2018 NFL draft: Which Miami Hurricanes opponents were hit hardest by early declarations?

CHARLOTTE, NC – DECEMBER 02: Head coach Dabo Swinney of the Clemson Tigers celebrates after defeating the Miami Hurricanes 38-3 in the ACC Football Championship at Bank of America Stadium on December 2, 2017 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

[Analyzing the 2018 Miami Hurricanes schedule]

In case you haven’t been paying attention, the NFL draft was particularly unkind to the Hurricanes this year.

Starting defensive tackles Kendrick Norton and RJ McIntosh opted to skip their senior years and turn pro, leaving a big hole in the middle of UM’s defensive line. Running back Mark Walton made the same call, though Miami is fairly well equipped to handle that loss.

Given the record number of players (106) who declared early before the Jan. 16 deadline, it’s remarkable that Clemson’s trio of potential first-round D-linemen chose to stay in school. The Tigers seem primed for another ACC title run with Clelin Ferrell, Austin Bryant and Christian Wilkins (and left tackle Mitch Hyatt, another high-round prospect) coming back for another go.

Assessing how draft declarations affected the teams on UM’s schedule:

LSU: Two potential first-round picks, running back Derrius Guice and edge rusher Arden Key, were clear-cut calls. Cornerbacks Donte Jackson and Kevin Toliver, center Will Clapp and right tackle Toby Weathersby were less obvious. The Tigers, who are replacing quarterback Danny Etling, have major worries on the offensive line (left tackle K.J. Malone graduates) and at the skill positions (no heir apparent for Guice; receivers D.J. Chark and Russell Gage graduate). One familiar name who declared early: defensive tackle Travonte Valentine. He was a one-time Miami commit who signed with LSU, left for junior college and didn’t play in 2017.

Florida State: The new-look Noles saw six players leave after Jimbo Fisher’s departure to Texas A&M. Safety Derwin James, cornerback Tarvarus McFadden and defensive end Josh Sweat were tough losses, while end Jalen Wilkerson, receiver Auden Tate and tight end Ryan Izzo were contributors. Running back Cam Akers returns for his sophomore season, but it’s unclear how Willie Taggart’s team will look after an offseason of change.

Virginia Tech: The Hokies lost the Edmunds brothers, third-team All-America linebacker Tremaine and safety Terrell, plus defensive tackle Tim Settle. Three playmakers on a very good defense, though Bud Foster has recruited well and long ago earned his rep for coaching ’em up. The offense returns sophomore quarterback Josh Jackson, but loses graduating receiver Cam Phillips and four offensive linemen, including All-ACC guard Wyatt Teller.

Pittsburgh: Three major losses: big-time return threat Quadree Henderson, left tackle Brian O’Neill and safety Jordan Whitehead. The latter was Pitt’s best defensive player, but 10 of 11 starters return on that side. Pat Narduzzi’s merry band of giant-killers has a QB1 in sophomore Kenny Pickett, but depth behind him may be a concern after transfers.

Miami: The Hurricanes go in this category. Losing two starters (and quality reserve Anthony Moten, who graduates) makes D-tackle a concern, and is a reason UM is now going hard after four-star Texas commit Keondre Coburn and Jacksonville-based prospect Jordan Miller (a riser in the recruiting ranks; the 6-foot-4, 330-pound former Georgia Southern commit added offers from Tennessee, Virginia, Georgia Tech and UM after putting a senior highlight tape together). UM long expected Walton to turn pro. It returns starting tailback Travis Homer, all-purpose weapon DeeJay Dallas and adds two high-level recruits in Lorenzo Lingard and Camron Davis. The Canes were thankful safety Jaquan Johnson and cornerback Michael Jackson came back, but are even more so with the news standout cornerback Malek Young’s career is over because of a neck injury.

Hardly worried

Clemson: It speaks to the talent level in Dabo Swinney’s program that so many players had tough decisions to make. Wide receivers Deon Cain and Ray-Ray McCloud left early, leaving quarterback Kelly Bryant without two outstanding pass-catchers, but that means more opportunities for Tee Higgins, Hunter Renfrow and others. Left guard Taylor Hearn declared, but Hyatt staying bolsters a line that loses right guard Tyrone Crowder. Steady safety Van Smith went pro, while Kendall Joseph, a mainstay at linebacker, and injured cornerback Mark Fields are coming back. That defensive line, though. With four starters — including tackle Dexter Lawrence, a junior-to-be — back, it may be the nation’s best position group.

Toledo: Defensive end Olasunkanmi Adeniyi, a redshirt junior, left early. The Rockets have other concerns, like replacing quarterback Logan Woodside (career: 10,514 yards and 93 touchdowns).

North Carolina: The Tar Heels lost only linebacker Andre Smith, who didn’t play after injuring his knee Sept. 9. UNC brings back most of the players who suffered through that injury-riddled disaster of a season.

Virginia, Boston College, Georgia Tech, Duke: No NFL declarations made, though Virginia has a bunch of senior standouts to replace (linebacker Micah Kiser, safety Quin Blanding, quarterback Kurt Benkert) and BC will miss graduating defensive end Harold Landry.

Elsewhere: The ACC’s Atlantic Division was hit hard: FSU’s aforementioned losses; North Carolina State loses running back Nyheim Hines and offensive tackle Will Richardson; Louisville says goodbye to cornerback Jaire Alexander, offensive tackle Geron Christian, and oh yeah, superstar quarterback Lamar Jackson. Expect a step back from Louisville, N.C. State (which also must replace graduating star end Bradley Chubb and offensive weapon Jaylen Samuels), Wake Forest (senior quarterback John Wolford, D-end Duke Ejiofor, tight end Cam Serigne). Everything’s coming up Clemson … If Miami played Notre Dame again in 2018, it might see a weaker version. The Irish lost three standouts early in guard Quenton Nelson, running back Josh Adams and receiver Equanimeous St. Brown … FIU and Savannah State lost zero players to the pros … The NFL draft is April 26-28 in Dallas.