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Miami Football: 5 Biggest Early Season Storylines for the Hurricanes

David KenyonFeatured Columnist IVJune 19, 2016

Miami Football: 5 Biggest Early Season Storylines for the Hurricanes

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    The Miami Hurricanes have earned consecutive wins to begin the 2013 season at 2-0, and storylines are everywhere to be seen on head coach Al Golden's squad.

    Miami's offense was supposed to be the driving force of the team, but so far the unit hasn't quite lived up to expectations. In addition, changes in the coaching staff have certainly affected the 'Canes to this point.

    College football doesn't technically have a free agency market, but a certain loophole is supplying this team with some extra firepower too.

    After defeating in-state rival Florida last Saturday, Miami has a bye week before a chance to create some more storylines against FCS bottom feeder Savannah State on Sept. 21 at Sun Life Stadium.

James Coley Learning the Play-Calling Ropes

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    New offensive coordinator James Coley never called plays at his former gig, Florida State, and it has been apparent over the first two games.

    For example, the Gators were leaving space for quick passes, but the 'Canes continued unsuccessfully using play action and deeper routes.

    But Coley deserves a few games to get acclimated with the real-time pace and flow as a play-calling offensive coordinator, so it's definitely not fair to throw him under the bus for a few questionable decisions over two games.

    To his credit, Coley took care of game planning while at FSU, so he is very familiar with an opponent's tendencies early in the game, and that has also shown (in a good way) as Miami has scored 34 first-half points in two weeks.

    Coley will improve his in-game adjustments, and the Hurricanes' offense, similarly, will see a spark in its production.

Transfers Are Producing for Miami

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    Sure, it's technically not "free agency," but there is an NCAA rule that allows a student-athlete who has finished his undergraduate degree to enroll at a different university for graduate school.

    It was made famous by former NC State and Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson, and the bylaw is certainly helping the 'Canes in 2013.

    As noted by Susan Miller Degnan of The Miami Herald, new defensive linemen David Gilbert (Wisconsin) and Justin Renfrow (Virginia) earned their respective degrees and joined the 'Canes this offseason. Renfrow has tallied four tackles, and Gilbert was credited with one-half sack and a fumble recovery against Florida Atlantic.

    Punter Pat O'Donnell (Cincinnati) is another "free agent" transfer, and he has been outstanding for Miami, averaging 47.6 yards per punt with a long of 60 yards and handling kickoff duties.

    The Hurricanes needed some more production from the defensive line, and they are getting a boost from the veterans Gilbert and Renfrow. Dalton Botts graduated, and Miami was preparing for an entirely new punter, but O'Donnell has stepped up.

UTough Really, Really Works

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    Games are either won or lost in the fourth quarter.

    In the past, the Hurricanes have been gasping for air during the final period, but Miami has collectively been fresh for the entirety of both games this season.

    Al Golden runs a grueling offseason program aptly named "UTough," and it is not for the physically or mentally weak.

    Florida's offense won the time of possession battle 38:20–21:40, but the 'Canes defense showed few signs of being physically beaten despite the Gators' run-heavy attack.

    If Miami remains in top physical condition as a team throughout the season, the squad can pull out a few victories late in the game and compete for an ACC championship.

Denzel Perryman Is Emerging as a Star

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    In 2011, Denzel Perryman was named to the Freshman All-America team after the true frosh registered 69 tackles, one sack and forced two fumbles.

    While he was very productive while on the field as a sophomore, Perryman missed three games and started just six.

    But if there were any questions about his ability to perform in big games, the junior silenced his critics on Saturday. Perryman racked up 13 tackles, forced a fumble and registered a quarterback hit against the Gators.

    Add that to his six tackles and two pass break-ups against FAU—one of which should have been a pick-six, but woulda', coulda', shoulda'—and Perryman is the 'Canes defensive MVP right now.

Where Did This Defense Come From?

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    Throughout the offseason, many Miami defenders told reporters they believed the 'Canes immensely improved on that side of the ball.

    Skepticism was abundant—and for good reason. Miami had a historically bad 2012 campaign, so fans wanted to see proof before buying into the talk.

    Saturday's matchup against the Gators absolutely showed the defense, in fact, has made some positive changes.

    The Hurricanes allowed 412 yards to Florida but forced six turnovers. For perspective, Miami's defense forced 22 turnovers all of last season, including just three against ranked opponents.

    It's not anywhere near time to include the defense with the nation's elite units, but it just had one fantastic performance.

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