The next in the series of breakdowns, this one coming from Miami beat writer Jorge Milian of the Palm Beach Post. You can read his blog here and follow him on Twitter here. Georgia Tech plays Miami Sept. 22 at Bobby Dodd Stadium.
1. In a nutshell, what are Miami’s strengths and weaknesses?
The Hurricanes lost a ton of talent including their leading rusher (Lamar Miller), top receiver (Tommy Streeter), starting quarterback (Jacory Harris), best offensive lineman (Tyler Horn) and the heart and soul of their defense in Sean Spence. Replacing those guys won’t be easy. (The July dismissal of senior safety and Jim Thorpe Award candidate Ray Ray Armstrong won’t help matters)
The offense has no established playmakers and the defense’s best players are a pair of sophomores, Anthony Chickillo and Denzel Perryman. The offensive line could be pretty good if it gets production from tackles Seantrel Henderson and Malcolm Bunche. Players like receivers Phillip Dorsett and Allen Hurns and running back Mike James will have to step up. The kicking game should be pretty good and we are talking about Miami so there’s obviously plenty of raw athletic talent. But make no mistake, this looks like a rebuilding season in Coral Gables.
2. It’s been across two coaching regimes, but what do you think Miami has done to be able to beat Georgia Tech three years in a row, each time fairly convincingly?
If only Miami could play Georgia Tech every week. There doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of rhyme or reason to the Hurricanes’ three-game win streak. During the past three seasons, Miami has won only 13 of 24 ACC games and three of them have come against the Yellow Jackets. Somehow, the ‘Canes have found a way to control Georgia Tech’s high-powered offensive attack even though Miami’s defense hasn’t been particularly good over the past three years. One other explanation is that in those three seasons Miami has gone into the Georgia Tech game coming off a win. For a team that has struggled with confidence, maybe Miami’s players have faced the Yellow Jackets with a little added belief in themselves.
3. Where does the quarterback competition between Stephen Morris and transfer Ryan Williams stand, and how do you see it shaping up?
According to coach Al Golden, Morris and Williams entered fall practice battling for the starting job. Morris has a couple of advantages over Williams – he has a better arm and can make plays with his feet while Williams is a bit of a sitting duck. I think Morris will be the starter against Boston College on Sept. 1 but chances are, no matter who wins the job, both quarterbacks will play plenty this season. (Update: Morris will start.)
4. On a scale of 1-10, how confident do you feel that Al Golden is the guy to turn Miami around, and why?
I would say an 8. Clearly, no one is going to outwork Golden. You don’t have to be around him long to realize he’s totally committed to turning this program around. Plus Golden has a track record – his accomplishments at Temple can’t be overstated. But it’s going to take some time before that happens. The truth is, Golden was handed a dysfunctional program that had fallen behind the competition in several areas including recruiting. Just as Golden was getting his feet under him last year, the NCAA investigation into booster Nevin Shapiro broadsided him. To me, this is a 3- to 4-year project. Figure on the payoff arriving in 2014.
5. What kind of a player is Denzel Perryman, the linebacker expected to replace Sean Spence?
I’ve been covering Miami since 1994 and the three hardest hitters I’ve seen are Ray Lewis, Nate Webster and Perryman. Perryman has been shifted to middle linebacker from the outside, which seems a natural fit. I have him penciled in to the second team on my All-ACC preseason ballot.
6. Scheduling-wise, the Georgia Tech game isn’t the most advantageous for Miami, as it’s the third road game in four weeks. Can you see that being an added obstacle for a young Hurricanes team?
The crazy thing is that the Hurricanes don‘t have to share Sun Life Stadium with the Miami Marlins any more yet three of their first four games are on the road. The one home game in that stretch is against Bethune Cookman. It’s undoubtedly not the schedule Al Golden would have picked. I think the key for Miami is the opener against Boston College in Chestnut Hill. If the Hurricanes can win that one, those young players will gain some of the confidence they need to succeed on the road.
Thanks for reading.
Ken Sugiura, Georgia Tech blog