With the 2012-2013 college football season officially in the book, fellow featured columnist, David Kenyon and I decided to do a questions and answers piece on each other regarding the state of the Hurricanes football program.
Kenyon has been a featured columnist for Miami Hurricanes football for a few months and understands the state of The U like the back of his hand.
1. Who do you think is the most important recruit that the Miami Hurricanes must land this upcoming season?
I think there are two different ways to look at this question. As a statement, the Canes must snag 5-star linebacker Matthew Thomas. It's vital to show schools across the nation that coming into our backyard and taking top recruits will not be easy anymore. Immediate impact-wise, I think it may be Beau Sandland. I know you've discussed how Clive Walford came on strong late in 2012, but Sandland has a higher ceiling and could be the starter right away—especially because he's already on campus
2. How would you grade the job head coach Al Golden has done since coming to Miami?
A-. Maybe I sound like a homer, but how much can you argue with what Golden has done? He took a "house divided" team in 2011 to a 6-6 record. But then, with his first complete recruiting class seeing significant playing time, Miami wins the Coastal Division last year. I think the only thing holding him back from a higher grade right now is the defense.
3. What sanctions do you think the Miami Hurricanes will receive from the Nevin Shapiro scandal?
This is an amazingly difficult question because of how little we know as fact, so let's cover what they have given up already. Eight players served suspensions and payed back benefits in 2011 and ultimately three postseason bans. Now, supposedly the NCAA works on a case-by-case basis, but Penn State received a four-year ban for that atrocity. I cautiously predict no more postseason bans, but scholarship reductions for sure—maybe 18-24 depending on the findings.
4. What freshman from last season will have the biggest impact for the 2013 Hurricanes?
Excluding Duke Johnson, I think Deon Bush will be a man amongst boys. The defense must improve dramatically, and Bush is a game-changing type of player. We saw how much Miami missed him in the painful loss to Virginia. Another name to watch is linebacker Raphael Kirby. Coaches have been raving about Kirby since he was an early-enrollee last year.
5. What do you believe the real problem was on defense for the Hurricanes last season?
Defensive line. Whether or not Mark D'Onofrio needs a better scheme or not is another question, but he wasn't out on the field. There was absolutely no push from the defensive line seemingly ever. Opposing quarterbacks had all of next week to throw the ball and Miami's secondary couldn't cover players for an extended period of time.
6. Do you think Mark D'Onofrio should be the defensive coordinator in 2013?
Tough question. Tough, tough, tough. But if there's one thing Golden shows, it's that he believes in every player, coach and staff member. I'm pretty sure if the waterboy fell down, Golden would go pick him up and say he still believes in him. That said, would I have kept him? Probably not. With every player having one more year in the system, we'll see what happens in 2013
7. What position has the greatest depth on defense?
Conditional answer. I don't know whether Devante Bond and Al-Quadin Muhammad will play defensive line or outside linebacker. If they play on the line, Miami has Anthony Chickillo, Shayon Green, Tyriq McCord, Bond and Muhammad. If the two play OLB, they join Denzel Perryman, Eddie Johnson and a slew of experienced backups.
8. What position has the least depth on defense?
Without a doubt, defensive tackle. The Canes may have eight players, but none have been anywhere close to "too much to handle." Like I said earlier, there was simply zero pass rush and the tackles need to demand double teams. Key recruits Keith Bryant and Jaynard Bostwick could change that, though.
9. Who will be the Canes' 2013 MVP?
Who is your favorite current Hurricane?
Stephen Morris. From his first appearance as a freshman when his redshirt was burnt against Virginia, I've wanted Morris to be the starter. He was finally given the chance to take the reins in 2012, and in my opinion, he shined especially because of only seven interceptions. Just imagine if his receivers wouldn't have kept dropping the ball, too. I think Morris will throw for at least 3,700 yards and 25-30 touchdowns.
10. Who is your favorite Cane on the current roster and why?
I feel like it's a generic answer by now, but Duke Johnson. He's what a Miami Hurricane is supposed to be. Duke committed to Miami exactly 500 days before he could sign a Letter of Intent. He wants to bring back his hometown team to greatness. Duke was probably one of the biggest recruiters for the Canes as a high school senior. Have we mentioned that he was an All-American as a true freshman? Yikes. This kid is special.