The Miami Hurricanes head into the spring trying to build on a 7-5 season. While there remains a cloud of NCAA uncertainty hanging over the program, the school has taken some proactive steps in the hopes of lessening the blow -- it self-imposed postseason bans in each of the last two years.
And head coach Al Golden, for his part, is already factoring future scholarship reductions into his recruiting plans. So far, at least, the specter of sanctions hasn't killed Miami's recruiting efforts. The Hurricanes signed several blue chip players in the class of 2013, and they're poised to add more in 2014.
While it's unknown what the NCAA has in store for Miami, the Hurricanes should be contenders for the ACC's Coastal Division title in 2013. They finished 5-3 in league play last season, which was tied for the division's best record. Virginia Tech, which generally has controlled the Coastal, struggled in 2012, and if the Hokies' issues continue the division is there for the taking. Road games at Virginia Tech and North Carolina will be crucial for the Hurricanes.
Spring practice start date: March 2
Spring game date, location: 3 p.m. ET, April 13, Sun Life Stadium
Approximate returning starters: Ten on offense, 10 on defense. The Hurricanes return the bulk of their contributors on both sides of the ball, which bodes well for the year ahead. Quarterback Stephen Morris, who threw for more than 3,300 yards last season, is back to run the offense. He'll have a solid group of receivers to throw to, including Phillip Dorsett, who led the team in receiving in 2012. Leading rusher Duke Johnson also returns.
Biggest addition: Although the Hurricanes added some blue-chip players in their 2013 recruiting class, the program's biggest addition might be new offensive coordinator James Coley, who has strong recruiting ties in South Florida. Coley served as recruiting coordinator at FSU prior to joining Al Golden's staff and helped to construct some strong classes.
Via The Miami Herald, here's recruiting analyst Charles Fishbein on Coley's accomplishments:
"Coley was basically responsible for 37 percent of FSU's starting lineup this season," Charles Fishbein of Elite Scouting Services said. "He recruited fullback, who was the MVP of the Orange Bowl. He brought in receiver Rodney Smith, tight end , offensive guard , center Brian Stork, [defensive end] , [cornerback] , [safety] and [kicker] .
"Werner and Rhodes are projected to be first-round picks this year. The guy knows how to evaluate talent."
Biggest loss: Defensive back Brandon McGee started all 12 games for the Hurricanes last season, and for a team that struggled on that side of the ball, it's tough to lose the experience he brought to the table. McGee appeared in 44 games over the course of his college career and made 25 starts. Last season, he finished with 54 tackles, which ranked seventh on the team, and he picked off two passes.
New players? Five players enrolled for the spring semester: tight ends Beau Sandland and Standish Dobard, defensive tackle Hunter Knighton, offensive tackle Sunny Odogwu and defensive end Alex Figueroa. Sandland was a consensus four-star prospect in the class of 2013 and the top JUCO player at his position -- he could have an early impact for the 'Canes, with Clive Walford being the only U tight end to catch more than four passes last year.
Since those players enrolled early, they will all be able to participate in spring drills. The rest of the class will join the team in August.
New coaches? In addition to Coley, Hurlie Brown was promoted to running backs coach. Mario Cristobal also stopped by on his way to Alabama.
Coley served as offensive coordinator at FSU but didn't have the opportunity to call plays -- head coach Jimbo Fisher handles that -- but he will at Miami. He inherits a unit that finished 37th nationally in total offense, 49th in scoring, 25th in passing and 81th in rushing.
New schemes? With a new offensive coordinator, Miami's offense could look a bit different in 2013. But since Coley didn't call plays at Florida State, it's also difficult to say exactly what his scheme will look like. He may prefer a more wide-open and up-tempo style of play than that to which Al Golden is accustomed.