As we celebrate the 4th of July, we can look forward to the coming of college football season, now less than two months away. With that in mind, we continue the Rant Sports 100 in 100 college football preview by taking a look at the Miami Hurricanes at No. 61.
The Canes finished 2011 with a disappointing 6-6 record under first year head coach Al Golden. The team was picked by many as an ACC favorite, who could possibly make some noise in the national title race. However, suspensions and injuries gutted the roster and the team scrambled to find some consistency amid a sea of controversy. Miami became bowl-eligible on the second to last game of the season, but declined to accept a postseason bid while the school was involved in an NCAA investigation. The Hurricanes lost a significant chunk of their team from last season, and will need to find a number of key contributors in a crowd of inexperience if they want to continue to build in Golden’s second season.
The Hurricanes lose their starting quarterback, leading rusher, and top two receivers off of last year’s team and will look to some unproven commodities to step up big in 2012. It all starts at quarterback, as junior Stephen Morris steps under center. He’s the only Canes signal caller with any game experience, starting one game last season (a season-opening 32-24 loss at Maryland), completing 70% of his passes, throwing no touchdowns and a pair of interceptions.
In the backfield, senior Mike James will see the majority of the snaps. While James may be a senior, he still does not bring a wealth of experience. Last season, serving as the primary backup, James rushed just 72 times for 275 yards, averaging 3.8 yards per carry. He did show a nose for the goal line however, as he scored seven touchdowns. He’ll have to navigate his increase in workload behind an offensive line that has been shuffled to replace three starters from last year’s squad.
At wide receiver, the Canes will field a depth chart without much experience. Allen Hurns, who finished third in receptions last year for Maimi with 31, returns to be the top receiver. The rest of the receiving corps is rounded out with Phillip Dorsett, Kendal Thompkins, and Rashawn Scott, none of whom have any substantial experience. Thompkins and Scott combined last season for just four catches and 23 yards. They will need to step up to give this Hurricanes passing attack any bite whatsoever.
The defense finds itself in a slightly better situation than the offense as far as returning starters. Seven players come back from last season’s squad, led by Vaughn Telemaque and Brandon McGee in the secondary. They’ll anchor the pass defense behind returning linebackers Denzel Perryman, who finished second on the team in tackles last season as a freshman, and junior James Gaines. They’ll look to bring along senior Ramon Buchanan, who started four games last season, as the third linebacker in the Canes defense.
The biggest issue facing Miami’s defense is the inexperience of their defensive line. They lost four contributors from last season and will turn to a very inexperienced corps, including Shayon Green and Curtis Porter on the left side, who had a combined six game appearances (zero starts) last season. The Canes will lean on their returning duo of Anthony Chickillo and Darius Smith, who combined for six sacks last season and 59 tackles, to create havoc along the defensive line.
The Canes start the season out with a string of tough tests that will stretch the youth of this club. They open the season with a conference road game against Boston College September 1, and then head on the road to take on Kansas State. They get their first (and only) cupcake game with a home opener against Bethune Cookman September 15. The Canes finish the month with a road trip to Atlanta to face Georgia Tech before returning home against NC State.
Starting with the game against the Wolfpack, the Canes do enjoy five straight home games, where they’ll get some of their tougher tests in Notre Dame, Florida State, and Virginia Tech. They wrap up the season with road games against Virginia and Duke sandwiched around senior day against USF.
The schedule for Miami is incredibly front-loaded in 2012, and they will need to find some consistent contributors immediately if they hope to keep pace in the conference. We’ll likely know the ACC fate of the Hurricanes by their November 1 showdown against the Hokies, and it will probably look similar to last years. Six to seven wins will be the ceiling for Miami in 2012, but Al Golden should be happy just to avoid taking a step back with a very inexperienced group.
You can follow me on Twitter @Teeblerone and Rant Sports @RantSports