Miami Football: Hurricanes Aim To Improve Their Fortunes, Become Elite in 2011

Stephen UrbaniakCorrespondent IFebruary 27, 2011

Miami vs. Notre Dame  December 31, 2010 Sun Bowl
Miami vs. Notre Dame December 31, 2010 Sun BowlRonald Martinez/Getty Images

The Miami Hurricanes are coming off of a disappointing 7-6 campaign which included a 33-17 New Year's Eve loss to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the Sun Bowl, losses to Florida State and Virginia Tech, and the regular season finale loss to USF, costing Randy Shannon his job hours after the game was over. 

The Hurricanes, reeling since the 2000-2002 dynasty crumbled, tabbed former Temple coach Al Golden to try and revive the struggling program, which hasn't won an ACC division title, much less competed for a conference championship as envisioned when the 'Canes joined the conference in 2004. 

Much has been made of the fact that the Hurricanes are on the way back up after impressive opening stretches, but they have faded down the stretch as Virginia Tech has been the obstacle to the 'Canes finally hoisting a divisional championship banner in Coral Gables, FL. 

The core of players is strong and talented. Senior QB Jacory Harris returns and he is backed up by Stephen Morris and former Michigan QB Tate Forcier.  The other skill positions are stocked, with RB Storm Johnson getting an opportunity to earn some playing time in the spring, and the top 3 wide receivers are LaRon Byrd, Travis Benjamin, and Aldarius Johnson after leading receiver Leonard Hankerson leaving for the NFL Draft.  This group is talented, yet each has a tendency to drop passes.

The defense is led by returning starters Ray-Ray Armstrong and Sean Spence, the goal is to get more pressure on opposing QB's as the Hurricanes have let the likes of Tyrod Taylor, Terrelle Pryor and Christian Ponder beat them with their legs in the past. The Hurricanes have been able to rank in the top 10 in sacks, but a stronger emphasis on playing disciplined football against the likes of these guys would be a welcome sight.

The Hurricanes' 2011 schedule starts with ACC opponent Maryland. Then they get into yet another rematch with the Ohio State Buckeyes and continue their ACC schedule with contests against Virginia Tech, North Carolina and Georgia Tech.  The schedule looks to be favorable for Miami to finally contend with Virginia Tech and the other ACC powers to finally win a long-chased conference championship.