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1. Out, damned spot!
First things first: Al Golden took the Temple job. You're not going to scare him. After a decent five-year run as Virginia's defensive coordinator, he looked at a program that had gone 3-31 in the last three years, had ranked dead last in the F/+ rankings in 2005, and had stunk so bad that it lost its spot in the Big East, and he thought, "Yeah, I think I can make something of that." And then he actually did make something of that.
So yeah, Golden is probably not going to be thrown by whatever punishment the NCAA hands down soon ... assuming the NCAA ever actually hands down punishment. It's been an any-day-now situation for a while. But still, even if the punishment is harsh, anything short of more bowl bans or Penn State sanctions will be considered a relief for one reason: It will be over. For almost two years, Miami has been followed by a black cloud named Nevin Shapiro.
Before he took the job, Golden probably didn't know just how much of a scandal would erupt. It might have made him think twice. Then again, he took the Temple job. The man likes challenges.
At Temple, it took Golden two years to figure out how to get the program turned in the right direction. After going 0-11 and ranking 119th in 2005, the Owls went 5-19 and ranked 119th and 112th, respectively, in 2006-07. But in year 3, Temple went 5-7 and ranked 69th. In year 4, 9-4 and 52nd. Temple actually got back into the Big East because of Golden, and the momentum really picked up in his third year.
You can probably see where I'm going with this; it's Golden's third year in Coral Gables. The Shapiro cloud isn't done dumping on the program, but you can't plan for your future until you actually know your future. And despite that damned spot, Golden has attracted a solid staff and set of recruits to town.
His biggest star is a sophomore. His two leading receivers are juniors. His offensive line is strong and somehow both incredibly experienced (91 career starts) and still semi-young (four of six players with starting experience are juniors or younger). And at the very least, his defense, which has struggled to gain traction, has experience up front and a ton of four-star youngsters in the back. And while his Hurricanes have gone just 13-11, they are considered the favorites to win their division (the Atlantic, I think … no wait, the Coastal) and, if eligible, make their first trip to the ACC title game.
Somehow, against the odds, the long-term is looking pretty decent for Miami. The devastation that was assumed when the Shapiro revelations hit could still unfold, but it seems less likely. For all of the kudos that Bill O'Brien has received for both taking the Penn State job and making something of it despite sanctions, Golden could be receiving similar praise soon. You've got to respect a man who likes a challenge; now we just have to see if the third-year traction actually comes as expected.
2012 Schedule & Results
|Record: 7-5 | Adj. Record: 7-5 | Final F/+ Rk: 65|
|Date||Opponent||Score||W-L||Adj. Score||Adj. W-L|
|1-Sep||at Boston College||41-32||W||26.9 - 39.5||L|
|8-Sep||at Kansas State||13-52||L||20.8 - 36.6||L|
|15-Sep||Bethune-Cookman||38-10||W||28.6 - 29.4||L|
|22-Sep||at Georgia Tech||42-36||W||38.2 - 26.9||W|
|29-Sep||N.C. State||44-37||W||44.5 - 46.2||L|
|6-Oct||vs. Notre Dame||3-41||L||28.3 - 41.3||L|
|13-Oct||North Carolina||14-18||L||25.5 - 24.1||W|
|20-Oct||Florida State||20-33||L||28.5 - 26.7||W|
|1-Nov||Virginia Tech||30-12||W||35.2 - 28.8||W|
|10-Nov||at Virginia||40-41||L||46.2 - 35.5||W|
|17-Nov||South Florida||40-9||W||42.0 - 24.9||W|
|24-Nov||at Duke||52-45||W||44.4 - 29.8||W|
|Points Per Game||31.4||49||30.5||83|
|Adj. Points Per Game||34.1||24||32.5||99|
2. Turning it around
For the season as a whole, Miami was rather unimpressive in 2012.
The Hurricanes had gone just 6-6 in 2011 but fell victim to some bad bounds, going 2-6 in one-possession games and still ranking a healthy 32nd in the F/+ rankings. In 2012, the Hurricanes faltered, going 7-5 but ranking just 65th; the offense fell from 13th to 46th in Off. F/+, and an already mediocre defense fell from 73rd to 88th in Def. F/+. A 3-2 record in one-possession games made things look better than they were, but the overall product was pretty questionable.
At least, it was questionable until you break the season into two portions.
Adj. Points Per Game (first 6 games): Opponent 36.7, Miami 31.2 (minus-5.5)
Adj. Points Per Game (next 6 games): Miami 37.0, Opponent 28.3 (plus-8.7)
The Miami defense was never better than average, but the offense ignited, especially in November. The Hurricanes averaged 6.0 yards per play against a still-solid Virginia Tech defense in a surprisingly easy win, then averaged 7.1 against Virginia, 8.2 against South Florida, and 9.6 against Duke. Despite playing at an incredibly leisurely pace, Miami still averaged 41 points and 490 yards per game in November. Because of Miami's postseason ban, Georgia Tech played in the ACC title game instead, but the odds are pretty good that with this smoking hot offense, the Hurricanes might have had a damn good shot at beating Florida State in that game. (And the odds are also good that the defense might not have been good enough to close the deal.)
I often mention that bowl performances are in no way predictive of future performance, and we make a huge mistake in overestimating bowls' impact. But thriving over the last half of the season is rather predictive, especially when you're doing it with a super-young team. Despite mediocre recent history, the projections in the Football Outsiders Almanac 2013 rank Miami 25th, and I can see why.
|Q1 Rk||18||1st Down Rk||20|
|Q2 Rk||35||2nd Down Rk||31|
|Q3 Rk||48||3rd Down Rk||8|
3. Maintaining aggression
Say this for former Miami offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch: He was not a wallflower. Fisch, now the O.C. for the Jacksonville Jaguars, went for the throat as often as anybody in the country, and he occasionally succeeded. Only four teams had offenses more explosive than Miami's on standard downs, and while the Hurricanes weren't good enough at being aggressive on passing downs, there's something to be said for taking what you want instead of taking what the opponent gives you (namely: "It's fun.").
Miami's offense was more admirable than successful, however, at least before November. Explosiveness is awesome, and Fisch featured quite a bit of it, but inefficiency still caused the 'Canes to stall out at times.
Now, new coordinator James Coley will try to smooth out some of the rough edges without dulling the offense's big-play capabilities. Coley was the head offensive assistant under Jimbo Fisher at Florida State, but Fisher has always been the play-caller there. At Miami, Coley will get to make the calls; while he is known as a stellar recruiter and motivator, we don't know much about him in this regard. It will be interesting to see how he deviates from the Florida State attack, which, like Miami, moved at a leisurely pace but also ran the ball quite a bit more. (With Duke Johnson at running back, running more might not be the worst idea in the world. But we'll get to him.)
Quarterback Stephen Morris' 13.7 yards per completion were among the highest averages in the country; if Miami moves to more of a ground-based operation and features shorter passes, will it kill last November's buzz?
4. Good late
Miami had no problem finishing last year. Drives, games, sets of downs ... Miami finished them all with aplomb. The Hurricanes maintained explosiveness in the red zone and ranked a decent 34th in Red Zone S&P+, but they thrived considerably in the fourth quarter (first) and on third downs (eighth). Again, there were flaws and inefficiencies along the way (short-yardage running could still use some work, for instance), but when Miami was good at something in 2012, it was really good at it.
Note: players in bold below are 2013 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.
|Stephen Morris||6'2, 218||Sr.||*** (5.6)||245||421||3,345||58.2%||21||7||16||3.7%||7.4|
|Ryan Williams||6'6, 223||Jr.||** (5.4)||15||20||137||75.0%||1||0||1||4.8%||6.2|
|Kevin Olsen||6'3, 200||Fr.||**** (5.8)|
|Duke Johnson||RB||5'9, 196||So.||***** (6.1)||139||947||6.8||8.9||10||+28.1|
|Stephen Morris||QB||6'2, 218||Sr.||*** (5.6)||35||184||5.3||3.4||1||+2.8|
|Eduardo Clements||RB||5'9, 192||Sr.||**** (5.8)||16||70||4.4||3.8||2||-0.4|
|Dallas Crawford||RB||5'10, 196||So.||*** (5.7)||6||23||3.8||1.5||0||-0.8|
|Phillip Dorsett||WR||5'9, 179||Jr.||*** (5.7)||5||8||1.6||3.4||0||-1.4|
The Miami offensive line could be simply awesome this year. The Hurricanes ranked in the top 25 in both Adj. Line Yards and Adj. Sack Rate a year ago, and the top six players from the line return, including two-year starting right guard Brandon Linder and former all-world recruit Seantrel Henderson. Miami faced a series of strong defensive lines in 2012 and still paved the way for Mike James and Johnson to rush for 1,568 yards in a pass-first offense. That's not bad. And despite Morris' propensity for throwing longer passes, the line helped to keep his sack rate under four percent. And now it has a wealth of experience that it just didn't have last year.
With proper time, Morris could have a lot of fun once again sending passes downfield to receivers Phillip Dorsett and Rashawn Scott and tight end Clive Walford, all three of whom averaged between 8.3 yards per target (solid) and 12.2 (great). Speedy sophomore slot receivers could also get involved, not to mention Stacy Coley, a true freshman who has drawn rave reviews this summer and early fall.
But Morris might have the most fun simply handing or dumping to Duke Johnson and watching him go. It's probably not a coincidence that things clicked for Johnson around the same time that they clicked for Miami's offense overall. Through eight games, Johnson had rushed 83 times for 455 yards (a not-terrible 5.5 yards per carry) and five touchdowns. He had shown some potential for a freshman, but he hadn't completely figured things out. And then in the last four games he rushed 56 times for 492 yards (8.8 per carry) and five more touchdowns.
He's put on some weight (of the good variety, one assumes) in the offseason, and he will shoulder as much of a load as he can this fall. He is every bit as electric as he was assumed to be coming out of high school, and if you're a college football fan, you have to be pretty excited about seeing what he can do over the course of a full season. Stay healthy, Duke.
|Phillip Dorsett||WR||5'9, 179||Jr.||*** (5.7)||101||58||842||57.4%||8.3||23.8%||67.3%||8.4||128.0|
|Rashawn Scott||WR||6'2, 203||Jr.||*** (5.6)||59||35||512||59.3%||8.7||13.9%||54.2%||8.9||77.8|
|Allen Hurns||WR||6'3, 195||Sr.||*** (5.7)||48||28||314||58.3%||6.5||11.3%||58.3%||6.5||47.7|
|Duke Johnson||RB||5'9, 196||So.||***** (6.1)||40||27||221||67.5%||5.5||9.4%||52.5%||5.8||33.6|
|Clive Walford||TE||6'4, 259||Jr.||*** (5.5)||37||25||451||67.6%||12.2||8.7%||70.3%||12.1||68.5|
|Herb Waters||SLOT||6'2, 193||So.||*** (5.7)||18||10||227||55.6%||12.6||4.2%||50.0%||14.3||34.5|
|Malcolm Lewis||SLOT||6'0, 187||So.||**** (5.8)||13||8||73||61.5%||5.6||3.1%||53.8%||5.7||11.1|
|Maurice Hagens||FB||5'11, 250||Sr.||*** (5.6)||7||5||25||71.4%||3.6||1.7%||71.4%||3.5||3.8|
|Asante Cleveland||TE||6'5, 260||Sr.||** (5.3)||7||2||12||28.6%||1.7||1.7%||85.7%||1.2||1.8|
|Beau Sandland||TE||6'6, 255||Jr.||**** (5.9)|
|Stacy Coley||WR||6'1, 180||Fr.||**** (5.9)|
|Brandon Linder||RG||6'6, 319||Sr.||**** (5.8)||26 career starts|
|Jon Feliciano||LG||6'5, 320||Jr.||*** (5.6)||20 career starts|
|Seantrel Henderson||RT||6'8, 332||Sr.||***** (6.1)||18 career starts|
|Malcolm Bunche||LT||6'7, 327||Jr.||**** (5.8)||13 career starts|
|Shane McDermott||C||6'4, 296||Jr.||*** (5.6)||12 career starts|
|Ereck Flowers||LT||6'6, 315||So.||**** (5.8)||4 career starts|
|Ben Jones||RT||1 career start|
|Jared Wheeler||C||6'5, 319||Sr.||*** (5.6)|
|Hunter Wells||RG||6'4, 310||So.||** (5.3)|
|Danny Isidora||RG||6'4, 308||RSFr.||*** (5.7)|
|Taylor Gadbois||LT||6'8, 312||RSFr.||*** (5.7)|
|Alex Gall||RG||6'5, 304||Fr.||*** (5.5)|
|Sunny Odogwu||RT||6'8, 318||Fr.||*** (5.5)|
|Q1 Rk||74||1st Down Rk||84|
|Q2 Rk||92||2nd Down Rk||95|
|Q3 Rk||51||3rd Down Rk||62|
6. Bad late
Having an offense that can come through on third down, or in the fourth quarter, or near the end zone is great. It's less great, however, if your defense gives away whatever your offense gains. Miami's D ranked 105th in the fourth quarter and 94th in the red zone, which certainly meant for some exciting fourth quarters overall but definitely negated some of the offense's work.
Defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio followed Al Golden from Temple, but he's found it difficult to make much headway. He inherited a defense that ranked 12th in Def. F/+ in 2010, and the Hurricanes have ranked just 73rd and 88th since then. The major issues in 2012 came up front, where the defensive line dealt with quite a few injuries, couldn't get much of a push against the run, and couldn't generate any semblance of a pass rush. There's a pretty good chance that changes in 2013, but we'll see how much.
|Rivals||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Shayon Green||DE||6'3, 264||Sr.||*** (5.5)||12||52.5||6.9%||2||0||0||1||0||1|
|Anthony Chickillo||DE||6'4, 275||Jr.||**** (5.9)||12||37.0||4.9%||6.5||4||0||1||0||2|
|DE||6'4, 247||Sr.||**** (5.8)||14||31.5||4.4%||9.5||4||0||1||3||0|
|Olsen Pierre||DE||6'4, 305||Jr.||*** (5.5)||11||21.5||2.8%||5||1.5||0||3||2||0|
|Kelvin Cain||DE||6'3, 250||Sr.||** (5.4)||9||10.5||1.4%||1||1||0||0||0||0|
|Luther Robinson||DT||6'3, 303||Sr.||**** (5.8)||10||10.0||1.3%||0||0||0||0||0||1|
|DT||6'6, 310||Sr.||*** (5.5)||12||8.0||1.3%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Corey King||DT||6'1, 292||So.||** (5.4)||9||9.5||1.2%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Curtis Porter||DT||6'1, 316||Sr.||*** (5.7)||4||7.0||0.9%||2.5||0||0||0||0||0|
|Jalen Grimble||DL||6'2, 290||Jr.||**** (5.8)||8||5.0||0.7%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Earl Moore||DT||6'1, 300||So.||*** (5.7)||12||4.5||0.6%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Jelani Hamilton||DT||6'5, 285||So.||**** (5.9)||5||4.0||0.5%||1||0||0||0||0||0|
|David Perry||DE||6'7, 277||So.||*** (5.7)|
|Ufomba Kamalu||DL||6'6, 285||Jr.||** (5.4)|
|Al-Quadin Muhammad||DE||6'3, 230||Fr.||**** (6.0)|
7. Every day I'm shufflin'
In all, only three Miami defensive linemen and three linebackers played in all 12 games last year, and two of those combined six were basically reserves. The tackle position was particularly unsettled, with Luther Robinson missing two games, Corey King and Darius Smith missing three, and Curtis Porter missing eight. At linebacker, each of the top four missed at least a game, and the top two performers (Denzel Perryman, Gionni Paul) each missed three. Any team's depth would have been severely tested with shuffling like this, and Miami's defensive front barely held up.
Things will almost certainly improve up front in 2013, and there are two main reasons for that: experience and newcomers. It's tough to pull off both, but Miami has.
First, the Hurricanes return all six linemen who logged at least 9.5 tackles last year, including end Anthony Chickillo, one of the team's only decent pass rushers. Beyond that, the reinforcements have arrived. Wisconsin transfer David Gilbert, who briefly retired from the sport because of recurring foot issues, has decided to give it one last shot close to home (he's from Coral Gables). He isn't big, but he's active and immediately becomes the line's best overall play-maker. Plus, Virginia transfer Justin Renfrow, junior college transfer Ufomba Kamalu, and big-time (and skinny) freshman Al-Quadin Muhammad all join the fray as well. There is a wealth of options here, and if there is any semblance of decent injury luck, Miami's line stats could improve dramatically.
|Rivals||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Denzel Perryman||OLB||6'0, 240||Jr.||*** (5.7)||9||54.5||7.1%||6||0||1||2||1||0|
|Jimmy Gaines||MLB||6'3, 240||Sr.||** (5.4)||11||45.5||6.0%||3||0||2||3||0||1|
|Thurston Armbrister||OLB||6'3, 233||Jr.||NR||12||32.5||4.3%||2||0||0||0||0||0|
|Tyrone Cornileus||OLB||6'2, 225||Sr.||*** (5.7)||12||24.5||3.2%||0||0||0||3||0||0|
|Raphael Kirby||MLB||6'0, 235||So.||**** (5.9)||7||12.5||1.6%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Tyriq McCord||OLB||6'3, 235||So.||**** (5.9)||12||12.5||1.6%||3.5||3.5||0||1||0||1|
|Jermaine Grace||LB||6'1, 210||Fr.||**** (5.8)|
|Alex Figueroa||OLB||6'3, 235||Fr.||NR|
8. Find a pass rush
Miami's secondary isn't great. Both starting cornerbacks are gone, including Brandon McGee, easily the best overall play-maker in the unit. There is plenty of reason to think that youngsters like Rayshawn Jenkins and Tracy Howard could come into their own, along with big-hitting Deon Bush (all three are sophomores); and three more four-star freshmen are fighting for playing time in camp. But the biggest hope for improvement in the secondary could simply come in the amount of help it gets up front. Miami's pass rush was dreadful last year; it must improve. With the addition of David Gilbert (if he stays healthy), it could, but a bigger role for Tyriq McCord on passing downs could also help.
The linebacking corps managed just one sack last year; meanwhile, as a reserve true freshman defensive end, McCord recorded 3.5. After his move to outside linebacker, he's barely holding onto a second-string spot -- clearly he's still a work in progress. But he can get to the passer, and if he's at least reliable enough to get some reps in blitzing situations, that could be very good news for the defense as a whole.
|Rivals||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Kacy Rodgers II||S||6'2, 212||Sr.||*** (5.7)||12||47.0||6.2%||2||0||0||2||0||0|
|Deon Bush||S||6'1, 203||So.||**** (5.9)||10||31.0||4.1%||1||0||0||3||3||0|
|A.J. Highsmith||S||6'0, 208||Sr.||*** (5.6)||12||25.0||3.3%||0||0||1||4||1||1|
|Ladarius Gunter||CB||6'2, 196||Jr.||*** (5.5)||12||23.0||3.0%||1||0||1||6||0||2|
|Rayshawn Jenkins||S||6'1, 215||So.||*** (5.7)||10||23.0||3.0%||0||0||1||3||0||0|
|Tracy Howard||CB||5'11, 184||So.||***** (6.1)||12||13.5||1.8%||0||0||0||4||0||0|
|Nantambu-Akil Fentress||DB||5'9, 198||Jr.||NR||12||11.5||1.5%||0||0||0||0||1||0|
|Antonio Crawford||CB||5'11, 187||So.||*** (5.6)||12||7.0||0.9%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Jordan Tolson||S||6'1, 195||Jr.||NR|
|Nate Dortch||CB||5'11, 173||RSFr.||*** (5.5)|
|Corn Elder||DB||5'10, 173||Fr.||**** (5.9)|
|Artie Burns||DB||6'0, 190||Fr.||**** (5.8)|
|Jamal Carter||S||6'1, 207||Fr.||**** (5.8)|
|Matt Goudis||6'0, 172||So.||1||37.0||0||0||0||0.0%|
|Matt Goudis||6'0, 172||So.||2||55||0||0.0%|
|Duke Johnson||KR||5'9, 196||So.||27||33.0||2|
|Phillip Dorsett||KR||5'9, 179||Jr.||11||22.8||0|
|Malcolm Lewis||KR||6'0, 187||So.||1||39.0||0|
|Phillip Dorsett||PR||5'9, 179||Jr.||15||5.7||0|
|Special Teams F/+||17|
|Field Goal Pct||43|
|Kick Returns Avg||2|
|Punt Returns Avg||95|
9. How many touches can Duke take?
I will once again refer to a quote from Oregon's Mark Helfrich:
I've said a bunch of times that you never wanna know the limit on carries your tailback can have, because that means they're hurt.
Helfrich was, of course, referring to his own tailback and return specialist, De'Anthony Thomas. But it's the same concept for Duke Johnson, the closest thing to a DAT in the state of Florida. If he can handle life as both a featured running back and return man, Miami would be wise to use him as often as possible. But that's a lot of hits for a frame that, while bigger, is still pretty small overall.
Johnson's success in the kick return game distracted from the fact that, overall, Miami's special teams unit has quite a few holes. Jake Wieclaw was strong on kicks under 40 yards, but he's gone, as is a decent punter in Dalton Botts. And Miami's kick coverage was far from strong last year.
2013 Schedule & Projection Factors
|28-Sep||at South Florida||67|
|17-Oct||at North Carolina||29|
|2-Nov||at Florida State||19|
|Five-Year F/+ Rk||33|
|Two-Year Recruiting Rk||26|
|TO Margin/Adj. TO Margin*||+7 / +12.8|
|Approx. Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.)||18 (11, 7)|
10. Hello (again), world
If Miami is eligible for the postseason (and again, we should know relatively soon), one can certainly begin to see how a decent bowl game and a trip to the ACC title game (with a chance at an even better bowl game) could be in the works here.
Miami's defensive flaws have not been completely ironed out, and we don't know how a new offensive coordinator will pull the strings for an offense that was both distinctive and, at times, shaky last year. But if Miami can approach the top-30 or 35 level again in 2013, there are games to be won. The Hurricanes face six teams projected 67th or worse and get Florida, Georgia Tech, and Virginia Tech at home. And a season-ending trip to Pittsburgh isn't intimidating, either.
For all we know, the Shapiro cloud could ruin Miami's 2013 plans when all is said and done, but really, whether it does or not, Al Golden has done an incredible job of maintaining hope for the program as a whole. Momentum on the field picked up late in 2012, and there's a decent chance that the Hurricanes can continue that this fall, postseason or no postseason.