Today, University of Miami football players reported to the first official day of fall camp, and if coach Randy Shannon wants to motivate his team out of the gate, he has plenty of bulletin board material.
The USA Today Coaches poll incidentally also came out today. It has four ACC teams listed in the top 25 and none of them are Miami. Virginia Tech is ranked highest at seventh with Georgia Tech 15th, Florida State 19th, and North Carolina 20th.
Miami will see all these teams except for the Tar Heels in the early part of their season, plus fourth ranked Oklahoma.
It's fair to say that every year the Hurricanes don't begin the season ranked is grating time. It's not to say that the 'Canes deserved it this time around; I only point it out because it serves as a reminder of what used to be and what in the minds of many Miami fans should be.
In addition, the Hurricanes are being picked to finish fourth in the ACC. For a team that went 7-6 in 2008 made up mostly of freshmen and sophomores, I think the "experts" are underestimating the Hurricanes.
As camp begins, the early highlights include the team returning six starters on offense and six on defense; one of which was named to the ACC Preseason Football Team: senior tackle Jason Fox. Also receiving the honor of being selected is junior kicker Matt Bosher.
The Hurricanes also have a plethora of players returning from serious injuries that ended their seasons prematurely. Two players that should be watched closely in camp (as they're both seniors and fire up a young squad) are safety Randy Phillips and tight end Dedrick Epps.
Several sports media pundits have already pegged this season as a crucial one, not just for the Miami program, but also for coach Shannon. He's 12-13 in his first two years as head coach, and some are speculating that if there isn't a dramatic turnaround this fall, he won't reach the end of his four year contract.
Of course, as any good athletic director would do, Kirby Hocutt deflected these rumors by saying he believes in the direction that Shannon is taking the program.
If he is to have said success, it seems to be contingent on his new coordinators.
Mark Whipple comes in for Patrick Nix on the offensive side of the ball and John Lovett replaces Bill Young on the defensive side. Both are imposing their wills early, with Whipple featuring more of a pro-style offense and Lovett returning the defense to the basics.
This seems like the right approach, especially for the defense, which was dismal in terms of making fundamental tackles last season.
The Hurricanes will hold OTAs on Friday and then have their first helmets and shorts practices on Saturday on Cobb Field for the benefit of Canefest. Thereafter, they'll move on to their regular practice home, Greentree Practice Fields, for the remainder of the fall camp.
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