We’ll keep things moving with Part II of the Miami preview. If you missed Part I, check it out here.
To the questions …
AB: Memphis transfer Ryan Williams got most of the reps this spring at quarterback with Stephen Morris out because of back surgery. Who might win the starting job? And can the winner give the Hurricanes some reliability at the position that they haven’t had in years?
SMD: “If both quarterbacks are equally healthy, many believe junior Stephen Morris will win the job because of his experience running the offense, and because of a superior arm that we’ve seen make impossible throws. But Memphis transfer Williams, a 6-6, 225-pound redshirt sophomore eligible to play after sitting out in 2011, had a good – and at times, excellent – spring. Williams, who won a state championship for Miramar High in 2009, completed 14 of 21 passes for 228 yards and four touchdowns in the first spring scrimmage. Williams completed 17 of 33 passes for 177 yards and two touchdowns in the second scrimmage. In the spring game finale, Williams completed 15 of 27 passes for 169 yards and no touchdowns, with two interceptions. He has great touch and timing, but is neither as mobile nor quick as Morris. I like Williams’ maturity and poise.”
“Who knows? Maybe coaches will play both. I hope not. That rarely seems to work very well. I also won’t predict about reliability. It’s been so long since we’ve seen it at Miami.
“Keep in mind that Miami, like most programs, does not allow its quarterbacks to be hit during practices and scrimmages. We’ll know a lot more after Morris is slammed a few times.”
AB: Which will be tougher: finding a replacement for running back Lamar Miller, finding receivers to replace Tommy Streeter and Travis Benjamin or shoring up an offensive line that lost three starters and isn’t very deep?
SMD: “The Hurricanes scored big in signing tailback Randy ‘Duke’ Johnson, the 5-9, 180-pound speedster who was named Mr. Florida Football as the state’s Class 5A Player of the Year (2,087 yards and 29 touchdowns for a 10-yard-per-carry average last season). He committed early, never wavered and is the type of old-school Cane who is bursting with enthusiasm and is determined to bring his lifelong program back to the glory days. The guy is an amazing talent.
“I’d say finding some depth at receiver is a huge concern, as UM had only four scholarship receivers on the roster during spring. Coach Al Golden is bringing in five of them as part of the new signing class – Malcolm Lewis (56 receptions for 729 yards and eight touchdowns as a senior) of Miramar High and Robert Lockhart (previously a Virginia Tech commitment) out of Fork Union Military Academy are considered the two most ready to make an impact. It should be noted that 6-2, 200-pound sophomore Rashawn Scott had an exceptional spring, and will be crucial in fortifying this position.
“The offensive line did lose starters, and there is definitely major concern about depth. Shane McDermott must adjust quickly at center, and Seantrel Henderson (right tackle) and Jon Feliciano (switched from tackle to guard) need to stay healthy.”
AB: With the offense reloading, the defense will be asked to carry a lot of the weight this year. Is this group capable of keeping the ’Canes close in a lot of games? Who will stand out?
SMD: “The defense was at times scary-bad last year, especially allowing huge chunks up the gut against the rush. Witness the Virginia Tech game on Oct. 8. The winning drive, which began with 2:46 left, came after UM tailback Lamar Miller busted through the Tech defense for a 30-yard touchdown that gave Miami its first and only lead, 35-31. The Hurricanes thought it would be enough, but the Hokies took over at their own 23. On fourth-and-1, Logan Thomas faked a handoff to star tailback David Wilson, then sprinted 19 yards untouched down the middle on fourth down for the victory in the final minute. That’s the way it often seemed to go for the Canes.
“But by the end of the season, UM ranked 17th in scoring defense, allowing 20.08 points a game. There are some major bright spots on the defense, including linebacker Denzel Perryman, a gem in the middle; and end Anthony Chickillo, another beast. The Canes also have some national star power in five-star freshman cornerback Tracy Howard and four-star safety Deon Bush, who can also play corner; as well as high school All-American defensive end Tyriq McCord.”
AB: Al Golden had a huge recruiting class last year, one ranked 9th nationally by Rivals. Do you see any of those players stepping in and making an immediate impact?
SMD: “Yes. Immediate impacts could be made by cornerback Tracy Howard, safety Deon Bush, running back Duke Johnson, receivers Malcolm Lewis and Robert Lockhart, defensive end Tyriq McCord and linebacker Raphael Kirby.”
AB: Although Golden seems to have the recruiting side of things rolling, the NCAA still hasn’t handed down sanctions from the Nevin Shapiro scandal. How do you think that’s affected the program? Is there any hope of the Hurricanes getting “back” before that’s behind them?
SMD: “Getting ‘the recruiting side of things rolling’ is huge, obviously, as the Canes need to stockpile talent now to prepare for the NCAA sanctions. It appears that the wait will continue as the NCAA continues its investigation. There’s always hope, but I highly doubt Miami will be ‘back’ the way the Hurricanes want to be back by the time the penalties are levied. You have to wonder how many players will be scared away by any sanctions. But then again, the last time UM was hit with major sanctions in the mid 1990s, it got the players who vowed to bring it back, and by 2001 had won a national title. Golden is well respected and the right fit for this program. If he truly stays long term, as he says he will, it can only mean good things for Miami.”
And that’s that. Thanks to Susan for helping me out.
This is a Thursday night game and it’s on the road for the Hokies, which automatically makes things tougher (even if it’s in a non-atmosphere like Sun Life Stadium). This is also sandwich game for Virginia Tech, the middle part of a stretch that includes a game at Clemson and a Thursday night game at home against Florida State.
That said, I don’t quite think Miami is in a position to be too competitive this year. This was a team that went 6-6 last season, with losses to Maryland and Boston College. Then it lost a ton to the NFL, including five players who left before their senior season (Miller, at running back, was one of them). That’s a lost for a team near the top of the league to overcome, let alone one that finished 3-5 in league play last year.
I have no doubt that the ‘Canes will get things turned around, even once the Shapiro sanctions are handed down. Miami’s been hit before and bounced back to win national titles. In that hotbed for talent, it doesn’t take long to right the ship, especially the way Golden has recruited (he had a top-10 class last year in his first full recruiting cycle).
But, I think Miami will be a work in progress this year, one that might be able to surprise people in a game or two, just because of the level of talent down there, but not one that’s going to be a consistent threat.
- Georgia Tech — Team overview | Ask a beat writer
- Austin Peay — Team overview | Ask a beat writer
- Pittsburgh — Team overview | Ask a beat writer
- Bowling Green — Team overview | Ask a beat writer
- Cincinnati — Team overview | Ask a beat writer
- North Carolina — Team overview | Ask a beat writer
- Duke — Team overview | Ask a beat writer
- Clemson — Team overview | Ask a beat writer