|Previews Thus Far|
|Atlantic Division||Coastal Division|
For a breakdown of the ACC’s football
divisions, click here.
Eye View: The Canes have the most talent of any team in the ACC, but
they donï¿½t have the surefire three to five upperclass first round draft picks
that are par for the course with Miami. The offense is loaded with terrific
prospects, but they are prospects at this point, not established players. The
defense is the deepest and most experienced in the ACC.
Areas of Strength (offense): The offensive line should be much improved with the return of blue chip left
tackle Eric Winston. The four games he played in last year the Canes averaged
151 yards rushing; the eight games without him they averaged 121 yards. The
receivers are young but have tremendous game breaking talent led by 6ï¿½4ï¿½,
185 lb. Lance Leggett (mini-Moss if you will). Split end Ryan Moore struggled
last year after a solid freshman campaign, and many in South Florida think heï¿½ll
have his breakout season. Greg Olsen will be the next Miami first round tight
end following in the footsteps of Bubba Franks, Jeremy Shockey and the Injured
One (Kellen Winslow II).
Areas of Concern (offense): Quarterback has to head the list for Canes
Coach Larry Coker. Kyle Wright was the most highly recruited quarterback in the
country a few years back, but he struggled last year as a freshman with limited
opportunities. Iï¿½m not sure he has convinced the staff that it is his team, as
redshirt freshman Kirby Freeman got nearly half the snaps in spring practice.
Tyrone Moss has not shown himself to be a #1 type back in the Miami tradition of
Edgerrin James, Clinton Portis, Willis McGahee, etc. It would not surprise me if
sophomore Charlie Jones or freshmen Derron Thomas had the majority of the
carries in the second half of the season. There is also some concern along the
OL, where right guard Tony Tella is slowed by a high ankle sprain and backup
Derrick Morse is out for several weeks with a shoulder injury, possibly forcing
third-stringer Andrew Bain into the starting lineup, at least temporarily.
Areas of Strength (defense): Miami returns seven of its top eight
defensive linemen from last year with the starters all being juniors or seniors
(i.e., eying NFL paychecks). Orien Harris and Baraka Atkins, in particular, have
the potential to form the best starting defensive tackle combination in the
league. Miami probably has the best secondary in the league with three top notch
starting candidates at safety (Brandon Meriweather, Greg Threat and Anthony
Reddick), three experienced corners (Kelly Jennings, Marcus Maxey and Devin
Hester) and a valuable veteran returning from injury (corner Glenn Sharpe).
Areas of Concern (defense): Iï¿½m not as sold on the Canes linebackers as
many in the media. The group as a whole was terrible at times against the run
last year. While they do have experience, I wouldnï¿½t be surprised if some of
the veterans were displaced by star crossed redshirt freshman Willie Williams
(projected middle linebacker) and sophomore Romeo Davis. Both of them have the
athletic ability to make sideline to sideline plays, but diagnosing plays may be
an issue. Expect lots of play action to require the linebackers to read keys and
play disciplined football.
Key Game: At FSU. Most of Miamiï¿½s potential difference makers on the
offensive side of the ball are sophomores or younger (Wright, Jones/Thomas,
Leggett). Early success in a hostile environment bodes well for them later in
the year when they travel to VT. A poor performance on the road against FSU, a
team they have beaten six straight times, would be ominous with the trip to
Blacksburg still on the docket. If Wright struggles in Tallahassee, that may
open the door for a full fledged QB controversy.
Fearless Predictions: Special teams will be the difference in a season
opening win for the Canes in Tallahassee as Devin Hester will take one to the
house to salt away a low scoring affair. In a year in which the ACC could have
six top ten NFL draft picks (State DE Mario Williams, BC DE Mathias Kiwanuka,
UVa LT Dï¿½Brickshaw Ferguson, UVa LB Ahmad Brooks, and VT CB Jimmy Williams),
the first ACC player off the board, assuming he returns to pre-injury form, will
be Miami left tackle Eric Winston. Miami will enjoy a bounce back year of sorts
this fall, finishing with a 10-2 overall record, and they will be a preseason
top three team in 2006 and the early ACC favorite.