The season officially came to a close for the Miami Hurricanes after Saturday's thrilling 52-45 victory over the Duke Blue Devils.
Miami finished the season at 7-5 and 5-3 in the ACC. The Hurricanes would be playing in the ACC Championship game this Saturday, but the ACC will not allow a team who self-imposes a bowl ban—which the Hurricanes did—play in the championship game.
Georgia Tech will be Miami's replacement in the title game against Florida State.
Overall, the 2012 season for the Hurricanes was filled with lows and highs. The offense was much-improved from the previous year, while the defense struggled all season long.
Here is my report card for each position.
There were a lot of question marks heading into the season for the Hurricanes and most of the concern was regarding quarterback Stephen Morris.
Before this season started, Morris struggled with accuracy, having thrown more interceptions (11) than touchdowns (7) over the past two seasons.
He not only had a good season, but rewrote the school's record books in the process.
Morris finished with 3,345 yards passing, 21 passing touchdowns, seven interceptions and a rushing touchdown.
He is now the Hurricanes' all-time leader in total offense with 3,415 yards. His 3,345 yards passing is the fifth most in school history, while his 421 attempts and 245 completions are first and second, respectively.
Morris also broke the ACC record for most passing yards in the game against North Carolina State, when he threw for 566. Overall, Morris finished with three games where he had 400-plus passing yards.
Final Grade: A
Much like Stephen Morris, running back Duke Johnson decided to add his name to the school's record books as well.
Duke finished the season with 957 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns. He also caught 27 passes for 221 yards and another score. He ended his freshman campaign with 2,070 all-purpose yards—second-most in school history.
His rushing yards (957), kick return yards (892) and all-purpose yards (2,070) are the most ever by a Hurricane freshman. In fact, his return yards are the most in school history.
Finally, his 13 touchdowns on the season landed him fifth in program history.
Earlier this week, Duke was awarded his fifth ACC Rookie of the Week award, a spot on the second-team All-ACC team for running back and kick returner, won the ACC Offensive Rookie of Year award, and the overall Rookie of the Year in the ACC.
Mike James was primarily the starter on the team and finished his senior season with 621 yards and six rushing touchdowns. James also caught 30 passes for 344 yards and three touchdowns.
Final Grade: A+
The Hurricanes wide receivers were a roller coaster ride this season. The entire unit would have amazing games and then completely drop the ball, literally, the very next game.
If they would have stayed consistent throughout the season, Miami may have won another game or two.
Overall though, considering the lack of experience, they played pretty well.
Phillip Dorsett was the most impressive, catching 58 passes for 842 yards and four touchdowns. He had a couple games in which he dropped a few balls, but was definitely the go-to receiver throughout the year.
Rashawn Scott was second on the team in receptions and yards with 35 receptions for 512 yards and three scores. Scott would have had better numbers, but missed the last two games of the season for breaking team rules.
The rest of the receiving corp had a pretty good season. Overall, five receivers caught over 10 passes and had over 200 yard's.
I would have given this unit a higher score, but there were far too many drops throughout the season...
Final Grade: B-
The pro-style offense generally works best when the team gets the tight end involved. The problem with Miami is the Hurricanes never had a real legitimate tight end since Jimmy Graham.
That changed this season.
Tight end Clive Walford finished this season with 25 catches for 451 yards (both third highest on the team) and four touchdowns.
Walfords 451 yards is the most amount of yards by a tight end since Greg Olsen had 489 in 2006.
The backup tight ends didn't play very well, as Dyron Dye and Asante Cleveland combined for just six catches for 60 yards.
Final Grade: B+
Much like the receivers, the offensive linemen played up and down all season, but they did play better than I expected them to.
There was a lot of youth on this year's offensive line and it showed throughout the season with penalties and mistakes. Overall the line allowed 18 sacks and 55 tackles for a loss.
The bright side of this line is there are no seniors and all of them should be coming back next season.
Final Grade: B-
What I would like to do to this slide is just leave it blank with a poor grade, but for the 12th time this year I will tell you how bad the Hurricanes defense line was this season.
All I have to give you is the stats.
Currently, the Hurricanes are ranked No. 116 (out of 120 teams) in total defense, giving up 486 yards per game. The rushing defense is giving up 218 yards per game, No. 113 ranked in the country.
The defensive line has a total of 11 sacks on the year. To put that in perspective, there are 13 players that have 11 or more on the season.
The defensive line had just 22.5 tackles for a loss—defensive end Jadeveon Clowney from South Carolina had 21.5 by himself.
And there is much more than just stats. The defensive line didn't put any pressure on the quarterbacks which allowed the pass defense to suffer as well.
The defensive line was the sole reason why the Hurricanes ended the season with five losses.
Final Grade: F
Heading into this season I honestly thought the linebackers would be the strongest position on the field. Ramon Buchanan was coming back from an injury, Jimmy Gaines was finally going to shine and Denzel Perryman was going to continue to dominate from his freshman season a year ago.
Nothing turned out as planned.
Ramon Buchanan lasted two games before his injury cut his season short, while Perryman struggled with injuries all season long.
What that meant for the unit was youth and inexperience would need to be the savior. At times, it almost looked like it was going to work.
Freshman Eddie Johnson was huge for the Hurricanes, finishing the season with 59 tackles (fourth on the team), 7.5 tackles for loss (first), one sack, three forced fumbles and one interception in 10 games. The problem was he missed those two games because of the inability to follow team rules.
Luckily for Miami, another young player stepped up in Gionni Paul. Paul saw action in just nine games, yet finished with 61 tackles (third on the team) and 3.5 tackles for a loss. Paul was impressive when he was on the field and should vastly improve next season.
Overall, the linebackers struggled in coverage and missed far too many tackles throughout the season.
Final Grade: C-
The defensive backs are probably the hardest to grade just because there are far too many factors to look at when grading them.
The defensive scheme they played was completely horrible, and the defensive line gave way too much time for receivers to get open.
That being said, the defensive backs still struggled in coverage. It really didn't matter who was back in coverage because they would be 10 yards away from the receivers.
There were only two players that stuck out in the entire backfield.
The first was Brandon McGee, who finished the season tied for the team lead in interceptions (two) and led the team with seven pass breakups. He played very well throughout the season as many teams were even reluctant to throw his way.
The other one was true freshman safety Deon Bush. If it weren't for the spectacular season by Duke Johnson, I may have given the award to Bush.
Bush never had eye-popping numbers but he was one of the only players on the field that could make a tackle. Bush is a tremendous athlete that hits like a truck and will be a superstar at Miami—I guarantee it.
Overall the defensive backs struggled in coverage and besides Bush, the rest of the unit seemed afraid to tackle.
Final Grade: D
When you have Duke Johnson returning kicks at a clip of 33 yards per return, it's hard to give a bad grade to the special teams.
Johnson finished ranked No. 4 in the country in kick-off returns and is the all-time Miami leader in most returns yards in a season with 892. He would also finish with two returns for a touchdown.
The kick return defense was also terrific, allowing just 18 yards per return—ninth best in the country.
Although the punt return defense never allowed a touchdown, they still gave up 10.6 (No. 99 in the country) yards per return.
The kicking and punting game was just average.
Punter Dalton Botts—preseason All-ACC member—averaged just 40.5 yards per punt. In 2011, Botts average 42.7 yards per punt.
Kicker Jake Wieclaw started the season pretty solid but had a stretch during the season where he would miss 5-of-6 field goals. He redeemed himself during the last three games where he would make all 11 attempts.
Wieclaw finished the season connecting on 19-of-25 attempts and making all 42 points after touchdowns.
I wanted to give a better grade to the special teams, but Wieclaw's rough middle part of the season cost the Hurricanes a chance to win one or two more games.
Final Grade: B+
Before I get into all the negative things about the coaching staff, I first want to say how happy I am with head coach Al Golden.
Golden continued to show support for his team while also being able to recruit some pretty spectacular athletes for the future—even with NCAA sanctions looming.
What will make Golden even more special is if he starts to think about replacing some of his coaching staff.
Yes, that includes defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio.
I don't mean to sound like a hater, but I really don't care how young the Hurricanes are. There is no excuse for Miami to have one of the worst defenses in the country—not with the amount of talent Miami recruits.
Like I have been saying all season, I can completely understand if the Hurricanes were playing in the Pac-12 or Big 12 Conferences and the defense struggled against those great offenses. But Miami struggled against horrible ACC teams.
I gave D'Onofrio the benefit of the doubt halfway through the season, but he never made the team better. The 2011 season wasn't much better and D'Onofrio being around for a third season would just be a huge mistake.
Offensively, the Hurricanes show promise. At times offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch called some questionable plays, but he finally started to trust his great offensive athletes with making plays.
Overall though, the defense alone made this team 7-5. I honestly believe with a different defensive coordinator, like Randy Shannon, the Hurricanes could have been 10-2.
Final Grade: D+
In the preseason, I had picked Miami to go 7-5 and that is exactly what they went. I also predicted that the Hurricanes had a legitimate chance to win the Coastal and play in the ACC Championship.
Technically they still share the Coastal Championship, but are unable to go to the title game because the university decided to self-impose a ban on the postseason.
So what do I give a team that finished the season with a record of 7-5? How I ended up grading the Hurricanes was by comparing their wins and losses.
The combined records of the five teams that Miami lost to was 44-15—eight of those losses were from Virginia.
The Hurricanes lost by a combined five points against Virginia and North Carolina, but lost by a combined 77 points against Notre Dame and Kansas State.
When you look at who Miami beat, it just wasn't all that impressive. The combined records of the Hurricanes' six victories (not including FCS Bethune-Cookman) was 29-41.
The only two teams that the Hurricanes handily defeated were FCS schools, Bethune-Cookman and a South Florida team that finished with a 3-8 record.
The other five victories were won by a combined 46 points—9.2 points per game. Again, this comes down to having one of the worst defenses in the entire country.
The offense was good, the defense was ridiculously bad.
Final Grade: C-