Tuesday, August 16, 2011

season preview: Miami

Miami Hurricanes


9/5: @ Maryland (Mon.)
9/10: BYE
9/17: Ohio State
9/24: Kansas State
10/1: Bethune-Cookman
10/8: @ Virginia Tech
10/15: @ North Carolina
10/22: Georgia Tech
10/27: Virginia (Thu.)
11/5: Duke
11/12: @ Florida State
11/19: @ South Florida
11/25: Boston College (Fri.)

Skip: Clemson, NC State, Wake Forest

Projected starters:

QB: Jacory Harris (Sr.)
RB: Lamar Miller (rSo.)
RB: Mike James (Jr.)
WR: Travis Benjamin (Sr.)
WR: Laron Byrd (Sr.)
TE: Blake Ayles (Sr.)
LT: Malcolm Bunche (rFr.)
LG: Harland Gunn (5Sr.)
C: Tyler Horn (5Sr.)
RG: Brandon Washington (Jr.)
RT: Jermaine Johnson (rSo.)

DE: Adewale Ojomo (Jr.)
DT: Micanor Regis (Sr.)
DT: Marcus Forston (Jr.)
DE: Olivier Vernon (Jr.)
OLB: Ramon Buchanan (Sr.)
ILB: Jordan Futch (Sr.)
OLB: Sean Spence (Sr.)
CB: Lee Chambers (5Sr.)
CB: Jojo Nicolas (Sr.)
SS: Ray-Ray Armstrong (Jr.)
FS: Vaughn Telemaque (Jr.)

K: Matt Goudis (Fr.)
P: Matt Goudis (Fr.)

(Italics indicate new starter.)

Coach: Al Golden (1st season)

Media prediction: 2nd, Coastal Division


2010 1st team: WR Leonard Hankerson, G Brandon Washington, P Matt Bosher
2010 2nd team: RB Damien Berry, OT Orlando Franklin, DE Allen Bailey, LB Sean Spence, CB Brandon Harris, S Ray-Ray Armstrong
2010 HM: LB Colin McCarthy
2011 preseason: G Brandon Washington, C Tyler Horn, LB Sean Spence, S Ray-Ray Armstrong

(Italics indicate departed player.)

Another new ACC regime begins in Miami, where Randy Shannon worked hard at cleaning up the thuggy perception of the Hurricane football team but couldn't clean up the wins column enough to satisfy the brass.  In steps Al Golden, literally only two steps removed from his position as UVA DC.  Anyone who can take Temple to a bowl game can probably coach some damn football, so the world waits to see what he can do when dropped into Talent Central.


Probably the only major issue holding the Canes back is the one under center.  Jacory Harris never got free from the interception bug, and Stephen Morris - Harris's replacement after being concussed by John-Kevin Dolce - continued Harris's tendency to huck the ball into the waiting hands of defenders.  All told, Miami passers threw 27 interceptions, an average of more than two per game.  If a quarterback isn't showing improvement in the turnover department going into his senior year, it'll probably continue to be a thing, so Harris will be pushed heavily and perhaps replaced midseason by the sophomore Morris unless the interceptions stop.

Miami could be a relative juggernaut offensively if they can solve the interception problem.  (And if they decide to put an 11th player on the field.)  Even with Leonard Hankerson gone, Miami has a pair of dangerous receivers in Travis Benjamin and Laron Byrd.  Though Byrd technically played second fiddle to Benjamin on the depth chart last year while Hankerson ate up all the rest of the catches, Benjamin and Byrd finished with roughly equal stats.  Behind them, the competition is fierce to be the third receiver on the field.  At tight end, the competition is even crazier; the best option might be Blake Ayles, who took advantage of the NCAA's get-out-of-jail-free card from USC and can play right away.

The running attack should be good, too, especially behind a heavily experienced offensive line.  Four starters return there, including preseason all-conference guys Tyler Horn and Brandon Washington anchoring the middle; Harland Gunn is a good player in his own right and the player on the line with the most starts under his belt.  That's a powerful interior line that can really blast open some holes for the running backs.  The left tackle job would likely have belonged to Seantrel Henderson, but back surgery puts a kibosh on those plans, and redshirt freshman Malcolm Bunche will take over the job.

The abovementioned running backs are Lamar Miller and Mike James, both big guys that could both pull a 25-carry-per game load if needed.  James especially is a bowling ball type at under six feet and 222 pounds. Miami had a very good running game last year and it'll probably be even better this time out.


Thanks to the pass-rushing acumen of Allen Bailey and some outstanding cornerbacks, Miami's pass defense was stout, but the run defense didn't quite live up to its billing.  With Micanor Regis and Marcus Forston coming back to start at DT and having an extra year of experience, the interior line should be a good start.  On the ends, Olivier Vernon and Adewale Ojomo are good pass-rushers but not great run-stoppers.  Both of the backup ends are seniors and should figure heavily into the rotation, giving Miami solid depth on the line.  The line lacks big-name players but looks solid regardless.

The real star of the defense, with Bailey now gone, is outside linebacker Sean Spence, likely poised for a national breakout season.  Spence had 17.5 TFL last year, of which only two were sacks, and was second on the team in pass breakups in 2010 as well.  Teams wanting to avoid running to his side will deal with Ramon Buchanan instead, another talented player if not quite on Spence's level.  This is where Miami will look to for playmaking against the run.  The linebacking corps would be in serious competition for best in the conference if the middle weren't so up in the air.  Neither Jordan Futch or James Gaines - the two main suspects for the starting job - started any games last year, and Gaines played in only six.

The cornerbacks are likewise a work in progress after Miami lost so many last year.  Lee Chambers is a career special-teamer, and Jojo Nicolas moved over from safety to shore up the position.  Miami could afford to because Ray Ray Armstrong - despite not technically being a starter last year - is clearly ready for the job, and Vaughn Telemaque is a reliable if not flashy player.


Both kicking jobs are open, and the inside track probably belongs to freshman Matt Goudis, but competition goes on.  Travis Benjamin will return both kicks and punts.


As with last year, answering a few questions could see Miami in heavy contention for a division title and a trip to the championship game.  But one of the toughest questions is: how will they cope with the schedule?  They must deal with Ohio State in the OOC, and trips to Virginia Tech and Florida State loom large as well; then there's the fact that they have two games on short rest, and the cherry on top is that the "extra prep time" game after their Thursday nighter against UVA, is Duke.  So even with a good defense and what should be an excellent run game, Miami's win-loss record might not improve greatly.  But they should still be one of the ACC's toughest outs, and undoubtedly a bowl team.



Some newsy bits:

- Danny Hultzen signed with the Mariners last night at almost literally the last possible moment.  That wasn't too surprising, although it did offer a sliver of hope that he might pull a shocker and skip the pros for one more year.  Nevertheless he deserves every dime he makes, and hopefully will be in the majors soon.  The bigger surprise is that recruited pitcher Christian Binford also signed (with the Royals) and won't be arriving in the fall.  Disappointing; I thought Binford had the goods to challenge for the rotation as soon as 2013, and frankly would have far improved his draft stock from the 30th round, where he was taken.  However, Derek Fisher did not sign, allowing UVA to keep its top (by a longshot) hitting prospect.

- Whether there's any legs to this story or not, who really knows?  This is the internet, after all.  "This story" involves a South Carolina baseball player "doing something very, very bad," which they won't specify but is rumored to involve one of their players faking his SAT score in order to get eligible.  If not true - highly possible as this is the internet - then I guess I've been a naughty rumormongerer.  If true, it would be a pretty awful thing for the Gamecocks, as their CWS titles would surely be erased.  It's different from a chunk of the team getting impermissible benefits, from, say, a tattoo parlor, since most of the team had to know or suspect what was going on and nobody was blabbing.  A faked SAT score, that's a highly unfortunate thunderbolt from the sky and wraps up a bunch of innocent players into someone's greed and selfishness.  That's the part where I feel bad for South Carolina.  The part where I get pissed off is, suppose that was someone who played a big role in beating UVA during this year's CWS?  If A = B and then B = C, then fuck that guy, man.

- Fullback Ryan Cobb has left the football team mid-fall.  Huh.  With Max Milien and Terence Fells-Danzer still at fullback, it's not a big thing this year, but they're both seniors.  Cobb would've had the starting job open for him in 2012.  For now, tight end Zach Swanson has been working out at fullback, which, along with Milien playing the position, seems to indicate that the coaches want the fullback to be more of an H-back (combo fullback and tight end) that actively participates in the offense a la Jason Snelling instead of just a guy who runs in front of the tailback hitting the first guy he sees.  Freshman linebacker D.J. Hill is another guy who gets a lot of mention as a possible future fullback.

- Mike London talked about wanting to thin down the reps at quarterback and give the lion's share to a couple players as the season approaches.  That's been done now; the winners of the derby are, for now, Mike Rocco and David Watford.  One man's interpretation: Rocco is nominally the starter and Watford is in the lead for the backup position, but if the coaches don't see enough out of him, he'll redshirt.  One man's prediction: Rocco starts William & Mary, and Watford plays just enough this season to raise the hackles of the "redshirt everyone" crowd.


Daniel A said...

Wow you plan on editing this now that 12 players were named in the Yahoo! report? haha

PO13 said...

Best of luck to Hultzen; perhaps the greatest player in UVA baseball history and a great competitor.

I think Strauss is the top candidate to transfer. He's not from the area, he came in as early as he could to get a leg-up, and he's been through 2 Springs and 2 Fall Camps. The writing seems to be on the wall.

Finally, the U is exactly what we thought it was.