Friday, July 27, 2007

Miami Preview

2007 Schedule

2006 Results: 7-6 overall, 3-5 ACC (4th Coastal Division); beat Nevada 21-20 in the MPC Computers Bowl

Offense: A unit that scored just 11 TDs in eight ACC contests last year returns nine starters, although the heavy rotation last season (due to injuries, suspensions, and all-around horrendous play) saw nearly 20 players make at least two starts in Larry Coker's farewell tour in Coral Gables. QBs Kyle Wright and Kirby Freeman are to date still battling it out for the starting nod, while RBs Javarris James and Charlie Jones are back as well. The Hurricanes' WR corps does not instill fear into the hearts of men, let alone opposing least not yet. Senior Lance Leggett, highly recruited way back in the day, has been a mild bust so far. Sam Shields (he of 37 receptions on '06) returns as well. 2006's sieve-like OL (26 sacks allowed, just 3.5 yards per carry) returns tons of experience, but whether the new coaching staff has improved fundamentals and strength/conditioning remains to be seen. With their third different offensive coordinator in as many years, I don't see the Hurricanes returning to the Dorsey-Portis-Shockey days of yore for a while.

Defense: This unit alone is good for at least six wins on the Canes' slate this season. The question is whether it can be as good as last year's Category-5 unit. The loss of murdered DT Bryan Pata leaves not only an emotional void, but a personnel void as well, and a strong one at that. The sick skillset of DE Calais Campbell will punish many an OL and QB this season, while the deep but not-quite-star-studded LB corps should inflict plenty of damage as well. The secondary loses stalwart Brandon Meriwether, but nearly every player on the two-deep depth chart at corner and safety has significant experience.

Special teams: In the parity-infected/parity-rich (depending on your point of view) ACC, this is where the Canes could come up very, very short in those inevitable nailbiters. Gone are K Jon Peattie and P Brian Monroe, who handled those duties since roughly 1989. Their replacement is redshirt freshman Matt Bosher, who will handle both roles in 2007. Also doing double duty is Bruce Johnson, fielding both kicks and punts this year, just as he did in '06 in adequate - but not overly impressive - fashion.

Coaching: Out- Larry Coker and the Sunshine Band....well, most of it. Four holdovers from Coker's staff remain, most notably his replacement as head coach, his very own defensive coordinator Randy Shannon. Shannon's DC is Tim Walton (who coached DBs for Coker the last 3 seasons). In- Patrick Freaking Nix? The most puzzling hire of all the ACC coaching changes last season, Nix's offenses at Georgia Tech in his 3 seasons there ranged from unpleasant to appalling, especially given the talent on hand (like this guy). Sure, some of it was Reggie Ball's fault, some was Chan the Man's fault, but a lot of it was Nix's doing as well. Probably more than any other reason, Miami's new OC is the biggest reason I'm a bit cool on the Canes this year.

For What It's Worth: Career coaching records- Larry Coker (60-15), Mark Richt (61-17), Butch Davis (51-20), Ralph Friedgen (50-24), Jeff Tedford (43-20); I'm just sayin'....Miami's average 2006 home attendance in the decrepit 72,000-seat Orange Bowl - 41,908 (9th ACC)....the Canes' 3-year ACC record: 14-10; their worst 3-year stretch in the old Big East (1996-98): 14-7....Miami is still the 4th-winningest college football program of this decade (71-16 since 2000)

Schedule Analysis: Despite early out-of-conference matchups with Oklahoma (in Norman) and Texas A&M (in the Orange Bowl), the slate is still more bottom-heavy, as there is a decent chance that the Canes can enter the Oct. 20 contest at Florida State with a 5-2 or possibly 6-1 record. After the FSU matchup, they get a week off before hosting NC State and Virginia, but finish up with the decidedly non-tropical late November matchups in Blacksburg and Boston.
Projected Wins- Marshall, Florida International, Texas A&M, Duke, @North Carolina, N.C. State, Virginia
Projected Losses- @Oklahoma, @Florida State, @Virginia Tech
Toss-Ups- Georgia Tech, @Boston College

For More Opinionated, Yet Delightful, Hurricane Insight: Out of Kilter

Blast-From-The-Past, Feel-Good YouTube:

The Conquering "Soldier"

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