Miami Hurricanes Football: 10 Storylines to Watch Develop in 2012

Stephen UrbaniakCorrespondent IAugust 30, 2012

Miami Hurricanes Football: 10 Storylines to Watch Develop in 2012

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    The 2012 college season is upon us, and Miami's first game up is against an ACC rival, the Boston College Eagles. Miami fell to the Eagles in last season's finale that sent the Class of 2008, ranked No. 1 in the country, out with a whimper.

    The Hurricanes have been dogged all offseason long by the constant questions, and Golden even remarked that he felt like Lieutenant Dan from the movie Forrest Gump.

    Was Sean Allen telling the truth about the added recruiting violations when Golden was hired? How hard is the NCAA going to hit the 'Canes in the aftermath of Nevin Shapiro?

    Miami has been a team rich in tradition and success. They have five national championships since 1983.  One screwed-up call by a Big Ten referee in double overtime of the 2002 national championship game from being back-to-back national champions. 

    UM has been graced with legends such as Jimmy Johnson, Dennis Erickson, Andre Johnson, Michael Irvin, Ray Lewis, Devin Hester and others who have provided meaning and juice to the biggest brand in college football.

    Here are the top 10 storylines for Miami Hurricanes football this season:

1. Hurricane Nevin

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    It's the hurricane that blew through Coral Gables in early 2010 and 2011. We call it Hurricane Nevin. A Yahoo! Sports report that was compiled and written by Charles Robinson implicated over 70 current and former Hurricanes' players and coaches.

    The man in the eye of the storm is the now disgraced and imprisoned Ponzi schemer Nevin Shapiro. He was a booster for the university until he was arrested and jailed for running the scam and defrauding investors out of over $900 million.

    Prostitutes, strip clubs, expensive dinners and everything else that the NCAA has tried to put a lid on. Shapiro provided that and more to players on a frequent basis, according to Robinson.

    The university has repaid the bankruptcy lawyer repaying Shapiro's victims over $120,000. The Canes did not participate in the bowl season and suspended all the current players involved for varying amounts of time last year in an effort to blunt the seemingly sharp edge of the sword that is the NCAA infractions committee.

    How hard will Miami be hit by the NCAA? No one knows; as far as we know the investigation is still ongoing.  How Miami performs this season with that cloud looming will tell the tale of their fortunes this year.

2. Sean Allen's Involvement

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    If the Nevin Shapiro scandal wasn't already enough, former equipment manager Sean Allen added to the misery that is going on in Coral Gables, Fla., by being the subject of a Yahoo! Sports report that fingered the coaching staff in additional recruiting violations.

    The report centered around the coaches using Sean Allen as a "recruiter outside NCAA rules."  He would be on visits with prospective UM recruits such as Elston Lane and A.J. Leggett, and two other Miami coaches, Aubrey Hill and Michael Barrow, were also named.

    No one knows for certain what really went on, so that in itself may be why it is taking the NCAA so long with their investigation. Phone records, financial records and testimonies from a lot of different parties muddy the landscape, so one could only speculate.      

3. How Will Miami Replace Lost Starters on Offense and Defense?

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    Miami has lost quite a bit of talent from a year ago on both sides of the ball. The "vaunted" Class of 2008 went out with a whimper—no ACC or national championships, not even a division title.

    Jacory Harris, Lamar Miller, Travis Benjamin, Tommy Streeter, Sean Spence and JoJo Nicolas are just a few of the key names that will not be on the field when Miami opens at Boston College on Saturday.

    Stephen Morris, Mike James, Allen Hurns, Phillip Dorsett and a host of youngsters are aiming to fill the void for Miami as they start their quest to try to capture that elusive division championship and even the ACC title.

    Denzel Perryman looks to be the man in the middle of the defense, as he has some big shoes to fill in Sean Spence's old position, and he recently said he's ready to "make it nasty." 

    How the players stepping into starting positions perform will be key to Miami's fortunes.

4. Can Miami Finally Beat Virginia Tech and Be Relevant in the ACC?

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    Miami has been in the ACC since 2004, and they have always looked up at probably their biggest roadblock to conference success.

    The Virginia Tech Hokies. 

    Virginia Tech has time and again, beaten Miami when it mattered most. Back in 2009, Miami had been riding high. Having beaten ranked Florida State, Georgia Tech and Oklahoma teams, it rolled into Blacksburg, Va., ranked No. 8 in the country.

    The Hurricanes were back! Not so fast.

    They left Lane Stadium waterlogged and licking their wounds from a 31-7 pasting by the Hokies on a day that no one could catch the football.

    The Hokies have been the class of the ACC, as they have won four ACC titles since joining the league. Miami has to beat Virginia Tech in order to win the Coastal Division and be able to have a chance in order to compete for the ACC championship.

5. Could Miami and Florida State Meet in an ACC Championship Game Soon?

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    Wide Right. Wide Left. Jimbo's first win. Michael Irvin, Deion Sanders, Ray Lewis, Peter Boulware. Those are some of the moments that highlight Miami's rivalry with Florida State.

    When these two teams meet, it used to be where trips to the national championship game were at stake. Now, not so much, but if you ask the players and coaches, you wouldn't get that feeling.

    Records and statistics don't matter when these two dance. It's an old-fashioned street fight, full of bad blood and energy.

    When Miami came over to the ACC in 2004, it was widely believed that Miami and Florida State would meet for a thrilling ACC championship game. Miami hasn't even come close.  Florida State was ranked No. 5 in the nation last year before swooning to finish behind Clemson and out of the chase altogether.

    In order for these two to meet in the ACC title game, Miami has to beat Virginia Tech in order to get to the Coastal Division title and hope that Florida State can get through the surprisingly tough Clemson Tigers to win the Atlantic Division.

    If these two meet in the conference title game, expect fireworks as always. Whether that will be this season, no one knows and is anyone's guess.

6. Will He Stay or Will He Go?

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    Miami head coach Al Golden inherited a mess. His commitment to the program has often been called into doubt. The Nevin Shapiro scandal has left a lot of fans and experts alike wondering:

    If Miami is smacked by the NCAA, they lose scholarships and are hit with a bowl ban, would that make Al Golden reconsider signing that four-year extension, and would he bolt on the Hurricanes?

    He says no, but one has to wonder: If Miami is penalized scholarships, and Golden is put behind an 8-ball to continue bringing the 'Canes back to national prominence for a year or two, what would be going through his head?

    Would he stay through the tough times and lead the team the way Butch Davis did in the turn of the decade in 2000 to give way to the greatest team in Miami and college football history in 2001? 

    The answer to this question will undoubtedly be when Miami finally goes before the NCAA to learn of its fate.

7. How Does Stephen Morris Do in Place of the Departed Jacory Harris?

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    The new starting quarterback at "Quarterback U," Stephen Morris, will have every opportunity this season to make Miami fans forget about the sometimes-awful Jacory Harris, who has departed to the NFL.

    Morris shows the ability to make any throw anywhere on the field,and displays the ability to buy some time with his mobility to keep plays alive.

    He will have new targets in Allen Hurns and Phillip Dorsett as the guys he will look to keep defenses honest and open up running lanes for Mike James.

    He won the battle in spring practices over Ryan Williams, and he will have to show that he can manage the game effectively and limit the mistakes of his predecessor.

    Williams showed some ability, but Morris won the battle due partly to his starting experience filling in for the briefly suspended Harris a year ago.

8. Does Miami Win the ACC Coastal Division with All of the Distractions?

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    Miami has been picked to be near the middle of the ACC this year. 

    Here's an excerpt of how Stewart Mandel thinks the Hurricanes will fare this season:

    Talking about VT's chances to win 10 games again: "And I wouldn't worry about the schedule that much. Pitt isn't on Tech's level yet, and Miami, to be blunt, is going to flat out stink. Georgia Tech, Clemson, Florida State and possibly UNC will pose problems, but split those and voila, you've got your 10 wins.

    With all of the distractions, normally it's a circus from the opening of the schedule to the final gun of the season finale. 

    Miami has been through a rough year and a half, as they have had to deal with the Shapiro scandal, Sean Allen's part in the scandal, kicking players off the the team and forgoing bowl season among other things. How the team responds to adversity and still drive to be successful will be fun to watch.

    Miami has the talent to win the division, if Golden can keep the kids focused and playing football, not worrying about what could or might happen.

9. How Hard Does Miami Get Hit by the NCAA?

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    The face of the president of the NCAA, Mark Emmert, has been in the news for punishing Penn State in light of the Lion-sized scandal at at the university involving former coach Jerry Sandusky. 

    Penn State is on a four-year probation, must pay a $60 million "fine" for a program to help with prevention, detection and treatment for sexual assault victims and are on a four-year bowl ban. 

    Miami is a completely opposite situation. The school suspended the players named in the Shapiro report, it has paid money back to the bankruptcy lawyer and it has forgone one year of bowl season in the hopes of seeing a much lighter punishment from the NCAA Infractions Committee.

    How badly Miami gets punished is anyone's guess, as the investigation is still ongoing with no timetable to be offered at the present time.

    This will probably be the most watched and most asked question all season long.

10. Season Prediction

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    The Miami Hurricanes enter this season full of uncertainty. Questions include how will they replace lost starters on both sides of the ball and how will they respond if the NCAA comes down on them.

    Then comes the question about Al Golden's commitment. All of these things will prove to be a circus for the team.

    Golden made Temple into a winner as they were in the upper echelon of their conference for the first time in a while. Now in Coral Gables, with players such as Tracy Howard, Duke Johnson and others from a top-10 ranked recruiting class coming in, Miami should be able to be closer to making noise than people think.

    If they are fortunate not to be beset with a lot of injuries and they can beat Virginia Tech and Florida State, the Hurricanes could very well be looking at having the best chance of capturing that elusive division title and compete for the ACC championship that has evaded their grasp.

    Season prediction: 10-2; close losses at Virginia Tech and Florida State and proof that Miami can be successful, even in adverse times as Al Golden and his staff complete year two of their plan to put Miami back on the map.