Wednesday, August 15, 2012

season preview: Miami Hurricanes


9/1: @ Boston College
9/8: @ Kansas State
9/15: Bethune-Cookman
9/22: @ Georgia Tech
9/29: NC State
10/6: @ Notre Dame
10/13: North Carolina
10/20: Florida State
10/27: BYE
11/1: Virginia Tech (Thu.)
11/10: @ Virginia
11/17: South Florida
11/24: @ Duke

Skip: Clemson, Maryland, Wake Forest

Projected starters:

QB: Stephen Morris (Jr.)
RB: Mike James (Sr.)
FB: Maurice Hagens (Jr.)
WR: Allen Hurns (Jr.)
WR: Rashawn Scott (So.)
TE: Asante Cleveland (Jr.)
LT: Malcolm Bunche (rSo.)
LG: Jon Feliciano (rSo.)
C: Shane McDermott (rSo.)
RG: Brandon Linder (Jr.)
RT: Ereck Flowers (Fr.)

DE: Anthony Chickillo (So.)
DT: Darius Smith (5Sr.)
DT: Dequan Ivery (Fr.)
DE: Shayon Green (rJr.)
OLB: Thurston Armbrister (So.)
ILB: Denzel Perryman (So.)
OLB: Ramon Buchanan (5Sr.)
CB: Brandon McGee (Sr.)
CB: Ladarius Gunter (rSo.)
S: Kacy Rodgers (Jr.)
S: Vaughn Telemaque (5Sr.)

K: Jake Wieclaw (5Sr.)
P: Dalton Botts (Sr.)

(Italics indicate new starter.)

Coach: Al Golden (2nd season)

Media prediction: 5th, Coastal Division


2011 1st team: LB Sean Spence
2011 2nd team: RB Lamar Miller, C Tyler Horn
2011 HM: none
2012 preseason: P Dalton Botts

(Italics indicate departed player.)

It's weird, but Miami hardly scares anyone anymore.  The Canes struggled to a 6-6 season last year, and self-imposed a bowl ban with one week left in the season in hopes of placating the NCAA, which still hasn't announced its penalties stemming from the Miami Vice scandal, featuring Nevin Shapiro.  (Kind of a weak self-punishment, waiting until your season is already assed out and then deciding not to accept any bowl invites, but whatever.)  Chances are pretty good that the NCAA will, this fall, announce a second postseason ban for 2012, but the funny thing is, it may not matter.


It's kind of a sad statement on the state of Duke football that the media voted them below Miami in the preseason poll, despite the massive number of holes in the Hurricane lineup.  Miami is one of the few ACC teams running a quarterback competition this year, with Al Golden announcing just this week that Stephen Morris held the lead at the halfway point over Memphis transfer Ryan Williams.  Morris would be taking over the job after two years of backing up Jacory Harris; he was first seen as a freshman in the UVA game, when Miami was forced to burn his redshirt after Harris was concussed by John-Kevin Dolce.  In limited action last year, his sophomore season, he completed 70 percent of his passes, but had what doctors call a little bit of an interception problem.  He played reasonably well when thrown into the fire as a freshman; if he cuts down on the picks, he'll be a capable player at a minimum.

However, under center isn't the only place you'll find replacements; the Canes must replace practically every skill player in the starting lineup.  Mike James is the most experienced running back and will get first crack at replacing 1,200-yard rusher Lamar Miller, but James is nowhere near explosive, and a couple more exciting but far less experienced backs will push James for playing time, notably junior Eduardo Clements and Miami's top freshman, Duke Johnson.

At receiver, too, Miami must replace some very productive players.  Allen Hurns did a solid job as the third receiver in 2011 and should be a worthwhile replacement as the top dog, but the rest of the top four on the depth chart combined for just 18 catches last year, with backup Philip Dorsett snagging 14 of those.  Presumptive starter Rashawn Scott had just one reception for two yards, and the likely tight end starter, Asante Cleveland, had one for six.  Inexperience abounds in the receiving corps.

The offensive line, too, will battle inexperience, especially on the edges.  The Canes had hoped massive (and massively hyped) Seantrel Henderson would step up and claim the right tackle spot, but Henderson suffered a concussion in a car accident before camp, and hasn't practiced.  Instead, true freshman Ereck Flowers is listed atop the depth chart at RT.  On the other end, Malcolm Bunche has just one start to his name.  Guards Jon Feliciano and Brandon Linder have plenty of starting experience, and Linder in particular is a very good lineman and probably Miami's best, but Miami also breaks in a new center in Shane McDermott, who has only backup experience and limited amounts at that.  This line is massive, averaging 312 pounds (with only McDermott weighing in under 300) and has a lot of potential, but is probably in for some growing pains as well.

Truth is, this isn't likely to be one of the conference's better offenses.  It has some growing to do and the depth chart probably isn't done shuffling.  Morris has potential, but he needs to continue his development, and the pieces around him need to fall into place, before the Canes are really ready to put a scare into any defenses.


The defense had personnel issues of its own when senior safety Ray Ray Armstrong was kicked off the team in what was basically a last-straw dismissal.  Armstrong and fellow senior Vaughn Telemaque would've formed easily one of the better safety tandems in the ACC.  Telemaque is still around, but is much better in run support than he is at pass defense; his new partner in the backfield will be Kacy Rodgers, who up til now has been largely a special teamer.  Also playing the veteran role in the secondary is cornerback Brandon McGee, who is experienced and a solid player, but needs to step up his game in the production department, with only three passes defended in 2011.  The opposite starter at cornerback, for now, is Ladarius Gunter, a juco transfer, but Canes fans expect freshman Tracy Howard to push immediately for playing time.

Replacing Sean Spence at linebacker is no easy task, and outside linebacker Denzel Perryman moved to the inside to try and fill his shoes.  Perryman was the team's second-leading tackler after Spence last year, despite starting only five games and being only a freshman, and should be up to the job.  Ramon Buchanan on the outside will get a second chance at a senior season after starting four games last year but missing the last eight with a knee injury.  Thurston Armbrister is listed as the other starter on the outside, but is largely an unknown quantity; Jimmy Gaines started on the outside last year after Buchanan went down, and can rotate in at any position.

Up front, the main pass-rushing threat comes from DE Anthony Chickillo.  After a solid freshman year in 2011, Chickillo should improve on his five sacks and has a chance to be one of the ACC's top defensive linemen.  On the other end, though, there is much inexperience; presumptive starter Shayon Green is a converted linebacker with just six live games under his belt in his first two seasons.  There should be some good playable depth in the middle, though.  DT Darius Smith is an incredible 360 pounds, which alone makes him a force to watch out for.  Curtis Porter is a guy the Canes would like to see succeed and play next to Smith, but serious injuries have cut short both of his last two seasons and sapped his conditioning, and right now true freshman Dequan Ivery sits atop the depth chart.  Miami will probably also turn to junior Luther Robinson, who looked to be in line for a starting job of his own last year before a camp injury forced him to miss the whole season.

The Hurricane defense has players to watch for at all three levels, but also has extreme inexperience in certain places.  If the new faces step up and quickly play to potential, the Canes will have one of the better defenses in the conference.  If not, teams will learn fast how to exploit their weaknesses and neutralize the threats.


Dalton Botts was named the conference's best punter in the preseason, and an average of 42.7 yards in 2011 isn't too shabby at all.  In fact it's darn good.  Jake Wieclaw is a very dependable kicker once inside the 25, but doesn't have great range.


I'm gonna side with the media on this team and say they aren't very likely to make much noise in the ACC.  The defense has its bright spots, but the offense is too in flux and the offensive line is neither experienced nor deep.  Not only that, but Miami makes difficult OOC trips to Kansas State and Notre Dame, and USF won't be a total pushover either.  Since Howard Schnellenberger took over in 1979, Miami has experienced just three losing seasons, so for them to be voted 5th in the division is new territory.  With a tough OOC schedule and an inexperienced offense with players that don't strike a lot of fear into people, the Canes could be headed for losing season #4.  It's a very distinct possibility.  The one caveat: since Miami is so young in so many places, and has a habit of bringing in top recruiting classes (which hasn't changed lately even though it's been a decade since Miami was Miami, they're also the team most likely to surprise.

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