2007 ACC Football Season Preview: Miami

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Miami Hurricanes

16 Returning Starters (9 offense, 7 defense)

Key Players: QB Kyle Wright, QB Kirby Freeman, RB Javarris James, WR Sam
Shields, RT Jason Fox, RG Derrick Morse, DE Calais Campbell, DT Teraz McCray, LB
Glenn Cook, CB Glenn Sharpe, FS Kenny Phillips.

Overall
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Larry Coker is gone, and former defensive coordinator Randy Shannon is now
the head coach. He was the popular choice from the players’ standpoint, but so
was Larry Coker back when he was hired, and we all know how that turned out.
Miami still has a lot of talent as usual. How far they go will depend on
quarterback and offensive line play. Sound familiar?

Miami has had tough luck with injuries so far. Linebacker Romeo Davis and
safety Anthony Reddick are likely done for the season. Safety Lavon Ponder is on
crutches. Defensive tackle Teraz McCray is missing practice time, as is
linebacker Darryl Sharpton. And it was just announced yesterday that linebacker
Glenn Cook will miss the first three or four games of the season.

Offensive Strength

Miami’s offensive backfield should be very strong in 2007. Javarris James
started as a true freshman last season and ran for 802 yards, the second best
mark for a freshman in Miami history. However, his job isn’t safe. Heralded true
freshman Graig Cooper joined the team in January and participated in spring
practice. He was so impressive that many people believe he should be starting
over James.

In addition to James and Cooper, Miami also has experienced runners in
Charlie Jones and Derron Thomas. Jones rushed for 94 yards against Virginia Tech
back in 2005, a career high. Thomas has 309 yards on the ground in his career.
James and Cooper could end up being the best one-two punch in the ACC, if the
offensive line performs.

Offensive Weakness

If Miami doesn’t get better quarterback play, they’ll only be able to improve
a certain amount as a team. Senior Kyle Wright is in a battle with junior Kirby
Freeman for the starting job. The competition will last throughout the month of
August, according to comments by Shannon.

Wright was the man for most of last season, throwing for 1,655 yards. He had
eight touchdown passes and seven interceptions. Freeman threw for 872 yards. He
made poor decisions on many occasions, throwing seven touchdowns with eight
interceptions.

Miami has some good athletes, but if they don’t have a quarterback that can
produce, they won’t be much better than last year’s 7-6 campaign.

Defensive Strength

Miami has a lot of athletes up front on the defensive line. They are led by
defensive end Calais Campbell, the 6-8, 280 All-American candidate. Campbell is
the most physically gifted player in the ACC, and he’ll be looking to improve on
his 10.5 sacks from last season. Eric Moncur will join him at the other
defensive end spot.

At defensive tackle, Teraz McCray is Miami’s most experienced player. He
started eight games and had five tackles for loss last season. Antonio Dixon
should be the other starter. He is very good, but conditioning has been an issue
in the past. The only issue with Miami’s front four is a question mark regarding
depth. Miami’s backups are relatively unproven.

Note that Miami’s defensive strength would have been their secondary, but
they have suffered a couple of critical injuries there in the preseason, so I
went with defensive line.

Defensive Weakness

Miami doesn’t wow you with talent like they used to at linebacker. The
Hurricanes have good linebackers, but they don’t have anything resembling a star
heading into 2007. What they do have is a large number of injured
linebackers.

Senior linebacker Romeo Davis is expected to miss the season with a knee
injury, and Darryl Sharpton has missed practice time as well. It was also
announced yesterday that senior Glenn Cook will miss at least the first three
games of the season. For a position that lacks big name talent, losing those
three players, two of them seniors and all of them with starting experience, is
quite a loss. Especially with Oklahoma and Texas A&M on the schedule in
September.

Key Game

Miami is likely to lose to Oklahoma in Norman on September 8. They host Texas
A&M on September 20, and with the injuries they are suffering on defense,
that could also end up being a loss. Miami isn’t going to win the national
championship this year, but they can win the Coastal Division, and losses to
those out-of-conference teams won’t matter.

Miami’s key game will come at home against Georgia Tech on October 13. That
will be their first ACC test. If they can get past the Yellow Jackets, they’ll
have a tiebreaker over one of the other teams expected to compete for the
Coastal Division Championship. Miami better beat Georgia Tech, because they
travel to Florida State the next week on October 20.

Will Stewart’s Take

In 2002, Ken Dorsey’s senior year, the Miami Hurricanes finished sixth in the
nation in total offense and fourth in scoring offense. Since then, they have
dropped off a cliff. Take a look at Miami’s national finishes in total offense,
scoring offense, and (for comparison) total defense and scoring defense since
2003.

Miami
Hurricanes Division 1-A Rankings
Season Total Offense Scoring Offense Total Defense Scoring Defense
2003 41st 51st 2nd 4th
2004 66th 21st 28th 13th
2005 73rd 55th 4th 4th
2006 87th 87th 7th 13th
Average 67th 54th 10th 8th

It’s not the defense that’s holding back the Canes, who haven’t won their
conference and been to a BCS bowl since 2003. Gone are the days when the
Hurricanes were a point-scoring machine, and if they’re going to return to
national prominence, the offense is going to have to improve, period.
Quarterback play, wide receiver production, and the ground game all have to
improve. (The Canes rushing attack has finished 33rd, 79th, 70th, and 84th the
last four seasons.)

Can Randy Shannon get that done? Despite their amazing football tradition,
the Miami Hurricanes athletic department doesn’t have deep pockets, and they
were forced to go bargain-hunting after firing Larry Coker at the end of last
season. Miami doesn’t have $2-$3 million a year to drop on a proven, big-name
coach to take care of their storied program, so they went with Shannon for
reportedly somewhere between $750,000 and $1 million a year. Promoting a career
assistant is always a gamble.

Randy Shannon might be in over his head, or he may do a great job. Time will
tell. But if he’s going to succeed, he’s going to have to fix that offense, an
area in which he has no personal experience. Shannon played as a linebacker and
has never coached offense in his 16-year career as an assistant. Shannon hired
Patrick Nix away from Georgia Tech to be his new offensive coordinator, and as
detailed in our GT preview on Wednesday, the Yellow Jacket offense didn’t set
the world on fire last year.

With the injuries and the new, unproven coaching staff, plus uncertainty at
the quarterback position, Shannon and company have their work cut out for them.
Don’t look for a 10-win season from the Canes this year, and the Hokies should
be — should be — able to win their November 17th showdown in Lane
Stadium.

Miami
2007 Football Schedule

Miami
2007 Roster

Miami 2007 Depth Chart not available

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