The big 2014 Miami football guide: The Hurricanes' expectations game

Joel Auerbach

Expectations are a funny thing for a Miami program with a brilliant history and the clearing smoke from the Nevin Shapiro investigation. Wherever the bar is set, though, it's going to be hard for Al Golden to clear it unless his defense improves.

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1. Year 4

Three years into his tenure as Miami's head coach, Al Golden has made it difficult to get a read on his performance. So let's play a little game of What We Know.

We know that Golden inherited a roster that had played far-from-incredible football. Recruiting rankings aside, Miami had gone just 28-23 in Randy Shannon's four seasons in charge (2007-10), which smacks of mediocre football. That sets the bar pretty low.

We also know, however, that there was some bad luck involved in Miami only going 7-6 in 2010. The Hurricanes ranked 17th in the F/+ ratings in 2009 and fell only to 23rd in 2010, losing tight, frustrating games to Virginia and USF, staying reasonably close to Ohio State and Virginia Tech, and beating three teams that went 8-5 or better. That sets the bar a little higher.

We know that Miami was smacked with the Nevin Shapiro scandal not long after Golden came aboard as coach, and that the lengthy, drawn-out, and mostly fruitless investigation lingered like a black cloud over recruiting for quite a while. That lowers the bar.

We also know that Miami has some built-in geographic and historic recruiting advantages, which keeps the bar from getting too low. That, combined with dogged effort from Golden and his staff, led to recruiting classes that, according to 247 Sports, ranked 10th in 2012, 14th in 2013, and 12th in 2014. Good recruiting is often part of good coaching. That's a point in his favor.

We know that Golden has yet to produce a top-30 F/+ performance. That's a point deduction. Miami ranked 32nd in 2011, 65th in 2012, and 36th in 2013. The Hurricanes broke out to a 7-0 start in 2013 and found themselves seventh in the BCS standings heading into their November 2 battle at Florida State. Now, they were in no way a top-10 team, as evidenced by narrow wins over North Carolina (when the Heels weren't playing that well) and dreary Wake Forest. They peaked at 17th in the F/+ rankings, but ... hey, that's 17th. That's pretty strong progress.

We know that Miami completely fell apart down the stretch in 2013. The combination of an injury to star running back Duke Johnson and a completely demoralizing 41-14 loss to Florida State led to an offensive slump and a defensive collapse, and a 7-0 start begat a 2-4 finish and a slip to 36th overall.

We know that's not good enough for Miami. But we know that's an improvement over 2012. And we know that of Golden's three great recruiting classes, the first is only now reaching its third year in the program. Even with blue-chippers, experience matters.

Miami will always have high expectations, but they were lowered at least a little bit because of NCAA trials and tribulations. And really, whether Golden has cleared the bar so far or not doesn't matter. His job is safe, and he has built a strong base of talent (on paper) despite self- and NCAA-imposed sanctions.

If this team lives up to its recruiting billing in the coming years, then the Hurricanes won't be competing for national titles, but they'll at least be winning the occasional division title (since joining the ACC in 2004, they have yet to actually play in an ACC title game) and breaking 10 wins here and there. That might not be enough to satisfy a fanbase that has both a long memory and a fickle reputation, but it will be enough to keep Golden employed and maintain a healthy program.

2013 Schedule & Results

Record: 9-4 | Adj. Record: 8-5 | Final F/+ Rk: 36
Date Opponent Opp. F/+ Rk Score W-L Adj. Score Adj. W-L 5-gm Adj. Avg.
30-Aug Florida Atlantic 73 34-6 W 47.4 - 12.7 W
7-Sep Florida 48 21-16 W 20.5 - 34.1 L
21-Sep Savannah State N/A 77-7 W 41.9 - 18.8 W
28-Sep at South Florida 99 49-21 W 41.7 - 33.7 W
5-Oct Georgia Tech 34 45-30 W 62.2 - 20.6 W 18.7
17-Oct at North Carolina 38 27-23 W 39.2 - 30.5 W 13.5
26-Oct Wake Forest 81 24-21 W 36.0 - 34.1 W 16.6
2-Nov at Florida State 1 14-41 L 38.8 - 25.7 W 14.6
9-Nov Virginia Tech 27 24-42 L 43.0 - 48.4 L 11.9
16-Nov at Duke 41 30-48 L 38.7 - 41.3 L 3.1
23-Nov Virginia 79 45-26 W 28.6 - 36.7 L -0.2
29-Nov at Pittsburgh 54 41-31 W 41.8 - 37.4 W 0.3
28-Dec Louisville 12 9-36 L 18.4 - 29.7 L -4.6
Category Offense Rk Defense Rk Spec. Tms. Rk
F/+ +17.3% 12 -7.6% 91 +1.1% 42
Points Per Game 33.8 33 26.8 66
Adj. Points Per Game 38.3 9 31.1 93

2. Duke and demoralization

Again, Miami wasn't actually a top-10 caliber team after seven games, but it was a good one. The offense was adept at huge plays via run and pass, and while the defense wasn't good enough, it was still a bit above average. But when the Hurricanes visited Tallahassee, everything changed.

  • Adj. Points Per Game (first 8 games): Miami 41.0, Opponent 26.3 (plus-14.7)
  • Adj. Points Per Game (last 5 games): Opponent 38.7, Miami 34.1 (minus-4.6)

For one thing, the 41-14 debacle (which wasn't even as close as the score would suggest) brought a level of shame to a program that desperately wanted to think it was close to being elite once again. The defense, which really didn't play terribly against FSU considering the quality of the opponent, fell into a drastic slump down the stretch. After allowing greater than 5.5 yards per play just once in the first seven games, the Hurricanes allowed at least 6.6 in five of the final six. Allowing 7.1 per play to FSU isn't the end of the world, but ... 6.6 to Pitt? 7.3 to Louisville? 7.0 to Virginia Tech? Yikes.

The defense regressed considerably, but the loss of one player on offense changed that unit's upside by at least a touchdown. Sophomore running back Duke Johnson broke his ankle against FSU, and what was once a solid running game fell apart. After rushing for 200+ yards in five of seven games, the Hurricanes rushed for greater than 90 just twice in the final six.

That put far too much pressure on the Miami passing game, and while it continued to play pretty well for the most part -- Stephen Morris went 16-for-29 for 324 yards, two scores and no picks (and three sacks) against an elite Hokie pass defense -- the offense still wasn't as good. Miami was able to outscore Virginia and Pitt in shootouts, but the offense couldn't keep up in blowout losses to Virginia Tech, Duke, and Louisville.

The two most proven components of the passing game (Morris and underrated receiver Allen Hurns) are gone, but that might not matter if Johnson is full strength, as expected, this fall. He is a difference-maker, and he proved it in his absence.

Offense

FIVE FACTORS -- OFFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 1.38 3 IsoPPP+ 124.6 2
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 44.5% 51 Succ. Rt. + 121.0 8
FIELD POSITION Def. Avg. FP 27.0 14 Def. FP+ 103.4 21
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Trip in 40 4.3 65 Redzone S&P+ 98.6 69
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 19.3 ACTUAL 22 +2.7
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 48 4 8 6
RUSHING 73 11 11 35
PASSING 33 3 8 5
Standard Downs 5 10 3
Passing Downs 2 9 1
Q1 Rk 1 1st Down Rk 3
Q2 Rk 8 2nd Down Rk 4
Q3 Rk 8 3rd Down Rk 8
Q4 Rk 10

3. Stats vs. eyeballs

Give Miami credit for one thing: the Hurricanes don't stop trying to come back. When losing big, they passed almost exclusively. This increases your odds of scoring and getting back into the ballgame and really increases your odds of getting blown out by a larger margin. Miami's four losses came by an average of 22.5 points, so we know which way that went, but there's something admirable about going down in a blaze of attempted glory.

Even while losing Johnson for more than a third of the season, Miami still finished the year ranked 12th in Off. F/+. A lot of people have scoffed at that, but I think I can explain it. First of all, these blaze-of-glory tendencies gave way to a lot of turnovers, mistakes, etc., when a given game was out of hand. It left the eyeballs with a damning impression of futility after the stats had stopped counting (since these stats are filtered for garbage time).

Plus, the variance was enormous. Against Florida, Florida State, and Louisville, in perhaps the three most visible games on the schedule, the offense averaged 14.7 points per game and 4.0 yards per play. But the Hurricanes did relatively well against other good defenses (against Virginia and Virginia Tech: 34.5 points per game and 6.2 yards per play) and thoroughly destroyed most mediocre and bad defenses. They averaged 10.4 yards per play against Georgia Tech, and even without Johnson, they averaged 7.7 against Pitt and 7.2 against Duke.

Those high-visibility games left a nasty impression, which the Hurricanes thwarted when nobody was actually watching.

Quarterback

Note: players in bold below are 2014 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.

Player Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals Comp Att Yards TD INT Comp
Rate
Sacks Sack Rate Yards/
Att.
Stephen Morris 198 344 3028 21 12 57.6% 15 4.2% 8.1
Ryan Williams 6'6, 225 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 22 32 369 3 1 68.8% 2 5.9% 10.4
Gray Crow 6'3, 224 So. 3 stars (5.6) 6 8 55 1 1 75.0% 0 0.0% 6.9
Kevin Olsen 6'3, 212 RSFr. 4 stars (5.8)
Jake Heaps (Kansas) 6'1, 210 Sr. 4 stars (5.9) 128 261 1414 8 10 49.0% 23 8.1% 4.3
Brad Kaaya 6'4, 213 Fr. 4 stars (5.8)

4. You still need a quarterback

Of course, I can defend Miami's 2013 ratings all I want. The 2014 Miami offense won't get anywhere close to 12th if it can't find a new quarterback. Morris is gone, and presumptive starter Ryan Williams is going to miss at least part of the season with an ACL injury.

That leaves a bit of a grab bag. Redshirt freshman Kevin Olsen finished the spring atop the depth chart, but he could be pushed by sophomore Gray Crow, incoming freshman Brad Kaaya, or, as of this week, Kansas and BYU transfer Jake Heaps.

Three of the four players above -- Olsen, Kaaya, and Heaps -- are at least former four-star recruits. And while Heaps has never really hinted at blue-chip potential, Olsen and Kaaya are blank slates. If either of them is worth his recruiting hype, Miami could just be fine at quarterback in 2015 and beyond. But Williams' absence lends serious uncertainty to the offense as a whole, especially with early trips to Louisville and Nebraska (and a potential home shootout against Duke) coming up on the schedule before October.

The good news is that the new quarterback will have help. Johnson should be just fine, for starters. Broken bones heal, and a full-strength Johnson gives Miami one of the most consistent big-play backs in the country. In 2013, 110 FBS players rushed at least 140 times. Only 14 of those averaged at least 6.5 highlight yards per opportunity, and of those 14, only seven had an opportunity rate (frequency of five-yard carries, basically) of at least 41 percent. Filtering out quarterbacks (Auburn's Nick Marshall and Ohio State's Braxton Miller) and mid-majors (Louisiana Tech's Kenneth Dixon), that leaves us with Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon and James White, Baylor's Lache Seastrunk, LSU's Jeremy Hill, Missouri's Henry Josey, and Johnson. That's lovely company.

Gus Edwards was relatively efficient (and not at all explosive) as a freshman, and blue-chipper Joseph Yearby joins the rotation this fall. But Johnson will get as many touches as he can handle.

The new QB will also have a receiving corps that loses Hurns but returns three explosive wideouts in sophomore Stacy Coley (who averaged an elite 11.8 yards per target), junior Herb Waters (9.0), and senior Phillip Dorsett (11.3). Coley lived up to blue-chip hype as a true freshman, and tight end Clive Walford has some explosive potential as well.

Miami still needs a quarterback, but we at least know the floor for the offense will be pretty high with this supporting cast.

Running Back

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals Rushes Yards TD Yards/
Carry
Hlt Yds/
Carry
Opp.
Rate
Duke Johnson RB 5'9, 206 Jr. 5 stars (6.1) 145 920 6 6.3 6.5 43.4%
Dallas Crawford RB


137 558 12 4.1 4.0 36.5%
Gus Edwards RB 6'2, 235 So. 3 stars (5.6) 66 338 5 5.1 3.9 43.9%
Eduardo Clements RB 30 194 0 6.5 3.7 56.7%
Stephen Morris QB 13 46 0 3.5 3.1 53.8%
De'Andre Johnson RB 5'8, 196 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 5 21 0 4.2 1.3 60.0%
Maurice Hagens FB 5 22 0 4.4 1.5 40.0%
Jameson Labady RB 4 5 0 1.3 0.0%
Walter Tucker FB 6'0, 218 So. 2 stars (5.4)
Joseph Yearby RB 5'9, 191 Fr. 4 stars (6.0)




Receiving Corps

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals Targets Catches Yards Catch Rate Target
Rate
%SD Yds/
Target
NEY Real Yds/
Target
RYPR
Allen Hurns WR 104 62 1162 59.6% 29.1% 46.8% 11.2 381 11.7 242.8
Clive Walford TE 6'4, 263 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 50 34 454 68.0% 14.0% 78.3% 9.1 53 9.3 94.9
Stacy Coley WR 6'1, 185 So. 4 stars (5.9) 50 33 591 66.0% 14.0% 40.0% 11.8 196 12.5 123.5
Herb Waters SLOT 6'2, 191 Jr. 3 stars (5.7) 45 28 406 62.2% 12.6% 61.9% 9.0 61 7.5 84.8
Dallas Crawford RB 5'9, 206 Jr. 3 stars (5.7) 24 20 171 83.3% 6.7% 50.0% 7.1 -43 6.2 35.7
Phillip Dorsett WR 5'10, 185 Sr. 3 stars (5.7) 24 13 272 54.2% 6.7% 47.8% 11.3 100 12.4 56.8
Malcolm Lewis SLOT 6'0, 193 Jr. 4 stars (5.8) 19 7 71 36.8% 5.3% 60.0% 3.7 -46 1.7 14.8
Beau Sandland TE 6'6, 255 Sr. 4 stars (5.9) 13 9 94 69.2% 3.6% N/A 7.2 -11 0.0 19.6
Maurice Hagens FB 9 7 83 77.8% 2.5% 88.9% 9.2 6 11.4 17.3
Duke Johnson RB 5'9, 206 Jr. 5 stars (6.1) 6 4 77 66.7% 1.7% 66.7% 12.8 29 11.3 16.1
Asante Cleveland TE 5 3 23 60.0% 1.4% 60.0% 4.6 -15 4.6 4.8
Rashawn Scott WR 6'2, 205 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 5 3 38 60.0% 1.4% N/A 7.6 0 0.0 7.9
D'Mauri Jones WR 6'4, 196 So. 3 stars (5.6)
Standish Dobard TE 6'4, 260 So. 3 stars (5.7)
Braxton Berrios WR 5'9, 181 Fr. 4 stars (5.8)








Offensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs
LY/carry
Pass.
Downs
LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Team 116.8 3.14 3.1 42.5% 60.0% 20.0% 166.6 3.9% 4.2%
Rank 10 34 80 29 102 75 11 43 25
Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals Career Starts Honors/Notes
Brandon Linder RG 39 2nd All-ACC
Jon Feliciano LG 6'5, 320 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 33
Seantrel Henderson RT 26
Shane McDermott C 6'4, 296 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 23
Ereck Flowers LT 6'6, 322 Jr. 4 stars (5.8) 18
Malcolm Bunche LT 14
Jared Wheeler C 6
Hunter Wells LG 6'6, 312 Jr. 2 stars (5.3) 0
Danny Isidora RG 6'4, 316 So. 3 stars (5.7) 0
Alex Gall C 6'5, 306 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0
Sunny Odogwu RT 6'8, 324 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4)
KC McDermott LT 6'6, 308 Fr. 4 stars (5.9)
Trevor Darling RG 6'5, 315 Fr. 4 stars (5.8)

5. More than half of a great line is gone

It took a while for Miami to settle on a line in 2013. The Hurricanes started five different combinations of linemen in their first six games, then started a sixth combination after FSU, but despite a total lack of continuity, the line held up. Miami's was one of only two offenses in the country to rank in the top 15 of both Adj. Line Yards and Adj. Sack Rate (the other: NIU), and given both Duke Johnson's injury and Miami's aggressive downfield passing, that's incredible.

Of the seven players who finished the season with starting experience, however, four are gone. The left side of the line is still intact with the return of guard Jon Feliciano and tackle Ereck Flowers. Those two and center Shane McDermott have combined for 74 career starts, but there's work to do on the right side, and there's no semblance of a proven second string. It's not a guaranteed problem, but it's a red flag.

Defense

FIVE FACTORS -- DEFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 1.11 48 IsoPPP+ 96.8 82
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 44.2% 90 Succ. Rt. + 91.7 95
FIELD POSITION Off. Avg. FP 31.1 43 Off. FP+ 99.5 68
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Trip in 40 4.3 74 Redzone S&P+ 99.1 64
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 22.6 ACTUAL 27.0 +4.4
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 90 98 95 109
RUSHING 78 100 93 101
PASSING 92 92 87 111
Standard Downs 85 72 55
Passing Downs 116 106 120
Q1 Rk 90 1st Down Rk 92
Q2 Rk 79 2nd Down Rk 93
Q3 Rk 69 3rd Down Rk 88
Q4 Rk 121

6. A train wreck on passing downs

Defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio has been Al Golden's right hand man for a while. That he was able to mold a Temple defense into a top-60 unit (52nd in Def. F/+ in 2008, 56th in 2009) would, in theory, suggest that he could craft a top-30 unit with greater talent at Miami. To put it kindly, that has not been the case. D'Onofrio inherited a defense that had ranked 12th in 2010, and in three years, the Hurricanes have fallen to 73rd, then 88th, then 91st.

Again, things got a lot worse after the FSU game last fall, but at its best this was a slightly above average unit. And even before FSU, this defense suffered an inexcusable number of breakdowns on passing downs. The pass rush was decent, but the pass defense was both inefficient and leaky. Miami ranked 116th in Passing Downs S&P+. That just cannot happen.

Defensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs
LY/carry
Pass.
Downs
LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Team 87.3 3.32 3.02 36.7% 77.1% 14.4% 103.9 5.2% 7.7%
Rank 112 108 34 39 106 118 56 49 46
Name Pos Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Shayon Green DE 13 54.0 7.3% 10.5 3.0 0 2 1 0
Anthony Chickillo DE 6'4, 277 Sr. 4 stars (5.9) 13 35.5 4.8% 7.5 3.5 0 2 0 0
Justin Renfrow DT 13 28.5 3.9% 0.0 0.0 0 2 1 0
Olsen Pierre DT 6'5, 305 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 13 25.5 3.5% 1.0 1.0 0 2 0 0
Curtis Porter DT 13 18.5 2.5% 3.0 0.0 0 0 1 0
Luther Robinson DT 13 15.5 2.1% 1.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Tyriq McCord DE 6'3, 248 Jr. 4 stars (5.9) 13 10.0 1.4% 4.0 4.0 2 1 3 0
Ufomba Kamalu DE 6'6, 285 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 9 9.0 1.2% 3.5 3.5 0 0 0 0
David Gilbert DE 12 8.0 1.1% 1.5 0.5 0 0 0 1
Al-Quadin Muhammad DE 6'4, 242 So. 4 stars (6.0) 13 7.5 1.0% 2.0 2.0 0 0 0 0
Jelani Hamilton DT 6'5, 290 Jr. 4 stars (5.9) 4 3.0 0.4% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Kelvin Cain DL 6 2.0 0.3% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Earl Moore DT 6'1, 304 Jr. 3 stars (5.7)
Corey King DT 6'1, 295 So. 2 stars (5.4)
Calvin Heurtelou DT 6'3, 318 Jr. 3 stars (5.7)
Michael Wyche DT 6'3, 325 Jr. 3 stars (5.6)
Chad Thomas DE 6'5, 255 Fr. 5 stars (6.1)
Trent Harris DE 6'2, 242 Fr. 3 stars (5.7)
Anthony Moten DT 6'4, 292 Fr. 4 stars (5.9)
Demetrious Jackson DE 6'5, 225 Fr. 4 stars (5.8)

7. Blood transfusion up front

Of course, passing downs issues would have been an even bigger deal if Miami had actually forced more passing downs. But with a defensive front that ranked 112th in Adj. Line Yards and 118th in Stuff Rate (run stops behind the line), passing downs were often few and far between. There was plenty of experience and plenty of former four-star recruits on the Miami line last year, but it stunk regardless.

In this sense, it's probably a good thing that, of the 10 linemen who logged at least 7.5 tackles last year, five are gone. It offers opportunities for new blood. Now we just have to see if that new blood is any good. Junior college tackles Calvin Heurtelou and Michael Wyche have plenty of size to offer, and five-star end Chad Thomas could be an immediate contributor. Sophomore Al-Quadin Muhammad is a bit undersized but could be a potential weakside weapon; 2.0 of his 7.5 tackles were sacks. Combined with decent-but-unspectacular seniors Anthony Chickillo and Olsen Pierre and other well-regarded newcomers, you've got the makings of a strong unit.

But on paper, last year's unit should have been pretty strong too. There's a pretty high burden of proof here.

Linebackers

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Denzel Perryman MLB 6'0, 242 Sr. 3 stars (5.7) 13 88.5 12.0% 5.0 1.5 0 3 1 0
Jimmy Gaines MLB 13 68.5 9.3% 2.0 0.0 0 2 1 0
Tyrone Cornileus OLB 13 33.5 4.5% 2.0 1.0 0 3 1 0
Thurston Armbrister OLB 6'3, 235 Jr. NR 13 29.0 3.9% 5.0 2.0 0 0 0 0
Alex Figueroa OLB 6'3, 242 So. NR 9 14.5 2.0% 1.0 1.0 0 0 0 0
Raphael Kirby MLB 6'1, 235 Jr. 4 stars (5.9) 13 9.0 1.2% 2.5 1.0 0 1 0 0
Jermaine Grace OLB 6'1, 210 So. 4 stars (5.8) 11 6.0 0.8% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Akil Craig LB 3 2.0 0.3% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
JaWand Blue MLB 6'0, 232 So. 3 stars (5.7)
Darrion Owens OLB 6'3, 235 Fr. 3 stars (5.7)
Juwon Young MLB 6'2, 240 Fr. 3 stars (5.6)







Secondary

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Ladarius Gunter CB 6'2, 198 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 12 41.0 5.6% 2 0 3 9 1 0
Rayshawn Jenkins S 6'1, 208 Jr. 3 stars (5.7) 13 38.0 5.2% 1 0 3 5 0 0
Antonio Crawford CB 5'11, 191 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 13 29.5 4.0% 0 0 1 3 0 0
Tracy Howard CB 5'11, 184 Jr. 5 stars (6.1) 13 28.5 3.9% 1 0 4 1 1 0
Deon Bush S 6'1, 203 Jr. 4 stars (5.9) 11 27.0 3.7% 2 2 1 1 1 0
AJ Highsmith S 13 16.5 2.2% 1 1 1 3 0 0
Artie Burns CB 6'0, 198 So. 4 stars (5.8) 11 16.0 2.2% 0.5 0 1 3 1 0
Kacy Rodgers II CB 12 14.0 1.9% 1 1 1 0 1 0
Nantambu-Akil Fentress S 5'9, 193 Sr. NR 13 9.0 1.2% 0 0 0 1 0 0
Corn Elder CB 5'10, 182 So. 4 stars (5.9) 10 6.5 0.9% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Larry Hope DB 2 2.5 0.3% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Nate Dortch DB 5'11, 180 So. 3 stars (5.5) 6 2.0 0.3% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Dallas Crawford S 5'10, 195 Jr. 3 stars (5.7)
Jamal Carter S 6'1, 207 So. 4 stars (5.8)
Kiy Hester DB 6'0, 201 Fr. 4 stars (5.8)







8. No excuses in the back

Miami's secondary was definitely too young to be elite in 2013. Of the top seven tacklers, four were sophomores, one was a freshman, and only one was a senior.

But the combination of high recruiting rankings -- for players like Tracy Howard, Deon Bush, Artie Burns, and Corn Elder -- and disturbingly awful passing downs numbers made this unit a crushing disappointment. There were plenty of hints of play-making potential -- the top six returnees combined for 6.5 tackles for loss, 13 interceptions, and 22 break-ups -- but the glitches were enormous. If this unit improves with experience, there's plenty of upside, but again, a unit that allowed 141 passes of 10+ yards (119th in the country) and 46 of 20+ yards (92nd) faces all the burden of proof.

You can put together one hell of a highlight reel with the big plays this defense made in 2013, but you can put together an even longer one of the plays opposing offenses made. No excuses in 2014.

Special Teams

Punter Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Punts Avg TB FC I20 FC/I20
Ratio
Pat O'Donnell 53 47.1 9 11 19 56.6%
Kicker Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Kickoffs Avg TB OOB TB%
Pat O'Donnell 79 63.1 37 2 46.8%
Matt Goudis 6'0, 172 Jr. 4 64.3 1 0 25.0%
Place-Kicker Ht, Wt 2014
Year
PAT FG
(0-39)
Pct FG
(40+)
Pct
Matt Goudis 6'0, 172 Jr. 57-57 11-12 91.7% 2-5 40.0%
Returner Pos. Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Returns Avg. TD
Stacy Coley KR 6'1, 185 So. 22 25.9 1
Duke Johnson KR 5'9, 206 Jr. 14 28.3 0
Stacy Coley PR 6'1, 185 So. 10 22.0 1
Phillip Dorsett PR 5'10, 185 Sr. 9 6.3 0
Category Rk
Special Teams F/+ 42
Field Goal Efficiency 67
Punt Return Efficiency 32
Kick Return Efficiency 107
Punt Efficiency 45
Kickoff Efficiency 17
Opponents' Field Goal Efficiency 64

9. Efficiency vs. explosiveness, special teams edition

Stacy Coley and Duke Johnson each averaged more than 25 yards per kick return in 2013, which is top-notch. But Miami ranked 107th in Kick Return Efficiency because of the all-or-nothing nature of the returns. Trading away a couple of 50-yard returns for more 25-yard returns might work in Miami's favor in the field position battle, and the Hurricanes could use the extra field position help thanks to the departure of punter and kickoffs guy Pat O'Donnell.

2014 Schedule & Projection Factors

2014 Schedule
Date Opponent Proj. Rk
1-Sep at Louisville 16
6-Sep Florida A&M NR
13-Sep Arkansas State 94
20-Sep at Nebraska 40
27-Sep Duke 56
4-Oct at Georgia Tech 44
11-Oct Cincinnati 54
23-Oct at Virginia Tech 19
1-Nov North Carolina 35
15-Nov Florida State 1
22-Nov at Virginia 62
29-Nov Pittsburgh 39
Five-Year F/+ Rk 10.9% (29)
Two-Year Recruiting Rk 25
TO Margin/Adj. TO Margin* 5 / 3.3
TO Luck/Game +0.7
Approx. Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.) 13 (6, 7)

10. The road will tell the tale

No matter how hard I try, no matter how much I balk at the names on the quarterbacks list, I just cannot be worried about the Miami offense. There's too much proven talent at the skill positions, and the line should still be solid, if not quite as good as last year. The offense will score.

But as they say, defense travels. And considering most of Miami's bigger games are on the road in 2014 -- Louisville, Nebraska, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech -- the Hurricanes' fortunes in 2014 will probably be tied to defensive competence. There just wasn't enough of it in 2013. The line wasn't talented enough, and the secondary suffered a glitch for every good play. The front of the defense gets some new blood, and the back is far more experienced, but there's a very good chance that defense will hold the Hurricanes back again this fall. The question is how much.

To have a chance at the division title, Miami might need to only win one of the three conference road games listed above (Louisville, GT, VT). But to have a legitimate chance at their first 10-win season since 2003 (yep, 2003), the Hurricanes might need to win two. Is that actually a possibility? Can the defense improve that much? Probably not.

Expectations are a funny thing for Miami right now. A series of strong recruiting classes have offset the uncertainty of lengthy Nevin Shapiro investigation, and Al Golden will probably get less benefit-of-the-doubt moving forward. His offense will give him a chance against basically anybody not named Florida State, but unless he gets things figured out on defense, he's going to struggle to clear a rising bar.

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