2010 College Football Predictions: Miami Hurricanes
For those who bleed orange and green, swagger is back.
Head coach Randy Shannon enters the season with a contract extension. This year's juniors hail from his heralded 2007 recruiting class.
A tough schedule highlights the possibility of a return to greatness.
Youth is no longer an excuse, and high expectations have finally returned to Coral Gables and the University of Miami football program.
Will the Hurricanes finally win their first Atlantic Coast Conference championship and earn a BCS berth?
Can they upset Ohio State at the Horseshoe?
Here are 10 elements of UM's football team that must click in order for all that to become a reality.
Last season, Jacory Harris became the first University of Miami quarterback since Ken Dorsey in 2002 to pass for 3,000 yards despite tearing a ligament in his thumb that caused problems late in the year.
After missing spring practice while still recovering from that thumb, Harris is back on the field and says he will be ready for UM's opening game against Florida A&M on Sept. 2.
With both he and offensive coordinator Mark Whipple entering their second season together, things should run more smoothly for the unit.
Both have the fortune to work with great offensive weapons in the backfield and outside, but a question remains whether a young offensive line can protect the Popsicle-thin Harris?
If the Hurricanes want to join the more elite offenses in the country, Harris must cut his interceptions from 17 last season, good for second-most in college football, but surely his decision-making should have improved by watching tape and playing an entire season.
Senior Damien Berry will likely be the starter when the season kicks off in September.
He received playing time during his breakout game against Florida A&M, gaining 165 yards and a touchdown, and quickly became the offense's catalyst.
After besting the Rattlers, Berry went on to score for a team-best seven straight games.
Graig Cooper, who tore his ACL during the Champs Sports Bowl, might be ready in time for the regular season, but hasn't put on full pads yet.
There's also Lamar Miller, Lee Chambers, Mike James, and Storm Johnson as weapons in the backfield.
Look for offensive coordinator Mark Whipple to utilize the running backs more than he did last year to set up the play-action pass. Miami struggled at times when it focused too much on the passing game and neglected the run.
New running backs coach Mike Cassano returns to the U, and also coached alongside Whipple at UMass—That should only unite the offense more.
Will senior Leonard Hankerson continue as Miami's top receiver following a surprising junior campaign?
Before last year, he was best known for his dropped passes, but Hankerson's hard work paid off with team-highs in catches (45), yards (801), and touchdowns (six).
Deep threats in juniors LaRon Byrd and Travis Benjamin helped scorch Georgia Tech and Florida State in last season's matchups.
But will highly touted Aldarius Johnson ever live up to the hype?
Can Tommy Streeter find action on the field after limited time last year?
With so many weapons to choose from, Jacory Harris just needs time and shouldn't have any problems finding an open receiver with such depth and talent at the position.
One guy can have an off game and have the luxury of somebody else picking him up.
Call him college football's ultimate "Renaissance Man."
Last year, senior Matt Bosher made 14-of-16 field goals, averaged 42.5 yards per punt, recorded six tackles, made both the All-ACC First and Second Team, and successfully recovered his own onside kick.
The only thing he struggled with was kickoffs, and that was in part due to the horrible coverage surrounding him.
As a one-time Lou Groza Award semifinalist, Bosher could have his best shot at the honor this season with UCLA's Kai Forbath having graduated.
In 2008, Bosher even earned team MVP.
He has led the Hurricanes in scoring over the last two years, and remains their most consistent piece to the puzzle.
Sure, junior cornerback Brandon Harris dominated for most of last season.
He earned All-ACC and All-American honors for his 15 pass breakups—a number was second-best in the nation.
But for the Miami defense, turnovers continue to be tough to force.
The Hurricanes intercepted just nine passes, and that must change if UM wants any shot at national title aspirations.
Senior DeMarcus Van Dyke recorded his first career interception last season, despite taking the field since his freshman year.
What this unit is missing is the playmaker à la Sean Taylor or Ed Reed.
Will somebody step up? Can Harris be that player?
Maybe the young and hard-hitting safeties- Ray-Ray Armstrong and Vaughn Telemaque- will fill that void.
Barring some bizarre repeat, Miami's defensive line should be intact this season.
Last year, the defensive front was decimated by season-ending injuries to players like Adewale Ojomo, Marcus Forston and Dyron Dye.
With the depth expected to be back, senior Allen Bailey, who finished the season with seven sacks, can make a run at quarterbacks in his natural position—defensive end.
Poised to make a run toward the 2011 NFL Draft, Bailey will be joined on the line by Marcus Robinson, Curtis Porter, but not Steven Wesley, who was dismissed by head coach Randy Shannon.
And there's a new coach in Rick Petri, who returns to UM where he coached some of the best defensive linemen: Warren Sapp, Kevin Patrick, and Kenny Holmes.
As much depth as there is on the defensive line, the complete opposite can be said of the LB corps.
Gone is Darryl Sharpton, who now calls New Orleans home.
Senior Colin McCarthy is the lone veteran with All-ACC Second Team honors last year. He recorded 95 tackles (second on team) and 10.5 tackles for a loss.
Junior Sean Spence suffered through an injury and sophomore slump with just 36 tackles—10 of which came in the win over Oklahoma.
When Spence missed time, junior Ramon Buchanan stepped in and collected 28 tackles.
Hard-hitting Jordan Futch, who played in the season's first five games, missed the remainder of the season with a knee injury.
This unit is the big question mark when it comes to the defense.
After witnessing Wisconsin's tight end Lance Kendricks take control of the Champs Sports Bowl with seven catches for 128 yards, the Hurricanes need someone to step up and defend the middle of the field.
Forget about last year's brutal four-game stretch to start the season.
It has nothing on 2010.
Miami will barely see the familiar orange and green hues at Sun Life Stadium through the season's first month.
9/2 Florida A&M
9/11 @ Ohio State
9/23 @ Pittsburgh
10/2 @ Clemson
Last year, the Buckeyes, Panthers, and Tigers combined for a 30-10 record.
Ohio State beat Oregon in the Rose Bowl, Pittsburgh beat North Carolina in the Meineke Car Care Bowl, and Clemson reached the ACC Championship game.
Many had their doubts about the Hurricanes heading into their four-game stretch last season, so who's to say the same won't be said?
If Miami can pull off the upset at the Horseshoe, it could set up a BCS run.
Since Randy Shannon took over as head coach of Miami in 2007, the Hurricanes have lost nine of their last 12 games to end seasons.
In his first year, a four-game losing streak meant a 5-7 season. In 2008, a three-game skid culminated in a defeat at the hands of the California Golden Bears.
Last season, the Canes slowed the trend by winning two of their last four games.
But they were still costly in a road game against North Carolina and a loss in the Champs Sports Bowl to Wisconsin.
Will the same thing happen this year? It could happen with crucial ACC games and a budding in-state rival.
11/13 @ Georgia Tech
11/20 Virginia Tech
11/27 South Florida
Luckily, three of these four games will be played at Sun Life Stadium. In the past, Miami traveled in the final month of the season.
Ever since Nike released its Pro Combat line, University of Miami fans have wondered whether it would expand.
Instead of all-white uniforms, why not try a blackout?
After its success with teams such as Florida State and Maryland, some on Facebook have already created and joined a group to encourage it.
Nothing brings out swagger and confidence more than intimidating uniforms, and this would do the trick, especially at the Horseshoe.
In June, wide receiver Tommy Streeter made his Facebook status "All black everything, real soon!!!" and friends began to comment at a quick rate.
Sadly, he clarified that he wasn't talking about uniforms, but quoting a Jay-Z lyric.