Miami Hurricanes Top NFL Prospects for 2012 and Beyond


A school that has become known simply as “The U” is one of the NFL’s top pipelines for about as long as I can remember. From Michael Irvin to Clinton Portis, this school has really been overflowing with NFL talent, and continues to do so.

2012 could be a huge year for the Hurricanes getting into the NFL, and hopefully all that talent translates on to the field for an ACC squad enduring a change at head coach. Miami has one of the best reputations in all of college football, but their program prestige has been dwindling a bit over the last few years. Hopefully this class of kids can turn that all around…

3 Travis Benjamin (Senior), WR, 5’10” 175

Very talented all-around player who has a ton of speed and playmaking ability down the field. Not a physical receiver, but his numbers do not lie–this guy is a playmaker. Since coming to Miami in 2008, he has been a Freshman All-American and a top notch return man as well as a big play receiver. In 2008, he came in and caught 18 passes for 293 yards and three touchdowns, as well as a rushing touchdown. He also returned 22 kicks for 496 yards, and 21 punts for 181 yards. As a sophomore, he had another big year with 29 receptions for 501 yards and a career high four touchdowns. He averaged over 17 yards per reception and had a very limited impact on the return game. As a junior, he showed some consistency, catching 43 passes for 743 yards and three more  touchdowns, and he added his first return touchdown with a punt return score. Benjamin is a versatile playmaker who has a good amount of speed, and can really help out an NFL team in many different ways. He is experienced, and has solid production. He should be a 5th round pick or higher barring injury, and he is a big play waiting to happen.

12 Jacory Harris (Senior), QB, 6’4″ 200

Harris really regressed as a junior last year, leading to some speculation that he could possibly lose his starting job this year. If that happens, his NFL prospects will really dwindle even further than they already have. Harris has a solid arm and can be accurate at times, but he’s erratic with his throws and has never completed more than 60 percent of his passes in his Miami career. He went from throwing 24 touchdowns and 17 interceptions as a sophomore to 14 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. At any rate, Harris can make all of the throws, but he really has to be more comfortable in his own skin. If he can make strides as a senior, he will be back on the NFL radar. He could also stand to add a few pounds to his frame.

86 Blake Ayles (Senior), TE, 6’5″ 265

Big body at the tight end position who is a pretty good athlete who can really help the Hurricanes going into the 2011 season. Former USC tight end who was granted immediate eligibility this year due to the issues at USC. Should be a big contributor to the Miami offense as a receiver as well as a blocker. Better receiver than his numbers would indicate, which is why a move to Miami will be very beneficial for him. He isn’t the quickest tight end prospect I’ve seen, but when he gets a full head of steam, he is hard to slow down. He has very good hands, and can really stretch the field.

72 Brandon Washington (Junior), OL, 6’4″ 320

Leader of a very strong Miami offensive line, Washington started all 13 games on the offensive line last year. He was absolutely dominant for the ‘Canes, on his way to a first team All-ACC campaign in his first full year as a starter at the right guard position. Obviously he has great size and projects to the NFL as either a right or left guard. He is a powerful blocker in the running game, but could really improve his footwork and technique in pass protection as he transfers to the next level, which is why two more years could be very beneficial for him at Miami.

63 Tyler Horn (RS Senior), C, 6’4″ 305

Hard worker who started off his career at Miami as a practice squad player, and has since become a staple of the Miami offensive line. Started all 13 games at center last year, and he is really solid in both pass protection and in the running game. Very smart player who doesn’t feel entitled to anything, but when he earned the starting center spot, he grabbed hold of it and wouldn’t give it up for anything. He will start the season on the watch list for the Rimington trophy, and is one of the top center prospects in the draft. Helped the Hurricanes rank 3rd in the ACC in rushing last year.

99 Marcus Forston (Junior), DT, 6’3″ 305

One of the highest rated defensive tackles in the nation heading into the 2011 season. Forston had a huge sophomore season with 37 tackles, 12 for loss, three sacks, and an interception. Sat out most of the 2009 season with an injury, so that concern remains, but he really burst onto the scene as a freshman when he earned Freshman All-American status after a season where he had 18 tackles, 4.5 for loss, and three sacks. Forston hasn’t been overly disruptive, but he is a gap clogger and could have a huge season in 2011 for the Hurricanes. He is a high motor player who doesn’t give up until the whistle blows, and if he has a big season, he could vault himself into the first or second round. This is potentially a very weak overall class for defensive tackles, so don’t be surprised to see him leave school early, especially since he’s already missed a year with injury. I am excited to see how he improves this season on one of the more talented defensive lines in the ACC.

35 Olivier Vernon (Junior), DE, 6’4″ 265

Vernon returns for his junior season after leading the Hurricanes last year with six sacks (50 yards). He started 11 games last year opposite Allen Bailey at defensive end, and he finished fourth on the team with 10.5 tackles for loss. He has a good NFL body at 6’4″ 265 pounds, and with another season or two in a big time weight program, he could develop into a strong-side defensive end prospect with a lot of upside. Six sacks as a sophomore is very encouraging for Hurricane fans, and with a talented crew around him, he should be able to build off of that. He needs to continue to improve his technique and overall pass rushing skills, so he could be slated for two more years in Miami.

97 Adewale Ojomo (RS Junior), DE, 6’4″ 270

Another interesting pass rush prospect with great NFL size, Ojomo will be entering his first year as a full time starter for the Hurricanes in 2011. Last year as a key reserve, he had five sacks and 7.5 tackles for loss to go along with a career high 38 tackles. He’s another guy who is really just coming into his own as a player. With Allen Bailey moved on to the NFL, Ojomo will now have his chance to shine as a starting defensive end, and should really see a spike in his pass rush numbers. I think he’s a candidate to really break out this year.

31 Sean Spence (Senior), LB/S, 6’0″ 225

Spence is arguably Miami’s top pro prospect. He is a fast, physical linebacker who led the team with 111 tackles last year. He was voted the team’s most valuable player and was a 2nd team All-ACC selection as a junior, when he also had 16 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, and two forced fumbles. Ever since he came to Miami, he’s been a playmaker. Spence was named the 2008 ACC Defensive Rookie of the year when he had 65 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, two sacks, a forced fumble, and an interception that he returned for a touchdown. Struggled through his sophomore season with injuries, but still had 6.5 tackles for a loss. Just a very intense player who doesn’t let his lack of ideal size affect the way he hits. He hits like a freight train and makes a ton of plays behind the line of scrimmage. He is relentless and is a great form tackler, and has been from a very young age, so he is obviously well-coached. He fits the new system being implemented in Miami perfectly, and he should have another big season as he prepares himself for the NFL, where he should have a nice career. He will probably be one of those guys who you see on highlight reels for big hits.

26 Ray Ray Armstrong (Junior), S, 6’4″ 220

Excellent tackler at the safety position who makes plays all over the field. Big hitter who is considered a potential first round prospect by many NFL Draft outlets. He is certainly physically imposing and came to Miami as a highly touted prospect considered an “athlete” and clearly they chose the right spot for him. He really broke out as a sophomore with 79 tackles and three interceptions, one returned for a touchdown. Armstrong is very, very talented and has great potential as an NFL player. He is pretty much a consensus first team All-ACC heading into the 2011 season, and was second team All-ACC last year despite starting only four games. He should be one of the top safeties on most draft boards heading into the season.

7 Vaughn Telemaque (Junior), 6’2″ 200

Like his new running mate Ray Ray Armstrong, Telemaque had a breakout season in 2010 as the starting free safety for the Hurricanes, and he combines with Armstrong to give the Hurricanes arguably the top safety tandem in all of college football. He has very good instincts, and is capable of making the big hit on a receiver to jar the football loose. Also showed his playmaking ability last year when he had 58 tackles, a forced fumble, and three interceptions. He was named the team’s most improved player, and returns for his junior season as one of the best playmakers on the Miami defense. He also led the team with three fumble recoveries, and had a whopping 48 tackles as a freshman before going down for the season with an injury.

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