Miami Hurricanes Football Won't Get Easier in 2009

Jeff KalafaAnalyst IIIJune 23, 2009

MIAMI - OCTOBER 25:  Quarterback Jacory Harris #12 of the Miami Hurricanes throws a pass while taking on the Wake Forest Demon Decons at Dolphin Stadium on October 25, 2008 in Miami, Florida. Miami defeated Wake Forest 16-10.  (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)

Things just don't get easier for Coach Randy Shannon and the Miami Hurricanes in 2009.

The Hurricanes finished 2008 by losing their last three games, and after looking at this year's first four, there's a good chance that streak might reach seven.

It seemed like last year's Hurricanes were headed in the right direction when they pulled off a 16-14 upset over Virginia Tech. Their record was 7-3 but they went on to lose their last two regular season games (Georgia Tech & North Carolina St) and a bowl game to the California Bears.

In the late season collapse the defense gave up 34 points a game.  This team seemed to have faded and has entered 2009 with a lot of questions.

Shannon, 12-13 in his two years as Hurricanes head coach, knew he had to make some changes and fired Offensive Coordinator Partrick Nix and replaced him with Mark Whipple.  John Lovett was added as the new Defensive Coordinator when Bill Young left Miami to return to his alma mater, Oklahoma State.

With the additions of Whipple and Lovett, one has to be wondering how long will it take everyone to get used to new systems on both sides of the ball. 

The situation may be shaky but there are plenty of good reasons to feel that this program will show solid improvement in 2009.

The reason to be optimistic about the Hurricanes has to do with the youth movement that took place when Shannon became coach.  This team is still very young and most of the players he recruited are heading into their sophomore and junior years with a lot of game experience under their belts.

One of those players is their quarterback Jacory Harris.  A local south Florida product, Harris has tons of talent, but talent alone won't get the job done.  Harris will have to become the field general of this team and it better be five star if they want to win some of these early games.

The Canes return Graig Cooper, a pretty good running back, and wide receiver Travis Benjamin.  Benjamin is super quick and it's no coincidence that he's drawn comparisons to ex Hurricane Santana Moss.

The defense is led up by hard-hitting linebacker Sean Spence, who they're expecting to lead them out of last year's late season funk.

The Canes are hoping the young offensive line matures and will become the mainstay of the balanced offense that Randy Shannon wants to develope.

Although the improvement of this young team is crucial, it appears the schedule will be the biggest factor in determining their success or failure.

In 2009 Miami opens with four games that remind one of last year's Texas Longhorns when they played successive games against Missouri, Oklahoma, Oklahoma St and Texas Tech.

The Canes open at no.16 Florida State, home against no.10 Georgina Tech, at no.5 Virginia Tech and home against no. 3 Oklahoma before they host Florida A&M.

These four games are going to be so tough that it wouldn't be a shock to see an 0-4 start.  If the Canes can go 2-2 in their first four games, their likely to have a good year.

Florida St is coming off a 9-4 season and go into 2009 with the quarterback position settled.  Christian Ponder was just average in 2008 but the job is his.

Last year's young offensive line will be experienced and the defense will be solid.  It's hard to tell if the NCAA sanctions will have any affect on the coaching staff and team.

Virginia Tech is coming off a 10-4 year, an Orange Bowl win over Cincinnati, and has won three ACC titles in the last five years.

After East Carolina upset them early last year, they settled down and became a quality football team.  They bring back dual threat quarterback Tyrod Taylor, 1,000 yard running back Darren Evans, and there are all indications this year's defense will be as good as last year's, which finished in the top 10 in total defense.

Georgia Tech finished 9-4.  When Coach Paul Johnson came over from Navy, a year ago, he brought the triple option running game with him and it's worked.  Last year they finished fourth in the country in rushing offense.

What can you say about Oklahoma?  They bring back the Heisman winner at quarterback, two 1,000 yard running backs and tight end Jermaine Gresham, who totaled 950 yards in receiving.

They might have some growing pains on the offensive line but their expected to reload on defense.

The schedule does get easier.  The Canes next two games are against Florida A&M and Central Florida.  Florida A&M is the one Football Championship Subdivision team on this year's schedule and the road shouldn't be a factor in the Central Florida game.

That's because Central Florida is not a good football team.  They bring back ten offensive starters but last year's offense produced the fewest yards/game of any team in the country.

The schedule picks up again as the Canes host Clemson, a team that disappointed enough last year to get Tommy Bowden fired, but finished the season winning four of their last five regular season games.  They finished 7-6.

Clemson has to replace quarterback Cullen Harper and they'll have a new starter at running back, but C.J. Spiller had a lot of carries as a back up last year. Clemson has the talent to challenge everyone in the ACC.

What about Wake Forest?  The game's on the road and Wake brings back quarterback Riley Skinner and the whole offensive line from last year's 8-5 team.  They have to replace the fourth pick in this year's NFL draft, Aaron Curry, but any team coached by Jim Grobe is dangerous.

Virginian doesn't appear to have enough weapons to threaten the top half of the conference. They finished 5-7 last season and the defense will be weak at linebacker. In addition, their quarterback position is still up in the air.

North Carolina is coming of an 8-5 year.  Butch Davis has done some serious recruiting in the last two years and his young team is ranked no. 23 in pre-season.  They'll have two experienced quarterbacks-T.J. Yates and Cam Sexton.

Miami has to travel to Chapel hill to play the Tar Heels and this won't be easy.

It's hard to say much about Duke. They finished 4-8 last year and have been pretty much of a three quarter team the last couple of years.  They just don't have the depth.

The last game of the season will see Miami traveling to Tampa to play USF, another team with a pre-season ranking-Rivals has the Bulls no. 24

Quarterback Matt Grothe has been around for a long time.  He can beat you with his arm or his legs.  The defense is loaded with speed and is led by All American defensive lineman George Selvie.

This game is scheduled the same day of the FSU/Fla game and will be a chance for USF to show that they belong with the "Big Three".   It should also have an effect on recruiting within the state.

No matter how you cut it, Miami's 2009 schedule is brutal.  Is it the toughest in the country?  It's right up there.  There are six teams ranked in the pre-season plus Clemson and Wake Forest.

The Hurricanes have no choice.  They have to be ready.  Randy Shannon has a very tough assignment in the coming football season.