2006 Record: 7-6
Offense: For a team that largely built its reputation as Quarterback U and had some explosive and efficient offenses in the 1980ís and 1990ís, the last several years have been a struggle in Coral Gables. The Hurricanes finished 62nd in passing offense, 84th in rushing offense, and 87th in both total offense and scoring offense, averaging a meager 19.6 points per game. Much of the struggle has come with poor QB play, but some of the problem has been inconsistent game plans. The Hurricanes have lacked an identity. New head coach Randy Shannon tapped Patrick Nix, former Auburn QB and Georgia Tech offensive coordinator, to run the offense. Nix has promised a balanced, pro-style attack. Nix was somewhat limited by QB Reggie Ball at Georgia Tech so we may not have seen his full offensive package yet, but expect to see a mix of pro-style and spread looks given his background. If Nix gives the offense an identity, the next question is who is going to run the show? Senior Kyle Wright came to UM as a highly regarded prospect and had a pretty successful sophomore season, but regressed as a junior and continued to struggle in spring ball. Wright (1655 yards, 61%, 8 TDs, 7 interceptions) has all the physical tools, except running ability, but seems to lack the mental aspect. If he can put it all together, he has the talent to be at least solid. His competition is junior Kirby Freeman. Freeman (872 yds, 55%, 7 TDs, 8 ints) started the final 4 games after Wright was put on the bench with a broken thumb, but is not as polished as a passer as Wright, but does bring a running dimension to the table. Still, UM only averaged 14.5 points per game in the games Freeman started and he also struggled in spring. Shannon may not name a starter until just before the season opener. True freshman Robert Marve could have gotten a look, but will be forced to redshirt after hurting his hand in an car accident last week. With all the questions at QB, expect a deep RB corps to get lots of carries. Sophomore Javarris James (802 yds, 4.6 average, 4 TDs, 15 receptions, 173 yds, 1 TD) lived up to his high school hype and had a solid freshman year. James has a good burst and is a tough runner between the tackles. However, he is being pushed hard by true freshman Graig Cooper, who spent last year at prep school. Cooper was so impressive in spring that Jamesí famous cousin Edgerrin James said Cooper was the better back after watching practice. The two will likely split carries, but Cooper could end up surpassing James on the depth chart. The talent and depth doesnít end there though. Charlie Jones (206 yds, 3.4 avg, 4 TDs) has never quite lived up to the hype after a promising freshman season, but definitely brings talent and experience to the table. Junior Derron Thomas (159 yds, 7.6 avg, 1 TD) saw some carries last year and will get a look as could true freshmen Lee Chambers and Shawnbrey McNeal. The Canes have a potential nice 1-2 punch at FB too. Senior James Bryant could be a great lead blocker and receiver, but has banged heads with the coaching staff. So much so that sophomore Jerrell Mabry is atop the depth chart. Nix has toyed with the idea of using TE Chris Zellner as an H-back over using a pure fullback. Not only has Miamiís talent level slipped at QB, but is has slipped at WR as well. This yearís receiving corps looks very lackluster on paper. Senior Lance Leggett (38 recs, 584 yds, 4 TDs) has great size and speed, but can be lost through big chunks of games and has battled injuries. Fellow senior Darnell Jenkins (13 recs, 183 yds) appeared poised for a breakout year, but was lost due to injury after 3 games and missed most of spring practice dealing with personal issues. Sophomores Ryan Hill and Sam Shields (37 recs, 501 yds, 4 TDs) contributed as freshmen, but were also inconsistent. Shields has the talent to be a go-to guy. The coaches hope from contributions from juniors Khalil Jones and Kayne Farquarson, but beyond Leggett, Jenkins, Hill, and Shields, depth is shaky so true freshmen could play a role here. Luckily, the tight ends might be able to help the QB out. Despite losing leading receiver Greg Olsen, the Hurricanes return some talent to the position. Junior DajLeon Farr is penciled in as the starter, and despite having only 4 career catches, he is athletic as any tight end UM has had. Zellner will push Farr unless he moves to H-back and the coaches have high hopes for sophomore Dedrick Epps. The offensive line has been another problem area in recent years, but new line coach Jeff Stoutland has high expectations for a unit that returns 4 players who have started at least 7 games. Jason Fox started 12 games last year at RT and proved to be a quick study as a freshman. Heíll start at LT this year. He swaps places with junior Reggie Youngblood, who takes over at RT. The interior spots are shakier. Derrick Morse is probably UMís best linemen, but may move from RG to C, although an injury kept him out of spring practice. Returning starter Andrew Bain is being pushed at LG, but will likely start. A.J. Trump would start at C if Morse stays at RG. If Morse moves, junior Chris Rutledge would start at RG. Rutledge made the most improvement among all the linemen over the spring. Most of the depth is untested so injuries could cripple this group.
Defense: The Hurricanes once again fielded a fierce defense. UM finished the season 7th in total defense and 13th in scoring defense and set a school record by allowing just 67.8 rushing yards per game. Those numbers are even more impressive when one considers how bad the offense usually was. Shannon promoted DB coach Tim Walton to Defensive Coordinator, but UM will run the same defense Shannon ran when he was DC. The Hurricanes will line up in a 4-3, Tampa 2 style defense which is predicated on causing turnovers and limiting big plays. The Canes blitzed a bit more last year than before and expect that trend to continue. The strength of the defense could arguably be along the line. Ends Calais Campbell and Eric Moncur could be dominant. Campbell (84 tackles, 20 tackles for loss, 10 sacks, 3 forced fumbles) has tremendous size (6-8, 282) and is continuing to improve. Moncur (20 tackles, 3 tfl) was a top reserve last year and looked dominating in the spring. Backup Courtney Harris also looked good in spring. The success of the line will likely rest with the tackles. There a lots of talented bodies, but no one has stood out just yet. Senior Teraz McCray (13 tackles, 4 tfl, 2 sacks) is good against the run and is productive, but is often battling injuries. Redshirt frosh Josh Holmes is undersized, but has a great burst. Junior Antonio Dixon is massive (6-3, 335), but needs to use that size more effectively. More help could come from junior Dwayne Hendricks and sophomore Joe Joseph. Despite only 1 returning starter, the LB corps should be a strength. MLB Daryl Sharpton (36 tackles, 5 tfl) has battled injuries his first two years on campus, but has the tools and talent to be an all-conference performer. Senior Romeo Davis will push for time. The outside spots will likely see a rotation of senior Glenn Cook (64 tackles, 4 tfl), senior Tavares Gooden (41 tackles, 2.5 tfl), and sophomore Colin McCarthy. McCarthy did not play a lot last year, but has star potential. Further bolstering the group is junior Spencer Adkins. The secondary looks solid at safety, but has some questions at corner. FS Kenny Phillips is one of the best in the game. Phillips (71 tackles, 6 tfl, 4 ints) has great instincts, good hands, and can hit. Anthony Reddick was all set to start at SS, but blew out his knee and was lost for the season. Luckily, Lovon Ponder (53 tackles, 2.5 tfl, 4 pass breakups) has tons of experience and talent. Depth isnít overly inspiring, although senior Willie Cooper has some experience. The corner spots could be the problem. Randy Phillips (20 tackles, 7 pass breakups) and Glenn Sharpe (29 tackles, 2 ints, 13 pass breakups) are returning starters, but neither stood out last year. Sophomore Chavez Grant is pushing hard for a starting spot after starting 5 games last year. Junior Carlos Armour can bring nice size (6-3, 200) and some experience off the bench. The Canes recruited well at CB so donít be surprised if a true freshman or two get a look.
Special Teams: Starting over. UM will have a new kicker and punter this season. Redshirt freshman Matt Bosher is pushing for both jobs as is junior Daren Daly. The Hurricanes are also looking for new return men after an abysmal year last season. Graig Cooper, Doug Wiggins, Chavez Grant, Sam Shields, and Ryan Hill have all auditioned.
Schedule: Besides hosting FIU, the non-conference schedule is daunting. Opening with Marshall rather than FSU will cause for a sigh of relief, but the Thundering Herd could still provide a test. A road trip to Oklahoma and hosting Texas A&M on a Thursday night will be tough. The ACC slate is tough too. UM must travel to face FSU and finishes the season with road games at VA Tech and Boston College. The Canes get Duke, GA Tech, NC State, and UVA at home.
Synopsis: National championship caliber defense, mediocre offense. That is what Miami was last year and that is what they look like this year. The team is in transition with a new coaching staff and a new offense so winning big against a tough schedule is too much to ask. However, expecting a team with the overall talent of Miami to improve upon a 7-6 record isnít expecting too much. If either Freeman or Wright just play adequate and donít turn the ball over, the defense should be good enough to limit most opponents under 20 points per game. Turnovers in close games are what killed the Hurricanes last year. If they can correct that, an 8-4 or 9-3 season is not asking too much. Winning the Coastal Division, however, will probably have to wait a year or two.
Help save Civil War battlefields-go to www.civilwar.org and help the Civil War Preservation Trust FSU Alumnus, 2001/2004
This message was edited by the author on 2007-07-23 14:58:23.