Wednesday, August 11, 2010

season preview: Miami

Miami Hurricanes


9/2: Florida A&M (Thu.)
9/11: @ Ohio State
9/18: BYE
9/23: @ Pittsburgh (Thu.)
10/2: @ Clemson
10/9: Florida State
10/16: @ Duke
10/23: North Carolina
10/30: @ Virginia
11/6: Maryland
11/13: @ Georgia Tech
11/20: Virginia Tech
11/27: South Florida

Skip: Boston College, NC State, Wake Forest

Projected starters:

QB: Jacory Harris (Jr.)
RB: Graig Cooper (Sr.)
FB: Patrick Hill (5Sr.)
WR: Leonard Hankerson (Sr.)
WR: LaRon Byrd (Jr.)
TE: Richard Gordon (5Sr.)
LT: Orlando Franklin (Sr.)
LG: Harland Gunn (rJr.)
C: Tyler Horn (rJr.)
RG: Brandon Washington (So.)
RT: Joel Figueroa (5Sr.)

DE: Allen Bailey (Sr.)
DT: Micanor Regis (Jr.)
DT: Josh Holmes (5Sr.)
DE: Andrew Smith (Jr.)
SLB: Sean Spence (Jr.)
MLB: Kylan Robinson (5Sr.)
WLB: Colin McCarthy (5Sr.)
CB: Brandon Harris (Jr.)
CB: DeMarcus Van Dyke (Sr.)
FS: Vaughn Telemaque (rSo.)
SS: JoJo Nicolas (rJr.)

K: Matt Bosher (5Sr.)
P: Matt Bosher (5Sr.)

Coach: Randy Shannon (4th season)

Media prediction: 2nd, Coastal Division

(Italics indicate new starter.)


2009 1st team: OT Jason Fox, K Matt Bosher, DT Allen Bailey, CB Brandon Harris
2009 2nd team: LB Darryl Sharpton, LB Colin McCarthy, P Matt Bosher
2009 HM: G Orlando Franklin, DT Joe Joseph, S Randy Phillips
2010 preseason: DE Allen Bailey, CB Brandon Harris, PK/P Matt Bosher

(Italics indicate returning player.)

Randy Shannon had a rough beginning in Coral Gables, but a 9-4 season in 2009 means that by all appearances, the Hurricanes are once again to be taken seriously. The schedule isn't much easier now than it was last year, but the Canes won't be overmatched in any of their ACC contests and they're a serious threat to finally give the ACC the FSU/Miami championship game that it's coveted ever since expansion.....just in time for the game to move to Charlotte.


Much is made of Jacory Harris's penchant for throwing interceptions, and indeed, in two of Miami's three ACC losses last season, he threw a total of seven, derailing Miami's chances at getting to the ACCCG. But Harris was just a sophomore, in his first season with total control of the offense, and INTs aside he did a really impressive job of spreading the ball around. Ten different Hurricanes reached double digits in receptions as Harris topped 3,400 passing yards. Most of those players return, too, giving Harris a remarkable array of targets, and none more dangerous than Leonard Hankerson, who caught 45 balls for over 800 yards and six touchdowns. Hankerson's stats would probably be much bigger on another team where there weren't so many other receivers, but Travis Benjamin and LaRon Byrd, among others, will get their share of catches too. This is among the deepest receiver squads in the conference.

Tight end is another story. Richard Gordon is listed as the projected starter mainly because you normally run on first down; he weighs in at 270+ pounds and isn't really a pass-catcher. Miami was hit hard by graduation here and likely won't see their tight ends figure into the passing game as much as last year; juco transfer Chase Ford is liable to be the primary receiving option here, but the main beneficiaries may be the wide receivers.

The running game was a three-pronged attack last year, and two of them return. Graig Cooper will probably continue to get the largest share of the carries, but he'll be heavily spelled by Damien Berry, who might actually have been Miami's most effective back in 2009. Miami doesn't have a single back ready to seize the job and be an every-down, every-series player, but they have a long list of them to spread the work around to.

Lurking below the surface, though, is the question of the offensive line. There are just two returning starters, seniors Orlando Franklin and Joel Figueroa, and they've been moved to the outside in an effort to shore up a troublesome pass protection unit. The interior lineman have little experience, and most troublesome is that center Tyler Horn has just a small handful of games under his belt and even fewer at center; he's played there only in the largest of Miami's blowouts. There's more experience at guard, but Brandon Washington and Harland Gunn have been flip-flopped; Gunn's five career starts have been on the right side and Washington's experience is on the left, but they're working the opposite sides as camp begins. The unit isn't going to be bad enough to torpedo Miami's bowl hopes, but it bears watching to see if the running game can stay effective.


Harris is a quality quarterback, and the media really likes teams with returning starters there, but this defense is why Miami's favored to finish high in the league's tougher division. Eight starters return, and it's a very veteran unit overall; the only underclassman atop the depth chart is a redshirt sophomore with a world of talent.

That would be safety Vaughn Telemaque, who started for most of the season as a redshirt freshman last year. JoJo Nicolas also makes a return to the lineup after losing his 2009 season to injury; he started eight games at safety in 2008. And the Canes aren't going to be able to keep Ray Ray Armstrong hidden on the bench much longer as Armstron enters his sophomore season. The corners are big-time, too, especially 1st-team all-conference performer Brandon Harris, who broke up 15 passes in 2009 and intercepted two more.

Allen Bailey joined Harris on that honors squad as a DT; Bailey had 7 sacks in 2009 despite splitting time between tackle and end. He'll stay at end this year to give Miami a big-league pass-rush presence; there wouldn't be much of one otherwise, as Andrew Smith isn't the playmaking type. Besides, the interior has two stout run-stoppers in Josh Holmes and newly-promoted (and terrifically-named) Micanor Regis. Neither are holy terrors, but both do a good job getting into the backfield, and they'll be rotated with sophomore Marcus Forston. Forston was a freshman all-American in 2008 but like Nicolas, lost 2009 to injury and earned a medical redshirt. No worries on the line.

Linebacker is interesting. The outside is manned by two stalwarts: Colin McCarthy had 95 tackles and 10.5 for loss in 2009 on his way to second-team all-ACC recognition. Sean Spence regressed in 2009 after a 2008 nod as ACC defensive ROY, but that was due in part to an injury that caused him to miss three games. In the middle you have career special-teamer Kylan Robinson, who has four tackles in four years. He's got the job because Ramon Buchanan missed the spring with an injury, but that's probably not a finished conversation just yet. Nevertheless, the rest of the defense's middle is more than solid enough to cover up any potential weak link at MLB.


Matt Bosher is outstanding as both a kicker (14/16 FGs) and punter (42.5 average.) After the Georgia Tech game, second of 2009, he was perfect on field goals. The return game is nothing to shout about.


Solid, not at all flashy, definitely good enough to get the job done, but with a few lingering question marks. This is Randy Shannon's fourth season, and the team is coming together in his image; the preceding sentence could just as easily describe Shannon as it could his 2010 squad. There shouldn't be any issues with the defense - from back to front it's likely to add up to one of the conference's best. The offense will make or break the difference between a solid but unspectacular finish that looks remarkably similar to last year's 9-4 mark, or a trip to the ACCCG and maybe the Orange Bowl. Jacory Harris is a very good quarterback, but those turnovers have got to stop. And if the running game struggles, you'll know why: the inexperience on the interior of the O-line. The good news for Miami is that there isn't a team in this conference without at least a few of those types of issues. The Hurricanes are one of a handful of teams that will contend for the conference title; whichever of those teams best handles its respective questions, wins.

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