Returning Starters: 9 (4 offense, 5 defense)
Key Losses: QB Kyle Wright, WR Lance Leggett, WR Darnell Jenkins, OG
Derrick Morse, OG Andrew Bain, DE Calais Campbell, DT Teraz McCray, DT Vegas
Franklin, LB Tavares Gooden, S Kenny Phillips, CB Glenn Sharpe
Key Returnees: RB Javarris James, RB Graig Cooper, WR Sam Shields, WR
Khalil Jones, TE Dedrick Epps, TE Chris Zellner, OT Jason Fox, OT Reggie
Youngblood, DE Eric Moncur, DT Antonio Dixon, DT Dwayne Hendricks, DT Joe
Joseph, LB Glenn Cook, LB Colin McCarthy, LB Darryl Sharpton, LB Spencer Adkins,
S Anthony Reddick, S Lavon Ponder, CB DeMarcus VanDyke, CB Bruce Johnson,
Miami is coming off a rough season that saw them finish 5-7 overall and
2-6 in the ACC, finishing ahead of only Duke in the ACC standings. They lost their last four
games last season, and six of their last seven overall. Their most humiliating
defeats came at the hands of Oklahoma (51-13), Virginia (48-0) and Virginia Tech
The ‘Canes definitely lost that swagger that they were always known for.
Besides that, there was a lack of talent at many key positions that we haven’t
seen in Miami in many years. It’s tough to see them getting any worse in 2008,
but they also don’t appear to have the horses to make huge strides in the right
Miami does have some excellent tailbacks in their program. Javarris James and
Graig Cooper are both All-ACC caliber performers, and they are essentially
co-starters for the ‘Canes. James is the reliable, steady, between the tackles
guy who can pick up the tough yards and is just really good all around. Cooper
is more of a big play threat. They complement each other very well.
Shawnbrey McNeal is Miami’s #3 running back, and he doesn’t get a lot of
attention, but he has talent. He played as a true freshman last year, and is
probably the fastest of the Miami running backs. With James only a junior, and
Cooper only a sophomore, there’s not a lot of room in the rotation for McNeal.
However, look for him to be Miami’s primary kickoff returner.
Miami doesn’t have a single quarterback who has ever taken a snap in a
college game. R-freshman Robert Marve is expected to be the starter. He is a
highly-touted prospect who broke many Florida high school passing records.
However, he might also have to share playing time with true freshman Jacory
Harris, another highly-touted recruit. Right now, it looks like they’ll both
play early in the season, and things will get sorted out from there.
Harris, as well as fellow true freshman Cannon Smith, went through spring
practice in hopes of earning early playing time this season. So while Miami’s
quarterbacks will be very inexperienced in 2008, they will be as experienced as
freshmen can be.
Still, with no proven receivers and an interior offensive line that might
have trouble, don’t expect any of these guys to be miracle workers this year for
the ‘Canes. They finished just 108th nationally in passing last year, and
that was with an experienced quarterback.
Miami has depth at linebacker. They probably don’t have
a huge star at the position, but they have a number of solid players with
starting experience. Junior Colin McCarthy is getting most of the hype, but
junior Darryl Sharpton has experience as a starter as well. Add to the mix
highly touted true freshman Sean Spence, who is expected to play, and this could
be a good group.
The unit is also bolstered by the return of senior linebacker Glenn Cook.
Cook is a former starter who was granted a sixth year of eligibility by the
NCAA. His health obviously could be a concern, but he’ll
bring a veteran leadership role that should be valuable.
Spencer Adkins is another player with starting experience as well. The ‘Canes
have depth here, and we could see a couple of true freshman compete for a lot of
playing time this year as well. It’s a rebuilding year for
Miami, so they’ll play a lot of young guys.
Miami’s defensive line wasn’t
what it has been in the past last season, and they lost their best defensive
lineman in Calais Campbell to the NFL. Gone also is starting defensive tackle
Teraz McCray, as well as key backup Vegas Franklin.
The ‘Canes bring back Eric Moncur at defensive end, and Antonio Dixon at
defensive tackle. They are good players, though Dixon could help himself out a
lot by dropping some weight. He played at about 345-lbs last season. Dwayne
Hendricks and Joe Joseph also return at defensive tackle. However, Hendricks has
never been able to stick in the starting lineup, and Joseph isn’t
big and strong enough to play defensive tackle, and not quick enough to play
More true freshmen could play here for Miami, with Marcus Forston being the
best of the bunch.
Will Stewart’s Take
It’s hard to believe how far the once-fearsome ‘Canes have fallen. I continue
to wonder if Randy Shannon is the guy to get it done in Miami. He recruits well
and talks tough about the intangibles, like team chemistry, hard work and
dedication, but does he have the backing of the players, and do he and his staff
have the X-and-O knowledge to get it done? Time will tell.
Miami has been here before, when they came off a 5-6 season in 1997. Butch
Davis, with a careful, meticulous recruiting strategy, was able to rebuild the
‘Canes into something fearsome, packing the team with enough talent to win a
championship (2001), lose another one (2002), and almost play for a third
(2000). As always, the talent is available in South Florida, but the right mix
has to be brought to Coral Gables.
For the immediate future, the ‘Canes’ 2008 ACC schedule shapes up well. Miami
avoids Clemson, and their tough ACC games are all at home: FSU, VT, Wake, and
UNC. Miami’s ACC road contests are Duke, Virginia, GT and NC State. Hmmm, very
interesting. Never mind Miami’s OOC road trips to Florida and Texas A&M —
national competitiveness comes later. Right now, the ‘Canes have to learn to
compete in their own conference.
Unfortunately for the Hurricanes, the team isn’t quite ready for a run to the top of the ACC, but the schedule sure is.