Final thought]

The Hurricanes continue to receive top-25 love.

Miami checked in at No. 23 in Athlon Sports’ preseason top 25, which is released annually as part of the outlet’s rollout of regional and national preview magazines (I contributed a story about Miami’s linebacker trio for the ACC edition, on sale here and at your local newsstand. You can get a UM-themed version with Mark Walton on the cover).

Athlon’s take on the Canes:

It’s a close call for the top spot in the ACC’s Coastal Division, but Athlon gives the nod to Miami. The biggest offseason question mark for coach Mark Richt remains at quarterback. Brad Kaaya departed early for the NFL, leaving junior Malik Rosier, true freshmen N’Kosi Perry and Cade Weldon and sophomore Evan Shirreffs as the top contenders for the No. 1 spot. Rosier has one career start, but he may not hold onto the job for long if Perry shows a good grasp of the offense in fall workouts. Regardless of which quarterback starts, expect to see plenty of running back Mark Walton, along with emerging star Ahmmon Richards at receiver. Until the pieces fall into place on offense, the Hurricanes can lean on a defense that returns seven starters from a group that limited opponents to just 18.5 points per game in 2016. The line has a chance to be among the best in the nation, and the starting trio of linebackers will be better in 2017 after getting significant playing time as true freshmen. The secondary is the biggest concern for defensive coordinator Manny Diaz. Road trips to Florida State, Pitt and North Carolina will be challenging in conference play. However, Miami hosts Virginia Tech on Nov. 4 – a game that could decide the Coastal Division winner.

Read the rest of Athlon’s rankings here.

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