The debut season of Al Golden as coach of Miami didn't quite go as planned. The season was filled with suspensions from things that happened during the previous regime, and also some poor play. For the most part, the distractions that seemed to plague the Hurricanes last season are gone. Now Golden can start molding the team his way without having to answer about what's going on off the field every day.
Many people liked to make fun of Jacory Harris because he was so inconsistent throughout his career. Despite that, Harris threw for the second most yards in Miami's history. His replacement, Stephen Morris, is no stranger to the field. Morris has started five games in his career, but has played in 11. He has completed 56% of his passes in his career, with seven touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Should he falter, Ryan Williams, a sophomore who started 13 games at Memphis before transferring, would take his place.
The player the Hurricanes will miss the most is Lamar Miller. He was easily the team's best player, and most dependable as well. It will be hard to replace the 1272 and nine touchdowns he put up last year. It will be up to senior Mike James to do it. He has started some games throughout his career, but has not rushed for 100 yards yet in his career. Last year, James ran for 275 yards and seven touchdowns. He will have Eduardo Clements behind him. Clements only carried the ball 15 times last year.
In addition to the top running back, the top two receivers are gone too. But fortunately, the top receiver this year has a bit of experience. Allen Hurns started seven games and caught 31 passes for 415 yards. But expect several receivers to contribute. Phillip Dorsett caught 14 passes in limited action, and could be in the mix to start, along with Kendal Thompkins, who contributed sparingly. The Hurricanes use a lot of two tight end sets, and they will contribute. Clive Walford is the main pass catcher of the tight ends. He was fourth on the team with 18 catches. The other tight end is Asante Cleveland, who didn't really contribute much last year.
The offensive line was really good last year. It allowed only 19 sacks, slightly more than the 17 they allowed the year before, but the 36 sacks they allowed the last two years were just about as much as the number of sacks allowed in 2009. The team also rushed for a solid 4.4 yards per carry. Much like everywhere else, there's a good amount of turnover on the line. The only starters back are the guards. Brandon Linder and Jon Feliciano both had good season. Feliciano did not allow a sack last year. In the middle, Shane Mcdermott takes over for Tyler Horn. Malcolm Bunche is a new starter at tackle. He has good size at 6-7 and 325 pounds. The other tackle should be Seantrel Henderson, but he can't stay on the field either due to injury or immaturity. For now, Ereck Flowers will take his place.
While it hasn't been as dominant as it was six or seven years ago when it was allowing about 15 points per game, it was still a pretty solid defense, only allowing 20 points per game last year. While it did allow fewer points last year than the year before, it did allow more yards last year. Some of that can be attributed to the fact that the defense sacked the quarterback 13 fewer times last year compared to the year before, and the fact that teams ran more on the Miami defense. Having said that, the Hurricanes have a stud on the line in Anthony Chickillo who can get to the quarterback. He was tied for the team lead in sacks with five as a freshman. His 6.5 tackles for loss were tied for second on the team. On the other side, Shayon Green will be a new starter. In the middle, you will see Luther Robinson, Olsen Pierre, and Darius Smith a lot. Smith was a starter on the line last year, Pierre didn't contribute much, and Robinson is coming off an injury that caused him to miss last season.
Where Miami will be hurt the most on defense is at linebacker. The departure of Sean Spence to the NFL is a crushing blow. He was the team's leading tackler last year, and a first team All ACC linebacker. His replacement will obviously have some big shoes to fill. Thurston Armbrister and Eddie Johnson are the likely candidates to fill that spot. On the other side, Ramon Buchanan is recovering from an injury that caused him to miss nine games. In the middle, Denzel Perryman emerged as a freshman to become second on the team in tackles with 69. He also tied with Chikillo with 6.5 tackles for loss.
While the passing game's numbers look pretty impressive (198 yards per game allowed last year), don't be fooled. Teams weren't passing too much on them because they ran with relative ease. And when teams did pass on them, there wasn't much resistance. Teams completed 66% of their passes. In addition, the defense only intercepted six passes last year. They needed some help, so they brought in LaDarius Gunter from the junior college ranks to start at cornerback alongside Brandon McGee. McGee had one of those six interceptions. At safety, the big question is who will replace Ray Ray Armstrong, who was kicked off the team. Kacy Rogers, a junior, is the projected starter, but he has six total tackles in his two years on the team. The good news for him is he will have a reliable player at the other spot in Vaughn Telemaque. The senior has started 36 games coming in to the season, and has been a very solid tackler.
The kicking games has been a pretty solid spot for Miami in recent years, and this year will be no exception. Jake Wieclaw was 11-14 on field goals last year, with a long of 49. Even the punter was really good too. Dalton Botts averaged nearly 43 yards per punt last year. The return game will be a little different this year with Travis Benjamin's departure. Look for Phillip Dorsett to handle the bulk of those duties.
To find a Miami head coach who finished his term with a losing record, you will have to go back to Lou Saban, who coached Miami in 1977 and 1978, and finished with a 9-13 record. Of course, the man that replaced him was the one that really brought Miami to national prominence. That was Howard Schnellenberger.
Throughout this entire preview, the basic theme to the preview has been all about turnover and getting out of the cloud that surrounded last season. The clouds are breaking up, but the uncertainty that surrounds this team this year is because of all of the new starters. There are 12 new starters on the team, and some have little to no college experience. But there is still some talent on the team. The Hurricanes also have a tough schedule this year. Three of their first four games are on the road. Even after that, the schedule is still pretty tough. I think with all of the changes and the schedule, Miami will miss out on a bowl this year.