Miami Hurricanes Looking to Sure Up Secondary, Offensive Line

Lowell BrowningContributor IMarch 30, 2009

University of Miami football coach Randy Shannon thinks his Hurricanes can turn things around this season after a 7-6 year. But several things have to fall into place.

"We will have to see,"said Shannon,entering his third season as the 'Canes coach. "I don't know if we are experienced enough or tough enough."

One reflection as to why Miami finished 7-6 last season was,in sum, a lack of talent. For the first time in the last 16 years the Hurricanes the Hurricanes will not have a player selected in the first round of the upcoming NFL draft.

And, while the Hurricane supporters have a genuine liking for their coach, he understands too that Miami football has not been up to the elete standards they once held.

The quarterback situation and a blethera of running backs appear as team strengths. Jacory Harris has taken over the quarterback spot after splitting time last season with now transferred Robert Marve.

A year ago the rising sophomore signal caller did play in 13 games and threw for 1195 yards while completing 60 percent of his passes. Freshman Taylor Cook has won the back-up job,while classmate Cannon Smith is listed at No. 3.

"He looks real improved," Shannon said. "And he's become the leader for us that we've looked for."

Javarris James (4.2 ypc) and Griag Cooper (841 yards,4.9 yards per carry) were the workhorses of last season and they both return but will have to compete with sophomore Damien Berry and Mike James. Berry ran for 114 yards on 14 carries during the Hurricanes' spring game and he is listed as the third team RB. 

Lamar Miller will report in the fall, too. Miller ran for 17.48 yards and scored 22 touchdowns at Miami-Killian. In the fall, Lee Chambers,who had a great game vs Cal in last season's bowl game, will also join the frey in the candidate pool.

"We have put in new offenses and defenses," added Shannon, mentioning new offensive coordinator Mark Whipple and new Miami defensive coordinator John Lovett. "We have all been doing alot of learning. I'm pretty pleased with where we are right now."

The Hurricanes wideout and slot positions were extremely unique in that the leading UM receiver totaled 332 yards. But, the good news is there is help on the way AND the 'Canes did have TEN ball-catcher that averaged 10+ yards per catch.

Aldarius Johnson had 332 yards and a 10.7 ypc,while Thearon Collier grabbed 26 passes and averaged 12.5 per grab. Deddrick Epps, a solid blocker at his TE spot, averaged 16.3 per catch.

Tommy Street, a 6'5" freshmen who gives UM a true high-jumping,deep-running Wideout and Kendall Thompkins,who is a trademark wideout following many of the greats at Miami Northwestern High School, will bolster a group that is already strong.

Brandon McGee, the 10th ranked defensive back in high school football last season,joins a group(secondary) that must live up to their potential. In fact the four interceptions that the 'Canes came up with last year, tied a school "record."

Shannon expects Vaughn Telemaque,a redshirt freshmen, to play a huge part in the return to toughness that Miami football had a reputation for in the past. He will battle with senior Randy Phillips but expect both to play together in most every-down play situations.

Wesley McGriff is the 'Canes defensive back coach and thinks Telemaque is one of the most gifted athletes he has seen. "He's a natural football player," quipped McGriff. "I stay on him to study(film) more but he is a smart player. And, he is what we need. He's a play maker."

Ray Ray Armstrong, according to ESPN, is the best recruit that Miami has signed this season.Armstrong,a jumbo athlete, was ranked by Rivals and ESPN as the No. 1 athlete in the nation and the second-best best overall player in the Sunshine State.

The Hurricanes' offensive line brings lots of question marks. The unit will have to replace three starters. Returning left tackle Jason Fox is a standout junior who'll likely anchor the unit.

Two freshmen have signed with Miami, via prep school route,and they both are Miami kids who offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland hopes will have a big and immediate impact. Jermaine Johnson, from Hargrave Military and Jarred Wheeling, from American Heritage will compete, along with Fox, Joel Figuera, Harland Gunn, guard Brandon Washington, and Ben Jones.

"I like the way our first unit is looking," said Stoutland. "I want to develop nine offensive linemen that I can trust. In time these guys will be very good."

Curtis Porter, a freshman from Victory Christian High School(NC),the 19th best defensive player according to ESPN, joins the UM F line group. Fellow freshmen Luther Robinson and Oliver Vernon, a pair of four-star kids also will come in looking to bolster the Miami defensive line.

Eric Moncur and and Marcus Robinson are listed as the DT's and defensive ends in Miami's 4-3 set are Allen Bailey and Joe Joesph.

Moncur is a 6'2", 250 lb standout who has proven to be the No. 10 ranked linemen his senior year at Miami Carroll.

The Hurricanes will jump into the meat of their schedule right off the bat! MU plays at Florida State, home vs Georgia Tech, at Virginia Tech, and then back at home vs Oklahoma.

"We will know pretty fast how good we are," concluded coach Shannon.