Randy Shannon has improved his win total as Hurricanes head coach in each of his first three years. After a 9-win campaign last season, can the former Miami LB take “The U” to the BCS this season?
To get more insight into the ‘Canes, I contacted The Sports Session for their take on the upcoming season.
Q: Is it a now or never for Randy Shannon leading Miami back to the national elite?
A: I do not believe it should be a now or never proposition for Shannon; the fan base is impatient so he may only have a two-year window. The team is still young in a lot of places, and the Hurricanes should be back in the conversation this year.
I think he has until next year to get them back to that elite level which I believe will happen, this year they will make steps that way but the schedule may be too much for them to overcome.
Q: This is Jacory Harris' second year under OC Mark Whipple. What is going to be the big difference in Harris' play this season?
A: I would have to say decrease in turnovers. Harris is going to throw fewer interceptions this year because him and Whipple will be on the same page, and Harris will have matured another year.
Q: Miami has not produced a 1,000-yard rusher since 2002. Is there a back this year that can accomplish this feat?
A: Miami has backs every year that can get 1,000 yards, that is the problem they have so many talented backs that they try to get them all on the field.
Last year we had three good backs, now this year we have Damien Berry, Lamar Miller, and Freshman Storm Johnson may be a factor. All of them are there assuming Graig Cooper does not recover from his knee injury in time; look for Berry and Miller to carry the load. Both are more than capable of getting 1,000 if given enough chances.
Q: The Hurricanes are very talented at receiver. Has Harris developed a go to target?
A: This is similar to the Hurricanes (good) problem at running back, they have a ton of big play receivers who are all very capable.
Leonard Hankerson is the guy he goes to when he is in a tough spot and needs a play. Since Harris was out most of the off-season they are now just getting back to work, Hankerson has worked hard with Mark Duper (Ex Miami Dolphin great) to get better in the off season. I think he will be even better this year.
Q: I think a big reason why Miami has not gotten back to the elite level is because of the offensive line play. How is this unit looking this season?
A: Well if I answered this question before the Summer I would say they are looking average right now, but with the addition of Seantrel Henderson (#1 offensive lineman in the nation) they are looking a bit better.
People misunderstand the O-line problems, it is not that there is not talent there, it is simply a matter of youth and depth. Orlando Franklin and Joel Figueroa will have to show a lot of leadership and get this line playing well. If Henderson earns playing time this year, and is as good as advertised this line may surprise a lot of people this year.
They are going to struggle early with Ohio State and Pitt having good defensive lines, but by the middle of the season I expect this unit to start to gel.
Q: Miami has been known for their nasty defensive line's in the past. How are they looking this year?
A: With Marcus Forston returning Allen Bailey can return to his natural position at defensive end. The moved Bailey inside because he commands a double team in most cases, so if Forston can be effective that will allow Bailey to dominate from the defensive end position.
We will also get back Adewale Ojomo who is coming off of a broken jaw last year, and if Micanor Regis can improve the defensive line should be one of the teams strengths.
They have a good amount of depth there as well although some of the reserves are young.
Q: After a marvelous freshman campaign, LB Sean Spence struggled last year. How did he look in the Spring and what is expected of him?
A: Sean Spence struggled with injuries last year and that affected him a lot. He talked about how watching the team play on T.V. while they were on the road was hard for him. But he bulked up to 217 pounds in the off-season and had a productive spring practice. He does not look like he is all the way back yet, but by the time the first game rolls around he is going to be ready to go.
They are expecting big things out of him this season, one of the biggest is his emotional leadership on the field. The coaches are not going to lighten his load, he is going to be a key part of this teams success and he expects that of himself.
When Spence is out there the team seems to play with a bit more fire, think about it the team was 5 - 1 and ranked #8 before he injured his knee.
Q: Who are some of the freshman that could make a significant impact this year?
A: Well a lot of this depends on what the coaches decide to do, we have an abundance of young talent at several positions. To name a few Lamar Miller, Shayon Green, Jamal Reid, Seantrel Henderson, Jared Wheeler, and Storm Johnson (if he isn't redshirted).
Malcolm Bunche could also be a big contributor if he he loses the excess weight before the season starts 6' 7", 328 lbs. as a freshmen! Just a note Henderson, Wheeler, and Bunche are all offensive lineman, that depth I was talking about is real.
Q: How do Miami fans feel about the tough non-conference schedules? More importantly maybe does Shannon like it?
A: The Miami fan base is separated into factions much like any other team, and the fans are divided. You have one group who likes playing games against good team, but they also feel that Miami should win these games and it should not be an excuse for Shannon.
There is another group who believes that Miami should change the way they schedule and get some cupcakes (because the Gators do it), in the ACC and be in the conversation for the BCS title game every year.
Overall most of the fanbase is reasonable and understands if Miami loses a tough game in Columbus or at Virginia Tech that it's not a big let down, teams lose games even the best of them.
As for Shannon he is "old school" Miami's mantra has always been we will play anybody, anywhere, at any time. Shannon believes in that philosophy it's one of the reasons Miami rose to the top of college football so quickly, but Shannon also realizes self preservation is an important trait.
Although he will never say it publicly I am sure he wishes that for one season the cupcakes would be lined up and he could win a BCS title to relieve some of the pressure. He likes the tough schedule, but he wants to go on a title run even 12 - 0 with a loss in the title game gives him breathing room.
Q: Describe a successful season this year for the Hurricanes. Describe a disappointing one.
A: A successful season for the Hurricanes this year is simple ACC Championship, or at least making it to the ACC title game. They can beat Ohio State, Pitt, Florida State, and Virginia Tech, but if they don't make it to the ACC title game the seas will be looked at as a disappointment.
If you stack this team up they have more than enough to be in the conversation for winning the ACC. If they lose games to the likes of Clemson, Maryland, or even a fourth straight loss to UNC that is the worst possible scenario. All of these teams have beat Miami in recent years and really they should not get the best of us that often.
Q: What is your prediction for the season?
A: Well when it comes down to it I have to say 10 - 2 and they make it to the ACC Championship game. I think they "upset" (if you want to call it that) Ohio State in Columbus, all the chatter coming out of the Buckeyes and their fans is an air of confidence. Miami plays the underdog role well.
I think we beat Va Tech, and Florida State in close games. I think Pitt will sneak up on us coming off a big win at Ohio State, and then we lose a stupid game to Clemson or Georgia Tech where we are probably winning the game and give it up late.
I think we rematch with Florida State in the ACC championship game, and the ACC finally gets the match up they hoped for. Not sure who wins though, I would say Hurricanes but it's hard to beat the same team twice in one season.
My take on Miami…
To give you an idea how “down” Miami has been over the last five seasons, they are 25-23 in ACC since 2004.
If Shannon is going to bring Miami back to the national elite, I think this will be his best year to do so. His ballyhooed recruiting classes of a few years back are now upperclassmen and the conference schedule sets up well with FSU, UNC and Va. Tech at home.
The area to watch will be the line of scrimmage on both sides. Miami has not been nearly as good as they were earlier this decade on the offensive line and the d-line is not as salty as it used to be. How much progress have they made?
The o-line needs to play better and a running back stepping up would help take some of the pressure of the slight, yet confident shoulders of Jacory Harris. The junior played very well in his first year under OC Mark Whipple whose decision to stick around will help Harris develop more.
The defense should be better in its second year under coordinator John Lovett. The talent is certainly there.
Miami’s schedule is pretty ridiculous out of conference not to mention playing in the Coastal Division and facing FSU and Clemson from the Atlantic. The ‘Canes could very well play for an ACC title with just 8 wins.
8-4, T1st Coastal Division
Thanks again to The Sports Session for their insight.