Can you feel it? It's Florida State v. Miami week! Kickoff is just 59 hours away! Today we welcome in Mike from EyeOfTheHurricane, a solid Miami Hurricanes site with quite the active community. Our answers to his questions will run over there on Friday, and I'll give you the link at that time.
1. How has Miami addressed its linebacker issue? I remember Shannon wasn't happy with one of the positions in camp. Are the Canes playing more nickel to avoid using the third 'backer?
Good question. If you’ve seen the Hurricanes play at all this season, you know that junior SLB Sean Spence is having an outstanding season. He has 38 total stops, eight TFL, 1.5 sacks, two passes broken up, and a forced fumble. He’s making a case to be the ACC Defensive Player of the Year. He did win the ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year Award in 2008. His play has helped take the pressure off the LB corps as a whole.
MLB Colin McCarthy has played solid, registering 27 total tackles, three TFL, 0.5 sack, one pass broken up, and a fumble recovery. He’s not Dan Morgan, but who really is? But he’s done a nice job so far at middle.
The emergence of junior WLB Ramon Buchanan has really eased the pressure on the LB corps. If you’ll remember, Randy Shannon previously had senior Kylan Robinson playing middle, then OLB. He showed that he can’t handle full-time duties, so Buchanan got his chance and has played pretty well. He has 17 tackles and one TFL.
No, the ‘Canes aren’t playing any more nickel defense than is necessary. The LB corps question is no longer the question it was entering the season. They have performed beyond all expectations.
2. Which under-performing or lesser-known player must step up for Miami to win?
I’m going offense on this question, and I’ll break it down into two parts. An under-performing player that needs to step up is WR Travis Benjamin. I think most ‘Nole fans are familiar with him. He has struggled being on the same page as QB Jacory Harris, and Shannon has even blamed four of Harris’ INTs on him personally. He’s got talent and speed to burn, but has not lived up to preseason billing.
A lesser-known player would be senior RG Joel Figueroa. He’s a senior, and originally was moved from RG to RT to start the season. That experiment didn’t work. Seantrel Henderson started against Clemson and played pretty well. He’s still raw. But Figueroa hasn’t played like the veteran he is. UM needs to shore up the weakness on the right side of the OL, or its going to be a long night for the Hurricanes and a short one for Harris.
3. It's been said that this game means a lot more to Miami's program this year because Shannon has been rebuilding for four years and this is his year, while Fisher just got the keys to the FSU program, and because Miami is getting lapped in recruiting by FSU & UF so far this year after a sub-par recruiting class in 2010. Do you agree with that? Would a win here be the spark Miami needs to get back in with the top players in the Sunshine State?
I think this game is critical for both programs. If Miami wins, they continue their momentum into the ACC slate. If FSU wins, they gain some ground on Miami.
There’s no doubting that UF and FSU have recruited well. I don’t think it’s fair to say that UM has been "lapped." It’s premature to say that. The Hurricanes aren’t taking a large class this year, between 15-18 prospects. There are some really good looking prospects coming to South Florida in DE Anthony Chickillo, QB Teddy Bridgewater, WR Philip Dorsett, and CB Albert Louis- Jean.
Miami is also still in the ballgame for TE Nick O’Leary, WRs Sammy Watkins and George Farmer, and DBs Dallas Crawford and Jabari Gorman. Everything looks good for LB Denzel Perryman to commit any day now. UM also has already picked up three verbals for the 2012 Class, so while UF and FSU are doing well, Miami recruiting is prospering at the same time. And that’s good for the ACC and college football. It’s more fun when Miami and FSU are strong, and it won’t be long until we enjoy another, "Game of the Century," between the ‘Noles and ‘Canes.
Finally, I don’t think it’s fair to say Miami had a sub-par class last season. The Hurricanes added Seantrel Henderson and Latwan Anderson late, both five-star prospects. And under- rated players like LB Jimmy Gaines, LB Kelvin Cain, RB Storm Johnson, CB Devont’a Davis, and S Kacy Rodgers have established themselves as freshman to watch going forward.
4. Miami has a good offense, but I can't help but think that it would be a lot better if Whipple would run the ball. With that defense, doesn't it make a lot more sense to be conservative, play great defense, and force teams to drive on long fields as opposed to the short fields that Jacory gives them? With 11 backs on scholarship, I know I would run more, which would also make my play-action more effective.
This is a question that we’ve debated with our readers at Eye of the Hurricane. I do think Offensive Coordinator Mark Whipple is making more of an effort to run the football, but the question has been about the timing of some of his calls. Remember, Whipple comes from the Andy Reid "School of Offense." Philadelphia likes to toss the ball around.
However, UM ran the ball 11 of the first 12 plays versus Clemson, and moved it with authority against a talented Clemson defensive front. Overall, he ran the ball 43 times and passed it 33.
The numbers are there and the balance is great, and Miami has tremendous talent at RB. They also have K/P Matt Bosher, who is an All-ACC type punter, averaging 46 yards per boot on 18 punts, and has eight 50+ yard punts.
I think UM does need to take the pressure off of Harris, especially in the first half, and rely on the talent at RB more because the passing offense is struggling a bit, especially downfield. But will Whipple do that? I don’t know. I doubt he will pass any less than he did against Clemson. He’s going to take shots downfield, period.
But yes, it does make sense.
For the record, RB Lee Chambers was moved to CB, giving Miami 10 RBs. They also run two- back sets, so it makes sense to have multiple FBs and TBs for depth. Many of these players also play special teams.
5. What must Randy Shannon prove between this season and the next to have long-term staying power.
I think the biggest thing Shannon has to prove is if he can take Miami to the next level. I think he’s doing that. He’s done an outstanding job of flipping the talent on this team. Competing for the ACC championship year in and year out would help, but graduating his players and keeping them off the police blotter also is huge in the eyes of current UM President Donna Shalala. He’s already done that, so taking the next step in the win column is critical in the minds of the fans.
If Shannon goes 9-3 and 10-2 most seasons, he’ll always have a job. But unless he starts having multiple 6-6 and 7-5 seasons, Shannon is going to be around a long time in Coral Gables.
Again, a big thanks to Mike and EyeOfTheHurricane for dishing on the Canes.