The expectations train for the 2018 Miami Hurricanes has left the station and it’s rolling full steam ahead.
Having already earned consensus top 10 rankings in the way-too-early polls for this coming season, Miami had a pair of players earn high praise Friday when senior safety Jaquan Johnson and junior linebacker Shaquille Quarterman were named to Athlon Sports’ Top 50 returning college football players list.
Johnson checked in at No. 45 on the list while Quarterman held the No. 42 spot, both ahead of Florida State’s only player on the list – sophomore running back Cam Akers, who was No. 50.
Miami’s two players listed was second among ACC teams – behind Clemson, which had five players listed in the top 20. Boston College, who the Canes will play in 2018, had sophomore running back AJ Dillon make the list (No. 19) and Duke linebacker Joe Giles-Harris ranked No. 41.
Johnson made everyone in Coral Gables happy when he announced, before the team’s appearance in the Orange Bowl, that he would be returning for his senior season. The Miami Killian alum was a second-team All-ACC performer in 2017 – leading the Hurricanes in total tackles (85) this past season while also recording four interceptions, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.
The draft iron was fairly hot for Johnson, who was a semifinalist for the Walter Camp Player of the Year Award, but he made his intention to stay clear.
“I could sort of sense it in people’s voice that they wanted me to just leave, but you know, I make my own decisions,” Johnson said in December. “My dad taught me that. My mom taught me that. And they tell me, make my decisions and live with it. I knew I would do four years, assuming I came to Miami, and that was the plan. I want to get my degree and play for a National Championship.”
Quarterman inclusion on the list, which named Houston defensive lineman Ed Oliver the top returning player in the country, was no surprise considering his steadfast play and leadership in the middle of the Hurricanes’ defense.
A 2016 Freshman All-American and 2017 second-team All-ACC performer, Quarterman has started all 26 games in his career – totaling 167 tackles, 17 tackles for loss and six sacks.
+ Two players with South Florida high school ties also made the list: Michigan junior linebacker Devin Bush Jr., who graduated from Pembroke Pines Flanagan, was No. 30 while Ohio State junior defensive end and St. Thomas Aquinas alum Nick Bosa ranked No. 6.
+ Both FAU and UCF had players ranked on the list – ahead of the Miami and Florida State players – in Knights quarterback McKenzie Milton (No. 9) and Owls running back Devin Singletary (No. 14).
+ Louisiana State University had two players make the list in redshirt sophomore cornerback Greedy Williams (No. 15) and sophomore linebacker Devin White (No. 22). Miami will open the 2018 season against LSU on September 2 in the AdvoCare Classic at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.