Miami HurricanesReasons for Optimism
Head Coach Al Golden, NCAA investigation finally concluding with no major sanctions likely to come, schedule, OFFENSEReasons for Concern
Defense, Defense, Defense. Not only is the talent on this side of the ball a fraction of what it is on offense it is also very young and inexperienced. The defense was terrible last year and likely won't improve much, especially with some key contributors being kicked off the team for various indiscretions. Three Break Out Players
QB: Stephen Morris 6'2" 220 - Fantastic in his first year as a full time starter. Broke several historic team records belonging to the likes of Jim Kelly, Bernie Kosar and Vinny Testaverde. Still someone scatter shot in his delivery but improving. A strong armed mobile guy who prefers to stay in the pocket and deliver the ball at the last possible second rather than take off. Great leader. Needs work on pre-snap reads. Will be interesting to see how Jed Fisch's departure to Jags will effect him. They had great rapport. (Seahawk fans know Fisch from his days as a QB coach here and he was a terrific OC for Miami.)
RB: Duke Johnson 5'10" 195 - Percy Harvin at the RB position. A serious contender for the Heisman after several monster games as a Freshman. Will likely lead the NCAA in all purpose yardage as he returns punts, kickoffs, runs and is a superb receiver. Speed, acceleration, and agility are ELITE. Ultra competitive yet still coachable and humble. Does not avoid contact and runs with more power than one might expect from a man of his build. Will likely be the feature back this year after sharing carries with Mike James last year. A future top 5 NFL draft pick IF he can stay healthy. If the Hurricanes are to return to a football power it will start with this player.
DE: Anthony Chickillo 6'4" 270 - 5 Star recruit two years ago who is still yet to make the impact many Hurricane fans had hoped. Relentless competitor with good motor that still needs to work on his endurance. Only 4 sacks last year after 5 as a true freshman. Still refining his technique. Good read and react and closing speed. Production is severely impinged by a lack of talent across the defensive line. Teams can double Chickillo with impunity since there is no one else on the DL to make them pay. The emergence of some young DTs and better bookend candidates should free up Chick a bit more this year. Expect 8 sacks minimum in 2013. Two true Freshman to watch
MLB: Alex Figueroa 6'3" 230 - Remember the name. Has drawn Ray Lewis comparisons in Spring. Likely to claim starting spot as true freshman.
DE: Al-Quadin Muhammed 6'3" 240 - Four star recruit, likely rotational DE. If Chickillo is to emerge as a force it will be because talented guys like this freed him from the constant double teams he faced last year. How good will the Hurricanes be?
People love to hate Miami and many college football fans relish The U's recent mediocrity. Much of Miami's systemic issues were due to the lazy leadership of Randy Shannon, whom seemed to think that Miami's brand was enough to score recruits and win games. The Nevin Shapiro scandal, the NCAA investigation, the self-imposed sanctions like bowl bans and a reduction in scholarships, along with the post-Shannon roster purge that saw players like Teddy Bridgewater leave the program - all seem to auger the demise of a once proud and dominant school. But, I have bad news for the haters: Miami is on the way back. The U's reemergence as a power is due to the inspired leadership of head coach Al Golden. When he accepted the job three years ago I doubt he could envision the turmoil he inherited. Yet, despite numerous setbacks he decided to stay and persevere, turning down several other head coaching opportunities at cleaner programs along the way. Miami's offense is elite and will likely average around 40 ppg this year. Unfortunately the defense is horrible and probably got worse in the offseason after losing several expected starters to disciplinary dismissal or transfer. Nevertheless, with a powder-puff schedule and a lot of roster turnover in the ACC, Miami will likely finish 10-2 or better in 2013 with a good shot at a BCS bowl.
Miami will never return to what it was. Too many programs pilfer Miami's backyard for talent. It's facilities are below par and the gameday experience is terrible compared to the top schools. Still, The U is not done playing for national championships. Expect the school to be in the hunt in 2014.