What's that I hear? Football season is back?!
OK, maybe not the regular season, but practices, scrimmages and the spring game are closing in quickly.
Fresh off a share of the Coastal Division title, the Miami Hurricanes will officially begin workouts at the GreenTree Practice Fields on March 2.
A staggering 20 starters return from the 2012 team that finished 7-5 overall and 5-3 in the Atlantic Coast Conference. The Miami Herald points out head coach Al Golden lost only ten members of last season's 2-deep roster.
The Canes will have six practices before a scrimmage at Miami-area's Traz-Powell Stadium on Saturday, March 23 at 10 a.m. ET.
Golden will then hold four more workouts before a second scrimmage at Naples High School on Friday, April 5 at 7 p.m. ET.
The two scrimmages lead up to the annual spring game in mid-April.
Spring Practice Start: Saturday, March 2, at GreenTree Practice Fields
Spring Game Date: Saturday, April 13
Location: Sun Life Stadium, Miami, Fla. at 3 p.m. ET
Position Battle to Watch: Outside Linebacker
The Hurricanes are internally searching for a playmaker at defensive tackle, but another position may bring the most interesting battle.
Junior Denzel Perryman is a favorite to land one outside position, while Tyrone Cornelius and Thurston Armbrister are the most experienced players behind Perryman.
Sophomores Raphael Kirby and Gabriel Terry should also provide fierce competition, and if you're looking for a wild card, take a look at redshirt freshman JaWand Blue.
It's not a position lacking in depth, but the aforementioned outside linebackers have a chance to earn a spot over the 15 spring dates.
Area in Need of Most Improvement: Defensive Tackle
Which of these defensive tackles will step up in 2013?
Simply put, um, duh.
The Canes defense ranked well below average in many major statistical categories.
Miami managed a mere 13 sacks (114th in the nation), allowed 486 yards per game (116th) and surrendered 30.5 points per game (84th).
The absence of a pass rush haunted the Canes repeatedly, as they gave up 32-plus points in eight of 12 games. Opposing teams also converted on 42 percent of third downs in 2012, too.
According to the school's official site, Miami enters the spring season with 17 defensive linemen.
Someone can and will step up...right?
What to Expect in 2013
A National Championship, darn it! It's been 12 whole years!
Now that the homer-to-the-max quote has escaped my brain, let's set some realistic expectations for the Canes in 2013.
An ACC Championship, darn it! It's been nine whole years!
Miami keeps 32 of 42 players from the 2-deep roster for the 2013 season and the 20 starters—remember, too, sophomore sensation Duke Johnson is not included in the starting group.
The offensive line should remain intact to protect senior quarterback Stephen Morris, who ended 2012 on a sizzling streak. Surrounding Morris is an extremely deep and talented arsenal of weapons at wide receiver and tight end.
Additionally, 2013 recruits Stacy Coley, Beau Sandland, Cornelius Elder and Derrick Griffin could jump a few spots on the depth chart and contribute immediately.
Defensively speaking, they probably can't get too much worse than what 2012 was.
Anthony Chickillo and Shayon Green will anchor the defensive line with a strong group of linebackers, including senior MLB Jimmy Gaines behind them.
Sophomores Tracy Howard and Deon Bush, along with junior Ladarius Gunter, will roam the secondary for the Canes and defensive coordinator, Mark D'Onofrio.
Regardless, be prepared for some shootouts, because the powerful and high-octane Hurricanes offense could light up the scoreboard.
Miami does have a very favorable schedule, with nine contests in the state of Florida and avoiding the likes of North Carolina State and Clemson in non-division games.
The most difficult games I anticipate are against Florida, at North Carolina on a Thursday night and against Florida State in Tallahassee. Don't sleep on the Friday night game in Pittsburgh either.
This all said, a 9-3 or 10-2 regular season and a trip to the ACCCG is what I expect from the Canes. If the Hurricanes do in fact make it to the ACCCG, expect either Clemson or Florida State to be the opponent.
So my fellow fans, be encouraged that Miami is on the rise, but don't expect a surge to the national title quite yet.
Note: Statistics courtesy of NCAA.com