Christina De Nicola: 2009 Miami Campus Correspondent 12 Days of ACC Football: Boston College Eagles August 3, 2009 Despite finishing atop the Atlantic Division over Florida State with a 9-5 record overall (5-3 ACC), it will be a different season for the Boston College Eagles, who will be led by first-year head coach Frank Spaziani. Spaziani spent the past 10 years as defensive coordinator and two years before that as the running backs coach. He takes the helm from Jeff Jagodzinski. Boston College must find a way to make up for 55 percent of its lost offense with the departure of graduated senior quarterback Chris Crane. He accounted for 1,940 total yards and 17 touchdowns last season. Sophomore quarterback Dominique Davis started the final three games when Crane was out with an injury, and finished 63 of 138 passes for 741 yards, six touchdowns and four interceptions. However, due to academic reasons, Davis is set to transfer and leaves the workload up to an inexperienced, yet almost Ben Roethlisberger-sized depth chart: junior Codi Boek (6-3, 221), redshirt freshmen Alexander Atiyeh (6-5, 225) and Justin Tuggle (6-3, 208) and true freshman Mike Marscovetra (6-4, 204). A tag-team combination of sophomore running backs Montel Harris (900 yards and six touchdowns) and Josh Haden (479 yards and one touchdown) will have to fill the void in the playmaking department. Both will be helped out by senior center Matt Tennant (started 28 consecutive games, Rimington Trophy Watch List and ACC honorable mention last year) and junior offensive tackle Anthony Castonzo. The linemen made the preseason All-ACC team for the Eagles. The biggest loss over the off-season came when returning senior linebacker Mark Herzlich was diagnosed with Ewingâ€™s Sarcoma, a malignant tumor most often found in bone or soft tissue. Not only did he intercept six passes and run two back all the way, but Herzlich recovered two fumbles and recorded 110 tackles while being named a finalist for the Butkus Award, winning ACC Defensive Player of the Year and earning the honor of All-American. It will be interesting to see who steps up for a team missing veteran captains on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. Schedule 9/5: Win vs. Northeastern Opening Saturday afternoon marks whatâ€™s sure to be a practice game for whichever inexperienced Eagle quarterback starts. The Huskies held a record of 2-10 last year. 9/12: Win vs. Kent State Boston College beat the Golden Flashes 21-0 last season as KSU finished 4-8. 9/19: Loss @ Clemson The Eagles lost 27-21 at home despite winning the Atlantic, and the Tigers were picked to finish second this year.
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9/26: Loss vs. Wake Forest BC beat the Demon Deacons 24-21 on the road, but Wake counters with an experienced quarterback in senior Riley Skinner. 10/3: Loss vs. Florida State Last season the Eagles won 27-17 on the road, but the Seminoles were picked to win the Atlantic, have made the top 25 in several preseason national polls and are led by junior quarterback Christian Ponder. 10/10: Loss @ Virginia Tech Despite a split series last year, the two-time defending ACC Champion Hokies are ranked in the top 10 in many polls and are heavily favored to win the conference again. This won’t be the same match up. 10/17: Loss vs. N.C. State N.C. State was picked to finish third behind Preseason All-ACC quarterback Russell Wilson. The Eagles won 38-31 on the road last season when the Pack was at the bottom of the Atlantic. 10/24: Loss @ Notre Dame Playing at home, the Fighting Irish will want revenge after a 17-0 loss in Chestnut Hill. Notre Dame has made the top 25 in a few preseason polls. Head coach Charlie Weis needs to get things rolling in South Bend. 10/31: Loss vs. Central Michigan The Chippewas finished 8-5 after a tough 24-21 loss to Florida Atlantic in the Motor City Bowl and could prove to be a difficult out-of-conference test at home for BC. 11/7: BYE 11/14: Loss @ Virginia Picked to finish second to last in the much more challenging (in my opinion) Coastal Division, the Cavaliers also have home-field advantage. 11/21: Loss vs. UNC Carolina Blue is ranked as high as No. 9 (Scout’s poll) and will put on an encore after a 45-24 win at home last season. 11/28: Loss @ Maryland This game might very well decide who sits at the bottom of the division. The Terps lost 28-21 last year.
12 Days of ACC Football: Clemson Tigers August 4, 2009 Senior running back C.J. Spiller is the name of the game for the Clemson Tigers. The Heisman Trophy hopeful was the runner-up for 2009 Preseason ACC Player of the Year behind Georgia Tech’s Jonathan Dwyer. Last season the Lake Butler, Fla. native averaged 147.5 total yards a game and was a three-time offensive-player-of-the-week and two-time special teams player-of-the-week. His 8.57 yards a play was tops in the nation. A true playmaker with speed (he helped the 4×100 track relay team finish third), Spiller scored 12 touchdowns of at least 50 yards, six of which went for 80 or more.
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“What ifs” must be plaguing Florida, Florida State, Miami and USC as the one who got away also threatens by returning punts and kickoffs. At 4,908 all-purpose yards, he stands just 921 back from the ACC record. His success will determine how Clemson follows up on a 7-6 (4-4 ACC) season for fifth of six teams in the Atlantic Division. This year, however, the Tigers were picked to finish second behind Florida State, and tied for fourth to win the conference. Why, you may ask? The program has nine consecutive winning seasons, battled through the 16th toughest schedule last season, lost three ACC games in a row during the middle of its schedule and still managed to win four of its last five regular season games to reach the Konica Minoita Gator Bowl. Head coach Dabo Swinney took over for Tommy Bowden, and Kevin Steele now holds the reins as defensive coordinator after leaving Alabama (and Nick Saban) this off-season. Steele’s defense will be manned by senior linebacker Kavell Conner, whose 125 tackles led the team. Two good senior cornerbacks return - Crezdon Butler and Chris Chancellor - both who recorded four interceptions for a unit that didn’t allow more than 200 passing yards in nine consecutive games. Safety Michael Hamlin’s team-leading six interceptions and 110 tackles, as well as safety Chris Clemons’s 94 tackles, will be missed. Back on the offensive side, wide receiver Aaron Kelly graduated as the all-time leading ACC receiver with 226 catches. In 51 career games, he made a catch in 50 of them. Jacoby Ford returns for his senior season and made the preseason team. He is second among active ACC players in yards and catches. One of the weaknesses on this squad will be its inexperience at quarterback. Cullen Harper graduated, and his 218 yards a game was best in the ACC. He finished last season with 2,601 yards and 13 touchdowns. Red-shirt sophomore Willy Korn was the only other Tiger to take snaps in very limited action: one touchdown and 216 yards in six games. Luckily for him, the four offensive linemen who started for the first time last season will be a step-up from what Harper had in front of him. Key stat: Only ACC team to rank in the top four in scoring offense and defense. Schedule 9/5: Win vs. Middle Tennessee State The Blue Raiders finished 5-7, but beat Maryland 24-14 at home last season. Consider this practice for the new guy under center. 9/10: Loss @ Georgia Tech After suffering a 21-17 loss to the Tigers last season, the Yellow Jackets ended up second in the tougher Coastal Division with a 9-4 (5-3 ACC) record. This might be the match up of the season: Dwyer vs. Spiller. 9/19: Win vs. Boston College Not the same game as it was last season when the Atlantic Division-winning Eagles beat Clemson, 27-21, at home. 9/26: Loss vs. TCU It came as a shock to many when the Horned Frogs went 11-2 last season. Two of their wins
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came against top 10 opponents - BYU and Boise State. Both losses were at the hands of top 10 teams - No. 2 Oklahoma (who lost to Florida in the national title game) and No. 9 Utah. Junior quarterback Andy Dalton is back. 10/3: Win @ Maryland Clemson got beat by the Terps 20-17 at home last season, so expect the Tigers to return the favor as Maryland looks to just stay away from the bottom of the division. 10/10: BYE 10/17: Win vs. Wake Forest The Demon Deacons escaped with a 12-7 defensive victory at home last season, but aren’t close to the top of the pack as senior quarterback Riley Skinner and company are expected to finish fourth. 10/24: Loss @ Miami Maybe I’m biased because I‘m a Hurricane, but the ‘Canes grew a year older, solidified their quarterback position and have two new coordinators. Plus, the game’s at the Orange Bowl…I mean, Land Shark Stadium. 10/31: Win vs. Coastal Carolina Just watch out for red-shirt junior quarterback Zach Macdowall and his 2,064 yards. The Chanticleers held a record of 6-6. I still don’t see the Tigers falling for this trap game. 11/7: Win vs. Florida State This should be interesting. The Seminoles took it to the Tigers 41-27 at home last season. Will this game decide the division? Will payback be in order? Look for Spiller to take over the game at home and boost his Heisman shot. 11/14: Win @ N.C. State Quarterback Russell Wilson and the Wolfpack finished last, last season, but are a different team set to finish behind Clemson. The Tigers handled business at home 27-9. 11/21: Win vs. Virginia Not much scoring took place in last year’s battle as Clemson left Charlottesville with a 13-3 win. Expect much of the same, except a few more points for the home team. 11/28: Win @ South Carolina Can the Tigers beat the Gamecocks in the rivalry game again? Does Steve Spurrier’s team, which finished 7-6 last season, have the zest to avenge the 31-14 romp? Red-shirt sophomore quarterback Stephen Garcia saw some time behind Chris Smelley with 832 yards and six TD, but the team returns just one of their top wide receivers. This could make or break Clemson’s season if the ACC race comes down to the wire.
12 Days of ACC: Florida State Seminoles August 5, 2009 Once again under the direction of head coach Bobby Bowden, the Florida State Seminoles hope to return to the turn-of-the-century days of national prominence. Junior quarterback Christian Ponder emerged as a leader last season after winning the starting job over three-year starter Drew Weatherford. He led the ‘Noles to a 9-4 (5-3 ACC) record, which placed them behind Boston College in the
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Atlantic Division. An all-around threat, Ponder rushed for 423 yards and four touchdowns, and passed for 2,006 yards and 14 touchdowns. FSU cannot afford an injury, however, as backup E.J. Manuel has never thrown a collegiate pass. Despite predictions calling for the Seminoles to win the Atlantic and contend against Virginia Tech for the overall conference title, departures may come back to haunt the squad. Thirteen starters return: eight on offense and five on defense. Eleven starters are gone: three on offense and six on defense. But all of them were key to the turnaround success the ‘Noles experienced last season. Seventy-one percent of the points Florida State scored is gone with wide receivers Greg Carr and Preston Parker and running back Antone Smith. That is the highest number in the conference. Placekicker Graham Gano, who won the Lou Groza Award as the top kicker in the nation, graduated. Sophomore running back Jermaine Thomas averaged 7.0 yards per carry on 69 attempts last season, and he will be supported by a returning offensive line, full back and tight end. On defense, coordinator Mickey Andrews lost All-American Myron Rolle, two linebackers, cornerback Tony Carter and two defensive ends. However, Andrews is known for cycling players into games to gain experience, and that might make the difference for the unit. Over the past five years the Seminole defense has ranked 13th nationally, and last season it led the country on third-down conversion D. With the three leading tacklers as well as three of the four top rushers gone, youth will be served. Two linebacker positions are open. Sophomores make up four of the six on the depth chart. Senior Dekoda Watson was named to the ACC preseason team after compiling 28 tackles over the final four games. Besides Patrick Robinson, the remaining secondary has combined for just one interception. Key Stats: Beat ACC champ Virginia Tech, 30-20, in Tallahassee last season Defeated only one ranked team, No. 22 Maryland, 37-3 Four of final six games this season are on the road Schedule 9/7: Loss vs. Miami As usual, this game provides the drama. In last season’s edition, the Seminoles barely held onto a 24-point lead to hold off the host Hurricanes, 41-39. A much-improved Miami team will ensure the game comes down to the wire again. The ‘Noles have won three of the last four meetings by a combined eight points. 9/12: Win vs. Jacksonville State The Gamecocks went 8-3, but look at this simply as a potential trap game. 9/19: Loss @ BYU A top-10 team, the Cougars finished 10-3, with two of their losses against ranked teams. They also beat TCU, which beat two top-10 opponents. Quarterback Max Hall returns for his senior year after passing for 3,848 yards and 26 touchdowns. Junior running back Harvey Unga kept the offense balanced with 13 touchdowns and 1,227 yards of his own.
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9/26: Win vs. South Florida Senior quarterback Matt Groethe is back for the Bulls, who have flirted with a top-10 ranking over the past two years, but then find a way to lose said ranking fairly quickly. This game’s at Doak, and USF was picked to finish fourth in the Big East. A win here could solidify a position with the top state programs, however. 10/3: Win @ Boston College This is a much different ballgame than last year’s. 10/10: Win vs. Georgia Tech Last season saw a very close game, 31-28, in the Yellow Jackets’ favor. Georgia Tech is tied with FSU for second in the preseason ACC poll. Junior running back and 2009 Preseason ACC Player of the Year Jonathan Dwyer must be balanced out by junior quarterback Josh Nesbitt, who recorded just five touchdowns and 1,290 yards last season. 10/22: Loss @ North Carolina Will all that Carolina Blue drown out the Seminole offense? Three defensive standouts made the ACC preseason team - Marvin Austin, Kendric Burney and Quan Sturdivant. Junior quarterback T.J. Yates takes over after collecting 11 touchdowns and 1,168 yards. Junior running backs Shaun Draugh and Ryan Houston combined for 10 rushing touchdowns and give the offense a twodimensional feel. 10/31: Win vs. N.C. State With Chuck Amato back wearing garnet and gold, the Wolfpack jinx was eliminated last season in a 26-17 road victory. 11/7: Loss @ Clemson By this time in the season, the FSU defense should easily be in the swing of things, and must, to stop senior running back and Heisman hopeful C.J. Spiller. The Seminoles won 41-27 at home last year. This game could determine the winner of the Atlantic Division. 11/14: Win @ Wake Forest Senior quarterback Riley Skinner (2,347 yards and 13 TD) beat the Seminoles 12-3 on the road last year. Red-shirt sophomore running back Brandon Pendergrass provides a weapon. Skinner’s main target, D.J. Boldin and his 848 yards, are gone. That number was 458 more than red-shirt junior Marshall Williams. The top-two interceptions leaders (11 total) left the Demon Deacons. 11/21: Win vs. Maryland Florida State routed the Terps 37-3 last season for its only victory over a ranked opponent. 11/28: Loss @ UF Tim Tebow plays in his final game at the Swamp. Enough said.
12 Days of ACC: Maryland Terrapins August 6, 2009 Head coach Ralph Friedgen and the Maryland Terrapins have flown under-the-radar for much of the past eight seasons despite 64 wins and six bowl games. Last year, the Terps finished 8-5 (4-4 ACC), ahead of Wake Forest for third in the Atlantic Division. They capped off a strong campaign with a 42-35 victory over Nevada in the Roady’s Humanitarian Bowl.
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Despite being outscored and yielding more passing and rushing yardage, Maryland managed to beat four ranked teams. This year, 10 starters are back - six on offense and four on defense - paving the way for youngsters to make an immediate impact. Junior running back Da’Rel Scott was recently named a Doak Walker Award candidate, which honors the top back in the nation, for the second consecutive season after compiling 1,133 yards, eight touchdowns and 94.4 yards a game. Behind him on a deep and strong depth chart are sophomore Davin Meggett (457 yards and five TD) and junior Morgan Green (three TD). It will be interesting to see how much success the running backs achieve with five of the top seven offensive linemen from last season gone. Senior quarterback Chris Turner, a three-year starter, threw for 2,516 yards, 13 touchdowns and completed 57.2 percent of his passes to complete a balanced offensive attack. He did, however, get picked off 11 times. Turner also lost his top three receivers statistically: Darrius Heyward-Bey (609 yards and five TD), Dan Gronkowski (287 yards and three TD) and Danny Oquendo (371 yards and two TD). Sophomore wide receiver Torrey Smith, fresh off a stellar freshman year where he set an ACC single-season record with 1,089 kickoff return yards, must help carry the load after notching 24 catches for 336 yards. Defensively, Preseason All-ACC junior linebacker Alex Wujciak leads the way. He finished 13th nationally with 10.2 tackles a game, 133 in total. Dave Philistin (94 tackles) and Moise Fouke (77 tackles) were second and third on the team, respectively, and graduated. Only one experienced player remains on the defensive line, senior Travis Ivey, but he missed time with a foot injury last season. Cornerback Jamari McCullough (four INT) is one of four seniors in the secondary. As a team, the Terps did not recover a fumble and produced just 10 turnovers, remarkable considering their record. Possibly Maryland’s strength, though, is its special teams. Despite the departure of kicker Obi Egekeze, Preseason All-ACC junior punter Travis Baltz will probably take over placekicking duties as well. He was best in the conference with a 41.1 yards per punt average, had 10 over 50 yards, 24 inside the 20 and avoided any blocks. Smith is also likely to improve even more in the returning aspect of his game. Key stat: Maryland returns its top three tailbacks, fullbacks and recruited the 12th-best running back class. Schedule 9/5: Loss @ California Junior quarterback Kevin Riley threw for 1,360 yards and 14 touchdowns in a high-powered offense that scored 32.6 points per game. Maryland won last year’s match at home, 35-27. Senior wide receiver Nyan Boating (439 yards and five TD) and junior running back Jahvid Best (1,580 yards and 15 TD) return as the top playmakers to face a young Terrapin defense. 9/12: Win vs. James Madison The Dukes went 12-2 last season, but were blown out 31-7 by the Coastal Division’s last-place finisher in the Duke Blue Devils.
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9/19: Win vs. Middle Tennessee State After a 24-14 upset loss on the road to the Blue Raiders last season, Maryland must use homefield advantage in its favor. MTSU’s quarterback Dwight Dasher collected 1,148 yards and nine touchdowns as a backup and has his top eight receivers, running back and entire offensive line back. Five starters return on defense - two linebackers, two defensive linemen and a corner. 9/26: Win vs. Rutgers A start of 0-3 didn’t faze the Scarlet Knights as they won their last seven games for an 8-5 record. Ten players on their roster hail from the Sunshine State. Unfortunately, Rutgers suffers the loss of quarterback Mike Teel and his 3,418 yards and 25 touchdowns. Top tackler Kevin Malast is also gone. 10/3: Loss vs. Clemson Predicted as the second-best team in the Atlantic, C.J. Spiller and Jacoby Ford will prove too much for the inexperienced Maryland defense. 10/10: Loss @ Wake Forest Senior quarterback Riley Skinner plays at home hoping to avenge a 26-0 loss last season. 10/17: Win vs. Virginia Not only is it the Terps’ homecoming game, but the Cavaliers were selected fifth of six teams in the tough Coastal Division, and were blown out 31-0 last year. 10/24: Win @ Duke Weakest team in the ACC with a senior quarterback who can’t do it all. 11/7: Loss @ N.C. State Maryland beat the Pack 27-24 in its last homecoming game, but Preseason All-ACC quarterback Russell Wilson is a year older and defensive end Willie Young will put pressure on the Terrapin offense. 11/14: Loss vs. Virginia Tech Top ACC team with a stifling defense. 11/21: Loss @ Florida State The Seminoles won a lopsided affair 37-3 last year on the road in their only victory over a ranked opponent. 11/28: Win vs. Boston College A questionable defensive line will face trouble against the Eagles’ experience, but Boston College isn’t the same team as last year while it battles to stay out of the cellar in the division.
12 Days of ACC: N.C. State Wolfpack August 7, 2009 One couldn’t tell by the looks of things that the N.C. State Wolfpack finished last in the Atlantic Division with a 6-7 (4-4) record in 2008. ACC Freshman of the Year Russell Wilson returns as quarterback of an offense which had 15 different players catch a ball, seven of whom collected more than 15 grabs during the season. Wilson threw for 1,955 yards, 17 touchdowns and just one interception. He also ran four in and finished with 388 yards on the ground. The First-Team All-ACC player averaged 213 total yards a game, and deservingly so, garnered enough votes for third in the Preseason ACC Player of the Year votes behind Georgia Tech junior running back Jonathan Dwyer and Clemson senior
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running back C.J. Spiller. There will be competition for his backup as the two quarterbacks who saw limited action last season graduated. Besides the Miami Hurricanes, N.C. State easily has one of the deepest receiving corps in the conference with junior Owen Spencer leading the way with 31 catches for 691 yards and five touchdowns. Red-shirt junior Jarvis Williams and red-shirt sophomore George Bryan each scored four touchdowns. The biggest loss on the offensive side comes with the departure of running back Andre Brown, who not only was the top rusher with 767 yards and seven touchdowns, but was second on the team with 309 yards catching and two touchdowns out of the backfield. Look for red-shirt senior Jamelle Eugene to get his shot after posting 442 yards on a 4.7 average. Defensively, red-shirt junior linebacker Nate Irving takes charge with his 80 tackles, four interceptions and one touchdown. Red-shirt senior linebacker Ray Michel led the team with 85 tackles as the strength of the Wolfpack D. Red-shirt senior defensive end Willie Young has 65 QB pressures in his career and was named to the preseason team. On special teams, red-shirt junior Josh Czajkowski went 16 of 19 on field-goal attempts with a long of 42. Sophomore T.J. Graham was tops on the team with 1,405 all-purpose yards, 1,028 of which came on kick returns. Key stat: N.C. State was outscored by 37 points over the course of the season, and in every quarter but the second, including 111-74 in the fourth. Schedule 9/3: Win vs. South Carolina Playing at home, the Pack face the Gamecocks, who went 7-6 last season. It all comes down to Wilson getting a little help from his teammates. Young must put pressure on red-shirt sophomore quarterback Stephen Garcia, who saw some time behind Chris Smelley with 832 yards and six touchdowns. Steve Spurrier’s club returns just one of their top wide receivers. 9/12: Win vs. Murray State The Racers finished 5-7 last year, and make for an easy out-of-conference game. 9/19: Win vs. Gardner-Webb Senior quarterback Stan Doolittle threw for 1,059 yards, four touchdowns and six interceptions behind starter Devin Campbell. The Runnin’ Bulldogs (5-5) just missed upsetting Georgia Tech 10-7 on the road last season. 9/26: Win vs. Pittsburgh With key road wins at USF, Notre Dame and UCF, the Panthers (9-4) stringed together five straight wins at one point last year. Gone is top runner LeSean McCoy and his 21 touchdowns and 1,488 yards as well as Scott McKillop and his 137 tackles. Red-shirt senior quarterback Bill Stull returns with 2,356 yards, nine touchdowns and 10 interceptions. 10/3: Win @ Wake Forest It’s the battle between Riley Skinner and Wilson. Who will take over and put his team on top? Both quarterbacks can run, and it will be up to the defenses to take charge. The Demon Deacons suffered quite a few losses to unit. 10/10: Win vs. Duke Easy win at home.
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10/17: Win @ Boston College I keep saying it, but the Eagles aren’t the same team anymore. 10/24: BYE 10/31: Loss @ Florida State Wilson and company lost 26-17 at home last season. Coming off a bye, there might be some rust. 11/7: Win vs. Maryland Here, the Wolfpack can avenge a tough 27-24 loss to the Terps. 11/14: Loss vs. Clemson This game could determine second in the Atlantic, and Wilson could use a 27-9 loss last season as motivation. Who will have a greater impact in the tale of preseason top players: Spiller or Wilson? Who has a better team around him? I’ll take Clemson’s defense. 11/21: Loss @ Virginia Tech Tough team to beat at home and favored to win the conference, the Hokies should be more than fine to stop the one-man wrecking crew of Wilson. 11/28: Win vs. North Carolina Last season’s 41-10 win at Chapel Hill capped off a great comeback to a season when the Pack won four straight to make a bowl game.
12 Days of ACC: Wake Forest Demon Deacons August 8, 2009 It’s a tale of two different units this season as the Wake Forest Demon Deacons welcome back nine starters on offense and just four on defense for head coach Jim Grobe. After an 8-5 (4-4 ACC) year tied for third in the Atlantic Division with Maryland, Wake rides on the shoulders of senior quarterback Riley Skinner one last time. Skinner threw for 2,347 yards and 13 touchdowns last season and totaled 191.6 yards a game with an impressive 126.18 efficiency rating. The Davey O’Brien Award Watch List candidate also completed 63.9 percent of his passes. Of the nine starters that return, wide receiver D.J. Boldin, Skinner’s favorite target, is gone, along with his 848 yards and three touchdowns. Boldin’s 88 catches were 55 more than the next guy, red-shirt junior Marshall Williams. Red-shirt senior tight end Ben Wooster and his three touchdowns must be a red-zone threat for a Wake Forest team that scored 21 points a game and produced red-zone scores just 78 percent of the time compared to opponents’ 94 percent. Touchdowns were even harder to come by at 51 percent. All five offensive linemen and the fullback remain with the unit. Last season the Demon Deacons scored 14 rushing touchdowns, and their leading back, red-shirt sophomore Brandon Pendergrass, hopes to take some pressure off Skinner with his 528 yards and five touchdowns. Red-shirt junior Josh Adams also comes back to provide 402 yards and four touchdowns. As much potential as the offense has this season, it will be tough for the Wake Forest defense to duplicate what it did last year after allowing just 18.3 points a game and leading the nation with 37 takeaways.
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Three of four starters in the secondary and the entire linebacking corps are gone. Red-shirt senior cornerback Kevin Patterson is the lone man back, and had four interceptions and a touchdown. Linebacker Aaron Curry led the team with 105 tackles and linebacker Stanley Arnoux was second with 89. Safety Chip Vaughn was third with 87 and cornerback Alphonso Smith nabbed seven interceptions. All four were taken in the NFL Draft. Up front, however, the Demon Deacons will be strong with seniors John Russell and Boo Robinson as well as sophomore defensive end Kyle Wilber. On special teams, Boldin and Smith leave spots open on punt and kick returns. Look for Pendergrass and red-shirt sophomores Devon Brown and C.J. Washington to take over the duties. Red-shirt sophomore placekicker/punter Shane Popham replaces Sam Swank, who was just 11 of 17 on field goals. Popham saw some action by going 7 of 12 on kicks and averaging 39.2 on punts. Key stats: The only other ACC teams to win 28 games or more over the last three seasons are Boston College and Virginia Tech. Since 2006, the Demon Deacons are 11-6 in games decided by seven points or less. Schedule 9/5: Win vs. Baylor Sophomore quarterback Robert Griffin returns with 15 passing and 13 rushing touchdowns and 244.5 yards per game. The Demon Deacons beat the Bears (4-8) 41-13 at Baylor last year in the first game. 9/12: Win vs. Stanford (5-7) Wake Forest has never played a Pac-10 opponent in the regular season, but has won all three meetings against the conferenceâ€™s teams. The Cardinals (5-7) lost to top-10 teams in USC, TCU and California. 9/19: Win vs. Elon In a final warm-up before conference play, Wake has won 10 of its last 11 against in-state opponents. 9/26: Win @ Boston College Look for Skinner and company to make up for a 24-21 loss last year. 10/3: Loss vs. N.C. State Last season the Demon Deacons played Boston College and N.C. State in back-to-back losses. Wolfpack quarterback Russell Wilson will take over the game with a depleted Wake Forest secondary. 10/10: Win vs. Maryland Deacs have won two of the last three meetings, not including a 26-0 loss last year. 10/17: Loss @ Clemson Although the Tigers lost 12-7, this is a whole new ballgame. Wake is 7-28 all-time at Memorial Stadium, which includes a 44-10 loss in 2007. 10/24: Win @ Navy This will be the third meeting in the last two seasons for these opponents. The Demon Deacons beat the Naval Academy 29-19 in the EagleBank Bowl to kick off bowl season, but lost 24-17 at home for the first loss of 2008. Navy must recover from the departure of its top running backs and quarterback in the option package (3,801 yards was tops in country, 292.4 yards a game).
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10/31: Loss vs. Miami Miami has not lost to the Deacs since 1944. 11/7: Loss @ Georgia Tech Jonathan Dwyer. 11/14: Loss vs. Florida State Even with a 12-3 win against the ‘Noles and three in a row in the series after snapping a 14game losing streak, this isn’t a Thursday night game again. For as long as I can remember, FSU hasn’t faired well on Thursdays, dating back to Seneca Wallace’s Iowa State days. Don’t look for Skinner to win in his final home game. 11/21: BYE 11/28: Loss @ Duke I’m calling for the upset. The Blue Devils lost 33-30 in overtime, but it was also the most points that the stingy Wake Forest defense gave up last year. Another reason? The Demon Deacons have won nine in a row in the series, but the last three have been by a combined nine points. Senior quarterback Thaddeus Lewis will be playing in his final home game, and he’s slowly helped the program make a turnaround.
University of Miami’s 2009 Preseason Media Day August 9, 2009 Below are some quotes from select players (sans head coach Randy Shannon and starting sophomore quarterback Jacory Harris) on the upcoming season. Expect Shannon’s and Harris’s sometime later today as I go through their 15-minute press conferences. Junior placekicker/punter and Preseason All-ACC Matt Bosher Just practicing on the little things, mechanics, just trying to get better. Last year I missed a couple and I want to correct those and make everything. (on possibly winning the Lou Groza Award) That’s every kicker’s goal. That’s the award we go for. The kicker’s not going to win a Heisman. (on winning team MVP) I was honored to get that, especially being at Miami with so many great athletes who have come through here. (placekicking vs. punting) I’d say kicker because I’ve always loved kicking. Punting was just something I did. (on this season) I can’t wait. Everybody talks about those first four games, and I think that’s what a football player looks for, to be challenged. I think we’re going to shock some people, hopefully. We’re golden for the rest of the season if we do well. If you can come through and survive it’s a big confidence-booster for the rest of the season. It can put you on a high. (on besting his eight tackles) I don’t want to call out any number because hopefully it’s not too high. Sophomore linebacker and ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year Sean Spence (so far) Everybody’s flying out to the ball just having fun. (on topping his freshman season) You’ve just got to come out and focus more on assignment and pay more attention to detail and just finish off games.
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(on people’s predictions) I don’t really pay attention to that. People are going to predict what they want to predict, but when two teams get on the field, that’s when it’s settled to me. We improved depth-wise and just returning guys since we played a lot of freshmen as a team. I think by doing that it gave us a big plus going into this year. Freshman running back and top-20 recruit Mike James (on still smiling) I’m happy to be here. (on amount of talent at RB) It’s not hard at all. Those guys work hard and it’s a blessing to play with those guys. It’s tough sometimes, but those guys are great players and I just work hard. (on starting a semester early) It helped a lot. Basically, academics. I got classes in and a semester in and football-wise it helped me out with plays. (on learning from Graig Cooper and Javarris James) Everything. I walk behind them hand and foot and I try to mimic everything they do because whatever they’re doing they’re doing right. (on James) Every season means a lot to JJ. This is his last one, but I know he’s going to work hard and do good. Senior linebacker Darryl Sharpton We have a lot of good linebackers and we have good depth and a lot of young talented guys and so far with the scheme that Coach [John] Lovett has brought, we’ve been very efficient. We look forward to stopping all of the teams on the run. I think that’s going to be one of the strong points of our defense. Last year was last year. I’ve been thinking forward. I let Coach Lovett and Coach Shannon just correct us in terms of the scheme. Obviously we watch film from last year, and there’s always a little bit of technique stuff that everyone can improve on. And everyone’s taking their part to watch film and correct their personal mistakes. (on Spence) He had a great season. He has just a knack for getting to the ball. I guess it’s just a sixth sense type thing. Something you can’t really explain. He has the ability to find the ball and get there and make plays. Senior running back Javarris James (on losing weight) I feel a whole lot lighter on my feet. A lot of cuts I can make easier. I just feel good. Personally, I just want to have a healthy season. I know what I’m capable of doing. If I have a healthy season then I’ll have a great season. The sky’s the limit for us. A national championship. That’s our goal. People who will read this will probably think that I’m out of my mind, but that’s how I feel. This year we’ve got the talent, we’ve got the coaches, we‘ve got it all together. No more excuses. (on his relationship with Cooper) We just moved into an apartment together. We went from the dorms to an apartment. (on young RBs) Me and Coop told him Lamar [Miller] back in high school, if you come here, you come here to play. If I was worried about some competition, I would’ve went to any other school. That’s why you come here. Those young guys are going to be great. That makes me step my game up, that makes Coop step his game up, that makes us all great together. You can quote me on this one: We’ve got the best running back group in the nation, hands down.
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Sophomore wide receiver LaRon Byrd (amount of talent at wide receiver) It all benefits the team with all the competition at that level. It makes everyone better each and every day. You’re never going to let that next man outshine you. Definitely at any position it’s great because injuries happen. I look at it as it’s a plus for our team. (best hair) I think me, but I’ll give it to Travis Benjamin. It’s the truth. I’m being nice to him this time.
Travis Benjamin *photo courtesy of Hurricane Sports
(big catches) I’ve been working hard all summer trying to be better; trying to work on footwork, trying to work on hand-eye coordination. I don’t want people to remember me by just the Virginia game. I want people to remember that I was ‘LaRon Byrd making catches in the championship game.’ It was a great plus on my career. It takes a team to become great, and as long as our team is great, each and every individual will be great. The strength of this team is really balanced, but I’ll give it to the defensive line. We’ve got a lot of guys there that are linebackers’ bodies playing DE and very quick and agile. A lot of our big men are very athletic. Senior tight end Jimmy Graham *Graham played on the men’s basketball team for four seasons The transition’s been good. I’ve enjoyed it. I think the biggest difference is that there’s no A/C outside, there’s no more hardwood and the grass isn’t as soft as you think it is. They’ve been teaching me just little things. I think one of the biggest helpers for me has been [Dedrick] Epps. He is a great tight end and he’s really been coaching me up a lot. Him and Jake [Byrne]. And I’ve had the opportunity to spend a lot with Bernie Kosar who has been a huge help for me. He obviously knows the game and he’s really been teaching me a lot of little things that I never would’ve noticed before. (on a height advantage) I am a little taller than everybody and I kind of can jump a little bit, but I guess we’ll see. Even though I put on 12 pounds now, I actually can jump higher because in basketball we jump so much that your knees get a little weaker and tired. Now, I’ve had some time off the jumping and I tested at 40”. Being 6-8, 260 and jumping a 40” might come in handy during the schedule. (going through the smoke tunnel for his first home game) That’s the big thing I’m waiting for. It’s going to be amazing. The chance to run through and see all the fans. Our first four games are top-25 teams so I’m excited, but I can’t wait to run through that smoke. People have already
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been coaching me on how to run through the smoke because you can’t just run full-heartedly. You have to feel where everyone’s at because you can’t really see in there. I’ve been working hard all summer and I’d just like to play. I know we’ve got a great group of tight ends here and a great offensive coordinator, and I just want to get in the game and just show what I can do to help this team win some football games. (on deciding to try football out) It wasn’t until after basketball season while looking for agents for my pro basketball career. I met with Randy Shannon and I saw it as an opportunity to go back to the sport, my first love, so I’m very excited. I get to hang around another year.
12 Days of ACC: Duke Blue Devils August 9, 2009 Although the Duke Blue Devils notched just one victory in the ACC and finished with an overall record of 4-8, great strides were made for a school known for what it does on the hard court, not the football field. Under then first-year head coach David Cutcliffe, Duke gained 32.7 yards of total offense a game and allowed 22 sacks, 23 fewer than the previous year. Five starters return on offense and defense as well as both the punter and kicker. There are just nine seniors on the team, which ranks lowest in the conference. Senior All-ACC Second Team quarterback Thaddeus Lewis takes the field again for the Blue Devils after 2,171 yards (197.4 a game and second-best in the ACC), 15 touchdowns, six interceptions and a 62 pass-completion percentage. Lewis leads ACC active players with 6,735 total passing yards and 47 touchdowns. He is second in total offense behind Wake Forest senior quarterback Riley Skinner. Only sophomore Jay Hollingsworth returns to the backfield with his 399 yards and one touchdown. Redshirt senior Re’quan Boyette comes back after having surgery on his left knee. He was the leading rusher in 2006 and 2007, has 30 career receptions and 1,072 total rushing yards. Freshman Second Team All-American left guard Kyle Hill and junior Bryan Morgan return to the offensive line to help pave holes for Lewis and company. Eron Riley, who connected 19 times with Lewis for touchdowns, nabbed a career-high 61 catches for 693 yards and eight touchdowns in his final season. He was fourth in receptions and receiving yards a game and second in touchdowns in the ACC. To replace this production, Duke must rely on three of the four top receivers from last year who were true freshmen: Johnny Williams (30 catches and 327 yards), Hollingsworth (25 catches, 188 yards and two touchdowns) and Donovan Varner (21 catches, 164 yards and one touchdown). Juniors Sheldon Bell and Austin Kelly combined for 27 catches last season. At tight end, redshirt junior Brandon King missed last year with an injury, but scored four touchdowns on 10 catches the season before. Redshirt junior Brett Huffman caught 14 passes, one for a touchdown. On defense, the Blue Devils lost All-American Michael Tauiliili. He collected 140 tackles, which was good enough for third nationally, and grabbed a team-high four interceptions. Tauiliili and
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senior linebacker Vincent Ray (109 tackles) recorded consecutive 100-tackle seasons. Ray is the only active player in the ACC to do that. Greg Akinbiyi, who led the team with six sacks, 14.5 tackles for a loss and two fumble recoveries, left. Junior defensive tackle and ACC Honorable Mention Vince Oghobaase will need to step up for the defensive line. Senior safety Catron Gainey was third with 66 tackles. No player on the roster had more than one interception last season. The all-time program leader for returns and yardage, Jabari Marshall, graduated. His 2,630 yards were second-most in ACC history. Junior Nick Maggio went 11 of 14 on field goals with a long of 46. Redshirt junior Kevin Jones averaged 40.8 yards a punt for second in the ACC, and topped the conference with 27 inside the 20. Key stats: Eight of the teams on Duke’s schedule made it to a bowl game and combined posted a 89-67 (.571) record. Besides 9.8 fewer points allowed a game, the Blue Devils’ defense gave up 67.4 fewer yards for the sixth-best improvement nationally. Schedule 9/5: Win vs. Richmond With a 13-3 record, 18 returning starters and a national championship in the subdivision, don’t be surprised if the Spiders pull an upset. 9/12: Loss @ Navy The Naval Academy held a record of 8-5 and kept the game close in a 41-31 loss at Duke. With home-field advantage this time around and a victory over an ACC opponent (Wake Forest) last season, look for a tough out-of-conference challenge for the Blue Devils. 9/19: Loss @ Kansas At one point a top-10 team, the Jayhawks have a great offense, but a suspect defense. Quarterback Todd Reesing (3,888 yards and 32 touchdowns) and three of his wide receivers are back. Senior running back Jake Sharp is a candidate on the watch list for the Doak Walker Award. For the second year in a row Kansas was selected to finish second in the North Division of the Big 12 behind Nebraska. Losses included Texas, Oklahoma and Texas Tech. 9/26: Win vs. N.C. Central See this as a prep for the following week. The Eagles were just 4-7 last year. 10/3: Loss vs. Virginia Tech Duke lost only 14-3 in Blacksburg, but the menacing Hokies are ranked in the top 10 in preseason polls. 10/10: Loss @ N.C. State Russell Wilson plays at home. 10/17: BYE 10/24: Loss vs. Maryland Junior running back Da’Rel Scott and senior quarterback Chris Turner utilize a balanced attack to lead the way for the Terps on the road. 10/31: Loss @ Virginia I’m looking for the Cavaliers to erase a 31-3 romp last season. But then again, maybe it’ll be déjà vu.
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11/7: Loss @ North Carolina The Tar Heels won a close one 28-20 last year, and rank in the top 25 in some preseason polls. 11/14: Loss vs. Georgia Tech Jonathan Dwyer should have a field day to follow-up on a 27-0 win. 11/21: Loss @ Miami Sophomore quarterback Jacory Harris came off the bench to rally the Hurricanes with four passing touchdowns and one rushing in a 49-31 road victory. 11/28: Win vs. Wake Forest It’s the battle of senior quarterbacks: Riley Skinner and Lewis. This game could decide the top spot for all-time yardage among active ACC players. Last season the Blue Devils lost 33-30 in overtime, but scored the most points off a very good defense.
Harris and Shannon at UM Preseason Media Day August 9, 2009 Here are bits from sophomore starting quarterback Jacory Harris and head coach Randy Shannon at yesterday’s University of Miami football team Preseason Media Day. Jacory Harris [on heat] I think you always have to think about it because today was one of those days where it was just scorching hot. We were out there, we were going full speed and doing everything we could do to get better, but at the same time you still feel the heat. The heat is something that’s always going to be a factor. It’s part of Mother Nature so it‘s always going to be there, especially in Miami. Overall our receivers have been good. The whole summer they’ve been coming out there competing and making good plays. I believe all of the guys have improved from last year. They improved by dropping weight, running better routes and catching all the balls. [on redshirt freshman receiver Tommy Streeter] He can do the same thing. He’s a fast, big guy. He’s one of the fastest receivers on the team. That brings a lot. That brings separation away from the defenders, and that’s what he was telling me today when he was getting separation on the vertical routes. [on gaining weight] I’m sure it’ll help me with my durability and lasting throughout the whole season, but I figured even though I played a limited time last year, it should be a little bit better at 190 so it shouldn’t be a big difference. [on redshirt freshman backup quarterback Taylor Cook] He’s more athletic than people think. He’s tall. He towers over a lot of people and he’s got great arm strength. Randy Shannon [on Jacory being injured in the Emerald Bowl] He probably was seriously hurt, but knowing Jacory because he’s a competitor, it was probably worse than we assumed it to be. He threw some deep balls in that game. That shows you where as a quarterback he could’ve said, ‘let’s look for the next one.’ He went in that game and proved to the team that no matter what happens, ‘I’m going to be with you guys. Let’s go out here and play and have fun. I’m going to prove that I can help us win the game,’ and that’s when you see a leader develop. The biggest difference is depth. We’ve got numbers. Numbers make a big different with what
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you do with a football team and how you handle certain things. Taylor [Cook] knows that if he goes out and has a bad practice, you’ve got Cannon Smith and [A.J.] Highsmith behind you. No matter who we have on the field, they have to compete in practice. When you’re able to have those kind of situations, then now guys understand that every day you have to go out and get better and not settle now. The seniors have done a great job. Randy Phillips, Jason Fox, Chavez Grant, Eric Moncur, Dedrick Epps, and when you look at that nucleus, those guys, they know the heartaches and the ups and downs but then they come together over the summer and did a lot of senior things together. [on senior running back Javarris James] A big season. He’s done a great job on getting himself ready. He’s cut his weight down, he’s faster, he’s bigger, he’s stronger than he’s ever been. [on the defensive line] We’re a lot older. You look at last year and how many freshmen we had. A year of experience and of getting better is going to make us a whole lot better on the defensive front. And we got guys back. We’ve got more depth at those positions. [on senior tight end Jimmy Graham, who transitions from basketball to football] I can tell you what - by watching him today, he’s not afraid, that’s one thing. When we get in pads, the difference is when he puts on those 30 pounds how he’s going to respond. It’s not the physical part of blocking and doing that, it’s going to be the 30 pounds added on on how he moves around. [on strength of team] We’re young and we probably fly around on the football field and have fun, make plays because they don’t know any better. Probably the weakness is because we are young and we’ll make a play here and then take a chance that may hurt us. Those are things you have to deal with. That’s why as you get older and get healthier you‘ll be fine.
12 Days of ACC: Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets August 10, 2009 With nine starters back on offense and only six scholarship seniors on the roster, there’s no question that the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets can make a run for the Atlantic Coast Conference title this season. Under the guidance of 2008 ACC Coach of the Year Paul Johnson, who was in his first year with the program, the Yellow Jackets finished 9-4 (5-3 ACC) behind Virginia Tech and ended the season ranked No. 22. As the ACC’s top offense (372.5 yards), Georgia Tech’s bread and butter is the triple option. The Yellow Jackets were fourth nationally in rushing offense with 273 yards a game, and the last three top ACC rushers wore Tech’s colors: Tashard Choice and 2008 ACC Player of the Year Jonathan Dwyer. The junior running back rushed for 1,395 yards on a 7.0 average and scored 12 touchdowns. Redshirt sophomore Roddy Jones also gained 690 yards and tallied four touchdowns as the backup. Bruce Feldman of ESPN.com Insiders recently ranked Dwyer as the second-best back in the country behind Jayvid Best of California In contrast to the 32 rushing touchdowns, the Yellow Jackets threw for just five. Junior quarterback Josh Nesbitt is a Davey O’Brien Award Watch List candidate with 693 yards rushing
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and seven touchdowns, and 808 yards passing and two touchdowns. He threw five interceptions and completed only 43.9 percent of his passes. Sophomore Jaybo Shaw is the backup and managed to notch 200 rushing yards and three touchdowns as well as 321 passing yards and two scores. Ninety-five percent of last year’s rushing and receiving yards are back. Redshirt junior Demaryius Thomas led the team with three touchdowns and 627 receiving yards on 39 catches. He was the lone player with double-digit catches. To protect the playmakers, twelve guys will compete for the starting spots on the offensive line compared to the eight last season because of injuries. Two starting tackles are gone. There’s now a new man in charge of the defense this year: Dave Wommack. Last season saw eight new starters, and 29 opponent turnovers, which was a tie for 20th in the nation. Georgia Tech intercepted an impressive 18 passes. Returning is Second Team All-America junior safety Morgan Burnett with his seven interceptions, 93 tackles and touchdown. Redshirt junior defensive back Dominique Reese had three interceptions and a touchdown of his own. Sophomore corner Rashaad Reed also nabbed three picks. Sophomore Cooper Taylor and redshirt sophomore linebacker Kyle Jackson each recorded more than 60 tackles. Junior lineman Derrick Morgan’s 9.5 tackles for loss, seven sacks and four fumble recoveries will boost the defense. Three defensive linemen, however, must be replaced from last year’s unit. A weakness on this Georgia Tech team would be its special teams. Sophomore Tyler Melton mustered just 5.7 yards on punt returns. Junior placekicker/punter Scott Blair was 12 of 20 field goals. As a team, the Yellow Jackets were 11th in net punting, 10th in kickoff returns and ninth in punt returns in the conference. Key stats: 1) Georgia Tech hasn’t had a losing season in conference play since 1994. 2) The Yellow Jackets competed in their 12th straight bowl game, which is fourth-best among active streaks, in a 38-3 loss in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl to LSU. 3) Despite running the ball so much, Tech barely won time of possession (30:31 vs. 29:29) because of 23 touchdowns of three minutes or less. Schedule *Four of five games are on the road in October, Miami and Clemson play Tech on back-to-back Thursday night games and the Yellow Jackets see action for 11 consecutive weeks before a bye 9/5: Win vs. Jacksonville State A subdivision opponent, the Gamecocks were romped 41-14 last season and serve as a warm-up for next week’s tough ACC game. 9/10: Win vs. Clemson After winning 21-17 on the road last year, the Yellow Jackets welcome the Tigers and C.J. Spiller for the running back match-up of the college football season: Spiller vs. Dwyer. 9/17: Loss @ Miami I’m calling an upset here which is going to sound crazy. Last season Georgia Tech’s ground game
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rushed for 472 rushing yards, the most in the ACC in 17 years, en route to a 41-23 victory. This year Miami has depth and experience on the defensive line, and head coach Randy Shannon has called it the team’s strength. The Hurricanes have extra time to prepare for the game after having played the ‘Noles on Labor Day and a bye week that Saturday. 9/26: Win vs. North Carolina Look for revenge off a 28-7 loss last year 10/3: Win @ Mississippi State The Bulldogs won just four games overall in the tough Southeastern Conference. 10/10: Loss @ Florida State It’s at Doak. That’s the only reason I have for choosing the Seminoles. 10/17: Loss vs. Virginia Tech This game is considered by many to decide the Coastal Division. Can Dwyer run against the Hokie defense and make up for a 20-17 loss? 10/24: Win @ Virginia History is not in Georgia Tech’s favor. The Yellow Jackets have not won in Virginia since 1990, and they barely took their homecoming game 24-17 last year. 10/31: Win @ Vanderbilt The Commodores beat Mississippi State 17-14, so consider this another win for Tech. SEC road games are difficult, though. 11/7: Win vs. Wake Forest Senior quarterback Riley Skinner lost his top target, and the defense will miss its top Deacons from last season. 11/14: Win @ Duke Tech cruised to an easy 27-0 win. 11/21: BYE 11/28: Win vs. Georgia A 45-42 victory at the Bulldogs’ home field capped off the regular season. Georgia lost starting quarterback Matthew Stafford and starting running back Knowshon Moreno.
12 Days of ACC: Miami Hurricanes August 11, 2009 The Miami Hurricanes are looking to return to the glory days of swagger and championship football after going 19-19 over the last three seasons. It is now year three under head coach Randy Shannon, who recruited the nation’s top class in 2008. Because of this statistic, there is optimism in Coral Gables as those players are a year older and free of a quarterback controversy that seemed to follow the team throughout last season. Sophomore quarterback Jacory Harris, a hometown kid who was a perfect 30-0 in high school, has been given the keys to a new Hurricanes offense that should spread out the field and highlight the playmakers at both running back and wide receiver. There’s also a new defensive coordinator: John Lovett. With only 15 takeaways last year, the Canes welcome back injured leaders Eric Moncur, Randy Phillips and Colin McCarthy.
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OFFENSE Quarterbacks: Harris takes over as the face of the Hurricanes after starter Robert Marve transferred to Purdue. Harris, a local product who led the Northwestern Bulls to a mythical national championship his senior year of high school, passed for 1,195 yards and 12 touchdowns primarily as a backup. He earned ACC Rookie of the Week honors three times. On likely backup, redshirt freshman Taylor Cook, Harris said: “He’s more athletic than people think. He’s tall. He towers over a lot of people and he’s got great arm strength.” Cook was one of the nation’s top prep school quarterbacks in 2007, but threw just one pass (for a completion) all season. Freshman A.J. Highsmith, son of Alonzo Highsmith who played at Miami in the 80s, was rated high by scouts. New offensive coordinator Mark Whipple recently worked with the Philadelphia Eagles and helped Ben Roethlisbeger become a champion in Pittsburgh, and will help these young quarterbacks develop. Running Backs: As the saying goes, the rich get richer. Led by the duo of junior Graig Cooper (841 yards, 4 TD) and senior Javarris James (286 yards, 4 TD), the Canes also picked up promising freshmen Lamar Miller and Mike James to join sophomore Lee Chambers and junior Damien Berry. Javarris James, a cousin of NFL star Edgerrin, has seen his production go down since his freshman year and decided along with Shannon to lose 15 pounds over the off-season: “He’s faster, he’s bigger, he’s stronger than he’s ever been,” Shannon said. Receivers/Tight Ends: Miami easily has one of the most young and talented corps in the nation to help out its young quarterback. Of the 12 receivers on the roster, five are sophomores and three are freshmen. Three of them - redshirt freshmen Tommy Streeter and Kendal Thompkins as well as sophomore Aldarius Johnson (31 catches, 332 yards, 3 TD) - played high school football with Harris. Eleven different players finished with double-digit catches and seven with multiple touchdowns last season. At tight end, the Hurricanes have some depth with the return of senior Dedrick Epps (22 catches, 304 yards) and Jimmy Graham, who played four years on the basketball team and is listed at 6-8, 260. Offensive Line: Loaded with seniors expected to start and support Harris and the crop of running backs, the Canes are led by Preseason All-ACC senior Jason Fox, who is a candidate for both the Outland and Lombardi trophies. He graded out at 97 percent last season, and has registered 36 starts in three years. Senior A.J. Trump moves from guard to center. Junior Orlando Franklin returns at left guard as a candidate for the Outland and Lombardi as well. Sophomore Joel Figueroa played in all 13 games at right guard with four starts. Freshmen like Jermaine Johnson (top-rated O-lineman in 2008) and Brandon Washington will help with depth. Defense Defensive Line: What proved to be a weakness on last season’s team (472 yards on the ground by Georgia Tech in a 41-23 loss) is considered a strength this year, according to Shannon. There are 17 linemen listed on the roster, including sixth-year senior Moncur (100+ career tackles, 10 sacks, 35 QB pressures). Junior Allen Bailey led the team with five sacks and tied for the team lead with nine tackles for a loss. The Marcuses - sophomores Forston and Robinson - each stepped up to make the Freshman All-American team. Junior Steven Wesley started 11 of 13 games and senior Joe Joseph has seen 14 starts over the last two seasons. The success of the D-Line will determine whether the Hurricanes improve upon last season. Linebackers: Only one senior is on the depth chart: middle linebacker Darryl Sharpton, who was fourth on the team with 58 tackles. Sophomore Sean Spence earned the honor of ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year and Freshman All-American after recording 62 tackles and 9.5
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for a loss. Expect him only to get better and more dangerous with time. Another huge boost comes with the return of McCarthy, who received a medical hardship. He had a season-high eight tackles against Florida and has recorded 94 career tackles. Other than these three, the Hurricanes are a little thin for Lovett. Defensive Backs: As a unit, the secondary intercepted just four passes, and no player collected more than one. This season, however, hopes to be different. Back is Phillips, who missed almost all of last season. He is easily the most experienced man in the secondary with 77 career tackles, four interceptions and 15 pass breakups. Junior DeMarcus Van Dyke and sophomore Brandon Harris are more than likely to start again at the corner positions with another year under their belts. Word on the street is that redshirt freshman Vaughn Telemaque could be the next Kenny Phillips. Junior Chavez Grant was one of the team captains last season, and recorded 25 tackles, 1.5 for a loss and six pass breakups. Seniors Ryan Hill and Sam Shields, two of the fastest players on the team, moved to the secondary to add depth after spending time as receivers. Special Teams: Just like Virginia Tech and Florida State, special teams is synonymous with the Orange and Green. Junior Matt Bosher made the All-ACC Second Team last year, was named Team MVP and finished as a semifinalist for the Lou Groza Award, which is given to the nation’s top kicker. Bosher went 17 of 19 on field goals with a long of 52, and remained perfect on PAT. His 42.3 yards per punt was tops in the conference. Sophomore Travis Benjamin ranked in the conference’s top 10 in all-purpose yardage and was 25th nationally in punt return average. Prediction If Miami can make it out alive after its first four games which are against top-25 opponents Florida State, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech and Oklahoma, the Hurricanes could surprise the conference. The biggest difference from last year’s team to this year’s is depth. On the team’s strength, Shannon said: “We’re young and we probably fly around on the football field and have fun, make plays because they don’t know any better. Probably the weakness is because we are young and we’ll make a play here and then take a chance that may hurt us. Those are things you have to deal with. That’s why as you get older and get healthier you’ll be fine.” This may not be the year of the Ibis, but expect the Hurricanes to get a step up on the competition in time to make a run for a national title next season. 2008 Review Plagued by youth and injuries, the Hurricanes still managed to remain in the Coastal Division chase. After dropping to 2-3 with back-to-back losses to North Carolina and Florida State, Miami rattled off five straight victories, including an ESPN Thursday night showdown against Virginia Tech, to briefly claim first in the standings. Two tough road losses later that exploited their defense and the Canes ended up in the Emerald Bowl where they barely lost, 24-17, to California despite an injured Harris and suspended Marve. Who’s Gone Only four offensive and defensive starters left as Miami regained injured players from last season. Two offensive linemen - Xavier Shannon (son of head coach Randy Shannon) and Chris Rutledge - leave competition open, while Marve transferred and tight end Chris Zellner graduated. Defensively, the Canes lost linebacker Glenn Cook and defensive back Anthony Reddick, who were first and second in tackles on the team. Defensive lineman Dwayne Hendricks
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and defensive back Bruce Johnson are also gone, but none of the players were drafted. 2009 Preview Twenty-five sophomores highlight a young group of players that face a tough beginning to a season. Running backs Cooper and James should help take some of the pressure off now fulltime starting quarterback Harris with a balanced attack. A plethora of receivers, and a tight end in Epps who can catch, will spread out the offense and give defenses headaches. With more depth in the secondary and defensive line, there shouldn’t be big running games anymore. Plus, the return of Moncur and Phillips will provide leadership to the youngsters. Lou Groza Award semifinalist Bosher is the X-Factor as a kicker/punter, who also recorded eight tackles on special teams. Numbers and Notes 0.740 The winning percentage among the first four opponents the Canes face in 2009: top-25 teams Florida State, Georgia Tech, ACC Champion Virginia Tech and National Champion runnerup Oklahoma, who combined to go 40-14. 1 Miami’s recruiting class rank in 2008 according to ESPN. Twelve of the prospects were among ESPN’s top 150. 2 New coordinators - Mark Whipple (offensive) and John Lovett (defensive). 4.20 40-yard dash time for converted senior defensive back Sam Shields. It stands as the fastest mark on the team. 6 Years that defensive lineman Eric Moncur has been at the University of Miami due to medical hardships. 7 Players that came from Northwestern Senior High School in Miami, including starting sophomore quarterback Jacory Harris. 8 Players that also compete for the track and field team, including defensive backs DeMarcus Van Dyke and Brandon Harris. 14 Consecutive NFL drafts in which at least one Hurricane was drafted in the first round. The streak was snapped this year as Spencer Adkins was the lone Cane drafted when he was taken in the sixth round. Schedule 9/7: Win @ Florida State As usual, this game provides the drama. In last season’s edition, the Seminoles barely held onto a 24-point lead to hold off the host Hurricanes, 41-39. A much-improved Miami team will ensure the game comes down to the wire again. The ‘Noles have won three of the last four meetings by a combined eight points and lost a whole lot of key players on both sides of the ball. 9/12: BYE 9/17: Win vs. Georgia Tech I’m going out on a limb to say that the Canes upset the Yellow Jackets, despite the 472 yards gained on the ground last season. As mentioned above, Miami now has depth and experience on the defensive line, and since Tech is one-dimensional, it could prove costly and suspect. This game could decide second in the Coastal Division. 9/26: Loss @ Virginia Tech Even though the Orange and Green won 16-14 on a Thursday night game last year, the Hokies
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are now a top-10 opponent playing in Blacksburg. Plus, I can’t pick the Hurricanes to win their first three extremely tough games, right? 10/3: Loss vs. Oklahoma Playing at Land Shark Stadium for the first time since losing in the BCS title game, the Sooners end a tough stretch for the Canes. Oklahoma won 51-13 in the teams’ last meeting in 2007. 10/10: Win vs. Florida A&M At least it’ll be a good halftime show… 10/17: Win @ UCF The Golden Knights finished 4-8, but barely lost 20-14 on the road last season. This has the scent of a trap game. 10/24: Win vs. Clemson In the first-ever game between the two teams, can Miami’s defensive line stop senior running back C.J. Spiller? A key is home-field advantage for the Hurricanes. 10/31: Win @ Wake Forest Despite senior quarterback Riley Skinner playing at home, I was inspired to predict a Miami victory after watching last year’s 16-10 win on ESPN Classic the other day. 11/7: Win vs. Virginia No late-game heroics will be needed away from Charlottesville this time around. 11/14: Loss @ North Carolina The Tar Heels hold a 7-5 series advantage, won 28-24 on the road and host. 11/21: Win vs. Duke Senior quarterback Thaddeus Lewis returns home, but it was Miami’s other proud son, Harris, who led a great comeback off the bench last time around. 11/28: Win @ USF Whenever the Bulls tried to make a case as one of the top teams in Florida, they choked. Senior quarterback Matt Groethe will be playing his final game at home. Miami won the only match up 27-7 back in 2005.
12 Days of ACC: North Carolina Tar Heels August 12, 2009 Known for their basketball team and more recently as a top program in baseball, the North Carolina Tar Heels can add football to the list under head coach Butch Davis. After finishing 8-5 (4-4 ACC) for third in the Coastal Division, the Carolina Blue made its first bowl game since 2004, but lost 31-30 to West Virginia in the Meineke Car Bowl. It was a four-game turnaround from the previous season, and with a league-high nine starters back on defense, things may only get better. Leading the way is junior quarterback T.J. Yates and his 1,168 yards, 11 touchdowns, four interceptions and 153.6 passing efficiency. He split time with Cameron Sexton, who passed for 1,261 yards, nine touchdowns and six interceptions. A trio of juniors will carry the ball for North Carolina. Midway through last season, Shaun Draughn emerged as the top Heel in the backfield with 866 yards and three touchdowns. Greg
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Little finished with 339 yards and three touchdowns, while Ryan Houston led the team with eight scores, six from a yard out. In large part to Houston, UNC scored a touchdown on 55 percent of its red-zone opportunities. The big question mark on this team will be at wide receiver. Six players are gone from a year ago as well as 17 of 21 receiving touchdowns. Hakeem Nicks, who set all sorts of Tar Heel records, recorded 68 catches, 1,222 yards and 12 touchdowns. Brooks Foster was second with 30 catches, 334 yards and two touchdowns. Brandon Tate rounded out the top three with 16 catches and three touchdowns. Also gone are two offensive linemen and a tight end to block up front for the playmakers. On the other hand, all defensive linemen are back, including ACC preseason team member Marvin Austin. Robert Quinn finished third in ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year last season. At linebacker, juniors Quan Sturdivant (led nation with 87 solo tackles, 122 total for tops on team, two INT) and Bruce Carter (led nation with five blocks, 68 tackles) prove to be a formidable bunch. A hole, however, was left at middle linebacker with the departure of Mark Paschal (103 tackles, two INT). Three of four are back in the secondary on a team that intercepted 20 passes and returned four for a score. All-America safety Trimane Goddard led the nation with seven interceptions and is gone. Junior Daâ€™Norris Searcy, who collected 10 of his 25 tackles in the bowl game, will start at strong safety. Junior Deunta Williams tallied three interceptions and Second-team All-ACC cornerback Kendric Burney was third on the team with 78 tackles and picked off three passes. On special teams, Tate is gone as a punt returner. He took one all the way for a score and averaged 22.6 yards. Possible replacements include Burney (averaged 6.2 yards on six returns for second on the team) and junior Trase Jones (returned five for a 7.2 average). Junior Johnny White will carry on with kick return duties after averaging 25.3 yards on 15 returns. Sophomore placekicker Casey Barth went 10 of 15 on field goals with a long of 42, while punter Terrence Brown is gone. Look for freshman C.J. Feagles (son of Jeff of the NFLâ€™s Giants) and junior Grant Schallock to compete for the job. Key stats:Eight of 12 opponents played in a bowl game Tied for sixth-best turnaround in the nation (four-game improvement) Schedule 9/5: Win vs. The Citadel In its only action against an ACC opponent, the Bulldogs (4-8) lost 45-17 to Clemson. 9/12: Win @ Connecticut Last season the Tar Heels won 38-12, but the Huskies went on to finish 8-5 and blew out Virginia 45-10 in the International Bowl. 9/19: Win vs. East Carolina The highlight for the Pirates (9-5) was an opening game 27-22 upset of Virginia Tech at home. This could be a dangerous trap game. 9/26: Loss @ Georgia Tech Despite a 28-7 win last year because of three fourth quarter touchdowns, North Carolina last
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won in Atlanta in 1997. 10/3: Win vs. Virginia Although the Tar Heels lost a close one 16-13, Draughn rushed for a career-high 138 yards. The Cavaliers seem to have UNC’s number with victories in the series since 2005. 10/10: Win vs. Georgia Southern This will be the first meeting between the two teams. The Golden Eagles (6-5) beat The Citadel 44-41 in three overtimes. 10/17: BYE 10/22: Loss vs. Florida State Nerves could be the difference in this game as UNC plays its first ever Thursday night game in program history. But then again, the Seminoles don’t fare too well in these. 10/29: Loss @ Virginia Tech Leading 17-3 to start the second half, the Hokies came back to win 20-17. It’s the second straight Thursday night game for the Heels, who will crumble in Blacksburg. The latest news, though! Running back Darren Evans is out for the season. 11/7: Win vs. Duke Eighteen of the last 19 matches have been won by North Carolina, including a 28-20 win last season. 11/14: Win vs. Miami The Hurricanes are 0-3 all-time at Kenan Stadium, and lost 28-24 at home. 11/21: Win @ Boston College Nicks, who scored four touchdowns, is no longer around, but that shouldn’t make much of a difference. The two teams meet in Chestnut Hill for the first time since 1984. 11/28: Loss @ N.C. State Not too certain that six turnovers will happen again to the Carolina Blue like they did last year in a forgettable 41-10 loss at home.
12 Days of ACC: Virginia Cavaliers August 13, 2009 Not satisfied with last season’s 5-7 (3-5 ACC) record and fifth-place finish out of six teams in the Coastal Division, head coach Al Groh brought back two coaches and welcomed three new assistants. One of the additions, Gregg Brandon, takes charge of an offense that scored just 16.1 points a game. Unlike his predecessor, however, four starters return to the offensive line as well as senior quarterback Jameel Sewell, who missed all of last season. Sewell, the starter in 2007, passed for 2,176 yards and rushed for another 276 that season. He must try to win back his spot as the counter to junior Marc Verica’s drop-back passing. Despite missing the first three games, Verica finished with 2,037 yards and eight touchdowns, but was picked off 16 times. Aside from a potential quarterback controversy, the Cavaliers lost Cedric Peerman, their top
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runner, who rushed for 774 yards on a 5.1 yard average with seven touchdowns. He led the team with 42 points. Senior Mikell Simpson will replace him after finishing second on the team with 262 yards on 87 carries with three touchdowns. An issue with Simpson continues to be injuries, however, as he missed the last three games of an injury-plagued season. No other player on the roster saw considerable time rushing except senior corner Vic Hall. It doesn’t get much easier as Sewell and Verica must deal with the loss of the top four receivers from last year. Kevin Ogletree’s 723 yards, five scores and 58 catches easily led the Cavs. Peerman caught 44 catches out of the backfield. Just one catching touchdowns returns from last year, and there is no proven tight end. The defense lost its backbone with the departure of all three linebackers: Jon Copper (101 tackles), Antonio Appleby (72 tackles) and Clint Sintim (70 tackles). On the other hand, the defensive line returns seven of its top eight. Sophomore Matt Conrath was Second-team Freshman All-American with 35 tackles and four sacks. Senior Nate Collins, sophomore Nick Jenkins and junior John-Kevin Dolce (five sacks) all look to pressure the quarterback. In the secondary, senior Chris Cook is back on the team after missing last season. He has 19 career starts and three interceptions at safety. Sophomore Corey Mosley started the final nine games at safety last season. Junior cornerback Ras-I Dowling intercepted a team-high three passes, made the conference preseason team and tied for 11th nationally with 1.27 passes defended per game. Hall, sophomore Chase Minnifield and Jenkins each picked off two. The corners sure like to get in on the return game as everyone but Ogletree comes back in the prime spots on special teams. Hall should once again handle punt return duties after averaging 6.4 yards. Minnifield averaged 23.3 yards on kicks. Sophomore Rodney McLeod could replace Ogletree as the other returner. At kicker, senior Yannick Reyering, formerly of the Cavaliers soccer team, must improve after making just 6 of 11 kicks. He will receive competition from sophomore Robert Randolph who was 3 of 4 with a long of 37. Sophomore Jimmy Howell will continue his duties as punter with a 39-yard average and 20 inside the 20-yard line. Key stats:Four of the games were decided by a touchdown or less Two players are back after not being with the team last season Schedule 9/5: Win vs. William & Mary The Tribe (7-4) lost 34-24 to N.C. State in the first game of season, but went on to win five in a row. 9/12: Loss vs. TCU Same prediction as I made earlier in the 12 days. It came as a shock to many when the Horned Frogs went 11-2 last season. Two of their wins came against top 10 opponents - BYU and Boise State. Both losses were at the hands of top 10 teams - No. 2 Oklahoma (who lost to Florida in the national title game) and No. 9 Utah. Junior quarterback Andy Dalton is back. 9/19: Win @ Southern Mississippi If there wasn’t a bye week following this game, I’d say this could be a trap game. But it’s not. The
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Golden Eagles (7-6) won their last five games and barely lost to Rice and Memphis. 9/26: BYE 10/3: Loss @ North Carolina Playing on the road at Kenan Stadium will be tough for an inexperienced offense against a team returning nine starters on defense. 10/10: Win vs. Indiana Sadly at 3-9, the Hoosiers cannot play football on the hard court. 10/17: Loss @ Maryland I’m going on a whim to say that the Terps will beat Virginia at home. If I were them, I’d try everything possible to erase any memory of last season’s 31-0 romp. 10/24: Loss vs. Georgia Tech Even though the Cavaliers pulled off a 24-17 win in Atlanta, it’s hard not to like the Yellow Jackets this year. 10/31: Win vs. Duke It’s the battle between fifth and sixth in the division. Except for the fact that the Blue Devils wrecked havoc in a 31-3 win. Look for Virginia to return the favor if its defense can contain senior quarterback Thaddeus Lewis. 11/7: Loss @ Miami There’s no need for late-game heroics as sophomore quarterback Jacory Harris is now the starter for the Hurricanes. 11/14: Win vs. Boston College Both teams enter this game without key players on last season’s squads. 11/21: Loss @ Clemson If the Cavs scored only three points in last year’s game with receivers and a running back, I’d like to see what happens on the road without them. 11/28: Loss vs. Virginia Tech The loss of Darren Evans should not be the end of the world for the Hokies, but this last game of the season rivalry match seems to bring out the competition in both teams.
12 Days of ACC: Virginia Tech Hokies August 14, 2009 Nothing is guaranteed in the competitive Atlantic Coast Conference. Despite preseason top-15 rankings and back-to-back conference championships, Virginia Tech knows that better than anyone at the moment. Today, redshirt sophomore running back Darren Evans will have surgery to repair a torn ACL and miss the entire season. Evans, who rushed for an ACC freshman record 1,265 yards and 11 touchdowns last season, was part of a Hokies offense that totaled 174.4 rushing yards a game. Senior Kenny Lewis, Jr. started the first six games last fall before suffering a torn Achilles tendon, and will leave the ground game to inexperienced backs in sophomore Josh Oglesby (38 career carries), redshirt freshman Ryan Williams and true freshman David Wilson.
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For an offense that scored 22.1 points a game, junior quarterback Tyrod Taylor carries an even greater load as a rushing threat. He ran for the second-most yards (738) and touchdowns (7), while struggling in the air with just two scores and seven interceptions on 1,036 yards. His backup last year, Sean Glennon, is gone, as well as the center and left guard on an offensive line that allowed 34 sacks. A group of sophomores make up the majority of the receiving depth chart as the top six are back. Redshirt sophomore Danny Coale led the team with 36 catches for 408 yards. Sophomore Jarrett Boykin tied for a team-high two touchdowns. In scoring range, look for Taylor to find his big target (6-3, 283) in redshirt senior tight end Greg Boone. What isn’t expected to be a concern this season is Virginia Tech’s stingy defense that gave up just 16.7 points a game, recovered 14 fumbles, intercepted 20 passes and collected 42 sacks. Despite losing linebackers Purnell Sturdivant (team-high 99 tackles) and Brett Warren (86 tackles, two INT), redshirt senior Cody Grimm returns with 71 tackles and two touchdowns. Nine picks are gone from last season, including Victor Harris’s six and two scores. He was also the Hokies’ punt returner with a 9.3 average. The rest of the unit is experienced with senior cornerback Stephan Virgil (six INT, fumble return for a TD) and senior free safety Cam Chancellor (two INT). Like any Virginia Tech team under head coach Frank Beamer, it prides itself on special teams. Sophomore Dyrell Roberts will return kicks after a 24.8 average and might take over Harris’s old punting duties. Dustin Keys was 23 of 29 on field goals with a long of 50 to lead the team with 101 points. Look for sophomore Justin Myer to take over the spot since he had 66 kickoffs. Redshirt senior punter Brent Bowden averaged 40.4 yards with a long of 57, 12 over 50 and 24 inside the 20 as a great weapon for field position. Key stats: Nine games decided by 10 points or less, outran opponents by almost 1,000 yards, outpassed by almost 1,300 Schedule 9/5: Loss vs. Alabama It will look like a Crimson Tide when the Hokies take the field in Atlanta as the “neutral” site will easily work in Alabama’s favor. Plus, Virginia Tech is 1-10 in the series. 9/12: Win vs. Marshall NFL players Chad Pennington and Randy Moss no longer play for the Thundering Herd, which is a shame, because then Marshall (4-8) might have a slim chance. The Hokies lead the series 7-2. 9/19: Loss vs. Nebraska There isn’t much history between these teams: the series is tied at one apiece. Last year the Cornhuskers fell 35-30, but things look a lot brighter as the Corn Nation was selected to win the Big 12 North Division. 9/26: Win vs. Miami Last season saw an ESPN Thursday night defensive showdown as the Hurricanes held onto a 1614 win and briefly claimed the top spot in the Coastal Division. Blacksburg is a very intimidating place, especially when it’s game three of four during the toughest stretch in college football. If Evans’s injury came before I made my earlier predictions, I’d have given Miami the ‘W.’
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10/3: Win @ Duke I feel for senior quarterback Thaddeus Lewis here. Last year, the Blue Devils scored just three points in a 14-3 defensive battle. 10/10: Win vs. Boston College After losing 28-23 during the regular season, the Hokies came back to blow out the Eagles 30-12 for the ACC title. Look for a continuation. 10/17: Win @ Georgia Tech Can I take back this prediction I made last week? With Evans gone, it will be interesting to see how Virginia Tech can combat playing on the road when the team barely won 20-17 at home. 10/29: Win vs. North Carolina In one of their many close games last season, the Hokies held on for a 20-17 victory. This goaround, there’s no place like home. 11/5: Loss @ East Carolina Can history repeat itself? Has the true identity of a Hokie been identified as a Pirate’s missing parrot? Look for East Carolina to try to recreate the magic at home. 11/14: Win @ Maryland The Terps almost always give a team a good game, so don’t be too surprised if an upset is pulled here. 11/21: Win vs. N.C. State Quarterback Russell Wilson might have been named ACC Freshman of the Year and selected to the preseason first team, but he is now just a redshirt sophomore seemingly by himself. 11/28: Win @ Virginia One hundred and fifty miles separate the cities of Charlottesville and Blacksburg. Three points were the difference in a 17-14 win for Virginia Tech. *NOTE* Predictions were made before the Evans injury and do not necessarily express the views of the blogger now
Injuries in the air August 16, 2009 It’s that time of year again. Players have put the pads on and scrimmages between the offense and defense show the coaches just who is ready to get on the gridiron. Now it appears as though the weeks leading up to the season opener stand more as a test of adversity, or which teams can make it out in one piece. Reading through The Miami Herald over the past few days has scared me: -Virginia Tech running back Darren Evans is out for the season -Florida State has three running backs injured -Georgia Tech’s backup quarterback Jaybo Shaw broke his collarbone yesterday during a drill and will miss 6-8 weeks As a fan, my first question is ‘when will Miami be next?’ Surely no team can go without its fair share of heartbreaking injuries.
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But on second thought, the Hurricanes suffered because the injury bug hit three key players last year - safety Randy Phillips, defensive lineman Eric Moncur and linebacker Colin McCarthy. Last night was supposed to be the first scrimmage for the Hurricanes. It was closed to everyone except the players and coaches…and maybe an athletic trainer here or there. I haven’t heard any news about it so far, and considering that there was a torrential downpour all day and night (see the FSU/Miami game of last year for a reference), it seems far near impossible that anything good came of it. I’m fine with that, though. I’ve decided to adopt a new belief. Every team goes through injuries and has to find a way to overcome them. That’s what separates the pretenders from the contenders. As for me, I just wish I could tweak a few of my preseason picks…
Boys will be boys August 18, 2009 Boys will be boys. According to a report from The Miami Herald, sophomore defensive end Adewale Ojomo injured himself “horsing around” Sunday night in the Miami Hurricanes locker room. Ojomo, who started three of 11 games last season and played extensively, broke his jaw and might miss the opener against Florida State on Sept. 7. As soon as I read this article in the paper, I immediately thought about my blog from Sunday discussing how it shouldn’t be too long before the injury bug hit the Canes. Other injuries include: -Head coach Randy Shannon told The Miami Herald that freshman linebacker Shayon Green “will be out for a while,” but did not elaborate. -Freshman offensive lineman Corey White underwent surgery for a sports hernia. Shannon told reporters he would be back. As of now, “he’s out for a while” too.
Injury report August 19, 2009 It seems that the injuries are beginning to pile up at a position head coach Randy Shannon told reporters at media day would be the strongest and deepest part of the team. Defensive end. According to The Miami Herald, sixth-year defensive end Eric Moncur, who missed most of last season with abdominal pain, is visiting the doctor in Philadelphia who repaired a muscle tear he had last year. He left practice Wednesday morning to be examined by the specialist for pain near his groin. Moncur is one of four defensive ends injured - redshirt freshman Gavin Hardin (unspecified, long-term injury), sophomore Adewale Ojomo (broken jaw, might miss FSU game) and freshman Olivier Vernon (minor ankle injury, fully back in a few days). Still on the depleting depth chart are junior Steven Wesley, freshman Dyron Dye and
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sophomores Andrew Smith and Marcus Robinson. In good injury news, junior running back Graig Cooper was out of his protective boot and is questionable for the second scrimmage of camp on Friday.
Butkus Award Watch List August 25, 2009 Redshirt senior Darryl Sharpton and sophomore Sean Spence were both named to the preseason watch list for the 2009 Dick Butkus Award, which is given to the nation’s top linebacker. Spence was the Atlantic Coast Conference Defensive Rookie of the Year and a Freshman AllAmerican while finishing as the top tackler (65) for the Hurricanes last season. Sharpton was the second-leading tackler (58) and started in 10 of 13 games. Miami is one of eight schools with two players represented on the list which features 35 players. Official nominees for the Butkus Award will be named Oct. 15. Finalists will selected Nov. 19 and winners on or before Dec. 8. The linebacking depth after these two, however, is relatively weak and inexperienced despite the return of junior Colin McCarthy, who was rewarded a medical hardship last year.
Backup QBs Cook and Smith will transfer August 25, 2009 So I tweeted earlier about it after scrambling to get the breaking news up on every social networking site as well as The Miami Hurricane’s website. Two University of Miami backup quarterbacks – redshirt freshman Taylor Cook and sophomore Cannon Smith – will be transferring. This means that starting quarterback Jacory Harris and freshman A.J. Highsmith are the only scholarship QBs remaining on the roster. Stay tuned to this blog as I will give my in-depth take on it all Thursday. On another note, tomorrow (Wednesday) is the start of classes and means a day off for the football players.
First day of classes August 26, 2009 It’s Wednesday, August 26. To many, it’s just hump day. For the University of Miami football players, however, it marks either the beginning or continuation of the term student-athlete. Mere mortals get the chance to see the other side of stars on the gridiron by attending classes with them - from the Evolution of Rock to Sport Marketing. With all the media hoopla surrounding preseason polls and top recruits, it’s difficult to remember that athletes need to wake up before 5 a.m. for practice and then head straight to class for hours
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at a time. Last season, 32 former Hurricanes in the NFL had earned their college degrees, the largest amount in the league. Baltimore Raven Ed Reed (’98′-’01), Washington Redskin Santana Moss (’97-’00) and New Orleans Saint Jonathan Vilma (’00-’03) were among them. Offensive lineman Xavier Shannon, who graduated in the spring, sophomore cornerback Brandon Harris and sophomore wide receiver LaRon Byrd each made the All-ACC Academic Team which as announced back in February. It would be nice if this side of collegiate sports was mentioned a little more often rather than the scandal and losses. For more information on Miami football’s success in the classroom, read this article.
Egos were just afraid of some competition August 27, 2009 Hey all! Here’s my take of the Taylor Cook and Cannon Smith transfer that was announced two days ago. You can view the original, full-length version here, at The Miami Hurricane’s website. Feel free to leave your own opinion on the situation. I sometimes wonder how certain football players acquire such large egos after accomplishing absolute nothing. There’s no other way to describe the reasoning behind the decision of redshirt freshmen Taylor Cook and Cannon Smith to transfer 11 days away from the season opener against No. 18 Florida State. Head coach Randy Shannon has said all through preseason camp that the No. 2 position on the depth chart is up for grabs behind sophomore starter Jacory Harris. And although every player aspires to start, Harris is not only the most experienced of the group, but he was high school teammates at Miami Northwestern with three of the wide receivers on the Hurricanes’ roster. Even with the 6-4 QB “beefing” up to 190 pounds (which is a feat for him if you remember his first days on campus), Harris still looks like a piece of fresh meat for defensive linemen and linebackers coming from the blind side. Injuries can happen anytime, anywhere. Look at the depleting defensive end position as an example, with four players missing time battling injuries. Surely second fiddle can’t be so bad when you know your time will come eventually.
Playing in the dark August 28, 2009 Yesterday, the Hurricanes practiced so early in their return to practice after a day off for the start of semester that they couldn’t even play on the right field due to lack of lighting. Instead, they spent time on the four-time national champion baseball team’s field, which we all know is now named Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field.
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5:45 a.m. is the new start time for practice because head coach Randy Shannon wants to avoid the afternoon thunderstorms that seem to appear out of thin air almost every day in South Florida. Quarterback and injury report Shannon, who spoke on local radio station WQAM’s Hurricane Hotline, said he received three calls from transfers interested in coming to Miami, but he shot down the idea. Shannon said he is more interested in recruiting quarterbacks. Freshman Dyron Dye is the latest defensive lineman to get bit by the injury bug. Shannon did not go into detail about the injury. Sophomore Adewale Ojomo (broken jaw), redshirt senior Eric Moncur (groin) and freshman Gavin Hardin continue to miss time.
It’s in one week August 31, 2009 While certain teams get ready to take on power-puff opponents in the first game of the season, the University of Miami Hurricanes and No. 18 Florida State Seminoles are exactly one week away from the national spotlight (ESPN) with a Labor Day matchup in Tallahassee. This is the first time since 2006 that the two teams will face each other in the season opener. FSU won that game 13-10 when Gary Cismesia kicked a 33-yard field goal with 8:06 left in the fourth. For an in-depth preview and breakdown of next Monday’s rivalry game, stay tuned to theroadtotampa.com/blogs/miami.
Update: Backup quarterbacks officially transfer September 1, 2009 As the quarterback shuffle became the latest craze at the University of Miami last week, the two redshirt freshmen backups have finally decided where they are headed. Cannon Smith will sit out a year before playing for the Memphis Tigers, while Taylor Cook had already made up his mind about the Rice Owls. Both players will have to sit out one season, per NCAA transfer rules. Since both teams are members of Conference USA, a matchup down the road is possible if either moves up on the depth chart. Back in Coral Gables, the Hurricanes still seem confident with sophomore starter Jacory Harris and true freshman A.J. Highsmith, though fans and coaches alike hope for the offensive line to step up big and protect Harris.
Testaverde named to ACC’s Legends Class September 3, 2009 Former Hurricanes quarterback Vinny Testaverde, who in 1986 became Miami’s first Heisman Trophy winner, was named as the University of Miami’s representative in the Class of 2009 Dr. Pepper Football Championship Game Legends. Seeing as I wasn’t born yet during his collegiate career, Vinny meant the opposing quarterback
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in all of those horrible victories the New York Jets captured over the hometown Dolphins during my childhood. After being selected first overall in the 1987 NFL Draft, Testaverde went on to a 21-year career with seven teams - Tampa Bay, Cleveland, Baltimore, the Jets, Dallas, New England and Carolina, throwing for 46,233 yards and 275 touchdown passes. All 12 former standouts will be recognized during pre-game ceremonies at Raymond James Stadium for the 5th Annual Dr. Pepper ACC Football Championship, which takes place at 8 p.m. Dec. 5 on ESPN. Now up for discussion: What’s your favorite Testaverde moment while he donned the Orange and Green? Who’s your choice of best Hurricanes football player of all time? Heck, even best quarterback. People didn’t call us “Quarterback U” for nothing… Other names on the list include: 2009 ACC Football Legends Roster Name/School/Years/Position 1.) Mike Mayock/Boston College/1976-80/Defensive Back 2.) Danny Ford/Clemson/1979-88/Head Coach 3.) Bob Pascal/Duke/1953-55/Halfback 4.) Chris Weinke/Florida State/1998-00/Quarterback 5.) Eddie Lee Ivery/Georgia Tech/1975-78/Halfback 6.) Kevin Glover/Maryland/1982-84/Center 7.) Kelvin Bryant/North Carolina/1979-82/Tailback 8.) Willie Burden/NC State/1971-73/Running Back 9.) Jim Bakhtiar/Virginia/1955-57/Running Back 10.) Bob Schweickert/Virginia Tech/1962-64/Quarterback 11.) Bill Barnes/Wake Forest/1954-56/Running Back
Miami Hurricanes depth chart September 4, 2009 Barring any injuries that might’ve occurred this morning at practice or might take place tomorrow, this is the depth chart for the season opener against the 18th-ranked Florida State Seminoles. There aren’t any real surprises here except for sophomore Harland Gunn’s spot at right guard ahead of junior Joel Figueroa. Throughout fall camp, indications were that junior Leonard Hankerson would line up at wide receiver ahead of sophomore Aldarius Johnson, but with Mark Whipple’s offense, I don’t see this part of the depth chart meaning much. It’s also interesting to note that basketball player turned tight end Jimmy Graham is not listed. Although redshirt freshman Vaughn Telemaque is the backup at free safety, that could change. Same goes for redshirt freshman Jake Wieclaw, who might take over kickoff duties to relieve last
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year’s Team MVP and Lou Groza Award Semifinalist Matt Bosher. OFFENSE QB: Jacory Harris | AJ Highsmith HB: Javarris James | Graig Cooper | Lee Chambers FB: Patrick Hill | Tervaris Johnson WR: LaRon Byrd | Aldarius Johnson WR: Leonard Hankerson | Travis Benjamin LT: Jason Fox | Ben Jones LG: Orlando Franklin | Brandon Washington C: AJ Trump | Tyler Horn RG: Harland Gunn | Joel Figueroa RT: Matt Pipho | Jermaine Johnson TE: Dedrick Epps | Richard Gordon DEFENSE LE: Steven Wesley | Olivier Vernon LT: Allen Bailey | Joe Joseph RT: Josh Holmes or Marcus Forston RE: Marcus Robinson | Andrew Smith SLB: Colin McCarthy | Ramon Buchanon MLB: Darryl Sharpton | Arthur Brown WLB: Sean Spence | Jordan Futch LCB: Brandon Harris | Chavez Grant RCB: Demarcus Van Dyke or Sam Shields SS: Randy Phillips | Jared Campbell FS: Jojo Nicholas | Vaughn Telemaque SPECIAL TEAMS PK: Matt Bosher | Jake Wieclaw P: Matt Bosher | Jake Wieclaw KOS: Jake Wieclaw | Matt Bosher PR: Graig Cooper | Travis Benjamin | Thearon Collier KR: Graig Cooper | Lee Chambers KR: Brandon Harris | Mike James LS: Jake Byrne | Chris Ivory H: Matt Perrelli | Chris Hayes
Preview: Miami vs. No. 18 Florida State September 6, 2009 Below is my biased account on why the unranked University of Miami Hurricanes will defeat the arch rival and 18th-ranked Florida State Seminoles at Bobby Bowden Field at Doak Campbell Stadium tomorrow night on ESPN. Quarterbacks: EVEN I know what you’re thinking: FSU junior Christian Ponder has more experience and thus has the advantage over Jacory Harris, who takes over after serving as a backup to the now transferred (thank goodness he’s gone) Robert Marve.
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Except for the fact that Harris went a perfect 30-0 en route to winning a mythical national championship in high school and led the Hurricanes to two come-from-behind victories off the bench last season. In terms of offensive support, Ponder might have to do even more running with the departure of Antone Smith, and will need to find new targets with Preston Parker and Greg Carr gone. Harris, on the other hand, returns one of the deepest backfields in the country as well as the youngest and most talented receiving corps in the nation. Running Backs: Miami Senior Javarris “Baby J” James regained the starting spot after shedding 15 pounds over the offseason. NFL star Edgerrin would be proud of his younger cousin, who gives junior Graig Cooper and his 888 yards from last year an opportunity to help out more on special teams with his quickness. For the Noles, sophomore Jermaine Thomas averaged 7.0 yards a carry as the backup to Smith. Neither team utilizes the fullback much in passing or rushing situations, so feel free to skip ahead and hope they block. Wide Receivers: Miami Ponder lost his top two receivers - Parker and Carr - who combined for 79 receptions and six touchdowns. Senior Richard Goodman missed last season with an injury and sophomore Jarmon Fortson collected just eight catches. Senior tight end Caz Piurowski (6-7, 271) could be the difference maker on offense with his size. The Canes, however, welcome back sophomore LaRon Byrd, known for his theatrics (see the Virginia game), and junior Leonard Hankerson. With other talented playmakers like sophomores Travis Benjamin and Aldarius Johnson, look for new offensive coordinator Mark Whipple to spread the ball around. Offensive Line: Florida State All five starters return for the Seminoles, and all stand at 6-2 or taller. The bright spot for UM is Preseason All-ACC Jason Fox, but newcomers to the top spot on the depth chart include sophomore Harlund Gunn and senior Matt Pipho. Games are won in the trenches, so if the O-Line can protect its quarterback and provide time, that team will win… Defensive Line: Even The injury bug hasn’t been nice to either of the team’s D-lines: the ends for the Canes and tackles for the Noles. Sophomore Adewale Ojomo had his jaw broken by a walk-on last month in the locker room and redshirt senior Eric Moncur has been out with a groin injury, while seniors Kendrick Stewart and Budd Thacker have missed practice time for FSU. Who will be able to stop the run? Will the offensive lines be able to overtake the defensive fronts? Linebackers: Miami ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year Sean Spence said recently that he would like to record 100 tackles. Redshirt junior Colin McCarthy returns for the Canes at the strong side. Senior Darryl Sharpton, who I happened to go to high school with, must improve up the middle to stuff the run. The Seminoles will have to replace last year’s leader in tackles, Derek Nicholson, as well as Todrick Verdell, who had 66 of his own. Senior Dekota Watson is the only returning starter, but
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defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews always does a nice job of getting young guys reps. Secondary: Even If senior cornerback Patrick Robinson cannot play, Miami has the clear advantage with the return of redshirt senior safety Randy Phillips. All upperclassmen take the field for FSU, which is the complete opposite for the baby Canes. Although the Hurricanes were top 10 in pass defense along with the Noles last year, only four interceptions were made. Part of the reason was the growing pains of now sophomore corner Brandon Harris and junior DeMarcus Van Dyke. Special Teams: Miami With Lou Groza Award winner Graham Gano in the NFL, Miami junior Matt Bosher has the opportunity to win the honor of best kicker in the nation after finishing as a semifinalist last season. Not only did he miss just two field goals (18-20), but he led the Atlantic Coast Conference in punt yard average (40.3). Although he was the concensus top kicker in this past year’s recruiting class, true freshman Dustin Hopkins will be playing his first collegiate game against Miami. In this rivalry. With all the stigma that comes with being a kicker for the Seminoles. He’s just lucky it’s not in the Orange Bowl, that is, if it was even still around. Intangibles: Florida State Head coach Bobby Bowden has 370 more wins, or is that 356 more wins than head coach Randy Shannon? Shannon is just 12-13 in his two years at the helm of the University of Miami football program. The last three times Florida State has won in the series, it has been by a combined eight points. Last time in Tallahassee, the Hurricanes escaped with a 37-29 victory. Last year, the Noles held on for a 41-39 win in a torrential downpour that saw Miami come back from a 24-point deficit. Miami’s injury list Redshirt freshman safety Vaughn Telemaque (upper extremity) Senior cornerback Ryan Hill (upper extremity) Freshman offensive lineman Cory White (lower extremity) Sophomore defensive end Adewale Ojomo (jaw) Redshirt freshman linebacker Levi Paalua (upper extremity) Redshirt senior defensive end Eric Moncur (lower extremity) is listed as doubtful.
One for the ages: Miami upsets No.18 Florida State 38-34 September 8, 2009 My initial reaction after almost having a heart attack along with a hundred or so other students at the legendary Rathskeller restaurant on campus: when will this air on ESPN Classic? As analysts continually emphasized the fact that these two programs aren’t in the same sphere of national prominence as before, it seems Miami and Florida State showed the entire nation not only one of the best college football game of all time, but that both are back. Sophomore quarterback Jacory Harris gave the Hurricane nation a scare when he injured his right (throwing) shoulder on the interception run back for a touchdown, but came back a
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different player and finished with a career-high 386 yards passing and three total scores. His poise in the fourth quarter proved to be the difference. Who said that mythical national championships and a flawless high school record don’t mean anything? Running backs Javarris James and Graig Cooper looked sharp out of the backfield, though their touches decreased over the course of the game. Cooper was fresh on returns, and freshman Mike James saw quite a bit of action as well, which was somewhat surprising. Sophomore receiver Travis “It’s all about the” Benjamin made a case to be a starter with a monster game - four catches for 128 yards and a touchdown - with a new number on his back (from 81 to 3). Eight different players caught a pass from Harris, including several highlight reel ones. And senior tight end Dedrick Epps nabbed two balls. Yes, the tight end. Junior placekicker/punter Matt Bosher once again had to come up with tackles on special teams, and even got a 15-yard penalty for an out-of-bounds hit. He did, however, make his only field goal, five PATs and downed three punts inside the 20. The special teams coverage must improve if Miami wants to go anywhere this year. Will redshirt freshman Jake Wieclaw take over kickoff duties for Bosher sooner than later? On defense, the secondary had trouble with short passes thrown by junior quarterback Christian Ponder all game. He finished with 294 yards, but had an interception and a fumble. Plus, the goal-line stand inside the final minute wasn’t too shabby. Despite injuries to the two starting defensive ends, the Hurricanes did a great job containing the run until the last two Nole drives. Ty Jones and Jermaine Johnson as well as Ponder couldn’t find many open gaps behind what was supposed to be the top offensive line in the conference. As for the Seminoles, freshmen Greg Reid and Dustin Hopkins are keepers. Reid intercepted a pass, forced another that was returned for a touchdown and initially injured Harris. He also single-handedly caused Bosher and the Canes to resort to short kicks after recording 100 yards on returns, which proved to be costly in the field-position war. Hopkins was 2 for 2 on field goals of 52 and 45 yards, but missed a PAT that didn’t end up mattering since FSU made a two-point conversion down the road. All in all, it’s a great start for the Miami Hurricanes. I expect them to make the top 25 this week (hopefully), but more importantly, those first four games don’t seem as daunting as they were a week ago. Georgia Tech’s run game shouldn’t be as tough on the Canes this time around, Virginia Tech was not impressive on national TV and Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford is out 2-4 weeks.
Randy Shannon Press Conference Part 1 September 8, 2009 Head coach Randy Shannon spoke to the media today for over 30 minutes about last night’s ESPN Classic game (it was just on the channel, and I so called it last night). Here are some highlights from the first 15 minutes of said press conference.
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Special Teams Strength - kickoff return with veterans and key blocks, punt team with Matt Bosher not giving FSU chances to return Weakness - Shannon is concerned with the kickoff team. “We have to get somebody to take that load off Bosher” whose hang time wasn’t very good last night. His pooch kicks went to the 40 instead of the 20 like they usually do. Offense “We spread the ball around, which I thought was huge.” Running backs [Graig] Cooper and Javarris [James] caught passes. “We got go-to guys, we’re using our personnel and what people try to take away from us.” “The offensive line did a phenomenal job of protecting Jacory [Harris] and in the run game. Those things were vital to the success we had last night.” 2 things - Shannon was upset with his player for a holding call that killed a drive at the 30-yard line and wide receiver LaRon Byrd’s chop block. “We can’t afford to get those 15-yard penalties because it really gets you out of field-goal range and it really makes it difficult for you as an offense to respond.” Defense “When we needed to play, we played.” Shannon said that the secondary especially lost focus at times in the heat of the situation, and that the unit must improve on third downs. “But we had a great goal-line stand which shows you where we was at last year to now. It gets for us to understand how important it is that we keep working to get better each week.” Are the Canes back? “It’s one win. You can’t wear them out in practice, you’ve got to make sure guys are healthy… We’re back as far as beating Florida State. They’re still a young football team, but we’ve got some veterans who are stepping up and who can carry the load.” Whipple’s call for Travis Benjamin’s catch after Harris’s injury “You can’t change the offense. As long as he’s [Harris] able to throw the ball on the sidelines, we felt like he could throw the ball. It was a great throw and a great catch. You’ve got to give Coach [Aubrey] Hill some credit. He works before practice and before games of guys getting two feet inbounds. Nobody expected that throw to be made.” Injuries “Always in a game like this you’ve got groins and shoulders, but I don’t know if we had any serious ones. Nothing real serious. No major things from a physical game like Florida State.” First-down success “That was huge. We felt like we could run the ball, we felt like we could throw it, we just had to be patient. Take what they give you. We can’t abandon from what we was doing. We got our run game going, and it made it easier for us to throw the football. We just felt like we could mix it up.” First four games “You can’t think about all that stuff. The only thing you can worry about is the next opponent, and that’s Georgia Tech. If you’re trying to think about something that’s in the future that you can’t
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control, you mess around and lose the game. It’s a conference game. It’s a big conference game.” Jacory comparison “If you go back to Jacory’s days in high school, being at Miami Northwestern is different. You’re held at a higher standard, and everybody’s going to be on it. He never panicked. I think that’s what it is about Jacory. If you look at his body - Steve Walsh and Jacory - they’re all the same fragile guy. But their mindset and mentality was, ‘We’re not going to panic, we’re not going to get frustrated. We’re going to keep playing the game.’ And when they make mistakes, they learn from them and try not to make the same mistakes.” Secondary injuries [on Vaughn Telemaque and Ryan Hill] “It was a tough situation for us, it was a nervous situation, because we lost two secondary guys and two great special teams guys, both of them were on kickoff. Talking to doctors, if we can rest them there’s a chance they should be back for Georgia Tech. We’ll know more as time goes on.” Leonard Hankerson [after dropping two balls] “He responded back. That’s what I mean when I say the team is starting to get more mature. They don’t dwell on a lot of things. The way he responded and made some big catches across the middle and downfield and came up with some big, key catches, was really big for this football team. Everybody has confidence in each other, that when somebody makes a mistake, bounce back and let’s see what you can do the next play, and I think that’s what he did. ” Maturity “They kept fighting, coming back. There were some tough breaks in the game and they didn’t let it affect them. On the road down nine points, all kinds of things that could’ve made a team just shut down, and they didn’t. They matured a little bit more, and I think it comes from the seniors. They finally realized that the younger guys look up to the seniors and they’re starting to develop that confidence in each other. ” Cramps “You see a lot of guys cramp, across the nation. The first game is always going to be that kind of emotion and excitement. The players felt good, but the one thing that we have to do and the players understand, is that they can’t take for granted because we’re in Miami and we practice in humidity a lot, when they go on the road it’s different. You still need to hydrate. We’ll address that issue.” Last five seconds “I can’t even remember the last five seconds. Once it’s thrown and half the guys run off the field, you just go with it. Hopefully one of those guys made the right call. ” Officials “That ACC official crew was a good crew. They took control of the game, and once they took control of the game, that made that game one of the best games you can watch. It was clean, guys was playing hard, penalties was called. It was a game where they let the players play.”
Randy Shannon Press Conference Part 2 September 9, 2009 Below is part 2 (or the other 15 minutes) of Tuesday’s press conference with head coach
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Randy Shannon. The Hurricanes are ranked No. 20 in the latest polls. Sophomore cornerback Brandon Harris was named ACC Defensive Back of the Week after recording a game and career-high nine tackles and two pass breakups.Sophomore quarterback Jacory Harris was named ACC Offensive Back of the Week after finishing with a career-high 386 yards passing and three total touchdowns. Practice schedule for the rest of the week Wednesday and Saturday off Thursday and Friday at 5:45 a.m. Brandon Harris [after the pass interference call] “That’s what you mean by a maturity factor. He was in the same situation last year. He was nervous and everything else. But now, he takes it as, ‘hey, ok, fine, let’s line up because I’ve been here before,’ and they attacked him and he made a great play.” Linebackers’ struggles in first half “It was more communication. The communication in the secondary and linebackers always have to be on the same page. That was the biggest thing early in the game in the aspect of guys not communicating. First-game jitters.” Who stood out on D Allen Bailey, Randy Phillips, Josh Holmes and Sam Shields “For him [Shields] being his first time playing cornerback [converted from WR] and having been put in the situation of that role of playing the entire game, I thought he really, really held his own.” Texts “I got a lot from ex-players. Guys in the NFL, older guys, guys I played with. Text after text after text. It’s something good that you want to be a part of. You name them, they text. You can pick one, you won’t be wrong.” [Ed Reed was thrown out as a name] Offense’s philosophy “We take advantage of personnel and what people trying to give you as far as formation-wise. We’ve got a lot of different formations and movement…Those big plays that we had to Travis [Benjamin] and [Graig] Cooper, you do things in a course of the game to see how they’re going to line up. We figured out what they were doing.” Blitzing “You’ve got to settle your defense at first. You’ve got to give those guys a chance to calm down and play. Blitzing isn’t always the answer. [Christian] Ponder’s a good quarterback…he don’t make mistakes. He’s never made many mistakes, fellas, and that’s always a sign of a good quarterback.” Georgia Tech Shannon said that ideally the Yellow Jackets would want to rush the ball 50 times and throw seven to eight passes. “Offensively if you can get some points up, it changes the mentality that they have.” Confidence “I’m confident in this football team. From where we were at three years ago, what we had to go through three years ago, to where we’re at now, a totally different team, totally different mentality.”
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Recruits looking at the game “When that comes [signing day], ask me that question. Some guys change their minds so much. Honestly, every recruit says it does, towards the end of the season they take visits, they take trips, coaches tell them what they want to hear, some of them, and they get enamored by it, and all of a sudden they change their mind again. They’re kids. Sixteen to 17-year-old kids.” Timeouts “We don’t call timeouts unless it’s a substitution change or something like that.” Shannon gave the example of Florida State having more receivers than defensive backs near the goal line. Bobby Bowden “He’s always been good to me, even when I was an assistant coach.” Shannon’s recollection of a pregame quip from Bowden: “Well, another one of these games: football, ESPN, nation-wide TV, you can’t get no better than this.” The two apparently talked about the rivalry and good times, wished each other good luck and that they’d always do whatever they could to help each other. Shannon said that they have “great respect for each other as a coaching staff and as a football team.” Jacory’s reaction after the final play “That’s Jacory. That’s Jacory. He handles himself like that.” Cooper Shannon said 177 return yards should be seen as 17 first downs and ”you can’t get that anywhere else.” “When we do kickoff returns, we treat it as a running play. Block down, kick out and you hit a seam and go. That’s what Cooper can do. Punt is the exact same way.” Mike James saw playing time “Because he can do both - he can be a tailback and then we played him at fullback most of the time. It’s diversity. It’s enabled us to do certain things.” *same thing with Javarris James and Graig out there at the same time Critical first game “Yeah, you get more critical and you start looking at how much we’ve got to improve from this point to the next point, and we will. It’s always the biggest jump from the first game to the second game, and we have to do that.”
9/14 Press conference quotes Part 1 September 15, 2009 Head coach Randy Shannon and select University of Miami football players spoke to the media Monday afternoon about Thursday night’s home opener against No. 14 Georgia Tech. Randy Shannon “We can’t allow what we did against Florida State to affect us on Thursday and that’s something we addressed on Sunday. We did some things to make sure we stay in the realm of this football team and what we’re trying to get done as a football team. They [Georgia Tech] have some great personnel on their offense and on their defense. They do run a triple option and they have about four or five different scenarios on how they will run it. The biggest factor will be [Jonathan] Dwyer. The fullback must be accounted for on every single play. If he happens to get into the
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open field, we have to get him down for a 10 or 12-yard gain and then line up again. We cannot afford him to get long runs against us and that’s what makes their offense go. They’ve got a great defensive end in [Derrick] Morgan, who looks like he doesn’t ever get tired. He does a great job of pressuring the pocket and playing real hard. We recruited him and he has shown he can be a great player. It’s a big conference game.” [improved tackling] “Coach [John] Lovett did a great job with that all summer long. He has all sorts of tackling drills that put the guys in situations that will help them be prepared. We did that this week and will continue to do that.” [national TV] “It’s great for the school. The more you’re on TV, the more publicity for the school so it’s always great to be on TV.” [on not being aggressive defensively] “It’s huge. You can say the middle linebacker has the fullback, but that’s not always the case. It depends on what kind of triple option it is - veer base, arc, midline or load-option. Depending on the scenario, certain guys have to be responsible for certain roles. Once you figure out what they’re trying to do and what we have to get done, then you have to respond to it.” [on a long break between games] “You want a whole week off. You might get Thursday to the next Saturday, but you never really get a true two weeks off for a Thursday game.” [senior defensive lineman Eric Moncur’s return] “It’ll be good for us to get a veteran guy. He practiced well yesterday and today. We’re excited about his progress, and he should be ready for the game.” [on kickoff duties] “We’ve been working Alex Uribe and Jake Wieclaw there. We haven’t made a decision yet. We probably will do that either tomorrow or maybe at game time. We don’t know yet.” Allen Bailey [on losing to Georgia Tech four straight times] “Coach [Randy] Shannon brought that up a couple of times. It’s in the back of everybody’s mind.” “Home opener, you expect to win so we come out and play assignment football and it should be a good one.” “Speed-wise it’s hard to simulate [the triple option] without actually being in the game. We just try to do our best with the scout team.” [scout team’s help for preparation] “Both of them got speed so it helps out with Kendal [Thompkins] and [Damien] Berry. Everybody has a role to play.” Jason Fox “They run multiple defensive fronts. They have a couple different blitzes. They try to confuse the offensive line and running back with different ways to get to the quarterback.” “Well, you know, not a lot of offenses run that [triple option] so our defense has to switch gears and get ready in that type of mode. As an offense for Miami we can help them [defense] out just as much as anybody if we put points on the board and make them play from behind the whole time, so that’s what we’re trying to do.” “It’s definitely motivation. They’ve ruined two ACC championships games if we would’ve beat Georgia Tech. That’s up in the locker rooms right now. That’s in the past. We have to focus on this year.”
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[on Jacory Harris] “I’m extremely impressed. When you see your name in the paper and everybody’s telling you how great you are, patting you on the back, it’s easy to get a big head, and he doesn’t do that at all.” “It’s exciting playing at home. You don’t have to deal with tough crowds and you can hear the snap count and be a little more efficient and less penalties and stuff when you’re at home. We’re getting to play for our fans and they‘re going to be coming out to the game and that’s exciting for us.” [O-line vs. FSU] “I think overall we played quite well. There are still things we need to improve on.” [with only six linemen] “I think a lot more reps in practice, definitely. That’s definitely going to help us out, and Coach [Andreu] Swasey has done a tremendous job this summer and all spring getting us ready for playing in long games and getting a lot of reps.” Travis Benjamin [on scoring early] “That’d be a big part of it. If we come out and score how many points we can in the first half and they got the chance to throw the ball, means we’ve got them.” “Last year in our offense, we didn’t have to run routes like we do this year. This year we’ve been running all different types of routes to make you get seen and make you get open.” [game’s significance] “It has a big effect. If they win, then we gotta come back from behind in the ACC looking forward to someone else losing. But if we win, we ain’t gotta worry about all the other people out there.” [campus-wide reaction after FSU win] “You’ll see a couple of students here or there say ‘Hey, that’s Travis Benjamin’ or whatnot and give you a handshake or high five. Everybody on campus knows you.”
9/14 press conference quotes Part 2 September 15, 2009 Here is part 2 of yesterday’s press conference that took place in the Edgerrin James Room. Be sure to stay locked on this blog as I’ll have a game prediction by tomorrow afternoon. Jacory Harris “These first two games they [Georgia Tech] haven’t really been behind, they have always been in a comfortable lead so they can try new things. It helps them. That’s the type of team it is. If you’re just running (the ball) every play, sooner or later you’re going to get tired. The fourth quarter is when we scored the most points last week. We’re going to have to step it up through all four quarters, make sure we score points.” “It got a little more exciting on campus. Now everyone has something to look forward to in the season. Last year, we lost to Florida and everyone was down, `oh, man we’re going to have a losing season,’ some students would say. Now it’s exciting. I’m the type of person, I accept everything.” “[Coach Mark Whipple] is a very calm guy. He understands everything we go through. (The playbook) didn’t get opened up (against FSU) – we repeated some plays. It was to the point where he calls something and I know it’ll be open for a touchdown probably. I got nervous when I knew a play would be successful – it kind of got to me.”
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“You have to have that feeling. As soon as we walk on the field it’s `they’re giving us this coverage against this play, something’s going to be open.’ The offensive line, receivers, running backs, me, we all have so much confidence in what we’re running.” “They have a good defense. Their secondary is good. Morgan Burnett gets across the whole field. And their defensive end is a beast. But at the same time I don’t believe our offense can (be stopped).” “Gino Torretta, Ken Dorsey, William Joseph, Santana Moss hit me up. (Torretta and Dorsey) congratulated me, told me to keep the team focused, make sure we don’t get bigheaded, keep this thing going. Everyone wants us to bring the “U” back on top to glory days, and that’s something we’re trying to do.” Brandon Harris “That’s going to be a very important part of our game plan. Coach [Randy] Shannon stressed that so much for us all this week and he put us in numerous tackling drills. That’s very important when you’re playing against Georgia Tech. They have so many big backs, so physical, and they’ll kill you if you don’t bring them down.” “I can’t stress how important discipline is in this game. Everybody has to do their assignment. Everybody has to trust each other on the field and know that the guy next to him is going to make his read and his check. If you have one guy trying to cover another guy’s territory, you can give up the big play.” “I think the leadership and the focus of the team is a lot different. We have a very, very good, selected group of leaders and they won’t let us slack off even if we wanted to. Those guys are so focused and they know the talent that we have on this team and what we can get done, I don’t think they just want it to slip by the wayside on another Georgia Tech loss.” “Just being around the program for a year, you can tell it’s a huge difference…just from guys being sophomores. Lot of guys are stepping up in the locker room, you’ll hear guys, maybe sophomores, second year on the field and they’re stepping up, giving inspiring speeches and pulling the rest of the team along.” [on Sam Shields] “I think Sam played very well. It was his first time as a defensive back on the college level, against Florida State. It was kind of shocking, to me and to him, he wasn’t expecting to play as much as he did. He stepped in and played a key role. I think the more he plays in games, the better he’ll become because he‘s very talented.” Randy Phillips “It’s very important that when they do pass the ball that you intercept the ball or make sure that they don’t catch the ball. If you leave them two-dimensional, where they can run and be able to get a pass whenever they want to, that’s when they can hurt you.” “Georgia tech is gonna face a different Miami team this year because we’re going to be able to score at will, and they’re going to have to answer. And if they can’t answer, then they’re going to have to throw the ball, and that’s what we want. They’re a good team, they’re good at what they do. We’re good at what we do and it’s two totally different programs now.” “They love the team. They’re very loyal. It was a great experience for them last year, but now they’re kind of comfortable and understand what the trips are going to be like [with the new stadium location] and we expect a lot of our students to support us.” “I wasn’t surprised. Jacory is a humble guy, he’s a great leader. It’s going to take a lot to keep
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him down. He’s already showed the world what he can do. He’s definitely the best quarterback I’ve ever played with.” “He’s [Coach John Lovett] very aggressive and likes to keep things simple so that we can go out and make a lot of plays out of our ability and not have to think a lot.”
No. 14 Georgia Tech vs. No. 20 Miami preview September 16, 2009 Below is my biased acccount of why No. 20 Miami will beat No. 14 Georgia Tech in a crucial early-season divison and conference matchup. Passing advantage: Miami Jacory Harris finally earned his spot in the national spotlight after tossing for 386 yards passing and three total touchdowns in a 38-34 come-from-behind victory over then No. 18 Florida State. His poise and leadership, however, is what struck spectators the most. More importantly, however, the Canes welcome back three defensive players - Telemaque, Hill and Moncurwho missed the first game and return thanks to a bye week. Running back Damien Berry and offensive lineman Ben Jones (doubtful) and safety JoJo Nicolas (out) are on the injury report with “illnesses.” Josh Nesbitt, on the other hand, a preseason Davey O’Brien Award candidate, will look to orchestrate a spread option offense. The Yellow Jackets rarely throw - Nesbitt was 3 for 14 with 83 yards - against Clemson this past weekend. Look for the Hurricanes to crowd the line and try to force the quarterback to throw. Rushing advantage: Georgia Tech Georgia Tech tallied 472 yards on the ground in last year’s 41-23 victory at home. Led by Heisman Trophy hopeful Jonathan Dwyer, the Yellow Jackets are fourth in the nation with 318.0 yards rushing a game. In his first play from scrimmage this season, Dwyer took a carry 74 yards to the house. Nesbitt ranks second in the ACC with 92 yards per game. Even though the Hurricanes have a talented backfield with Graig Cooper, who scored two touchdowns against the Seminoles, and Javarris James, Tech relies on its rushing attack to win. Defense advantage: MiamiThe key to the game will be whether Miami can stop the run. If Harris and company score often and early against the Yellow Jacket defense, Nesbitt will be forced to pass playing from behind - something he hasn’t had to do so far this season. Head coach Randy Shannon and his players continue to state this philosophy as the ingredient to winning the game. With sixth-year defensive lineman Eric Moncur back from an injury, the Hurricanes D-Line received a big boost against an offensive line that has yet to allow a sack. In the secondary, players such as Brandon Harris cautioned that they needed to make sure tackles and be prepared for the pass. One of the surprises of the UM/FSU game was the play of the rather inexperienced Cane offensive line, which protected Harris for much of the 60 minutes, but will face Rotary Lombardi Award candidate Derrick Morgan. Special teams advantage: Even, lean towards Georgia Tech Jerrard Tarrant returned punts for touchdowns in each of the first two games, but Matt Bosher
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did a good job of preventing the Noles from returning a punt in the season opener. He got three inside the 20. On the other hand, Bosher and the kickoff team had difficulty on coverage. Look for the return of Vaughn Telemaque and Ryan Hill to be vital. But will Jake Wieclaw take some of the heat off the Lou Groza Award semifinalist? Cooper did a good job returning kicks with a 35.4 average, including a 63-yard return that set up a scoring drive. Intangibles advantage: Miami Although the Yellow Jackets have won the last four games in the series, the Hurricanes are coming off an emotional upset over arch rival Florida State. Plus, Miami just so happens to be a perfect 9-0 at home on ESPN Thursday night (did I just jinx it?!). And it’s the home opener at newly renamed Land Shark Stadium. Students, Miamians, media and the team itself seem to have regained their swagger, especially behind Harris’s leadership and offensive coordinator Mark Whipple’s play calling. Interesting fact: Three of the last four games in the series have been decided by seven points or less.
Things we learned about Miami vs. Georgia Tech September 18, 2009 Here are the things we learned from tonight’s 33-17 victory over No. 14 Georgia Tech. Offensively • Jacory Harris and the offense can score at will. Matt Bosher only had to punt once, and there really should’ve been 37 offensive points on the board had he not missed two “cheap shots.”
• LaRon Byrd and Travis Benjamin make receiving look easy.
• Rejoice! The Hurricanes have a tight end duo - Dedrick Epps and Jimmy Graham - that combined for two touchdowns. Graham, who previously was a basketball player and stands at 6-8, could be HUGE (no pun intended) down the stretch for the Canes. • Mark Whipple’s offense - 69 points in two games - makes the offensive coordinator the best acquisition since Hawaii became a state. • Graig Cooper and Javarris James aren’t one-dimensional. They’re running backs who can catch and explode for extra yardage. • The offensive line, which was considered the question mark heading into the season, gives Harris plenty of time in the pocket and shut down Derrick Morgan. Who?! Defensively •
Afraid that Miami couldn’t stop the triple option? Well, what a difference a year of preparation makes! For the second consecutive game, the Canes’ D-line provided pressure on the QB at times, but more importantly prevented big rushing plays. And this is without Adewale Ojomo at an end.
Brandon Harris has the potential to be a defensive player of the year. Now a sophomore, he already earned ACC Defensive Back of the Week. Against the Yellow Jackets, he collected four tackles and three pass breakups. Harris also had an interception taken back after a penalty.
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• Where is Sean Spence? The ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year is missing in action so far this season with just five tackles in two games. • Defenders are making better tackles, but the secondary must stop allowing big plays such as the 56-yard touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas (who is amazing by the way). Special Teams • What has happened to Bosher? Last year’s Lou Groza Award semifinalist missed two field goals tonight, from 26 and 31 yards out, respectively. He missed just two all of last year. • Will the Hurricanes learn to perform on kickoff coverage? Walk-on Alex Uribe’s first two went out of bounds, but then he kept the ball in between the sidelines and Georgia Tech got nice returns. I think it was on the final regular return that the Canes actually made a first tackle. However, what’s the deal with Jake Wieclaw, the successor to Bosher?
• Cooper is dangerous on returns, and so is Benjamin.
Overall, I’m sure people are tired of hearing about the “swagger” being back, but they better get used to it. The team hasn’t been this confident in a long while, and it’s definitely helping the players produce on the field. Some say that the U really isn’t back unless the boys beat Virginia Tech, but remember before the season that everyone was predicting Miami to go 0-4 in those first four games. 2-0 isn’t too shabby at the top of the Coastal Divison as of Sept. 18.
ESPN College Gameday in Miami next week? September 22, 2009 Ok, so I’m about to head on over to the Hecht Athletic Center for University of Miami football press conferences. Be on the lookout for quotes and an injury report (that one might be a stretch) later on from head coach Randy Shannon, quarterback Jacory Harris and others. On another note, I have a shameless plug for you. In between classes just now I created a Facebook group trying to promote ESPN’s College Gameday coming to the University of Miami’s legendary on-campus restaurant, the Rathskeller, on Oct. 3 before the Oklahoma game. My philosophy is that there is no better place to capture the essence and attitude of the school. Plus, if the game is at night, Land Shark Stadium, which is around 22 miles away from the Coral Gables campus, probably won’t even be open. ESPN probably owes it to us, too. Penn State vs. Iowa this week? Really? When Virginia Tech and the Hurricanes are No. 11 and No. 9, respectively? Playing in Blacksburg?
Quotes from 9/22 UM press conference September 22, 2009 Senior offensive lineman Matt Pipho [dealing with a six-man rotation] The way we conditioned in summer practice and stuff, I haven’t
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been out a snap yet this season. There’s been only a couple times in games that I would consider myself tired. In high school I played both ways and I remember at the end of games not being able to walk. After my first game at Florida State, my first full game I had played in college, I was just like, ‘Wow, I’m not as tired as I thought I’d be.’ The way they prepare us helps a lot. Redshirt senior defensive end Eric Moncur It’s crazy, man. All you hear is that little Hokie noise going on. It’s a hostile environment and we’re looking forward to going up there and playing. We’re not really worrying about who’s going to beat who in the ACC. We just worry about what we’re doing. I think one group feeds off another. When the offense goes out and makes a play, that motivates the defense to go out and do something good and then that motivates special teams. It all comes together in the end. [on all units bonding] If one of your teammates goes out and does something good, you’re going to cheer for them. That’s how the game’s supposed to be played. [on returning from multiple injuries] Before the game I was all riled up and everything. Thanking God for giving me the opportunity to be out there again with the guys. That’s why I went up and hugged Coach [Randy] Shannon and Coach Hurtt. And I told the guys thank you for fighting for me to get an extra year. I’m just going to take advantage of my opportunity. Redshirt senior safety Randy Phillips [the term ‘Beamer Ball’] It don’t mean nothing to me. I don’t even know what it is. They’re good in special teams, I’ll say that, if that’s what they call Beamer Ball. Every year that we play them we always beat them in special teams so I guess it’s Coach Shannon Ball. Coach [Frank] Beamer does a great job of getting his troops ready to play. We’re just ready to prove everybody wrong. Y’all are all the people jumping on the bandwagon right now. We’re not even going to push them away. We’re going to welcome them. Everybody can ride with the U right now. Junior wide receiver Leonard Hankerson A mistake can cost you, but when it happens, you have to keep playing and keep your head up and keep working hard and keep going. We all just say that we want to see one of us on ESPN. Somebody got to get in the end zone, it don’t matter who it is. Somebody got to make a play. [scoring early] It’s a big emphasis because we want to come out and set the tone. We want to come out and jump out in front so the team can be behind. Senior tight end Jimmy Graham [scoring his TD] It was pretty indescribable. With basketball, you have to score two [points] at a time, but to get six was amazing. I got nothing but love from, I think, every fan at the stadium. I really felt at that moment that I was officially a football player. I was one of the first to come through [the smoke tunnel] and it’ll definitely be something that I never forget. To play my first game at the University of Miami, a home game, to run through the smoke, and better yet, to score the touchdown was pretty amazing with the win. I truly never realized how much this college football team affects this community. I’ve really
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seen this community come together. It seems like everywhere you go, people are talking about the Hurricanes. It’s finally good to have Coral Gables and Miami back to that buzz again about Hurricane football. So now we just got to keep that buzz alive. [being a fan favorite] I’m not really sure why. Maybe it’s the red hair or some people said it’s from basketball and how hard I used to work. It’s pretty cool to see that I still have the support from everybody now that I’m playing football.
UM vs. Va Tech from a Hokie pov September 24, 2009 So when I heard from Virginia Tech’s campus blogger, Chip, about answering a few questions about Miami and Saturday’s game, not only did I love the idea, but I gave him some questions of my own for him to answer. Below are the questions. Tomorrow I will post my responses to Chip’s questions about the U. 1) How have the Hokies been able to fill the hole with Darren Evans out for the season? A: In short, by committee. Evans was a power back, and the Hokies are missing that right now. His loss was devastating, but running back is probably the deepest position on the Virginia Tech roster. Josh Oglesby, Ryan Williams and David Wilson have all seen action and will continue to do so this season. Williams has asserted himself as the starter. There is truly something special about Williams. He has an uncanny ability to break big plays, and rarely is brought down in the backfield (three times this season). He currently leads the ACC in rushing and also has four catches for 80 yards. Wilson only saw four carries against Nebraska, hopefully he will get a few more this weekend. Wilson is extremely explosive and one of the fastest players on the Hokie roster. Oglesby is reliable and has the best hands out of the Hokie running backs. He also is the best at picking up blocks. 2) What is your definition of Beamer Ball? Redshirt senior safety Randy Phillips had never heard the term until today. A: Hmmm. Interesting question. I will say Randy Phillips is lucky then, because I feel “Beamer Ball” is a term that is overused. I can’t watch a VT game or highlight without hearing it. The basics of “Beamer Ball” lie in contributions from all three facets of the game: offense, defense and special teams. In Frank Beamer’s 271 games as head coach, the Hokies have blocked 122 kicks (60 punts, 38 FGs and 24 PATs). The special teams have scored 43 TDs, including 15 on blocked punts, 17 on punt returns, six on kickoff returns, four on blocked field goals and one on a fumble recovery. The defense has added 79 scores in that span, with 51 coming on interceptions, 26 on fumble returns and two on fumble recoveries. Essentially, “Beamer Ball” is a nice way of saying we rely heavily on contributions from special teams and defense to pick-up some slack. “Beamer Ball” is a conservative, run-oriented offense that plays the proverbial “field position game”. Virginia Tech plays mostly starters on special teams because Beamer views special teams as a crucial, often-neglected facet of the game. 3) What is the atmosphere like in Lane Stadium, especially for the other team? A: Lane Stadium on gameday is Heaven for Hokies, but Hell for opponents. Vegas spreads give Virginia Tech 6 points for home-field advantage, tied with Boise State for the most of any school.
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Lane is much louder than you would assume for a 67,000-person stadium. Fans are rowdy and stay loud throughout the game. Our “Enter Sandman” entrance was just ranked as the top entrance in college football. To negate this advantage, Miami will need to score early and often. I’ll let Chris Fowler explain. 4) Who are the players to look out for on both sides of the football? A: I’ll start with the offense. Tyrod Taylor and Williams are the obvious picks. Taylor will need to establish a passing attack early to keep Miami honest. He plays better when he is out of the pocket and will need to effectively scramble to force Miami to keep spies on him. He also tends to ease passes in. If he can develop the confidence to fire passes, he can be effective. Williams has been the pride of the offense so far this season. He has six touchdowns in three games and can score on any play. He is fast and shifty. Miami will need to have a lot of people around the ball to keep him bottled up. On defense, Jason Worilds is a name that might be heard a lot. Worilds is one of the nation’s best defensive ends and will be in the backfield for much of the game. Linebacker Cody Grimm reads plays very well and is incredibly effective on blitzes. It looks as though star corner Stephan Virgil may be back from a knee injury in time to play. If he is, he will lock down one side of the field, leaving the rest of the secondary to only cover half of the field. Free safety Kam Chancellor will need to play well for the Hokie defense to stop Miami. Kam had a bad game against Alabama but has looked better in the previous two games. 5) How much did the win against Nebraska mean to the team coming into this weekend’s game? A: The win was vital for confidence, especially the offense. The players feel they played poorly but still came away with the win. The final drive seems to have given Taylor confidence in himself and his receivers. Dyrell Roberts rebounded from a late drop on fourth down to score the winning touchdown. Also, the defense closed the game out by forcing Nebraska to punt on a first and goal. The next series was a three and out to get the Hokies the ball back with less than two minutes to play. Those two drives really exhibited the “Lunch Pail Defense” (another Hokie phrase for you). The team knows they need to play better this weekend and are looking to the last half of the fourth quarter as proof that they can. 6) What has the progression been like offensively, defensively and special teams-wise since the Alabama game? A: Offensively, we seem to take one-step forward and two-steps back. Parts of each game can be looked at as high notes, but the Hokies have yet to string everything together. The offensive line has improved on picking up blitzes. Taylor looked poised in the final two minutes against Nebraska, but lost for most of the first 58. Williams has established himself as the primary running back, which was still undetermined heading into the Alabama game. The key for offensive progression will be the receivers learning to separate from defenders. They have improved in this area so far, but still aren’t getting open. Defensively, you can’t help but be happy about how the Hokies played last week. Sure they allowed about 350 yards but didn’t allow a touchdown. The last two Nebraska offensive possessions I referenced earlier were vital for that game and show the true potential this defense has. Plus, All-ACC corner Virgil has missed most of the season so far but should be back. He will add experience and be an improvement in run support. This real question with this defense is the progression at linebacker, outside of Grimm. Rivers and Johnson are both inexperienced and can be the real weakness of the defense. They have shown improvements in each game but
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sometimes take poor angles and attempt to arm tackle. Special teams. The bar was set high early in the season when Roberts returned a kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown in the season opener. Jayron Hosley followed up with a 64-yard punt return for a touchdown in the following game. Roberts had a 76-yard return to open the game against Nebraska. Kicker Matt Waldron has yet to miss a kick, and punter Brent Bowden averages over 46 yards per punt. The special teams are firing on all cylinders, but it is about time for a blocked kick. 7) Who or what is the X-factor for Va. Tech? A: Bud Foster. Virginia Tech’s defense has been ranked in the top 10 each season for the past five years. Bud’s group is well coached and he arguably gameplans better than any coach in the nation. He is going to have to come up with a great plan this weekend for the Hokies to win. Players will also have to execute (obviously), there were a lot of missed tackles last weekend. Specifically, the defensive line will need to create pressure. Bud’s defense relies on pressure from the front four and gap control at linebacker with blitzes mixed in. If the line can’t penetrate, Jacory Harris should have a big game. Tyrod Taylor, home-field advantage and the weather (I’ve seen anything from sunny to heavy rain) could be pivotal as well.
Miami’s injury report for Va. Tech September 24, 2009 The injuries continue to pile up on the defensive line for Miami, which is unfortunate considering the Hurricanes will be facing a run-heavy offense from Virginia Tech. Out Defensive end Andrew Smith - upper extremity Defensive tackle Marcus Forston - lower extremity Tight end Richard Gordon - upper extremity Defensive end Adewale Ojomo - broken jaw Questionable Wide receiver Aldarius Johnson - lower extremity Doubtful Running back Lee Chambers - lower extremity Defensive lineman Dyron Dye - lower extremity Offensive lineman Corey White - lower extremity
My answers to UM vs. Va Tech September 25, 2009 Virginia Tech’s blogger Chip asked me the following questions, and my answers are as follows. Be sure to follow my twitter tomorrow as I tweet during the real game of the week. Q: Jacory Harris has played tremendously well in the season’s first two games. What is different about him this season?
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A: He’s on the field! Last year, Harris came off the bench when Robert Marve, who has since transferred to Purdue, started games and led the offense nowhere. Head coach Randy Shannon continues to preach that “J12” is the same person and player he was down here at Miami Northwestern Senior High School. In fact, Harris’s poise and composure is old news. In his senior year, he led the Bulls on something like a 90-yard touchdown drive en route to a high school (and even national) championship. It also doesn’t hurt that he’s had plenty of time in the pocket; he has been sacked just twice in two games, both of which came against Florida State. Q: The whole Miami defense is fast. Which defensive match-up (group-wise) will create the biggest problems for Virginia Tech? A: Coming into the season, Shannon stated that the defensive line would be the strength of the team because of its depth and talent. People thought he was crazy at first since the unit got beat up for 472 yards against Georgia Tech last year. But when you look at what’s happened so far this season - 95 yards for the spread option - he seems pretty sane after all. The return of redshirt senior defensive end Eric Moncur patches up a hole with sophomore Adewale Ojomo out with a broken jaw. Marcus Forston will not be joining fellow tackle Marcus Robinson, however, as he is out with a lower extremity injury. Q: Virginia Tech has given up only one passing touchdown in three games. What must Harris do to find the end zone through the air? A: Nothing against the Hokies D, but part of the reason for only one passing touchdown allowed might be because of the efficiency teams like Alabama and Nebraska have had running the football. Harris has many targets to look to. Last Thursday night against the Yellow Jackets, he completed a pass to nine different players, and two of his three touchdowns went to tight ends. I won’t give away a favorite play of mine that offensive coordinator Mark Whipple seems to use, but let’s just say that the mix of short and long passes has the offense producing more than 30 points a game. Q: Conversely, the Virginia Tech run D is giving up over 200 yards per game. What kind of impact will Cooper, James, and any other running backs have? A: That’s the thing. With junior Graig Cooper and senior Javarris James, who lost weight over the offseason and is now more explosive, the Hurricanes have a balanced attack. Not only are the two threats running the ball, but they’re really good catching the ball out of the backfield. They’ve combined for 10 catches and a touchdown. “Coop” ranks third nationally in all-purpose yards per game (209.0). Q: From a Miami perspective, what are your honest thoughts on the Virginia Tech offense? Can we move the ball against Miami? A: I’ll be straight with you. After seeing what the Georgia Tech offense couldn’t do against the Miami defense, if I was a Hokie, I’d just hope that Tyrod Taylor tries to put the ball in the air more often, especially if the Miami D tries to focus on stopping the run. The unit got beat on a couple of deep pass plays because it focused on stopping the run. And kudos to Taylor: he already has one more touchdown than he had all of last season, right? Just from looking at stats, Ryan Williams’s 6.8 average and David Wilson’s 10.7 yards a carry scare me a bit, particularly with the mounting injuries on the defensive line.
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Q: Miami has somewhat struggled early in kick coverage (Reid averaged 33.3 yards per return, Smith averaged 27.8). Dyrell Roberts is the nation’s second leading kick returner this season; Hosley is 7th in the nation on punt returns. What kind of impact will these special teams players have on the game? A: At the moment, the kickoff team is lucky that the offense and defense have been picking up the slack. Part of the problem has been giving junior Matt Bosher, who was a semifinalist for the Lou Groza Award last year, a bit of a break so he only has to kick field goals and punts. In the Georgia Tech game, walk-on senior Alex Uribe was clearly nervous and kicked two balls out of bounds. His next two, however, were inside the 10 with good hang time, and clearly gave the players time to run down the field to make a tackle. Shannon said today at the press conference that guys might switch around a bit on coverage teams. As for punting, Bosher hasn’t had to do much work - he only needed to punt once in the Yellow Jackets game. All of his punts have actually been around opponents’ 20-yard line for fair catches or downed by a teammate, so there hasn’t been a true test on that sort of coverage yet. Q: Miami has a lot of weapons on offense. Which player(s) do you see creating the biggest problem for the Hokie defense? A: Graig Cooper. I mentioned it before with the fact that he can catch the ball out of the backfield, run and return kicks. Q: What has made coordinator Mark Whipple’s offense so effective early this season? A: He utilizes all the weapons that he has. Harris hands the ball off for a running play of four or five yards and then can use the play action to go deep. Everyone gets in on the action with Whipple’s “pro-style” offense. Q: If Virginia Tech wins it will be because…. A: The Hurricanes make a costly mistake or the kickoff/punt coverage fails to show up on the road in a hostile environment. Then again, Harris and company rallied after a key interception for a touchdown at Florida State, so apparently not much fazes them. Q: If Miami wins it will be because…. A: The offense scored often and early, allowing the defense to focus on stopping big plays from Virginia Tech’s offense. If Whippleball produces like it did against Georgia Tech, the Hokies will need to pass more and get out of their comfort zone
Things I learned from the Va. Tech romp September 27, 2009 The reason for my delayed blog post on yesterday’s “game” is not anger or sadness, but rather sickness. I’ve had some sort of cold since Wednesday and finally managed some time to reflect on the 31-7 debacle between then-No. 9 Miami and then-No.11 Virginia Tech in Blacksburg. Tomorrow I’ll post a column I wrote for The Miami Hurricane about why the loss isn’t that bad after all. • Head coach Frank Beamer’s boys came ready to play from the get-go. It was evident on the first defensive drive. The fans, clad in their ponchos that probably didn’t make a difference, were just as prepared as the players to take on the Hurricanes.
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• Miami does not play well in poor weather conditions. See this game and last year’s 41-39 loss to Florida State for proof. • The kickoff coverage is no longer a problem for UM. Alright, fine, there were only two kick returns for the Hokies for an average of 14 yards, but considering the uncertainty heading into the game, it was a great job. • Matt Bosher takes too long getting off a punt. It wasn’t enough that his first was almost blocked; Virginia Tech needed to get the block and run it in from a yard out. • Can anyone stay healthy on the defensive line? With four guys out, it’s no wonder things were a lot easier for Ryan Williams and Tyrod Taylor. • During the first half, was former offensive coordinator Patrick Nix making the calls? It sure looked like it. • Jimmy Graham should start wearing gloves if we wants to remain as a fan favorite. Just saying… • At least we’re not California, who lost 42-3 to unranked Oregon. Heisman hopeful and running back Jahvid Best rushed for only 55 yards! Finally, the most important thing I learned was that what ESPN predicts doesn’t come true, especially if Lou Holtz says it.
Why Saturday’s loss to Va. Tech can be a good thing September 28, 2009 After you’ve read my somewhat sarcastic and dry take on Saturday’s game against the Hokies, read my commentary that was published in today’s The Miami Hurricane asking people to stop panicking about the loss. Here is an excerpt: As strange as it might sound, Saturday’s 31-7 blowout loss in Blacksburg might have been a blessing in disguise. It was only a matter of time before our football team would fall back down to earth. Realistically, the Hurricanes weren’t going to finish undefeated. No team can execute at such a high level for 13-14 games. Ask USC, California and Penn State. Isn’t it better to lose a game now against a quality opponent than down the road when facing Wake Forest or Central Florida? For the full version of my commentary, take a gander here: http://www.themiamihurricane. com/2009/09/27/commentary-saturdays-loss-could-be-a-good-thing/
Little things here and there October 1, 2009 In less than an hour there is supposed to be a pep rally at the “rock” outside of the University Center. ESPN is reportedly going to be shooting footage to air during the football game Saturday night, so look for yours truly. On the injury front, it seems as though redshirt senior safety Randy Phillips might play after all. He
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returned to practice yesterday after hurting his forearm in the first half of the Virginia Tech game. As far as I know, there isn’t an update on whether Sam Bradford will be the quarterback for the Oklahoma Sooners on Saturday. If I hear anything, I’ll post or tweet it immediately. Sadly, the browser on my new Blackberry isn’t working so my Twitter account has been missing in action since the day of that “game.” Be sure to look for my preview of the game tomorrow.
UM vs. OU preview October 2, 2009 It’s that time of year. Time for No. 17 Miami to play its first non-conference game of the year. It’s against No. 8 Oklahoma. Don’t you just love that scheduling? Here is my breakdown of the game. Quarterback situation During the Virginia Tech game on Saturday we learned that a quarterback is only as good as his protection and/or running backs. With the run game shut down and pressure from all sides, Jacory Harris looked human. On the other side of the field, Landry Jones will start once again in place of Sam Bradford. In my opinion, this is a bad thing for the Hurricanes. Call me crazy but Bradford has been out for about a month and would’ve been rusty. Jones set a Sooner record with six touchdown passes. Sure, it was against Tulsa, but that was never done by all the OU greats before. Running backs It comes down to whose offensive line can overtake the opponent’s defensive front. Both teams have a dynamic duo - Cooper and James vs. Brown and Murray. But nothing gets done if the big men can’t block and create holes. Wide receivers What happened in a week? Six dropped passes by Hurricanes receivers. Harris welcomes back Aldarius Johnson after he missed two games with a groin injury. With his return, Travis Benjamin and LaRon Byrd don’t need to catch everything. And Jimmy Graham, you better have gloves on tomorrow night. Just saying… Defensive line D-line coach Clint Hurtt expects both Andrew Smith and Marcus Forston back for the game, which is big for the boys. They looked inadequate against the Hokies offensive line. Did Tyrod Taylor switch places with Harris because I don’t think he was touched once behind the line of scrimmage. What was once the deepest part of the team regains two key players and should make up for last week’s debacle. I hope… Linebackers I’d like to submit a missing player report: if anyone has seen Sean Spence, can you please let him know the Canes D needs him? The Sooners easily have the advantage here as Travis Lewis leads the team with 29 tackles. Fellow linebacker Ryan Reynolds (gee, I thought he was hosting SNL tomorrow night instead) also has 26 tackles, an interception and a team-high three sacks.
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Secondary Something has to give here. Miami ranks 89th in pass defense. Brandon Harris, Sam Shields and DeMarcus Van Dyke cannot get beat by receivers like Ryan Broyles on a consistent basis. Before the Hokies game, Randy Phillips, who would leave the game early with a forearm injury, said that he and Vaughn Telemaque could be the best safety tandem in college football. This is the game to prove it, Mr. Phillips. Intangibles It’s parent weekend at the University of Miami. Last time I checked, the upper bowl was sold out and the buzz was still around Coral Gables. The Virginia Tech loss was just that - a loss. If the Canes can pull off the upset - they’re seven-point underdogs - they might be able to jump back into the top 10 because everyone else seems to be dropping like flies. Plus, now UM has something to prove. National eyes will be watching to see if last Saturday’s game was a fluke, or washout (sorry, had to). Oklahoma (2-1) had a bye week, which means both extra time to prepare but time to get a bit rusty as well. Don’t forget to:
• Wear Orange if you’re heading over to Land Shark Stadium
• Start booing every time “Oklahoma” is played by the band
What’s a Sooner? Hurricane bait October 4, 2009 I hate to say I told you so, but at least it’s a good thing this week. Last Saturday the sky was falling for No. 17 Miami. People jumped off the bandwagon especially ESPN - after the 31-7 rout against No. 6 Virginia Tech. If I’m remembering correctly, I wrote in a commentary that the win could actually be a good thing for the Hurricanes. Boy was I right the way Randy Shannon’s team upset No. 8 Oklahoma tonight at Land Shark Stadium. Students were chanting “it’s great to be a Miami Hurricane” down the ramp afterwards, but even more important was the fact that every person was still around for the alma mater! Oh, and by the way, I have successfully predicted the Hurricanes’ season so far this year. Here are the five things I learned from tonight’s 21-20 win over the Sooners for a 3-1 record. 1. Sean Spence is back. I filed a missing player’s report and he showed up! He finished with 10 tackles. Can you imagine the big-time playmakers he, Vaughn Telemaque, Brandon Harris and Ray-Ray Armstrong will be down the road? 2. Call Miami Tight End U again. Dedrick Epps and Jimmy Graham both scored a touchdown in the same game for the second consecutive home game. And if you looked carefully, Graham, who had two key drops against the Hokies, followed my advice and wore gloves! Told you, Jimmy. 3. Javarris James helped out his NFL Draft stock. Baby J looked great out there with 150 yards, especially in the last drive that sealed the game. It was he, and not Graig Cooper, who proved to be the difference maker on the ground fighting for extra yards. Kudos to Shannon for making him losing around 15 pounds over the offseason. Edgerrin sure must be proud.
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4. With the win and a surprising 3-1 start, Shannon appears safe. And from what I saw on the look of recruits’ faces after the game, things could be looking brighter. As long as the Hurricanes don’t slip up against a team they shouldn’t fall to, could a one-loss season be on the horizon? It’s possible, but the South Florida showdown to end the regular season will definitely be tough. 5. Referees do not like the Canes. How many special teams penalties were there? Plus, don’t get me started on the “pass interference” call. When I stopped by the Miami Heat practice earlier today for my internship and spoke with Daequan Cook, an Ohio State alum, I jokingly told him he wasn’t allowed to come to the game because there’d be a phantom pass interference call. Lo and behold it happened again. Make that Florida State, Virginia Tech and Oklahoma as the examples just from this season.
Press conference quotes from players October 6, 2009 Below are quotes from select players during the press conference held in the Edgerrin James room. This weekend the 11th-ranked Hurricanes (3-1) host Florida A&M (4-0), which is a subdivision team. Aldarius Johnson I expect it to be a good game. They’re good just like we’re good. They’re undefeated so we’ve got to come out and prepare for it every day and don’t take them for granted and just practice like we practiced for Oklahoma. It felt great being back out there with my teammates and getting a chance to catch a couple of balls in good situations. Everybody’s coming together having fun, laughing, playing as a team. Nobody’s been crying who’s getting the ball. Ray Ray Armstrong We just play. It’s just in us. Maintain the confidence and focus and we’re confident in everything we do. We feel like we’re going to go out there and win every week and coming out there to compete and go hard. I don’t try too much to focus on the comparisons. I just try to make a name for Ray Ray and then play for the University of Miami. I’m not worrying about who they’re comparing me to. My freshman year of high school I had to go straight to varsity. They wouldn’t let me play as a freshman in JV. So I started at safety my freshman year of high school and that gave me the confidence from there on out that I could really compete with the older guys. (pass coverage) I feel like I’ve got to work on that a little bit, that’s probably the one thing in my game that I have to work on. I feel like I can get the job done, but just working on it every day in practice. Brandon Harris They don’t realize that FAMU is an undefeated football team. They have accomplished the goals to this point that we have failed to accomplish. They have a pretty good football team that we’ve watched on film. We know they have some great athletes so we just have to come out and play. We don’t want to come out and underestimate those guys because they can play us well and it
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can get crazy in our home stadium. It’s very important. I think they’ll have just as many fans in the stadium as we will on Saturday night. The ranking system is so crazy nowadays that any move you make can either drop you or rise you, even if you win the game. But if it’s closer than experts predict that can affect where you want to be as a team. (at halftime vs. OU) The coaches felt like we didn’t accomplish what we wanted to in the first half. They wanted us to come out and be physical on defense, make plays and get a three-and-out or a turnover. Thanks to the d-line they just happened to let me free and I knew I had to make that play for my team.
Press conference quotes with Mark Whipple October 6, 2009 The genius behind “Whippleball,” University of Miami offensive coordinator Mark Whipple, spoke at his first press conference at the U today. Below is a transcription of what he said. Needless to say he basically expects perfection of the offense, and that’s definitely not a bad thing. Mark Whipple (about FAMU game and keeping players motivated if it becomes a rout) It’s 0-0 right now. We go ahead 7-0 and we’ll deal with it then, if we go behind 7-0 we’ll deal with it then. We’re just practicing trying to get better. We’ve got a long ways to go. They’ve got good players. They’ll play hard, they’ll play with passion. I’ve been on the other side of this ledger at I-AA and it’s a great opportunity for both teams and I know you don’t have to say a whole lot to the team. We expect a great effort from them. Offensively I don’t think we’re very good. Honestly. I mean, you look at it, we’ve been outscored. Bottom line. Stats are stats. They’ve found a way to win, and that’s the most important thing. We stay on this track and hey, we’re playing somewhere in December, and that’s not what we’re trying to do. (slow starts to games with just 14 total first quarter points) We’re just trying to score touchdowns in the first series and the play calling hasn’t been great either. That’s what we’d like to do. Our first 10 plays haven’t been that good. I may just throw a hat in a ring and let someone else call them. JJ played great last week. At times our line’s been pretty good, at times Jacory’s been pretty good, at times our receivers have been pretty good. Mike James played pretty good for a freshman that hadn’t played fullback much. It’s just been inconsistent and I think it’s probably my expectations at times. All the time coaching it just seems like I don’t have enough time to get it all and get it where we need it to be. I think their expectations are like mine that we’ve got to do a lot better. They’ve always been high, I guess that’s just the way I’ve been raised. The last two places I’ve been in - Pittsburgh [Steelers] and Philly [Eagles] - come play for a Super Bowl. Here, we’re trying to play in January. I knew that Randy [Shannon] and I were on the same page at that point. This is what this place is about. You only get what you expect, and we expect great things from out
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players. We’re all in this together. We do have a good team, meaning we don’t have ‘I’ guys, but guys who will share. I’m harder on Jacory a little bit. He’s younger, he can handle it that way. Each guy’s different. I’m getting to know them a little bit better that way. I think we have a good relationship and understanding. I just want the best for him. I have to remember that this is only his fourth start in this offense. That just takes time with any coach or quarterback. It’s fun. It’s a little bit like a jigsaw puzzle that we’re trying to fit and we’re getting there, but not really as fast as I’d like it to be. He’s won. He’s made plays and stays composed in crucial situations. I had the confidence that I could throw the ball against Oklahoma in a four-minute drill. That’s the confidence I have in him. He’s got some toughness. He finally got banged around a bit so that was good that he came back out and did a good job Saturday night. At 11 o’clock Saturday night it was fun and then you come back here and go back to work. I told the guys the same thing: we’ll have fun in mid-January. This season isn’t as long as an NFL season. We’ve got only eight games left for the seniors. I just don’t want to shortchange any of those guys. *son Spencer transferred from UMass and is quarterback/runs scout team It’s always great to have your son around. I thought he could help our football team win and I told Randy Shannon that. That’s the only reason he’s here. [leadership/poise that Jacory shows] I think you can nurture it and I think you can develop it, but I think it’s really innate from his mom or father. The great ones have that. He is a quarterback. He can handle the pressure. He enjoys it, he doesn’t get too wrapped up and he’s done a good job that way. He doesn’t get too high or too low. He’s playing the next play. I think they’re kind of together. I think a coach is probably harder than a teacher. I think these kids have high expectations, but I still don’t think they have the expectations I have for them individually and collectively and stressing that. As human beings, we don’t ever get to where we should go or should be. So what is it? Motivation? How do we get them going? Is it a pat on the back, is it a kick in the rear? Is it a quote here? This is a game, it’s a business, but you’ve got to have some laughs and we have a good balance right now. I just think he’s a quarterback. He’s got a good pulse. He can handle me at times. ‘I’m going to get on you because you’re the leader here.’ So sometimes I probably get on him a little too much just to let the rest of the offense know as a sounding board. He’s got a world of potential. We have a chance. I think you have a chance to win a championship when you have a quarterback. My job is to get him better, and that’s what I’m trying to do every day.
Press conference quotes from John Lovett October 6, 2009 First-year defensive coordinator John Lovett spoke at his first UM press conference today, and boy does he like to talk, which is great! He had a lot to say about the Va. Tech loss, the Oklahoma win and why his young players are stepping up big. John Lovett I think they’re mature beyond their age and you talk about Brandon [Harris] and he’s only a
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sophomore and he has a lot of instincts. He’s a smart player, he has an understanding of what’s fixing to happen and he’s got a way to fix things. Vaughn [Telemaque] has steadily made an impact here. He did a great job last week getting us lined up more than anything. I was scared to death going into the game that we wouldn’t get lined up to that fast tempo. He did a really good job fixing some mistakes out there by adjusting the coverage. Ray Ray [Armstrong] is a great talent. He’s just a freshman, though. He was fortunate enough to have some guys out there to direct him and get in position and eventually he kind of took over himself a little bit and was able to make some plays. And he’s physically a very imposing figure and he’s got a lot of athletic ability. It’s just a matter of how he’s starting to learn how to play at this level and at the tempo that he needs to do and the sense of urgency to get lined up, make adjustments, make calls and things like that. And the sooner he does that, the more you’ll have an opportunity to see him. [on Brandon McGee] Hopefully we’ll get a chance to start working him in. We are planning on working him and playing him it’s just a matter of picking your spots. You want them to play and to play with confidence. If you lose it, they’ll be on the sideline for a long time. We might try to get him into the game this week. He’s certainly a guy we’d like to get on the field. We just have to continue to play well. If we get 11 guys to the ball, the turnovers will start to show up. Guys are still trying to find their way. We’re kind of hanging on trying to make tackles and make plays. As we play more confidently they’ll be a lot more guys around the ball, and when there are more guys around the ball that will get it on the ground. [on INTs] Either we haven’t had our chances or we haven’t made the plays. I don’t know what the answer to that is. [inheriting the D] It’s a two-edged sword there. What we tried to do here is, they had a lot of pieces to the puzzle, but we had some schematic fixing that we needed to do because we felt like certain guys do certain things pretty well and they don’t do other things really well. What we wanted to do was play to the players’ strengths. On the other hand, there were some wrinkles that needed to be added. I’m trying to use terminology for things they’ve done. Communication out on the field needs to be given and what does that exactly mean to those guys that are being taught. That’s the most important thing. That it all fits together. [on young LBs] It depends on what day it is. Jordan Futch has had a lot of success on special teams and he’s a little bit ahead. I think that the other two guys are about ready to go and we’ll probably hopefully get a look at some of them this week. That’s not going to depend on who we play, but how they practice this week. Jordan played on Saturday because Jordan was ready to play Saturday. [practicing vs. Whipple’s offense] I don’t try to match Whip with wit. I’m very good friends with Whip and I’ve been around him a
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long time. I try to work off of him and we try to work together in practice. We’re working goodon-good to try to work on execution, fundamental techniques and stuff like that. I’m not trying to beat Mark Whipple or the Hurricanes. What I’m trying to do is get fast ball, quick tempo, good-on-good run-on-run pass blocking. I’m a competitor, he’s a competitor, but this is business. We’re trying to execute. [why offense is successful] He’s got ways of being able to get people out of position so he can run the football. You see a lot of receivers open. He’s got a really creative mind. He does a good job. That’s what he does and he’s got good players to help him execute. That’s the secret to a lot of this stuff. [on Marcus Forston] He’s banged up, and we’re all banged up, and how you deal with that determines how mature you are and how ready you are to play at this level. I’d like him to be playing harder, faster, better, but everyone has pain tolerance. He’s a really good player and you see flashes of what he can be. [on Olivier Vernon] Olivier was a pleasant surprise out of spring. He actually came out here and jumped ahead of a lot of guys. He’s got a lot of natural ability and he’s a work-hard guy, and he’s also got some football smarts. He picks things up and he’s able to adjust and that’s why he’s playing at such a young age. A lot of guys have the talent to play but they just can’t handle a lot of stuff going on and have to decipher things really fast. It’s not about what I call, but how they execute it. [inconsistency of defense] I don’t know. If I could figure that out I’d be making a whole lot of money. That’s the age-old deal. You don’t know exactly what’s going to happen. Virginia Tech, I put that on my shoulder because I’m responsible for their performance out there and for some reason they weren’t comfortable with what we were doing or Virginia Tech was showing them. It didn’t get fixed and they didn’t play well enough and we struggled. That’s my job to get them ready and hopefully that doesn’t happen again. [adjust to fast tempo of OU after first scoring drive] They practiced great all week. I was more nervous than they were about lining up. Early on to be quite honest with you, I don’t know if the kids were set on what they were doing. When that happens, that’s me. But once they got into the speed of the game, it was okay. I told them before the Georgia Tech game, ‘all you’ve got to do is get them off the field on the first series because once you get used to the tempo you’ll be fine.’ Our job this week is to get better and to beat our next opponent which is FAMU. They’re going to come down here and give us their best shot and we know that and I think the kids know that. They understand. I think they learned a lesson about being prepared. I think physically they’ll be looking forward to playing.
UM vs. FAMU preview October 8, 2009 It’s the second consecutive non-conference game for No. 11 Miami this weekend. And guess
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what?! For the first time this season UM will not face a ranked opponent. The Hurricanes host Florida A&M (4-0) at 7 p.m. Saturday. Below are story lines and points to look out for: • Although the Rattlers are in the football subdivision, players and coaches keep reminding the media of what Appalachian State did a couple of years ago by upsetting Michigan in the first game of the season. •
LeRoy Vann looks to receive more national exposure as the top punt returner in the nation after scoring four touchdowns so far this season. On the other hand, if FAMU cannot stop Jacory Harris and the Hurricane offense, Vann might not get a chance to return one.
• Look for freshman backup quarterback A.J. Highsmith to see his first collegiate playing time barring a close game. I wouldn’t be too surprised if players like freshman cornerback Brandon McGee also get some action. • The Rattlers’ band will perform during halftime and postgame. That’s how good it is. No, really. You should go just to see it perform. • FAMU has a large alumni base here in Miami, so even though this is no Oklahoma, expect a decent crowd at hand. •
Head coach Randy Shannon expressed his concern over the team showing up complacement. He and his coaching staff continue to emphasize that FAMU’s players will be hungry, especially since most grew up in the Sunshine State and might not have been recruited by the U.
• Spongebob Squarepants’ favorite team is the University of Miami. Look at my Facebook profile photo for proof. Oh, and is there anyone left on the defensive line? Seriously. Below is the injury report for the game. Probable: DL Olivier Vernon – Lower Extremity Questionable: RB Graig Cooper - Lower Extremity; LS/TE Jake Byrne - Illness Doubtful: DT Marcus Forston – Lower Extremity; DL Steven Wesley – Lower Extremity. Out: DL Dyron Dye - Leg; TE Richard Gordon – Upper Extremity; FB Patrick Hill – Lower Extremity; DB Ryan Hill – Upper Extremity; DB JoJo Nicolas – Upper Extremity; DE Adewale Ojomo – Jaw; DB Randy Phillips – Upper Extremity.
UM vs. FAMU recap October 11, 2009 So it wasn’t much of contest. No surprise there. No. 11 Miami (4-1) beat up on subdivision team Florida A&M (4-1) 48-16. And to think that the Rattlers actually led 3-0…The closest the other team from Tallahassee came to being intimidating was when the nation’s best band took the field at halftime, and took it to the Band of the Hour. Below are items of interest from tonight’s game.
• Jacory Harris needs to not telegraph his passes. The cornerbacks are catching on.
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Besides, double and triple coverage is never a good idea. Never. You got lucky last week against Oklahoma on the Dedrick Epps touchdown.
• Damien Berry deserves a shot against better teams. Not only did he rush for 165 yards on just 14 carries, but his speed and field vision led to his quick two-play, 89-yard touchdown drive in the fourth. •
Here’s my absurd conspiracy theory of the week: Jimmy Graham dropped those two balls at Virginia Tech in order to keep his streak alive. He has three catches, each for a touchdown, after tonight’s first quarter one. Word has it that he’s fastly approaching his point total from his basketball career…
• No matter how out of hand the game was, why put true freshman and backup quarterback A.J. Highsmith in there if he’s just going to hand it off? He connected on all three of his passes, one for a long of 29 yards. C’mon, Whipple! • The world will come to an end when the Hurricanes learn how to tackle. That, or when Ray Ray Armstrong decides that hard hits aren’t his thing. After ramming into Curtis Pulley so hard that he caused a fumble that the Canes recovered, the refs took it back with a helmet-to-helmet call. •
Here’s another conspiracy to consider: Brandon Harris not only collected an interception, but five pass breakups. That should be good enough for a league high. However, there were at least two other chances he had for interceptions. Maybe he’s just worried about his top mark in that category (of course he isn’t. Someone jokingly asked after the game).
• Joe Joseph is playing like a man possessed: six tackles, 3.5 for a loss. And by the way, how is there still a defensive line for UM to field? It seems like everyone has been hurt. • Alex Uribe is getting his non-football scholarship money’s worth. He kicked off nine times and has provided Miami with much-needed hang time and tackling (2 of them)! What do they feed those kickers? First Matt Bosher, now Uribe?!?
Randy Shannon’s quotes from today’s press conference October 13, 2009 Head coach Randy Shannon opened up today’s press conference by talking about this Saturday’s game against the University of Central Florida Knights (3-2) at Bright House Networks Stadium. “We’ve got this week’s opponent, Central Florida, an instate team. Coach [George] O’Leary’s done a great job of getting that program where he needs to be at. They’re a tough football team. They try to get the game in the fourth quarter, keep it close to where they have an opportunity to win the game. For us as a team we have to get back to starting fast like we did against Florida A&M and finish the game strong.” “The key to what Central Florida tries to do is keep it close and win it in the fourth quarter. We have to go out and try to win all four quarters of this football gmae from the standpoint of all phases of what we’re trying to get done.” [on chances of a letdown] “Nope, don’t even talk about that. Talk about getting ready as a football team, stay focused on what we’re trying to get done. We don’t have to do that. We played Central Florida last year and
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they were a tough team. Darryl Sharpton made a play on the last play of the game to get us that victory.” [on Joe Joseph’s recent success] “He’s doing a great job for us, a guy who’s been here five years. He’s doing a great job of playing the older guy on the football team for us, starting to make some plays for us. He’s always on the players about doing what the coaches ask you to do as far as technique and things that make us successful.” “Everybody’s different. It takes guys different [times] to learn and understand what we’re trying to get done. He’s been dinged up. Three years ago he got hurt in the second or third game, missing time. Last year the same thing happened to him. I think this year as far as what he’s doing, it’s been really tremendous for us to see him be active as much as he is.” [on Vaughn Telemaque] “He’s doing a great job for us. You notice the last two games he’s been the guy out back as a redshirt freshman out of Long Beach Poly. He made some calls for us against Oklahoma, he did a great job against georgia tech. The more he plays the better off he’s going to be as a football player, and he’s starting to come around. He’s still got a lot to learn. We’ve got to keep playing him more, keep him more disciplined in the things he needs to get done.” [on getting true freshman A.J. Highsmith some snaps under center] “It was huge. We ran the offense with A.J. throwing a couple of passes and running the football, but then it got to the fourth quarter and we just wanted to run the football and get the game over with. He had his throws in the third quarter, which we needed him to make some decisions on.” [on Mike James’s contribution to the team] “Big. Huge. A good kid. All he wants to do is win. He plays kickoff returner for us, he plays fullback, plays tailback. Whatever we ask him to do, he does it. And he does a great job at it. And when we get the ball in his hands he makes plays for us. A lot of things he’s done has been the key to our success on this offense.” [on players stepping up after Jordan Futch’s season-ending injury] “They have to. We’ve got four guys in that position so somebody has to step up and get ready to play.” [on Adewale Ojomo’s return from a broken jaw] “When I know, I’ll announce it. Until then I don’t know until the doctors tell me.” [on Damien Berry’s offensive output last game - 162 yards on 14 carries] “I think the offensive line did a good job of blocking for him. Second-team guys of Brandon Washington, Ben Jones, Tyler Horn. Those guys did a great job of blocking for him and getting him where he needs to be at. We weren’t trying to run the offense. Let’s run the ball and get this game over with and get Damien the ball and have some carries. And he did a good job, a very good job for us.” [on playing younger guys more] “It depends on what they do in practice. If they’re not picking things up then we’re not going to put them in those situations. If they’re starting to pick it up we’ll play them.”
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[on taking a bus instead of a plane to Orlando] “No difference. It’s the same thing. [We’ll be taking one to] Tampa also. We’ll probably make it more faster because after the game you don’t have to go through the security gates, you don’t have to wait on the plane. You just get on the bus and go. It’ll probably save us an hour.”
Is there anyone left on the defense? UM/UCF preview October 15, 2009 I don’t remember the injury bug ever hitting a unit as badly as it has this season for the University of Miami’s defensive line. No, really. That was the talk before Tuesday’s press conference and continues to be the case with several key starters and “backups” out. Before I get to the depressing news, below are some “interesting facts going into Saturday night’s game against unranked Central Florida (3-2) at Bright House Networks Stadium. •
This is only the second meeting between the teams. Last year the Hurricanes (4-1) held on for a 20-14 win at home when linebacker Darryl Sharpton deflected a pass on fourth down. On a side note, I went to high school with Sharpton and saw him get his hair cut by the now infamous team barber Steven Rivera. Puzzled? Go here.
• Sophomore cornerback Brandon Harris leads the ACC with 10 pass breakups. After last Saturday’s game when a reporter jokingly asked him if he just wanted that category he said he’d rather have the two other interceptions he dropped. • I’m just putting it out there that ever since I filed a missing player’s report for sophomore linebacker Sean Spence, he’s come back strong. He’s averaging over seven tackles over the last three games, which includes No. 4 Virginia Tech and No. 20 Oklahoma. • All three of senior tight end Jimmy Graham’s catches have been for touchdowns. I haven’t taken math since freshman year of college, but I’m pretty sure that’s a pretty high percentage… • With a depleted defensive line, it should be interesting to see how sophomore running back Brynn Harvey does. He is 16th nationally with 107.2 yards a game. • Last year’s matchup featured just 78 total yards of offense for the Knights. Yes, you read that correctly. • Miami will once again face a top punt returner - Ricky Ross is 16th nationally in punt return average (13.9) and Quincy McDuffie has a 95-yard kick return for a touchdown. •
I’m really paranoid about every game from now on, especially because people keep saying that they’re all winnable (which they are). The problem is if we win out, we’d finish the season 11-1. Who would have thought that before the season? More importantly, we’re not even halfway through the schedule yet.
• The first BCS poll comes out on Sunday. Here’s to some very aggravated fans and teams with one loss. GAME OF THE WEEK As a Hurricane, I’ll have the TV dialed to ESPN 2 as No. 4 Virginia Tech travels to No. 19 Georgia Tech in a BIG Coastal Division matchup. Not sure on tiebreakers, but if the Yellow Jackets’ spread option is able to somehow manage a miracle over the Hokies, does that mean we’d
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leapfrog Va. Tech if we run the table? There’s a shameless plug that I will be discussing. Over the past few weeks I have been polling the players (and Rivera) about who has the best hairdo on the team, and the winner just so happens to be sophomore receiver Travis Benjamin. So congrats to him, his long dreads and the orange ACE band he wears to tie them up. For more on the topic and to cast your vote, go here. Injury Report Out for season - senior tight end Richard Gordon, sophomore defensive lineman Marcus Forston and sophomore defensive lineman Adewale Ojomo Out for Saturday - senior fullback Patrick Hill (lower extremity), junior defensive tackle Josh Holmes (lower extremity), sophomore receiver Aldarius Johnson (shoulder), redshirt senior defensive end Eric Moncur (groin), junior safety Jojo Nicolas (shoulder) and redshirt senior safety Randy Phillips (forearm) Doubtful - junior right guard Joel Figueroa (lower extremity injury) Probable - junior running back Graig Cooper (hip) and sophomore running back Lee Chambers (ankle)
Boring game, but a win October 17, 2009 TVs at the Rathskeller were showing No. 9 Miami’s game against Central Florida, but students were huddled around those with laptops watching the No. 4 Virginia Tech/No. 19 Georgia Tech game instead. Go Yellow Jackets!! Can you believe that Virginia is technically the Coastal Division’s leader? Oh well…that’s our homecoming game, by the way (Nov. 7). It was that kind of a game. Despite the initial slow start that was reminiscent of last week’s with Florida A&M, the ninth-ranked Hurricanes (5-1) controlled the clock, ran the ball with a mix of backs and shared the ball with seven different receivers.
• Jacory Harris was back to his turnover-free self with 293 yards and a touchdown.
• Damien Berry rushed for a touchdown and saw even more playing time after cruising to 162 yards over the Rattlers. • Matt Bosher still needs to learn how to get rid of a punt sooner. He almost had another blocked. Also, is that a new call for kicking the ball out of the end zone for a safety? • The defense caused a turnover!!! Jared Campbell’s blitz and hit caused the ball to float in the air and give Colin McCarthy an easy interception. There were a few other chances in the game, but considering the difficulty the Canes have had, we shouldn’t get greedy. • Who’s at left defensive end? Who’s at right defensive tackle? That’s Miami’s own version of Abbott and Costello, but it didn’t matter as the D held Brynn Harvey to just 25 yards on 12 carries. With six linemen out, UM’s line still held its own. • Brandon Harris didn’t get a pass breakup, if I remember correctly. That’s both a first and costly for his lead. • Kudos to the Knights (3-3). Their D-line sacked J12 six times! Miami’s offensive line needs to get back to its dominant self.
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• Jimmy Graham caught passes that weren’t touchdowns. It wasn’t going to last forever, I suppose…
• Did I mention again how thankful I am that Nesbitt and co. beat the Hokies?
• The first BCS poll comes out tomorrow. Can you say chaos?!
10/20 Randy Shannon press conference October 20, 2009 “Hey, I need to see you by the way.” That was the ominous line that Randy Shannon spun my way before the press conference began as he stood behind the lectern. What was the deal? Maybe we shall soon find out. But I was scared. No reason to be, though. And he might’ve left our conversation with a smile. Okay, probably a smirk… Below are snippets from his portion of the press conference: Clemson’s a very good football team. The last two times we played them we went into overtime. They’ve got some of the same type of athletes that we’ve had at the University of Miami, guys that we recruited. Offensively they probably have two of the fastest guys in the conference in Jacoby Ford and [C.J.] Spiller. Both are return guys. They’re very dynamic players and they do a good job. Defensively they’ve got some players who are up for a lot of rewards. They’ve got some secondary candidates for Thorpe awards and guys up front that can cause havoc. They’re very active, and if they can get you on second or third down and 10-plus situations, that’s what they’ll want to create. First down is very big for us at the University of Miami, and when we have a chance to capitalize on first down we’ve got to control our penalties. We’ve got to be sound and secure getting the things done that we need to get done. [on Spiller] He’s a good running back. He’s real good. I think you just have to watch him. [on overtime games] - You don’t prepare for it, it’s just part of the game. [on QB Kyle Parker] They’re up and down. He does a good job orchestrating what they’re trying to get done. You just can’t give up big plays against Clemson. He’s done a good job of managing the team. [on the O-line’s struggle vs. UCF] No, we’ve got to get better and everybody has to be on the same page, and also Jacory [Harris] has to get rid of the footbal when he’s supposed to. It’s a conglomerate of everybody and not just the offensive line. [on the time of year, weather] Miami gets cold for two days and then the next five days it’ll be back to humid. It’ll probably be a factor in the game, but when it all comes down to it, it’s on the field and who can sustain mentally when it’s hot. [on kicking deep] If you’ve got guys who can cover the football field, fast guys, speedy guys, you want to get the guy inside the 20. [on kicker Alex Uribe] He’s been getting better every week. He’s getting the hang time we want and that’s all you can ask of him. [on the Tigers’ WRs and TE] Those guys are doing a good job of catching the football and blocking. They’re making plays, they’re catching the football and running.
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[on Randy Phillips’s return] He practiced well today. He flew around, had some fun and he’s back into it. It’s always good when you get guys back.
Tigers vs. Canes - Q&A with Emily October 21, 2009 This Saturday afternoon No. 8 Miami hosts Clemson at Land Shark Stadium in an ACC game. The Hurricanes (5-1, 2-1) are playing their first conference game in more than two weeks and the Tigers (3-3, 2-2) are coming off a 38-3 victory over Wake Forest in Columbia. I asked Emily, Clemson’s campus correspondent, a few questions about the game. Q: Just what makes C.J. Spiller so dangerous running the football and on returns? A: C.J. Spiller is just naturally a freak of nature. For one thing, he’s one of the fastest people in the country, period. When he gets going on a run, not only can no one physically keep up with him, but he has really gotten experienced at running over his opponents and shaking them off. In C.J.’s younger days, he would sometimes run scared, and avoid running through the tackles. He’d get the ball and try to run up the side of the field. Now he’s just fearless. He’ll cut through anybody because he knows he can. He’s also the most dynamic player in all of college football. His field vision is incredible; he can stop on a dime; he catches passes out of the backfield, out of the slot, and wherever else he may be lined up on the field. He can score from anywhere anytime he touches the ball. If you don’t believe me watch this: http://theavenueofchampions.blogspot.com/ . Q: How has Kyle Parker looked so far this season? A: Kyle Parker has generally looked inconsistent. This includes looking much more experienced than a freshman at times–remaining cool, collected and surveying the field with good pocket presence–but also sometimes looking like a scattered mess. Everyone knows Parker has a heck of an arm and can throw lasers downfield on the fly. He’s got a quick release. But sometimes, he lacks accuracy. I think this is mostly because sometimes he panics and throws it to whomever he sees in a moment instead of maybe scrambling, trying to keep the play alive longer. This is to be expected at times from a QB in his first starting year. Last week against Wake, Parker really led the team well and also ran the ball a little bit. He could definitely use his legs more often; that is something he hasn’t been doing a lot yet this season. But it was promising when he finally scored his first rushing touchdown against Wake. I think a great QB always needs to be a double-threat, keeping the defense guessing at all times. If he looks as good as he did last week against Wake, Miami better watch out. But anyone who knows anything about football knows that a QB’s performance has many variables. It depends on the O line’s performance, the plays that are being called, etc. Q: Talk about that award-nominating secondary A: Clemson’s secondary is dangerous because the front seven are dangerous. When our front seven apply pressure to the quarterback it forces sacks, and bad decisions by the opposing QBs. Then the secondary is there to really screw up the offense’s motives. Our secondary is relatively quick and good at covering those we have played so far. But that isn’t saying much, Miami could be a different story. Your receivers are fast and run complicated routes, and Oklahoma’s DBs
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couldn’t keep up with them. If Clemson’s can, then Clemson has a good shot at the win. The CBs, Chris Chancellor and Crezdon Butler, are also very physical at the line of scrimmage. Speaking of Chris Chancellor, he will be wearing #6 for the Miami game in honor of the UConn CB that was stabbed to death last weekend. They went to high school together, in Miami actually. Q: Why is Clemson 3-3? What’s gone right? Wrong? A: I would say the primary problem is Clemson’s offense not finding their identity. With a new head coach, a new and very young offensive coordinator (he’s the youngest OC ever in the ACC), and a new freshman QB, those problems aren’t surprising. Clemson’s fans have gotten a little impatient with this, however, because of the talent not being utilized. Two of Clemson’s losses were to good teams–Georgia Tech and TCU. Both of those games were losses of less than five points. The loss to Maryland was just a complete upset, and that was by less than five points, too. I would say about everything went wrong in that game. The talkedabout defense didn’t even really show up until the second half. But primarily the problems are offense-related. Play calling hasn’t been varied enough; the offensive line is inconsistent; receivers have dropped tons of passes; and even C.J. Spiller has been dealing with a nagging toe injury until he had the bye week to recover completely. And the lack of productivity in the red zone has probably been the number one concern. But you can see how solid Clemson looks when these things come together and there’s a certain cohesiveness, which they all did against Wake. Is Clemson finally finding their offensive identity? I guess we’ll see this week in Miami. Q: Player to look out for A: Always, the player to look out for is C.J. Spiller. He has scored on 60-yard plus runs the past six consecutive games. What’s amusing is that everyone already knows to look out for him and still can’t stop him. He’s one of the most exciting players to watch in Clemson’s history. I love it! I would also look out for TE Michael Palmer, who has really begun to come into his own. He showed us what he’s made of against Wake. I think they’ll start to utilize him more, in the red zone especially, given his size and his consistency. I’d also look out for Jacoby Ford. Last week against Wake, they called a crazy play where Parker passed it to Jacoby and Jacoby chucked it downfield some 30 yards or more for a completion. It was beautiful! Who knew he could throw like that? But he’s fast as lightning, too. I asked C.J. Spiller one time who was faster, him or Jacoby? Spiller laughed and said, “We’re both fast.” Also, Jacory Harris better look out for DE Da’ Quan Bowers. He’s just plain scary, even without the dreads (he just cut them). Q: Prediction for the game A: I’m going to cop out here. I don’t have a clue who’s going to win. If you have witnessed how Clemson plays night and day from game-to-game like I have, you would understand. But I simply don’t know what Clemson team will show up on Saturday. I feel sometimes like I make predictions for a team I haven’t seen play before. Preseason I predicted Miami to win, before we even knew exactly how talented Miami would be this season. However, I do know that this is a must-win for Clemson, and we typically play pretty strong against Miami. We upset you guys in 2004 in Miami–the same year we also lost to Duke!
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Could this be a replay of history? For Clemson to win, the secondary will have to be on their A game and keep up with Miami’s receivers. That will be the matchup to watch. The offense will also have to have a united front like they did against Wake. Will this happen? Who knows! This is going to be a super exciting match-up though, I know that. Can 3:30 Saturday come soon enough?!
Injury report for the Clemson game October 22, 2009 So head coach Randy Shannon wasn’t lying when he said that the injury list wouldn’t be as bad as it’s been. Below’s list doesn’t include the players who had season-ending surgery. Out - Senior fullback Patrick Hill (high ankle sprain) Probable - junior running back Graig Cooper (hip), senior running back Javarris James (lower extremity), freshman back Mike James (ankle), sophomore wide receiver Aldarius Johnson (shoulder), junior offensive lineman Joel Figueroa (lower extremity), junior defensive lineman Josh Holmes (lower extremity), redshirt senior defensive lineman Eric Moncur (groin), junior defensive back JoJo Nicolas (arm) and redshirt senior safety Randy Phillips (torn labrum).
My Q&A for the Clemson game October 23, 2009 Just as I asked Emily, Clemson’s campus correspondent, some questions about the game against the Tigers, she returned the favor. Below is my take on everything orange, green and purple. Q: First of all, talk about the injuries Miami is nursing right now after the past few tough games. Will any injuries be cause for worry on the Canes behalf when facing Clemson Saturday? A: Let’s put it this way: Most fans don’t even know who is left on the defensive line. Four already had season-ending surgeries and two others missed last week’s game against the University of Central Florida. Before the season head coach Randy Shannon said that the D-line was the deepest part of the team, and he’s been right on target. The unit has received a big boost (no pun intended) from senior Joe Joseph, who has 20 tackles, five for a loss, and a recovered fumble. Redshirt senior safety Randy Phillips decided this week to forego surgery and play injured the rest of the season. He has been out for a while. The same goes for junior safety Jojo Nicolas. Their replacements – redshirt freshman Vaughn Telemaque, freshman Ray Ray Armstrong and junior Jared Campbell have definitely stepped up. I haven’t seen the injury list for this week’s game yet, but Shannon said that it would be shorter than others we’ve seen… Q: Speaking of injuries, how has Jacory Harris held up so long against great teams? Is it because the offensive linemen have done a great job of protecting him? I know that a lot of people have said it’s pretty much “Jacory or bust” for Miami this year. Talk a little bit about
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your offensive line and if they can hold off Clemson’s defense. A: Nothing has come close to the immediate panic following the hit from a Florida State player that made Jacory Harris come off the field with what looked to be a serious arm injury. As Shannon said at Tuesday’s press conference: “No, we’ve got to get better and everybody has to be on the same page, and also Jacory [Harris] has to get rid of the football when he’s supposed to. It’s a conglomerate of everybody and not just the offensive line.” In the first two games, Harris was sacked just twice. Last week against the Knights it was six! Since those first two games, the offensive line has allowed 15 sacks. It should be an interesting matchup that will determine the success of the offense. Q: Why is Miami’s offense such a threat? Is it the speed? The complicated routes the receivers run? Jacory’s ability to make things happen? A: Mark Whipple’s “Whippleball.” It utilizes all of the playmakers on offense. Sixteen different players have caught a pass this season, and last week junior running back Graig Cooper attempted a pass on a wannabe Wildcat play. It’s mainly the play calling of Whipple and his knowledge of what each player brings to the table. It also doesn’t hurt that Harris has been the most consistent quarterback (as just a sophomore) in a long time at a school once known as “Quarterback U.” Q: Who should we look out for this Saturday, and why? A: I know it’s the easy answer, but I would say Jacory Harris. Better yet, let’s make that the offensive line. Without its protection, he and the running backs won’t be effective. Defensively, I’ll go on a limb and say Telemaque and Armstrong. Although they’re both freshmen, they hit and play hard and have already made a huge impact on the team. My favorite player at the moment is sophomore cornerback Brandon Harris, who leads the ACC in pass breakups. Q: Talk about Miami’s homefield advantage. Is Land Shark Stadium a particularly intimidating place to play? If so, why? A: Land Shark Stadium is not intimidating at all. It’s no Orange Bowl. The seats don’t rock and you have no worries about the facility’s structure. However, those same fans who have cheered the Canes before have made the transition. The Oklahoma game was probably the loudest I’ve ever heard it there, and it wasn’t even sold out to capacity (a little under 70,000). That includes Dolphins (and Marlins World Series) games. I think the key factor has been the student support. For a school with less than 15,000 undergraduates, the turnout has been amazing, probably because of the team’s success so far. Everyone has pretty much seen the image of the “Glitter Girls.” The student section was actually expanded thanks to the nudging of Shannon and University President Donna Shalala. Q: Preseason everyone talked about Randy Shannon being in the hot seat. Clearly, that’s changed. Talk about Miami’s sentiment toward Randy Shannon and how it’s changed. What are the most obvious changes in Miami’s 2008 and 2009 teams? A: I think people are starting to trust him a bit more. His recruits have started to grow. However, most of the talk seems to be about Whipple and keeping him here (at least) through Harris’s collegiate career. If it’s any incentive, Whipple’s son transferred from UMass to be the scout team’s quarterback, so he’s definitely invested in the program.
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The biggest difference between the two teams is maturation. Everyone is a year older, and here comes the cliché: “The swagger is back.” The players are confident in their abilities to win every game, no matter the opponent. Q: Miami has a pretty young team, but seems to play consistently. How is this so? Is it great coaching, or what? A: It’s a combination of coaching and maturation. Most of the starters played collegiately for the first time last year. That experience definitely helps. They have the talent; they just needed to get a feel for college football. It’s also a testament to the coaching staff. The first thing Whipple said at his press conference was that he didn’t think the offense was very good. That attitude leaves the players hungry for more and never satisfied. Q: Name 3 strengths and 3 weaknesses for Miami going into Saturday’s game. A: Strengths 1) Offense – There are plenty of playmakers on this side of the ball to keep the Tigers guessing. The balanced attack (well, at least the ability to run when needed) helps out the passing game even more. 2) Focus – Shannon’s team learned its lesson from the Virginia Tech game. This is the first ACC game for the Canes in a few weeks, so they need to continue winning in order to move on up in the Coastal Division. 3) Weather – This may be a factor, especially since it was brought up during the press conference. Temperatures will more than likely hit the high 80s. And that’s not even counting the humidity. Weaknesses 1) Special teams – Although senior walk-on kicker Alex Uribe has done a better job on kickoffs, the coverage is still cutting it way too close. With two really good returners in C.J. Spiller and Jacoby Ford, it should prove to be a very difficult test for UM. 2) Defensive line – With all the injuries mounting, it doesn’t matter who is running the football, and it just so happens that Spiller will be this weekend. 3) Intangibles – Clemson seems to play Miami really well. Plus, the Hurricanes need to keep their momentum going with a tough ACC stretch now that those first four games have been out of the way. Almost everyone expects them to win out, which is very scary considering they were underdogs coming into the season. On a weird and superstitious side note of mine, in the only other afternoon game played by the Hurricanes, it was the Hokies taking it to the orange and green… Q: Prediction? A: It’s Miami in a close game. That’s the best I can do for you. Both teams seem to make it a good game, but hopefully it’s a lop-sided one for the Canes.
There she (title hope) goes… October 24, 2009 Just like that the season is seemingly over for No. 8 Miami. Sure, there are still games to be played, but no title possibilities exist. If the Hurricanes (5-2, 2-2) play for anything, it’ll be pride.
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Here’s what was wrong with this ugly, 40-37 overtime loss to unranked Clemson (4-3, 3-2). •
Despite all the talk about C.J. Spiller’s speed, the Canes still kicked off to the middle of the field. The end result: a 90-yard touchdown return. Then there was that long pass reception for six where he blew past linebacker Sean Spence. He was a one man wrecking crew.
• Evidently Miami doesn’t know how to cover the tight end. Michael Palmer finished with way too many catches (5) and a touchdown before getting lit up and knocked out of the game by Colin McCarthy and Randy Phillips.
• The attendance (43,778) at Land Shark Stadium was pathetic for a top-10 team.
• Miami’s pass defense is horrible. The unit made quarterback Kyle Parker look like a Heisman Trophy candidate with 326 yards and three touchdowns. •
In my opinion, the coaching lost the game. What was Mark Whipple thinking having the offense run that much toward the end of regulation and overtime? Jacory Harris and his receivers were connecting, particularly Leonard Hankerson. And then for Randy Shannon and Whipple to argue at the end of the first half…
• Matt Bosher was back to his usual self - great punts with no returns and 3 for 3 on field goals. He even replaced Alex Uribe on kickoffs and got the job done. • How many times is the defense going to be called for offsides? We must lead the nation in that penalty. • Third-down defense. Fifty percent conversion rate for Clemson, including the touchdown in overtime for the win. • Harris needs to learn how to throw the ball away and become consistent. Three interceptions isn’t going to cut it. He had three touchdowns (one to the other team). • What got into the defense? It caused two turnovers and had another overturned. Plus, there was that loonggg fumble recovery for a touchdown by Marcus Robinson.
Quotes from Tuesday’s press conference October 30, 2009 Sorry for the delay on Tuesday’s press conference quotes. My preview for the Wake Forest game will probably make more sense because of it. Right now I’m in Austin, Texas for a journalism conference and I finally got a hold of some Internet. Stay tuned for my preview, which will come in a bit. Randy Shannon It’s going to be on the road Halloween night going against a team where Coach [Jim] Grobe has done a great job in all his years where he always has the ability to bring in fifth-year and fourthyear juniors on this football team. It’s going to be a test for us to rebound back and go out and play football like we normally do and have fun. This morning we had practice and it was great to see guys with a lot of enthusiasm, having fun, communication and doing the things that gives us a chance to win a game. [on Riley Skinner] He’s a good person, good quarterback, a guy who does a nice job of giving
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them an opportunity to win games, and he’s a valuable guy to the football team because he’s been there a long time. [on Sam Shields] He’s doing very well for us, making some nice plays for us at cornerback. [on Leonard Hankerson] He’s doing a great job for us. Hankerson’s been a guy around here for three years. You’ve seen his development from his first year to now and how he’s prospered. He’s the veteran of that group right now and he’s done a good job of really staying focused this season. A.J. Trump They’re a very solid defense, and they play really well at home. And they have a lot of smart, high-motor guys. They did some things against us last year that worked pretty well and it’s going to be a challenge for us. They’re playing us at home and it’s a heck of an opportunity for them and if they win this game it turns their whole season around. They’re going to be up for this one and they have some players. Sometimes you take a loss like that and it’s hard and you try to forget it because you don’t want to let it beat you this week. The best way to do that is to joke around, have a good time, work and run around and have fun. It’s not easy coming off a loss. It’s a lot of emotions. I’m sure you guys feel it too. Just going through that whole week of building up and you want that win so bad and when you don’t get it you don’t watch SportsCenter, you don’t do anything like that. You just feel horrible. You try to clear that from your system the best you can and by Tuesday you usually have it out. Jacory Harris It’s like in the locker room; you’ll see people who can’t believe we lost. It kind of surprised me that everybody was running around full speed laughing, joking around, this can’t ever happen again. We said that before but it’s like now, we dug ourselves too deep in a hole and we can’t let it get any deeper. It’s a part of the game. I know in this game, some interceptions you’re trying to take a chance on. [DeAndre] McDaniel is a good player. I helped him out a little bit. I just gave him a little leeway to the NFL. Sometimes the ball doesn’t fall the right way. Interceptions aren’t okay, but at the same time you’ve got to bounce back and help your team. Of course its going to shock me because you don’t want to throw any interceptions, but those are my mistakes so I’ve got to step it up. I’m willing to take all blame and credit for. I’m still approaching the game the same way. If being aggressive and making the correct reads but sometimes slipping up a little bit got us to 5-2, well I’ve got to keep on doing it and just lower my mistakes. It’s a part of the game. There are quarterbacks who have done worst and quarterbacks who have done better. I believe I’m the type of person who can put this behind me and keep on moving and keep getting better. The confidence level is still high and that’s what keeps me confident because I know that my team still believes in me and I still believe in my team. Right now we just want to win the rest of our games and just take care of business and keep playing the way we started playing. Keep on moving forward and do all the things that your coaches have been teaching you and have fun.
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It is tough. It’s almost like losing your dog. I was standing up at the time and I was like, ‘Alright, offense on the field.’ I just sat down and couldn’t believe this. There are a lot of things you could’ve done in the beginning of the game. Clemson’s a great team. We came into the week knowing we were going to face somebody that they have good players at every position and they came out there and gave their all. That’s something, we played hard, but we didn’t execute the right way. He’s kind of down about the injury because me personally, I’ve never seen Sean [Spence] hurt, until this year at the beginning when he hurt his quad. I had never seen him lying on the ground, ever hurt, including four years of high school. It’s surprising because he was still trying to get back in. What we’re losing on the field is a smart player that studies film a lot. He’s one of the best persons in reading screens. He’s going to be a big loss to this defense. We have to stay focused. I think we’re last in the ACC in penalties. We’ve just got to keep everything going and just keep playing smarter.
Miami vs. Wake Forest preview October 30, 2009 Alright, so I’m in Austin, Texas and will more than likely miss the game tomorrow. Am I upset about it? Yes. I really want to see how the team bounces back after the tough loss to Clemson. On the other hand, I’m really loving this autumn weather. I get to wear warm clothes! Below is my preview/list of things to look for in tomorrow’s game between No. 18 Miami (5-2, 2-2) and unranked Wake Forest (4-4, 2-2): • Can Jacory Harris avoid costly turnovers on the road? He leads the ACC with 10 interceptions. Both the Demon Deacons and Hurricanes are near the bottom of the league in turnover margin. • Will the Canes bounce back from the tough loss? See quotes from Tuesday’s press conference and make your decision on whether UM is ready to play. • How will Riley Skinner fare against a defense missing Eric Moncur and Ray Ray Armstrong, especially after the Hurricanes were torched for 26 offensive points. • The Deacs are third in the ACC in time of possession. This will be the key for Jim Grobe’s team: to keep Harris and the offense off the field and kill the clock. • Clemson finished 8 of 14 on third-down conversions against Miami, which included the winning touchdown in overtime. Wake is fourth, right behind UM, in conversions, so it will be key for the D to follow through and get the offense back on the field. • Wake is 10th in sacks yardage given up, so look for Joe Joseph to try and get back on a roll a week after the defensive line struggled to provide pressure against Kyle Parker. • On defense, the Demon Deacons are in the middle of the pack on pass defense. Rushing defense, however, is near the bottom of the pack. It allows 156.1 yards a game, so Graig Cooper, Thearon Collier and Damien Berry need to balance the attack.
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OTHER NOTES • With Virginia Tech’s loss to North Carolina, the Coastal Division can be wide open if the Yellow Jackets manage to stumble. • The Demon Deacons are coming off back-to-back losses and are searching for a victory. A desperate team is never one to take lightly.
• Miami is 0-2 in afternoon start time games. Will it be 0-3?
• The two times I’ve done a Q&A with a campus blogger, the Canes have lost! It’s going to be awhile before I do that again, although it’s such a great opportunity/idea. INJURY REPORT Out – Senior running back Javarris James (lower extremity), freshman safety Ray Ray Armstrong (lower extremity), sophomore linebacker Sean Spence (knee), redshirt senior defensive end Eric Moncur (lower extremity), junior safety JoJo Nicolas (lower extremity), senior fullback Patrick Hill (ankle) Probable – junior kicker Matt Bosher (illness), junior offensive lineman Joel Figueroa (upper extremity)
Canes edge past Deacs November 1, 2009 It was another nail-biter in the Atlantic Coast Conference as No. 16 Miami came back to beat unranked Wake Forest 28-27 in Winston-Salem. I was in Austin, Texas for a newspaper conference with the rest of the staff from The Miami Hurricane, and our big group got to watch the final 17 minutes or so at Champion’s Sports Bar. Although we all were happy with the end result, it wasn’t a satisfying victory. But still, a win’s a win, especially after two seasons in which the Canes have finished on three- and four-game losing streaks, respectively. • Miami’s secondary continues to struggle. The Demon Deacons combined for 408 yards passing and 555 total yards of offense. Senior quarterback Riley Skinner picked apart a defense missing sophomore linebacker Sean Spence. • Junior Matt Bosher continues to dominate in the punting game. Opponents are either downed in the end zone or stopped from returning the ball. Four times the ball was fair caught or downed inside the 20, plus two were over 50 yards. • Jacory Harris continues to bounce back from interceptions. Although he still leads the league in the category, he threw for over 300 yards and three touchdowns. •
Completing a first down on fourth and 16 with the game on the line is no small feat. Harris found sophomore wide receiver Aldarius Johnson, and sophomore Travis Benjamin made up for a drop with the diving, game-winning touchdown with a little over a minute left.
• Sophomore cornerback Brandon Harris struggled. It was overdue after his amazing statistic in pass deflections. He got beat on several deep balls, and junior cornerback DeMarcus Van Dyke was called for several holding calls. • Jim Grobe’s team controlled the clock and deserved better. With Skinner out, the team played to “not lose.”
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• John Lovett and the defense need to improve on its third-down coverage. For the second consecutive game an opponent was better than 50 percent. Other things to take away from this game: The Hurricanes were able to come back on the road despite playing poorly. Before the gamewinning drive in the fourth quarter, Miami had only 10 yards in the second half. Although the defense allowed Wake to travel up and down the field it did cause four turnovers, including a muffed punt that led to an easy touchdown drive inside the five-yard line. This week is our homecoming game, and it’s against Virginia at noon. The Cavaliers are still ahead of us in the Coastal Division standings, but with a miraculous Georgia Tech conference loss and a victory on our part, we’re back in the driver’s seat. There’s still too much football left to be played, though. Let’s not get carried away.
Player quotes from 11/3 press conference November 4, 2009 After a 28-27 comeback in Winston-Salem Saturday, No. 16 Miam returns to Land Shark Stadium for its homecoming game against Virginia. Below are quotes from junior wide receiver Leonard Hankerson and junior cornerback DeMarcus Van Dyke. Look for head coach Randy Shannon’s and sophomore quarterback Jacory Harris’s tomorrow. Leonard Hankerson It brings that extra excitement because it’s homecoming and a lot of people should come out. The team that we’re playing, they’ll be like, ‘Oh, they scheduled us for homecoming’ so they’re going to have a little bit of anger because usually teams schedule lighter opponents for homecoming expecting a win. We know that because we’re not going to take any team lightly. We know that they’re going to come in and play hard. They’ve got a great defense, defensive scheme they run over there. It’s going to be a good game. We know that we’ve got to come out hard and score on the first drive of the game. We know that if we come out flat, anything can happen to us like last week. We’ve got to challenge ourselves. I know for me it’s very tough to play down to the level of your opponent. You can’t go in there expecting to win; not very excited warming up, it’s very flat. Everybody’s mindset changes because we know we want to win this game and not lose. We don’t want tot have that loss on our record. We’ve got to make plays. [on the blowout loss to close the OB] I remember it, but I don’t worry about it because it’s three years later. It’s going to be a different stadium, game, team, plus we work harder and there’s a different mentality to the team. DeMarcus Van Dyke [concern after 400+ passing yards] Not really. The only thing that matters is the W. They’ve got some great players. Riley Skinner is a great quarterback. I think we’re doing a great job of getting interceptions and doing our assignments.
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Our biggest concern is just getting those guys back that are injured right now like Ray Ray Armstrong and Sean Spence. Those guys are a great impact on our defense and can help us out. It was a big concern because we’re playing a great quarterback this week as well from Virginia. We’ve got to make the corrections and we’ll be alright. It’s homecoming this week? I didn’t know that. I know Virginia’s a great team. I just watched them on film and they have great receivers, big running backs. You never want to lose on homecoming so we just have to come out there and play ball. [on getting his first career INT] It was a long time. It was a team effort. Jared [Campbell], Randy Phillips and the defensive line for getting pressure to get the interception. It was real big. My eyes just got huge and I just got the ball. [muffed punt as turning point] That was one of the signs. The other sign was when we got the ball with two minutes left, and I have faith in Jacory [Harris] since high school when he drove by Deerfield in high school.
Shannon and Harris 11/3 quotes November 5, 2009 At Tuesday’s press conference head coach Randy Shannon talked injuries, while sophomore quarterback explained why he could care less about homecoming. Randy Shannon It’ll be a tremendous game for us because it’s at a different time and it’s homecoming and it’s a game where we have to come out and play really well due to the fact that Virginia is a team that goes out and plays hard. When they go in the red zone, they’re not giving up touchdowns; they’re giving up field goals. We’ve got to capitalize in the red zone and score touchdowns. They’ve got some weapons even though they’ve been banged up at quarterback. They do a good enough job to stay in some games. For us, we’ve just got to get better as whole units. We have some injuries right now, but it’s part of the game. We’re not the same team as we were in the beginning of the season. We’ve got some other guys on the team who have to step up, and as coaches we’ve got to grind them each and every day and teach them what we need to get done. It comes down to, this part of the season, it’s all about execution. [on one-hour practices now] Keep it fresh. Right now it’s all mental. They’ve got to be fresh and sharp. It’s going to be a lot of fast movement, moving around. That’s the type of team you see. They’re back to smash mouth football with play action and a lot of boots, a lot of short-passing game. Defensively they line up and play an eight-man front or man coverage all game. They’re just going to try and out-execute you. [on Ramon Buchanan] He did okay in the game. He did a nice job. He knows that he’s working to get to where he needs to be. He made a couple of tackles, made a couple of plays. It’s like anything as a coach. You want more out of him and he knows that and that’s why he came to Miami. [on tight end play] They’ve been doing a great job. Everybody’s talking about the 4th down
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play. If that tight end doesn’t protect like he did and came off late to help somebody else, we would’ve lost the game. It’s not just catching the ball; it’s what they’re doing to win us games. [on Tervaris Johnson] He is a surprise. He’s a big guy that is fast. It took him time to develop and grow. [He was] the MVP of the game last week. You take his catch, his block, his protection - that got us three TDs. Those were three vital points. You should’ve seen the spirit he had on the football field also. [on Jameel Sewell] If he’s feeling healthy he plays. You don’t really know until Thursday when you find out, or game time. You just have to prepare for what they do scheme-wise and have an idea of where he’s at because he can hurt you with his feet, running ability. [after giving up 500+ points to Wake] It’s a concern, but I worry about points. Seven points in the second half is big for a defense to give you a chance to win. [on Thearon Collier] Like anything that’s probably the one position of the football team that’s the healthiest and it’s the most productive. When you look at the depth there and the guys that are playing, they’re all making plays. When you’ve got a group that’s been like that, they’re making plays when they get the opportunity. [on Damien Berry] Good short-yardage goal-line runner for us. He’s been doing a good job for us. Damien’s been getting his opportunities and he’s capitalizing on them. We have confidence in him to get in the end zone and making yardage for us. Jacory Harris Of course I know that I can get better at things, but looking at this season we’ve come through with some big-time victories and I think that as long I’m playing to the point where our team can win, I just need to keep getting better individually and we’ll come up with better victories and not so many close games. I’m making little mistakes here or there but for the most part I’m doing okay. I don’t think any of the interceptions put us in real bad situations to the point where we couldn’t get out of them. A lot of it is because I go back with Coach [Mark] Whipple and we’ll see where I should’ve gone on certain passes. Just take a look at it and evaluate myself. We watch every throw, every game. Sometimes the wide receivers come through and we’ll watch it together. It’s been a common thing. The majority of them look the same, in the same blitz with the same coverage and the same routes. When we’re running something of that kind, just to make sure I do the opposite of what I’m doing. [last year’s Va. game] It was an exciting game, but I just feel like my team rallied behind me and we knew we had to come up with a victory and it was a big-time, key drive. We just worked our way down the field. We just executed it the right way. [final ob game] Yeah, 48-0, that was crazy. I didn’t get in until the 2nd quarter and it was already 21-0 because it was too crowded. Virginia had a good team that year and we made a couple of mistakes that year. It is a heartbreaking way to lose. I was just saying that I know those guys didn’t want that to happen, last game in the Orange
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Bowl because now that goes down in the history books and that’s not going to look too good. Teams come to fight every week. That’s what you play college football for so we expect nothing but their best. They’re the only team in the ACC that runs a 3-4 defense. That’s their base defense, and it’s something you see in the pros with the Pittsburgh Steelers. It’s going to be different and going to be a challenge. [on homecoming] I don’t really participate in any of the activities really. I don’t find them that fun. Everybody else has fun and I just sit in my room and watch TV. It’s going to be different but we played them last year. All the new guys should get adjusted well. It’s going to be in the middle of the sun, hopefully it doesn’t rain. As long as the weather permits we’ll have a good game. I’d like to get the ball to all of my receivers more, running backs. If I could throw it to the O-line I’d throw it to them because they want the ball more than anybody. I just want to continue doing what we’re doing. They understand that they’re going to get their chance like Thearon Collier. They know when it’s their time to shine. I’m very comfortable with them right now. They’re not a team that I have to go in the huddle and make a lot of noise and pump them up because they do that themselves. We communicate with each other and we’ve got good chemistry on and off the field. It’s nothing I’m worried about with this group. I feel like we’re playing down to a lot of our opponents’ talent. At the same time we’re doing enough to get by. We need to come out as hard as we do during practice. Game time we might slack off a little bit, slow the pace down sometimes. We need to pick it back up. We need to go back to how we started off the year. You have some injuries and stuff like that, but that all comes with the game so the next person needs to come in the game and get through everything. We have depth at every position. Everybody’s mature about everything. We handle everything well. We’re just a team that’s very focused and go out there and have fun. Here at the University of Miami the fans expect nothing but the best and in Miami when you’re losing games, they just don’t like that. I don’t know how the fans see our season going and we wish we could’ve been 8-0, but we’re 6-2 and we still have a long season ahead of us and need to keep winning games. People always mess with me and tell me I’m too skinny for this, too skinny for that but I’ve survived this far taking hits. You’ve just got to be tough. I’ll have to say that one when I hurt my elbow first game. Little Greg Reid.
Canes celebrate homecoming November 6, 2009 Talk this week has been monopolized by injuries, homecoming and the final Orange Bowl game that Virginia blew out Miami in 48-0.
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Head coach Randy Shannon and the players emphasized that this is a different team with different players, coaches and a new stadium. Miami stats • Sophomore corner Brandon Harris (2nd nationally in passes defended) and senior offensive lineman Jason Fox were both named midseason All-Americans.
• Junior defensive lineman Allen Bailey has recorded two sacks in two consecutive games.
• Junior Matt Bosher is second in the Atlantic Coast Conference with 42.3 yards per punt, and he continues to acquire fair catches inside the 20. • Sophomore Jacory Harris was named a semifinalist for the Davey O’Brien Award given to the nation’s best quarterback. • Shannon was named to the 2009 Paul “Bear” Bryant Award watch list given to the best coach in the nation. • Miami is the only BCS conference team in the nation with three 300-yard rushers (Javarris James, Graig Cooper, Damien Berry) and four 200-yard receivers (Leonard Hankerson, Travis Benjamin, LaRon Byrd, Thearon Collier). Series stats
• Miami leads the series 4-2
• This will be the first meeting ever at Land Shark Stadium.
• Last year then-backup quarterback Harris led the Hurricanes to a 24-17 overtime victory.
Virginia stats • At 3-5 (2-2 ACC), the Cavs are coming off back-to-back ACC losses at home. Before that UVa had one three in a row following a three-game skid. • Robert Randolph is the league’s most efficient kicker with 13 of 14 field goals made. Punter Jimmy Howell averages 40.2 yards a kick. • Virginia has one of the top passing defenses in the country, which should bring up the most intriguing matchup of the game. Mark Whipple’s offense vs. the Cavs’ stingy D. • To combat that D, the Hurricanes must spread the ball around. In all six wins this season, Harris has found at least eight different receivers. • Quarterback Jameel Sewell is a double-threat, but he’s been hindered by injuries. He has 1,347 yards and six touchdowns and six interceptions.
• Running backs Rashawn Jackson and Mikell Simpson provide a formidable duo.
What’s at stake? • Miami already qualified for a bowl game, but the ACC championship is still a possibility. The catch? No. 10 Georgia Tech, which is on fire, must lose to either Wake Forest or Duke. • Over the past two seasons, Shannon’s teams have been 0-7 over their last seven games combined, with losing streak of four and three, respectively. • It’s the homecoming game, which means that family and alumni will be there. This is a game a team isn’t expected to lose, but should breeze through. Unfortunately, five of the six games have been close in the series.
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• The Canes MUST start off quickly. They cannot wait until the second half to get into gear.
• This will be the earliest start time for Miami. In its only other afternoon games (at 3:30), the team has two losses (Clemson and Virginia Tech) and a comeback victory over Wake Forest. • According to Shannon, only three linebackers will play tomorrow with Sean Spence’s injury. Last week the Canes had trouble defending the pass as the Deacs collected more then 400 passing yards and over 500 total yards. Injury report Probable - Running back Javarris James (lower extremity), safety Randy Phillips (torn labrum) Doubtful - Eric Moncur (groin) Out - safety Ray Ray Armstrong (lower extremity), fullback Patrick Hill (ankle), safety Jojo Nicolas (upper extremity) and linebacker Sean Spence (lower extremity).
Sweet, sweet revenge November 7, 2009 It must’ve been a sign for Virginia (3-6, 2-3) before the game when starting quarterback Jameel Sewell was ruled out with a shoulder injury. For the No. 16 Miami Hurricanes (7-2, 4-2) , it felt good to avenge the 48-0 loss in the final Orange Bowl game two years ago. And it was homecoming. 52-17. Here are things to take from today: • The Hurricanes’ defense started off pumped after giving up 500+ yards to Wake Forest. From the get-go linebacker Colin McCarthy and defensive lineman Olivier Vernon were swarming the ball. • Whoever thought that the punt formation we’ve been using was smart? Matt Bosher had another two punts blocked, one which was returned for a touchdown. • Holy cow, Thearon Collier! For the second time this season he returned a punt for a touchdown. This time it was for 60 yards after plenty of missed tackles and two amazing blocks from teammates. It’s been a highlight reel (as predicted) all day. •
Running back Damien Berry is the go-to man in the red zone. He scored another two touchdowns. Berry’s also a ham. Not only did he dance the Cupid Shuffle with fellow students a few pep rallies ago, but he could be found doing the C-A-N-E-S chant before a kickoff today. That is, when he wasn’t busy making tackles on special teams too.
• Don’t mess with Jacory Harris. That’s what a Cavalier defender did by tackling him and ripping off his helmet, and then receiving an unsportsmanlike penalty. The crowd awoke from its slumber and began cheering and cursing together. It woke up the Cane offense. • Thirteen different players caught a pass. If that doesn’t spell depth I don’t know what does. It’s a shame about those two losses. I’d say Miami has one of the more complete offenses in the country, at least in the skills positions. • Running back Graig Cooper had a career day. It’s kind of funny/sad that the two backups - Berry and Lee Chambers - usually overshadow Coop and Javarris James.
• Jared Campbell has stepped up with more playing time. Maybe I’m just biased because
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he’s a fellow School of Communication major and was in a class of mine, but he’s been making plays with Ray Ray Armstrong and Jojo Nicolas out. Plus, Randy Phillips still has a broken forearm, no?
• It doesn’t look like Sean Spence or Armstrong will be back any time soon. It’s not a pleasant thought considering how hard the two hit. • Up this week is North Carolina. Before the season I predicted a loss, but I sincerely hope that’s not the case. Former UM coach Butch Davis is at home in Chapel Hill. • Georgia Tech almost lost tonight. The Demon Deacons nearly pulled the upset. I thought it was a sure thing when the graphic showed over 44 years since their last win over a top-10 opponent…Oh well, let’s go Duke! *28 unanswered points. It was 24-17 at the half. But that’s all she wrote for UVa
School, football and Veterans Day November 11, 2009 First off, I’d like to wish everyone a Happy Veterans Day. To all of those in the armed services, thank you for what you do. It’s truly admirable. In the second set of updates, I’m sorry that there are no direct quotes from yesterday’s press conference. I had to go to class and then leave it early for a one-on-one interview with University of Miami baseball coach Jim Morris. But, here is the link to Randy Shannon’s and Jacory Harris’s quotes, plus some game notes for this Saturday’s ACC test against North Carolina. Stay tuned to my blog as I’ll have my usual game preview. Can you believe there are only three regular season games left?!?!
Hurricanes look to win in a sea of Carolina Blue November 13, 2009 No. 12 Miami has never won in Chapel Hill, N.C. The Hurricanes (7-2, 4-2) have also lost three in a row to the North Carolina Tar Heels (6-3, 2-3). Head coach Randy Shannon’s team hopes to shake things up on Saturday afternoon with one last go at a potential spot in the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game. Except for the fact that Duke needs to upset Georgia Tech at home. It’s out of Miami’s hands because of a loss to Clemson last month. The Canes cannot control their own destinies, and instead must rely on the Dukies (cue my really bad Dick Vitale accent). Below are a few matchups to look out for in this ACC Coastal Division game. UM’s passing attack vs. UNC’s pass defense Former UM head coach Butch Davis’s pass D ranks fifth nationally. But then again, it hasn’t seen a team that boasts 12+ receivers catching balls in the same game. Look for quarterback Jacory Harris to find his tight ends - Jimmy Graham, Dedrick Epps and Tervaris Johnson - often, as well as big-play receivers like Leonard Hankerson and Travis Benjamin. Cornerback Charles Brown and safety Deunta Williams lead the Carolina Blue with three
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interceptions each, and as we all know, J12 rarely goes a game without a pick. If Harris starts airmailing passes early on to give a struggling UNC offense good field position, it might get ugly on the road for the orange and green. UM’s rushing attack vs. UNC’s rushing defense Linebacker Quan Sturdivant is the team leader with 59 tackles for a unit that ranks eighth nationally. Defensive lineman Robert Quinn is third on the team with 41 tackles. Running back Graig Cooper is coming off a career-high 152 yards against Virginia last week. Plus, Damien Berry has scored a touchdown in each of the last five games since receiving more playing time against Florida A&M. If the Canes can run the ball on the Tar Heels, it will open the play action up for Harris. UM’s defense vs. UNC’s offense Once again injuries are aplenty for the Hurricane D. Out are safeties Jojo Nicolas and Ray Ray Armstrong. The defensive line, which has been depleted all season long, might be without veteran Eric Moncur. Quarterback T.J. Yates has the lowest passing efficiency in the league and the fewest passing yards per game (142.0). Running back Shaun Draughn, who led the team with 567 yards, is out for the season. Ryan Houston will see the bulk of the carries and has scored seven touchdowns on the season. Intangibles Miami is riding high after romping Virginia for a 52-17 payback on homecoming. North Carolina has won three of four in a rather underachieving season. Will Matt Bosher be able to get a punt off? Or will there be another block thanks to an unconventional and unsuccessful punting scheme? Will Thearon Collier return another punt for a touchdown? Before the season began I predicted a UM loss. I really don’t know what to expect on Saturday, but I’m sure the UNC defense will keep it close. I mean, that’s what the ACC is all about, right? Let’s go Duke!!!!
Turnovers will kill you; Harris proves my theory true November 14, 2009 I didn’t want it to be the case, I promise. I’m typing this while wearing a Jacory Harris jersey. But four turnovers on the road will kill you, especially in a place (Chapel Hill) where you’ve never won. I had been saying it all week long. North Carolina (7-3, 3-3) has a very good defense. It’s easily the best one Miami (7-3, 4-3) has faced all season. The defensive line provided pressure and forced Harris to throw into coverage. Cornerback Kendric Burney collected three of Harris’s four interceptions. He seemed to be in the right place at the right time all the time. Harris was throwing little rainbows to the secondary. Earlier in the day ESPNU was airing last year’s matchup between the Tar Heels and Hurricanes. Robert Marve was the quarterback then. On the final play of the game he zipped a nice ball to a receiver who deflected it into the arms of a UNC defender to end the game. Brian Griese (doesn’t he sound just like his dad) and the other guy continually remarked on Harris’s soft tosses. That will be the key to his progression into next season. Can J12 learn to zip
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the ball in there? If he does, the offense will be all the more better because of it. On a similar note, what was with all the long passes? And two picks returned for touchdowns? Ouch. On the North Carolina side of the ball, I salute T.J. Yates. He controlled that first half on great play calling by the Tar Heel coaches. He came in with the lowest passer rating and fewest yards in the Atlantic Coast Conference, but he didn’t turn the ball over. He played smart football. And down the stretch Ryan Houston was dangerous. His will to push forward for the first down made the Hurricanes defense look really bad. Oh, and Casey Barth? He’s money. Nine straight field goals made isn’t too shabby at all. Solid kicker for a team that continues to get better with former UM head coach Butch Davis. Being a second-half team finally caught up with Miami. The Hurricanes need to learn to start off strong instead of waiting a bit before getting in a groove. Next week is Duke, which got beat pretty badly by No. 7 Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets (10-1, 7-1) clinched the Coastal Division with the 49-10 victory. The Hurricanes host the Blue Devils (5-5, 3-3) Saturday at noon. Quarterback Thaddeus Lewis and a number of other players grew up in the Miami area, so it’ll be interesting to see who comes ready to play. Here are other interesting things to mention: • Damien Berry scored another touchdown and was explosive for the Canes. He has scored in six consecutive games. It’s good to see him succeeding and gaining even more playing time. • Jimmy Graham picked up his fifth touchdown of the season, but he also showed a few mishaps by getting turned around on balls thrown by Harris. “Liger” needs to practice some karaoke drills… •
Matt Bosher can do it all. After starting off the season with two missed field goals (against Ga. Tech, right?) and receiving a break from kickoff duties, he has been dead on. His kicks today were solid. Plus, he ran like Forrest Gump on that fake punt for a key first down.
• I tried this tactic earlier in the year and it worked, so here goes again. I’d like to report a missing player. Would Aldarius Johnson please step up? • Leonard Hankerson showed flashes of his old self with dropped passes. But he did come back and make some key catches in response.
• I rarely heard Robert Quinn’s name, which is a good thing for the UM offensive line.
• Time management. Before the end of the first half. One timeout left. It was reminiscent of the Cal bowl game last year.Cal • Off the top of my head and without any stats (they’re not available yet), the Hurricanes did a good job of staying away from penalties. Maybe that’s why this game wasn’t in our favor…Just kidding, of course!
This goes out to all the seniors November 19, 2009 Can you believe that it’s already the final home game of the college football season for
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No. 21 Miami? As the oldies prepare for Senior Day a little before noon on Saturday, I’m sure they’re all asking what could have been. Maybe a better four-year period of football from one of the top all-time programs? The Class of 2010 has had to suffer through 7-6, 5-7 and 7-6 seasons. Alas, this weekend’s matchup pits the Hurricanes (7-3, 4-3) against the Duke Blue Devils (5-5, 3-3) in a game that means nothing more in an already-decided Coastal Division. It does, however, serve big implications for both teams in terms of bowls. If the Dukies win, they qualify for a bowl game with six victories. Miami must win out to assure itself a decent bowl, and to stay in the top 25. Tune in to 90.5 FM, or wvum.org Friday from 6-7 p.m. as I’ll be on Ibis Sports Weekly to talk Hurricane sports! Here are things to note for the game:
• This isn’t your mom and dad’s Duke football team that used to go winless.
• Quarterback Thaddeus Lewis returns home for family and friends with the ninth-best passing unit in the nation (297 ypg). He, along with Riley Skinner of Wake Forest, who gave the Hurricane secondary trouble, are among the ACC’s best quarterbacks. • Attendance is going to be BAD on Saturday. I saw a commercial on WSVN 7 today, and that never happens. Plus, lower-bowl and end zone seats are being sold for just $19. •
At today’s pep rally, there was hardly anyone there. With three losses and the hope of an ACC championship dashed yet again, not even free Chipotle or Power Pizza could hook people in. Oh, and those “U Invented Swagger” shirts? Not flying off the shelves anymore.
• The punt game will miss injured returner Thearon Collier.
• Can Aldarius Johnson please show up? Supposedly the most talented of the deepest receiving corp, he has been a no-show as Leonard Hankerson (whose old self showed up against North Carolina) has stepped up. • Which Jacory Harris will show up? With an injured hand, will Randy Shannon be more inclined to yank him if he’s struggling for true freshman A.J. Highsmith? • Last year’s meeting was a high-scoring affair in Durham when Harris, then a backup, led the Canes back to victory. They have won the last five meetings, dating back to 1976. • Don’t expect Duke to run the ball. With three receivers averaging over 50 yards a game, Lewis has the talent surrounding him. The key is for the defensive line to provide pressure and help Brandon Harris and DeMarcus Van Dyke.
• Will this game be reminiscent of the Virginia or Clemson game? That is the question.
INJURY REPORT Safety Vaughn Telemaque (shoulder) and linebacker Sean Spence (leg) are game-time decisions. Safety Ray Ray Armstrong (leg) and quarterback Jacory Harris (hand) are expected to play. Cornerback Sam Shields (leg), fullback Patrick Hill (ankle), running back Lee Chambers (leg) and receiver/punt returner Thearon Collier (leg) are out.
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Miami vs. Duke recap November 21, 2009 It looked like the North Carolina game all over again through three quarters. That is until running back Damien Berry went into the game and catalyzed No. 20 Miami’s offense for three touchdowns (one an interception return for a TD) in the final 15 minutes. Although the final score was 34-16, it was a lot closer between the Canes (8-3, 5-3) and the Duke Blue Devils (5-6, 3-4), who were looking to make their first bowl game since 1994. In the final regular season game the Hurricanes travel to Tampa to face South Florida (7-3, 3-3 BIG EAST). Representatives of the Chick-Fil-A Bowl and Champs Sports Bowl were present in the press box. • Once again Miami got off to a slow start. Clearly the orange and green don’t like these early games. And play down to the opponent. • Leonard Hankerson had a career-high eight catches and 143 yards (and a touchdown). #85 is clearly the surprise of this receiving corp, shedding his reputation of dropped balls. •
Berry is now officially the fan favorite. On the drive that began toward the end of the third quarter and was then capped in the fourth on a two-yard touchdown run, fans chanted his last name. He has now scored in each of the last seven games (eight TDs overall to lead the team).
Jacory Harris bounced back from an early interception, and got lucky that several other balls weren’t picked off, to finish with 348 yards and two touchdowns despite having his right thumb taped up. The boos erupted from the stands during the second quarter and continued into halftime.
• Senior linebacker Darryl Sharpton’s 73-yard pick six sealed the victory on Senior Day. He was a classmate of mine at Coral Gables Senior High and was getting beat all day before making up for it with the score. • Attendance at the game was a measly 38,200, which was generous. A full section in the end zone to the right of the students was empty. Turning point: When Will Snyderwine missed a 31-yard field goal with 10:13 left in the fourth quarter and the Hurricanes leading 20-16. Tidbits
• Harris surpassed Ken Dorsey for ninth all-time in single-season passing yards.
• With 3,003 yards this season, he is the seventh Miami quarterback with a 3,000-yard season and the first since Dorsey in 2002. • Senior quarterback Thaddeus Lewis (of HML), in front of family and friends, passed for 303 yards and is now the school’s all-time leader in passing yardage with 9,678. • Receiver Donovan Varner caught eight passes for a career-high 165 yards and a touchdown for the Blue Devils. • Duke has now lost 55 straight road games against ranked opponents, dating back to October 1971.
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Series: Miami went into the game as a three-touchdown favorite despite the last three games being close.
11/24 Press conference quotes November 25, 2009 So yesterday was the final regular season midweek press conference. Below are excerpts from senior offensive lineman and Tampa native A.J. Trump and junior kicker Matt Bosher. A.J. Trump [on USF] They’ve started to do good things and they have been for a few years now. It’s going to be big. I heard that it’s close to getting sold out and that stadium [Raymond James] will get loud. I’ve been there before. It’s going to be fun. [importance of winning this game] You look at 10 wins is where we want to be. 10-3 is our goal. Our goal started as a national title then ACC title then BCS. I can’t afford to lose any more goals. I want to be a part of the team that helped start the turnaround. Ten wins going into next year and hopefully these guys will be ranked in the top 25 and make a run. For the seniors as their legacy they want to be part of the team that helped turn it around. [Senior Day] I stayed out a little while longer, went to see my family on the field, climbed the stands a bit. I’m going to miss it, going to miss our fans. I don’t think it really hit me yet. It hasn’t really sunk in yet. Give me a couple of months and then I’ll be like, ‘Damn, I wish I would’ve gotten me a piece of the field.’ I’ll find a way. Matt Bosher [on making tackles] I know I’ve had a couple but the kickoff team’s done a good job this year of getting downfield and making plays. [bouncing back from those two early missed FGs] Making sure I focus on every kick at hand whether it’s an extra point, short field goal, long field goal. Take every kick one at a time and make sure I focus hard on each one. [due to not taking kickoffs?] I was always involved in the game. I was punting too. It wasn’t necessarily what I wasn’t doing, I just didn’t focus. I kind of took it for granted, wish I could take it back. I just have to look forward to this coming week and take each kick one at a time. [punting] That was a big focus this offeseaosn with Coach [Joe] Pannunzio and Coach Shannon getting a lot more consistent on punts. Last year I had some struggles, got everything under control and made sure I got focused and fundamentals right so I could do what they asked whenever they asked. I think the whole team’s been doing very well. A lot of people expected us to not do as much as we did at the beginning, and I feel like we worked hard this season. I’m looking forward to playing in a good bowl game, but we’ve got to focus on playing USF and getting a good win out of them. This year we’re finishing out very strong, little slip-up here and there, but for the most part the team’s been a really strong team. We’ve been competitive with everybody and we played a lot of good teams. I feel like this team’s a lot more mature and we play a lot more as a team and not as individuals. [importance of winning final regular season game] It’s a huge confidence-builder going into a
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bowl game. You end with a win and it’s a huge perk to a long season. It’s rewarding. A good state of mind. You’re on a roll. You won a couple of games in a row and ready to go into a bowl game against a team you probably haven’t played before. I believe we can definitely improve form here. This team is growing. Coach Shannon’s done a great job since he’s been here getting the best players in the country here. I can’t wait to be here for another year. Hopefully it’s going to be an amazing year. Thankful for my family and friends, the ability to be here at the University of Miami. It’s a great school, great city, and I’m happy to be here.
Nike Pro Combat gloves
Nike Pro Combat uniform
It’s going to be fun. I think everybody’s looking forward to it. I think those new uniforms look pretty amazing. They’re just different. It’s a little bit of a curveball than anybody else has and there are cool reasonings behind the design that everybody likes. [favorite is] The gloves, and I was reading how everything is kind of focused on the back of the uniform saying everybody is behind us, we’re faster than everybody else. That’s pretty unique. Trump I can’t wait. I saw Florida State’s last week and they looked pretty cool, not to complement them or anything. I’m excited, I’m jacked. People are saying I need to get them a pair of gloves, but they’re mine. I like the gloves. They’ll probably be personal fouls with us throwing up the U. Hopefully that won’t happen. That’s going to help us get going, we’ll all be looking good. [on preventing personal foul calls because of the U] I’m sure Coach [Randy] Shannon will be on the guys. He knows. He will probably nip it in the bud. There’s going to be urges, trust me.
Miami vs. South Florida preview November 27, 2009 Could this be the start of a new in-state rivalry?
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Although it’s just the second meeting between No. 17 Miami and South Florida (the other game was a 27-7 UM win in 2005), the Hurricanes (8-3) and Bulls (7-3) are expected to see more of each other in the future, unlike those chicken Gators… Attendance at Raymond James Stadium expects to be at capacity (65,857) and plenty of former high school teammates and rivals will face each other on the college football gridiron. USF is very much a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde team. With blowout losses to ranked Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, the Bulls got solid victories against Florida State and West Virginia, but were shutout 31-0 to Rutgers! Which team will show up? Below is a list of things to look out for. • Junior running back Damien Berry will be asked to wear down the Bull defense on Saturday much like he has since seeing playing time against Florida A&M. The question is will it make much of a difference if the weather is cooler and his opponents are Florida boys? •
Who will lead the offensive line and protect sophomore quarterback Jacory Harris with senior midseason All-American Jason Fox out with an illness? Battles are won in the trenches, and with the speedy defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul the top sacker for USF, the O-line must step up.
Miami’s defense has gotten the job done of late. Despite giving up some big yardage in the air (see Wake Forest and Duke), both of their offenses failed to score down the home stretch. Senior Day was capped by senior linebacker Darryl Sharpton’s 73-yard interception return. It was a welcome relief to a John Lovett defense not creating enough turnovers or key plays.
• There’s no doubt that redshirt freshman quarterback B.J. Daniels is USF’s offense. He is the leading passer (1,529) and rusher (671) after taking over for Matt Grothe, who suffered a season-ending injury. Linebackers Colin McCarthy (83) and Sharpton (79) must continue to be the tackle machines they’ve been this season and keep an eye on Daniels. Head coach Randy Shannon said that sophomore Sean Spence would see more action this weekend. • Although Harris leads the ACC with 3,003 passing yards and is second with 21 touchdowns, USF’s defense has picked off quarterbacks 12 times. Harris is (still is?) second in the nation in interceptions (17). • The Hurricanes are a second-half team. They’re never awake in the first half, sadly. Miami has outscored opponents 205-107 in the final 30 minutes. OTHER USF PLAYERS TO WATCH
• Linebacker Kion Wilson - 91 tackles, 8.5 for a loss, one interception
• Safety Nate Allen - 64 tackles, four interceptions
• Wide receivers Dontavia Bogan and Carlton Mitchell each have four touchdowns
INJURY REPORT Sophomore running back Lee Chambers (lower extremity), sophomore wide receiver Thearon Collier (ankle) and senior corner Sam Shields (lower extremity) were upgraded to PROBABLE
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Canes squash ‘rival’ Bulls November 28, 2009 Maybe those new Nike Pro Combat uniforms won’t be for one game after all? I know it’s not going to happen, but with the way No. 17 Miami played against South Florida tonight, in a supposed “budding” rivalry, it wouldn’t be a bad thing to make a fashion faux pas and repeat the uniform. The Hurricanes (9-3) executed one of their more complete performances of the season against the Bulls (7-4) for a 31-10 victory, crazy enough of a thought considering they played without midseason All-American offensive lineman Jason Fox. That and the fact that sophomore quarterback Jacory Harris threw for a season second-worst 161 yards passing. But the defense forced two B.J. Daniels turnovers on the road in Tampa - a fumble and interception - and gave up just one bad drive during the game, which came in the first possession of the second half. Although the Canes won’t be traveling back up to Raymond James Stadium this coming week for the ACC Championship game, Miami has a lot to be proud of to wrap up the regular season. Instead of folding after the tough loss at North Carolina, UM outscored Duke and South Florida 65-26. Unlike the past two seasons, the Canes won four of their last five games. The team also has its first chance at a 10-win season since 2003. And a decent bowl game thanks to the impressive victory over a good Big EAST team in what was to be a close game. • Junior running back Damien Berry collected 114 yards on a 9.5 average, but failed to score a touchdown for the first time in eight games. • The Hurricane defensive line was able to create pressure often (sometimes making the initial tackle and sometimes not) with the help of freshman Olivier Vernon and junior Allen Bailey. •
Unlike all of this season, Miami started off quick with two short first-quarter touchdown runs by senior running back Javarris James. The bigger surprise? UM outscoring USF only 10-7 in the second half after coming into the game outscoring opponents 205-107 in the final 30 minutes.
• You know that passing isn’t the focus when the team lead was a three-way tie of two catches by senior tight end Dedrick Epps, junior wide receiver Leonard Hankerson and freshman fullback Mike James. • What was with all of those false start penalties for both teams? Poor junior kicker Matt Bosher lost 10 yards on his 32-yarder during the fourth quarter. • The first and fourth quarters almost paralleled each other in terms of time possession with all the running (240) the Hurricanes did. Finally, Mark Whipple! USF has a weak rush defense. •
Senior linebacker Darryl Sharpton must realize his collegiate career is almost over as he led the team with 12 tackles (senior safety Randy Phillips was second with six) and a forced fumble in USF territory early on. Junior linebacker Colin McCarthy now trails in the tackle total by three.
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• Jason Pierre-Paul and George Selvie? Who? Great job by the O-line! Harris was sacked just once, but did have that scary shot at him after releasing the ball halfway through…
We’re going to Disney World! December 7, 2009
Class of 2009 football team at awards ceremony
So tonight was the University of Miami football team’s award ceremony in correlation with the bowl game announcement. It was the first time the public was invited to the event. In case you haven’t heard, No. 14 Miami (9-3) will take on Big Ten opponent and No. 24 Wisconsin (9-3) in the Champs Sports Bowl in Orlando at 8 p.m. Dec. 29, on ESPN. Before the ceremony, players, coaches and fans alike pretty much knew it would be this bowl. And they weren’t complaining. Senior offensive lineman Matt Pipho proclaimed, along with me, that “We’re going to Disney World!” This will be a great chance for the UM crowd to show up big, less than four hours away by car. Let’s go on the Florida Turnpike, shall we?! The entire team was there, at the Gusman Concert Hall on campus. It was a nice change to see the players dressed up with their families. I even bumped into offensive coordinator Mark Whipple when I was walking back to my car, and told him a job well done so far this season. In his true form he said that there was still one game to go. Emphasis on the night: • Head coach Randy Shannon’s tenure will be for a long time. Everyone seemed pleased with his job.
• There was a lot of talk on the great job done academically.
• All of the seniors seemed humbled - from Jimmy Graham to Joe Joseph
• This team could win 10 wins and catapult itself into the top 10 for prime position at a national championship for my senior year… • The players can be just as bad as girls sometimes, giggling at inside jokes (lol). And a meow for two of their teammates after an award?! • The highlight video was pretty awesome, but where were the Clemson, Virginia Tech and North Carolina games?! Hmm…Everyone got really involved with it, with plenty of oohhs and ahhs.
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• Make no mistake about it: Vaughn Telemaque or Ray-Ray Armstrong will win hardest hitter in the future. They just need to stay healthy. • The Band of the Hour did a good job performing several times. It’s a shame none of us really know the lyrics to the Alma Mater… In terms of awards, below is the list. Major props to senior linebacker Darryl Sharpton winning the defensive MVP. He went to high school with me at Coral Gables.
1. Jack Harding Award MVP goes to Darryl Sharpton on defense
2. Jack Harding Award MVP goes to Jason Fox for offense
3. Newcomer of the Year Award goes to Mike James
4. Albert Bentley Most Valuable Walk-On Award goes to Chris Ivory
5. Walt Kichefski Hurricane Award - Commitment, Consistency, Work Ethic goes to Sam Shields
6. Nick Chickillo Most Improved Player goes to Matt Pipho
7. Strength Training Athlete of the Year goes to Allen Bailey
8. Special Teams Player of the Year goes to Matt Bosher
9. Hard Hitter Award goes to Darryl Sharpton!
10. Scout Team Player of the Year goes to Cory Nelms & Spencer Whipple
11. Hurricane Media “Good Guy” Award goes to Randy Phillips & Jacory Harris
12. Training Room Comeback Player of the Year goes to Dedrick Epps & Colin McCarthy
13. Community Service Man of the Year Award goes to Ryan Hill & Chavez Grant
14. UM Sports Hall of Fame Unsung Hero goes to Tervaris Johnson
15. Melching Leadership Award goes to Javarris James & Joe Joseph
16. Plumer Award for Leadership, Motivation & Spirit goes to Randy Phillips
17. Mariutto Family Scholarship Award for Academic Excellence goes to Jake Byrne
“I’d love to go anywhere in Florida just to be near all of our fans. It was a little surreal at first when I got in there, but when it was all said and done it flashed by. It was great.” “You saw them. Obviously we’ll have new uniforms for the home game.” -senior scout team wide receiver Kris Kimball “Definitely a rental, I think.” -Pipho on Sebastian the Ibis’ suit
It’s all about the ‘U’ December 11, 2009 Can Miami book a trip to the Fiesta Bowl and please win a football national championship next season? I mean, it’s the least the team can do for my senior year, right? Last night while watching a sneak preview of “The U,” which was directed by UM alumnus Billy Corben, that’s all I could think about. And I’m sure that’s what everyone else in the Bill Cosford Cinema was thinking too. It was ironic that ESPN Films picked up the documentary before this year’s media coverage began about “swagger” and the “U being back.” It’s almost as if they saw the revitalization of
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the program before anyone else, even those of us in Coral Gables. But the thing is, these players aren’t like Randal “Thrill” Hill or Melvin Bratton. They don’t start fights and practice celebration dances that the stiff-shirted NCAA bans (and leads to a record 202 penalty yards in a 46-3 victory over Texas in the Cotton Bowl). Head coach Randy Shannon’s group of boys may come from the same neighborhoods as the legendary 80s players did, but luckily there’s not the same political environment taking place in the city. Oh, and just the other day the program received notice as a recipient of the American Football Coaches Association’s 2009 Academic Achievement Award. Guess the co-winner. Take one shot. None other than bitter rival (from the film’s focus days), Notre Dame. As a film, of course there are better. But if you’re a fan or hater of all things orange and green, it’s sure to entertain you. Wide receiver LaRon Byrd sat behind me at the screening, and being a big fan of Michael Irvin (that’s why he wears No. 47), he seemed moved on his Facebook status afterward…enough to win next year? Inspire his teammates? Hopefully so. I can guarantee you one thing: As you finish watching the documentary that followed Tim Tebow crying again (Thanks for that line, Corben!), you’ll want to download the U song by Uncle Luke and Honor Roll Music. Some (semi-SPOILER-filled) highlights from the film are below. For more information on the film, visit: http://30for30.espn.com/film/the-u.html • Anything Lamar Thomas says is gold, including comments about keeping track of girls after the 1991 national championship and the Florida Gators being too chicken to play UM.
• Bernie Kosar. You will see what I mean on Saturday night.
• Everyone, especially the students, were shocked to hear Shannon’s name mentioned with the scandal that got the program in big trouble and in need of a disciplinarian (Butch Davis). • Can we revive the 1980s short jerseys that showed the players’ stomachs? Clearly it worked during the decade…And it’s the final year for students born in the decade! • You thought learning “Single Ladies” dance moves was fun? DVR the film and rewind to some of the unbelievable celebrations the boys came up with.
Road to the Champs Sports Bowl December 21, 2009 This will be just a quick update since the last time I posted a blog. I will be attending the Champs Sports Bowl in Orlando come December 29. But not as a spectator. It’s all about the media! I’m heading up with my aunt and brother, who will not be attending the game. Maybe we’ll bump into the team at a theme park… Who knows? • Senior offensive lineman Jason Fox recently had surgery on a “lower extremity” and will miss his final game as a Hurricane, finishing with 47 career starts.
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• Junior Orlando Franklin and freshman Brandon Washington will be called upon to help out on the left (and blind) side of the line to protect Jacory Harris. • Offensive line help for the future is on its way: St. Thomas Aquinas seniors Brandon Linder (6-6, 290, 3rd best center in the country) and Jermaine Barton (6-7, 290) committed to the U on Sunday. • Friday’s practice was canceled due to the weather - more than 24 hours straight of rain and tornado warnings. Today (Monday) the team had a walk-through practice. • The team leaves on Christmas to Orlando where it will have several practices, go to Islands of Adventure at Universal and attend bowl game-related events. Stay tuned later this week for a preview of the bowl game.
Champs Sports Bowl preview December 27, 2009 Two days. In two days, we shall see if No. 14 Miami is on its way back to the top. With a win, the Hurricanes (9-3) will have their first 10-win season since 2003. With a win, they will more than likely start next season in the top 10. With a win, I can feel slightly more optimistic for a national championship my senior year. But don’t underestimate No. 24 Wisconsin. The Badgers (9-3) have freshman All-American offensive linemen that block for John Clay and his 1,396 yards rushing. He averages 116.3 yards a game and collected 16 touchdowns. Not too shabby for a team that also has a quarterback, Scott Tolzien, with 2,445 yards and 16 touchdowns. However, he was susceptible to picks with 10. Keys to the game • Can the Hurricanes jump on the board quickly? They’ve been a second-half team too often, and since Wisconsin is a first-half team, it’ll be interesting to see if either can play a complete • Will the Canes finally cause turnovers? They have only eight interceptions on the season. Will Jacory Harris stay away from all of those interceptions? Will his thumb bother him? • The weather is going to be cold, for teams in the state of Florida standards. As long as it doesn’t rain (a la Virginia Tech game), it shouldn’t be too bad for the U. • Stop the run. As battered as the defensive line has been, Clay can help keep Mark Whipple’s offense off the field, which wouldn’t be good. • The seniors - Darryl Sharpton, Joe Joseph, Randy Phillips, etc. - need to step up for their final game in orange and green. Oh, and Matt Pipho as well as the rest of the O-line? Make Jason Fox proud. Tidbits • Junior wide receiver Leonard Hankerson said that he’s 80 percent decided upon whether he will forego his senior year for the NFL Draft. • Word has it that two different players were a little afraid on certain rides. One “screamed like a girl” on the Hulk, while the other didn’t even stay on it long enough for it to take off.
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• Miami hasn’t allowed a rushing touchdown in three straight games, and only three TDs over the last seven. What will give? • Big Ten teams are 1-5 in the Champs Sports Bowl. The ACC isn’t fairing too well (0-2 with Clemson beating Kentucky as of 10:30 Sunday night) in bowl games thus far.
• If UM wins, what are the odds we see Randy Shannon smile?
Oh, what a night: Champs Sports Bowl recap December 30, 2009
Brandon Harris consoles Orlando Franklin after the loss.
If you would’ve told me heading into the Champs Sports Bowl that No. 14 Miami would collect two takeaways and win the turnover battle, I wouldn’t believe you. This is a defense that doesn’t have the killer instinct. If you would’ve told me before I made it to Orlando that the Hurricanes (9-4) would score on their first play after an 84-yard kickoff return, I’d call it a victory. It was just that kind of chilly night at Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium, also known as the field where Miami’s end zone was Texas orange and grass flew in the air more often than caps at a graduation. No. 24 Wisconsin had just as many passing first downs (10) as UM, and had the ball for almost 40 minutes. Big 10 Offensive Player of the Year John Clay ran for 125 yards and two touchdowns and earned bowl game MVP. Those were the first touchdowns on the ground given up by the Hurricane D in over three games. Who would’ve guessed that Badger quarterback Scott Tolzien would look more like the Jacory Harris of the beginning of the season than Jacory Harris? He passed for a career-high 260 yards, and seven of his 19 completions went to tight end Lance Kendricks, who also had a career game. If you told me Matt Bosher would recover his own onside kick with a little more than a minute left, I would’ve told you that guy does it all: kick, punt, tackle and make BOTH all-ACC first and second team. But as Randy Shannon said in the press conference after the game, “Things just didn’t happen our way. I can’t explain why.” Maybe it’s because Mark Whipple barely called any rushing plays. You know it’s bad when Harris led the team with nine rushing attempts because he was running for his life with the offensive
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line AWOL. Damien Berry saw just four attempts for 29 yards too late… You know it’s bad when Thearon Collier leads the team with four receptions, including a 14-yard touchdown with 1:22 left. Once again Aldarius Johnson failed to catch a pass. And despite all this, despite totaling just 239 yards, the Badgers (10-3) beat the Canes by a score of 20-14. With a little less than six minutes to play and Miami down 20-7, Bucky the Badger began posing with the Champs Sports Bowl trophy. How great would’ve it been had J12 in company completed the comeback? Here’s to next season (my senior year), and the hopes of a national title still possible. Since Shannon has been head coach, the team has made two-win improvements. Game notes
• Don’t expect to see the Hurricanes ranked in the top 10 as many hoped with a win.
• With the loss, Miami missed out on its first 10-win season since 2003.
• The victory gave Wisconsin its first win over a ranked opponent in three tries this season.
• The ACC is pathetic this bowl season, huh?
• Graig Cooper has a torn ACL, though he will be getting another opinion tomorrow. After seeing the replay twice on the jumbotron last night, I asked, “Why show it again and again?” • Leonard Hankerson said he will be back for his senior season, while Allen Bailey believes he probably will. Someone who won’t be back: Darryl Sharpton and his team-high 15 tackles and poor linebacking pass coverage. • Sebastian the Ibis was MIA for most of the game. I don’t recall seeing or hearing him lead the C-A-N-E-S chant…And what’s with UW’s “Jump Around” crowd motivator?! Go here for my entire Flickr set of photos from last night’s game!
Me before the game, during happier times
I bumped into Jacory at a gas station on the way back from Orlando. Happier times a day later
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