CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Clemson is the most talented team Miami will face all year, especially when judging by near-future NFL potential.
A year after losing star quarterback Deshaun Watson and five other NFL draft picks, the Tigers had eight players slotted in the first four rounds of USA Today’s latest 2018 mock draft, which was published Wednesday.
Three defensive linemen were projected as first-round picks, with redshirt sophomore defensive end Clelin Ferrell projected to go ninth overall. Juniors Christian Wilkins and Austin Bryant were also first-round projections. Wide receiver Deon Cain and left tackle Mitch Hyatt, both juniors, were slotted in the second round. Senior linebacker Dorian O’Daniel was a third-round pick in the mock draft, while junior linebacker Kendall Joseph and senior right guard Tyrone Crowder were said to be fourth-rounders. None of the underclassmen have made public decisions to declare for the draft.
No Miami players were included in the four-round projection, though several Hurricanes could wind up being drafted.
Those with 2018 draft potential include senior defensive ends Chad Thomas and Trent Harris, tight end Chris Herndon, left tackle Kc McDermott and wide receiver Braxton Berrios. Junior running back Mark Walton is reportedly turning pro. UM has long anticipated junior defensive tackles RJ McIntosh and/or Kendrick Norton could leave early, but neither has made a decision. Safety Jaquan Johnson, who has had an excellent season, is draft-eligible.
No one has discussed their prospects publicly, which might make Malik Rosier happy. The redshirt junior quarterback had a few pointed words this week when discussing the rise of UM’s program.
“There’s kind of two ways of looking at this,” Rosier said. “If you ask any ACC coach, they’ll tell you the University of Miami has always been a very talented team. Guys from South Florida, very talented. The skill level here is ridiculous.
“The difference the year we played Clemson two, three years ago and now is just a mindset. With this mindset, yeah, this team is ready to go. I mean, I felt like a couple years ago, more people were worried about going to the NFL, more worried about themselves, how they performed instead of the team.
“This team has bought into the process. I think that’s the biggest difference between back then and now. Yeah, people want to go into the league, but at the same time we’re worried about getting a ring more than we are about our NFL Draft stock.”
Sophomore linebacker Shaq Quarterman agreed.
“We’re taking a step to doing something,” Quarterman said. “The only something that counts here is getting the big ring. It’d be a big step on Saturday. Great win. But we’ve got to get the ring.”
Among teams on Miami’s schedule, Florida State and Notre Dame (four each) had the second-most players on USA Today’s board. Virginia, Pitt and Virginia Tech had two each. North Carolina had one.
Injury notes: There were no new names on Miami’s injury report, released Thursday.
UM’s weekly chart already included seven scholarship players, including arguably the three best offensive players on Miami’s roster. After ruling two of its top three receivers, tight end Chris Herndon and wide receiver Ahmmon Richards, out for the season, the Hurricanes stand to enter Saturday’s ACC Championship game against Clemson (8 p.m., ABC) with approximately 64 healthy scholarship players. That’s well short of the NCAA limit of 85.
Clemson has a more minor set of concerns. Starting middle linebacker Tre Lamar (shoulder), a solid run defender, and cornerback Mark Fields (ankle) will not play, coach Dabo Swinney said.
Noteworthy: Berrios, UM’s leading receiver, won the ACC’s Jim Tatum Award for top senior student-athlete in the conference. … As of Thursday afternoon, no team Miami faces next season had made a coaching change. That includes Florida State, from which Jimbo Fisher is rumored to be leaving for Texas A&M. Miami’s 2018 schedule includes two non-conference opponents with familiar head coaches: LSU’s Ed Orgeron, who was UM’s defensive line coach from 1988-92, and FIU’s Butch Davis, who who preceded Orgeron (1984-88) and was the Hurricanes’ head coach from 1995-2000.
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