The Miami Hurricanes football program hopes to know what will come of the NCAA's investigation into their compliance practices (Heather Dinich of ESPN) before the start of the season.
As anticipation builds for the annual spring game, the uncertainty somewhat dulls the excitement.
The probe has been hanging over the program like a black cloud for two years. There is no doubt it has affected recruiting and quite possibly the play of the players already on the team.
Head coach Al Golden deserves recognition for leading two teams to bowl-eligible seasons under these circumstances.
His teams didn't get an opportunity to play in the postseason due to the school's self-imposed bans from bowl games.
With a solid group returning in 2013, there is much to be excited about at the spring game this Saturday.
Many hope this is the year the Hurricanes can get the program back in the news for more than the developments of the probe.
Here's how you can catch the annual preseason tradition
When: Saturday, April 13, 3 p.m. ET
Where: Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla.
Television: ESPN 3
Position Battle to Watch: Linebacker
Alex Figueroa is a 6'3", 231-pound freshman that just enrolled at the school in January, but he is already projected as the starter by Rivals.com.
He is an exceptional athlete, but sophomore Tyriq McCord won't give up the spot without a fight.
McCord played as a backup defensive end in 2012, but he has the speed to switch to linebacker. Speed is the exact reason many are high on Figueroa.
Take a look at some clips of him from high school:
He played on both sides of the ball at Brooke Point High School in Stafford, Va. He proved himself to be a playmaker in every situation, but most of his upside is as a linebacker.
McCord did play in 12 games last season, so his experience level gives him some hope. But Figueroa has the look of a kid that will be very hard to keep off the field.
Area in Need of Most Improvement: Defensive Line
The Hurricanes were dead last in the ACC in rushing and passing defense last year. The issues start up front and that has to be Golden's primary focus during the spring.
Miami will start four upperclassmen, led by 2012 All-ACC honorable mention Anthony Chickillo and the team's defensive MVP Shayon Green.
None of the four players projected to start are especially accomplished. Between Chickillo, Green, Olsen Pierre and Curtis Porter, they had a total of 5.5 sacks in 2012.
Chickillo had four of those.
Coach Golden has to be hoping he sees this group mature by leaps and bounds in 2013. Watching how they fare against QB Stephen Morris and the offense will be some indication.
The unit will continue to lean on Chickillo's talent and leadership. Per Michael Casagrande of the Sun-Sentinel, Chickillo added strength and is getting serious about the mental aspect of the game.
He told Casagrande he is now bench pressing 225 pounds 29 times (up from 26). He can squat 500 pounds and power clean 340.
He has also put in work watching film to be more prepared for different blocking schemes.
Per Casagrande, Chickillo said, "I feel like I have counters to all my moves now. I'm feeling good out here. I really am."
The Canes will need him at his best if they hope to improve from 2012.
If the Canes don't have a postseason ban, what is their ceiling for 2013?
What to Expect in 2013
As the team comes out of the haze cast by the allegations, they will continue to improve. Offensively, they will be solid, led by Morris, who is an emerging talent and a leader.
He threw 21 touchdown passes and only seven interceptions as a junior. He'll be looking to build on those numbers this year.
The key to the ceiling for this team is its defense.
If one of the defensive linemen can assert himself as a legitimate threat to get to the quarterback, this defense can be a lot better than they were last season.
Even with moderate improvement, they could contend for a conference championship.
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