To complement my “Better Know an Opponent” series, I’ve enlisted the help of some knowledgeable beat writers around the country who can help give a little more perspective about the teams the Hokies will be playing in 2013.
If you missed the first part of my look at Miami, you can get to it here.
Now to the questions …
AB: With Miami returning quarterback Stephen Morris, running back Duke Johnson, a good group of receivers and perhaps the best offensive line in the ACC, how high are expectations for this offense? Will it look any different under new offensive coordinator James Coley’s direction?
MC: They couldn’t be much higher, honestly. The hype is growing for Morris, Johnson and the other skilled players. Morris has an absolute cannon for a right arm and is a leader the rest of the team follows. And a healthy Johnson could be one of the more explosive players in the league. The line is intact.
I wouldn’t expect the offense to take a drastic turn under Coley given the personnel back. Maybe that would change if there was a rebuilding job, but he’s got the horses and momentum left over from November. If Miami challenges for a title, it will be this group who carries the Hurricanes.
AB: Johnson is drawing comparisons to some of Miami’s great backs of the past. How much will his role expand heading into his sophomore season? Is he capable of being a 25-carry-a-game back or do the ‘Canes like his versatility so much that it doesn’t matter?
MC: Johnson is the kind of running back Miami used to get when the Hurricanes were winning titles. He’s explosive, strong and the vision. Injuries slowed his midseason, but he was among the best in the league by November. But the question you pose is the correct one. As a freshman, he overshadowed NFL draft pick Mike James. But he won’t have the same luxury of sharing carries with a veteran this year. The Hurricanes did everything possible to land a top running back recruit, but Alex Collins went to Arkansas instead. That leaves Dallas Crawford as the top option as the No. 2, but he’s not quite as experienced or as skilled as James was in 2012. This could be a major factor this year.
AB: Miami has always been a program that’s had stellar defensive line, but last year’s group really struggled, particularly at stopping the run. Is there hope that this year’s defensive front will be better?
MC: Not sure they could have backpedaled from where they were last fall. Opposing offensive lines pushed them around all fall, but there’s at least some hope of improvement. Curtis Porter, the ’Cane’s top tackle missed almost the entire season with complications from an appendectomy. Everyone else is back. Conceivably, that means there will be an improvement from 2012. Keeping the double teams off defensive end Anthony Chickillo will be a top priority.
AB: The Canes didn’t win too many games with their defense last year (the Virginia Tech game notwithstanding). This remains a pretty young group this year. Can it mature enough so that the offense doesn’t have to simply out-score teams in shootouts for Miami to win?
MC: Yeah, that Virginia Tech game was quite the anomaly and a particularly bad sign for the Hokie offense. Coach Al Golden actually spoke about the different philosophies in dealing with the defensive shortcoming. For a while, they went for the shootouts. Score more than the other side. First to 100 wins. It worked a few times like the 44-37 win over NC State and 52-45 at Duke. It fell flat in the 41-40 loss at Virginia.
Golden sometimes reined in the high-flying passing attack in an attempt to rest the defense (and keep it off the field). The 18-14 home loss to North Carolina was an unsuccessful try. I have a feeling they’ll be at least a little more confident in this defense a year later. But they have a lot to prove and many vocal critics to silence.
AB: Miami appears to be almost out of the woods with this latest round of NCAA sanctions. After two years of postseason bans and deciding to deny last year’s team an opportunity to play in the ACC championship game, how good of a shot do you think the ‘Canes have to break through and finally win the division?
MC: The NCAA situation appears to be a long way from being over. It’s unpredictable on an unprecedented level. So who knows what it’ll mean for the 2013 postseason. Under the scenario they’re clear to play beyond November, anything less than a division title would feel like a disappointment. This fan base is hungry. Now 10 years after coming to the ACC, they haven’t won a single title or even played in the league title game. The Hurricanes would have last year if they hadn’t disqualified themselves. With all the big names back, Miami has the parts in place. If there’s ever a year when they can get back to being The U, 2013 is it.
- Alabama: Team overview | Ask a beat writer
- Western Carolina: Team overview | Ask a beat writer
- East Carolina: Team overview | Ask a beat writer
- Marshall: Team overview | Ask a beat writer
- Georgia Tech: Team overview | Ask a beat writer
- North Carolina: Team overview | Ask a beat writer
- Pittsburgh: Team overview | Ask a beat writer
- Duke: Team overview | Ask a beat writer
- Boston College: Team overview
- Miami: Team overview