2010 is a do or die year for Randy Shannon and the Miami Hurricanes. Shannon’s first recruiting class are all now juniors or redshirt sophomores. So the excuse that the Canes are too young won’t fly any more.
The Canes enter this season with high expectations and have their fans dreaming of winning a sixth National Championship. Or at the very least playing in the ACC Championship game.
But the road will not be easy for the Canes.
There are several key players to Miami’s success in the 2010 season. We will take a look at who are the 10 Most Important Miami Hurricanes in 2010. Let’s begin.
Marcus Forston came out of high school as the No. 7 recruit in the nation according to Rivals.com.
Forston recorded 18 tackles (13 sole, five assisted), 4.5 tackles for loss and three sacks his freshman year, and was named first team freshman All-American by CollegeFootballNews.com, Football Writer’s Association and Rivals.com.
Forston only played in three games his sophomore year because of injury, and earned a medical redshirt.
The comparisons between former Miami Hurricanes great Warren Sapp and Forston started the second Forston committed to the Canes. The talented redshirt sophomore needs to live up to the hype and become the dominant player Canes’ fans have been waiting for.
Even though Ray Ray Armstrong was only ranked the No. 13 (Rivals) recruit in the nation in 2009, Canes’ fans cried tears of joy when he announced his commitment to Miami.
Similar to the Forston and Sapp comparison, Armstrong has been proclaimed the second coming of the late Sean Taylor.
During his freshman year, Armstrong played well in 10 games accumulating 21 tackles. Canes’ fans were foaming at the mouth over his hit on DeMarco Murray.
Armstrong will likely start the season at safety alongside redshirt sophomore Vaughn Telemaque.
UM has a history of producing great safeties: Sean Taylor, Ed Reed, Antrel Rolle, Brandon Meriweather, and Kenny Phillips—Ray Ray Armstrong needs to start that path towards greatness in 2010.
In 2008 Sean Spence aka “King Cobra” had the best freshman season by a Miami Hurricane in recent memory.
Spence led the team with tackles-for-loss (9.5) and was the third leading tackler (65). He was named the ACC Defensive Player of the Year and went into the 2009 season with huge expectations.
He underachieved in 2009.
The undersized linebacker was constantly overpowered by larger players and was simply not making the plays he made as a freshman. He also battled through injuries the entire season and had to miss three games. In 2010 Spence will be looking to return to his freshman form.
Linebacker still remains a thin position for the Canes. With no one behind him on the depth chart with serious game time experience, Spence needs to stay healthy and be a stud on the field.
Spence is at his best when he is using his speed to get after the quarterback. The Canes have put a huge emphasis on getting after the quarterback this year. Miami needs King Cobra to stick his fangs in opposing quarterbacks in 2010.
Miami’s secondary in 2009 was bad, mainly because of the lack of depth at the position. After linebacker, defensive back is the next thinnest group for the Canes.
The one shinning jewel in the secondary was Brandon Harris. How good was he?
Harris was tied for second nationally in pass break-ups (15), was third nationally in passes defended (17), was the third leading tackler for the Canes (52), and was named one of 12 national semifinalists for the Jim Thorpe Award.
Harris will be going against every team’s number one receiver and needs to continue being a dominant shutdown corner.
The one thing Harris needs to add to his game, interceptions. Last season the Canes defense finished 87th nationally in passes intercepted with nine. Harris had two of them.
If Harris can turn just a few more of those deflected passes into interceptions, it will drastically improve the Canes chances of winning in 2010.
If this countdown were titled “The Top 10 Scariest Athletes for the Miami Hurricanes,” Allen Bailey would win in a landslide.
Allen Bailey is freak of nature. A 6’4” and 288 lb. defensive lineman should not have a 39 inch vertical, run a 4.5 40, and power-clean 375. NFL scouts have been drooling over Bailey since his sophomore year.
After switching from linebacker, to defensive end, to defensive tackle, Bailey seems to have found a home at defensive end (for now). Bailey led the Canes with seven sacks and will look to increase that number.
Last season the Canes only sacked opposing quarterbacks 24 times. That was the lowest number for a Canes defense in 12 years.
The Canes desperately need to get after opposing quarterbacks in 2010, and Allen Bailey needs to lead the charge.
One of the biggest surprises of 2009 for the Miami Hurricanes was the emergence of wide receiver Leonard Hankerson.
Up till last season, Hankerson’s career at UM could be summarized as disappointing. He had developed a tendency of dropping passes and appeared to have fallen out of favor with the coaches. But in 2009 all that changed.
Hankerson lead the team in receptions (45), yards receiving (801) and touchdowns (six). He emerged as the elite receiver in what was one of the most talented receiving corps in the nation.
Hankerson flirted with the idea of entering the NFL draft but decided to stay for his senior year. Boy, were Canes fans happy about that.
Miami has a very talent receiving corps but has been missing the one big-time player maker at the position. They now have that player in Leonard Hankerson.
Hankerson will be relied on heavily to make plays and be Jacory Harris go-to man. Canes fans hope he follows through in 2010.
Damien Berry was the other big surprise for the Canes in 2009.
Buried deep in the running back depth chart, Berry made his talent known during garbage minutes against Florida A&M when he rushed for 162 yards on 14 carries. After that performance, the coaching staff made sure that Berry got more carries.
He finished the season second on the team in rushing yards (616), first in yards per carry (6.6), and first in rushing touchdowns (eight).
The stats say that Berry lost 12 yards rushing in 2009 but I refuse to believe it. There was not one time when Berry did not move the pile and at least gain two yards.
Berry does not dance around in the backfield. When he sees the hole, he hits it at full speed and takes two or three defenders with him.
The Canes have had to rely on a committee of running backs the past few seasons. They won’t have that problem this year. If Mark Whipple wants to, Berry could have 25-20 carries a game and the Canes would be just fine. But that just won’t happen because of the depth at the running back position.
The senior Berry will be asked though to be the leader of the group and provide a solid ground attack to take pressure off Jacory Harris.
Mark Whipple’s pro-style offensive is all about balance. Damien Berry needs to be the ying to Jacory Harris’ yang.
The most important part of an offense is the quarterback. Right after him is the left tackle. Senior left tackle Orlando Franklin has one job this season—protect Jacory Harris’ blindside.
The big man is ready for the challenge. Franklin has been the starting left guard for the past two seasons and actually started at left tackle for Miami’s final two games last season.
The biggest question mark for Miami this year is the offensive line. The Canes have to replace three starters from last year’s offensive line, which only puts more pressure on the veteran Franklin.
Jacory Harris and his offensive weapons will only go as far as the offensive line allows them. If the line can mesh together and be dominant, the Canes will be able to score on anybody. If the line struggles, be prepared for a long season.
One of the most crucial positions for the Canes in 2010 is linebacker. And no linebacker is more vital to Canes’ success than Collin McCarthy.
The 2009 Canes linebacker corps at times looked like a bad JV high school football team. Games like Clemson and Wisconsin stick out in memory when the linebackers were burnt play after play by tight ends and running backs. If the Canes have any chance in competing in 2010, the linebackers need to improve.
McCarthy, a senior, needs to lead by example.
It is undecided where McCarthy will play. With the lack of experience at middle linebacker, McCarthy may be asked to move to the middle or he may remain at strong side where he has played for the past seasons.
Regardless of where he plays, McCarthy needs to be dominant. McCarthy was second on the team last year in tackles (95) but will likely be No. 1 in 2010.
McCarthy is the leader of the defense, which is without question the weaker of the two sides of the ball for the Canes. The defense and him must help take some of the pressure off the Canes offense to win every game in 2010.
Surprise! I bet you never saw this coming.
Jacory Harris is the heart and soul of this Miami Hurricanes football team. In 2009 Harris had one of the best seasons for a quarterback in Canes history.
Jacory was the first Cane quarterback to throw for over 3,000 yards in a season since Ken Dorsey did it in 2002. Harris threw for 24 touchdowns and was a semifinalist for the Davie O’Brien Quarterback Award. The one blemish on Jacory’s season?
Only one quarterback in Division One threw more interceptions that Jacory. That number has to cut in half in 2010 if the Canes are going to make a run at the ACC Title and National Championship.
Harris is entering his second year in offensive coordinator Mark Whipple’s offense and should improve. With most of the team’s personnel issues being on the defensive side of the ball, the 2010 Canes will likely have to put up big numbers on offense to win. And Jacory is the key.