Sunday, August 10, 2008

Shannon Hopes Recruiting Pays Off in Year Two

Fortson may be the best of great incoming class - SI

ACC Coastal #2 Miami Hurricanes

2007 Results and Offseason:
The 'Canes suffered their first losing season since 1997 in the first year under Randy Shannon. Plagued by injuries and poor QB play, Miami lost its last four games and is just 12-13 in the last two years. But that did not stop Shannon from signing a top five recruiting class led by DL Marcus Fortson (above), LB Arthur Brown, and WR Aldarius Johnson.
2007 Record: 5-7, 2-6
Ret. Starters: 11
Ret. Lettermen: 48
Off PPG: 18.3 (10th), 138.0 (4th), 170.9 (12th)
Def PPG: 29.0 (10th), 147.6 (9th), 227.6 (7th)

Offense (5 Ret. Starters, 19 Ret. Lettermen)
Gone are the days of QB U in Coral Gables. Miami's struggles have been directly related to QB play since the departure of Brock Berlin after '04. Redshirt Freshman Robert Marve is the leading candidate to take over from Kyle Wright, but will be pushed by Jacory Harris and Cannon Smith, both true freshmen. Kirby Freeman transferred in the off season. At running back, Miami should have an inside/outside combo in Javarris James and Graig Cooper. The two combined for over 1200 yards last season. The o-line must replace three starters off a unit that allowed 25 sacks last season. Shannon's son Xavier transferred in from FIU and could start. The wideouts must improve their hands to become the threats the QBs will need. Sam Shields was a highly touted recruit two years ago, but has not lived up to the hype. Johnson participated in spring ball and will push for a starting spot. Chris Zellner is another capable TE in the long line of TEs at the U.

Defense (6 Ret. Starters, 28 Ret. Lettermen)
Miami had an off year last year ranking 10th in the conference for PPG. Two starters are gone off the DL, but Seniors Eric Moncur and Antonio Dixon hope to lead young players like Allen Bailey and true freshmen Fortson back to a dominating DL. The LBs lose Tavares Gooden, but gain Glen Cook back from injury. Colin McCarthy is the leading returning tackler and tackler for loss. Second leading tackler Kenny Phillips is gone to the NFL (another 1st Round choice) and so is Willie Cooper (#6 tackles). Randy Phillips will anchor this unit as he is the leader returner with 2INT. True freshman Brandon Harris could see significant time at one corner spot. Overall this defense lost five of the top six tacklers, but returns 28 lettermen and brought in the best defensive recruiting class in the nation.

Special Teams
Miami has suffered from a lack of kicking as well over the past few seasons. A true freshmen may win the PK job. Matt Bosher is back at punter. Kick returns will likely fall to Ryan Hill and Graig Cooper though a freshmen could see some action as well.

Newcomers of Note
Where do you begin...Fortson, Johnson, Harris, K Jake Wieclaw, and Brown are all expected to see action. Miami sits in the best recruiting area in the country and their program was built on players from the Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties.

Miami has two tough, non conference games at Texas A&M and at Florida. At home vUCF won't be any cupcake either. From the Atlantic they draw vFSU, vWake, @NC State.

Final Thoughts
I am going out a little on a limb here picking Miami #2 considering where they have finished the last two years, but I think with the talent Shannon has brought in and the attitude adjustment made year two will provide some big gains. Most coaches have a rough first year, but the second year is where the big jump in seen (Meyer, Richt, Stoops, Carroll, Tresell).

Likely Wins: vCharleston So., @Duke
Likely Loss: @Florida
8-4, 5-3

Next Up - ACC Atlantic #2

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