Al Golden took over the Miami Hurricanes just six weeks before National Signing Day. In that time, he and his staff have hit the recruiting trail hard.
They've managed to sign 16 players to national letters of intent, and in the process, flipped eight commitments from other schools. Under Golden, the 'Canes' 2011 recruiting class ranking remarkably climbed 52 spots, from 85 to 33.
This is the first part in an ongoing series highlighting the state of the Hurricanes and how their new signees have affected each position. Today's lesson: Quarterbacks.
With news that Dwyer quarterback Jacoby Brissett committed to Florida on Friday night, the Miami Hurricanes were dealt a sizable blow to their 2011 recruiting haul.
Brissett, a 4-star prospect ranked as a top 10 quarterback by all recruiting services, will take his talents to Gainesville to compete with senior John Brantley and No. 1 pro-style quarterback recruit Jeff Driskel.
In his short time on the job, Hurricanes coach Al Golden has seen two of the country's top high school signal callers, Brissett and Miami Northwestern's Teddy Bridgewater (Louisville), head away from the program despite much effort to sway them to Coral Gables.
Jacory Harris, Stephen Morris and Spencer Whipple will all return in 2011 for the 'Canes. The trio combined to throw 27 interceptions in 2010, a mark which led the nation.
In fact, the 'Canes have been in the top 15 for most interceptions thrown every year since 2007, and have placed in the top 10 three times.
Barring the signing of any junior college or under the radar prospects, Harris, Morris and Whipple will be the extent of the 'Canes QB depth this upcoming season.
Spencer Whipple is little more than a scout team quarterback, but he is a great one at that and could likely make a career out of coaching one day, like his father, former 'Canes offensive coordinator Mark Whipple.
Jacory Harris shined during his sophomore season, but his confidence has appeared shaken ever since dropped balls by his receivers began turning into interceptions and a reason to blame the quarterback. Jacory has a lot of game experience, but the 'Canes play-calling needs to be refined to suit his style.
He's great at spreading the ball around and is very accurate with his shorter passes. Jacory also throws a great deep ball with touch, but since he knows this, he has a propensity to chuck it deep when everyone is covered instead of throwing it away. These plays result in his most boneheaded interceptions more often than not.
Stephen Morris has a better arm than Jacory Harris—much stronger and much more zip. He also throws a great deep ball (check out 1:35 in the video). And he's looked fantastic when he can get into a rhythm, like in the second half of the Sun Bowl against Notre Dame.
He is the 'Canes' quarterback of the future and from what I've seen, a potential NFL prospect. Morris has great pocket awareness and isn't afraid to lower his head and run for a first down. The only knock against him has been his questionable decision making at times.
I'll remind you, however, that Morris was a freshman in 2010 and a 3-star recruit who had every intention of redshirting, waiting another year and competing with Teddy Bridgewater for the starting job in 2012. But Morris has talent, and is clearly now part of the 'Canes immediate future.
It will be up to new offensive coordinator and QB coach Jedd Fisch to work on Morris's decision making. What he cannot control is a divided locker room.
Jacory Harris is a leader and has the respect of his teammates. I doubt he'd be happy riding on the bench during his senior year as a kid comes in and takes his job. I'd imagine that some of his former Miami Northwestern and current Hurricanes teammates might feel conflicted as well.
Teddy Bridgewater sure did, and that's why he's going to play for Charlie Strong at Lousiville.
To have success and compete in the ACC Coastal division, the 'Canes will need to rely on their defense and a running game led by Lamar Miller, Mike James, Storm Johnson and a good young offensive line.
Jedd Fisch is expected to tone down the 'Canes previously aggressive passing attack in 2011. Al Golden wants an offense that holds onto the football. In his mind, there's nothing wrong with punting.
As crazy as it sounds, if he's willing to be coached, Jacory Harris might be the 'Canes best option for this season. If Golden is able to to bring in a junior college transfer to serve as an additional backup, it might make sense to redshirt Morris in 2011 on the condition that he's the starter next season.
Worst case scenario, Jacory struggles and Morris is re-inserted, much like Tyrod Taylor going from redshirt to starter for Virginia Tech after Sean Glennon's failbomb against Eastern Carolina two seasons ago.
Best case scenario, Jacory cuts down on the interceptions (which he should if his receivers stop dropping them into defenders hands), distributes the ball around to his playmakers and leads the Canes to a nine- or 10-win season and a date with Florida State in the ACC title game.
Stephen Morris would get a full year of coaching and studying the playbook with Jedd Fisch, and would enter 2012 as the unquestioned and likely much improved starter with three years of eligibility remaining. He'd be a very dangerous redshirt sophomore quarterback.
If Jacory is willing to learn from his mistakes, the 'Canes have nothing to lose by giving him a shot to start.
Al Golden will not be judged entirely by his body of work in this upcoming season. The charismatic coach has filled an entire fan base with confidence in just a month-and-a-half's time. Giving Jacory Harris one more chance to prove he can be the starter is in the best interest of Al Golden's future.
An extra year of development would be invaluable for Stephen Morris. Jacory Harris only needs to show that he has grown up.
If Stephen Morris is chosen to take the 'Canes first snap of the season, then so be it. It's going to happen sooner or later anyway.
This season or next.
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