MIAMI GARDENS, FL - SEPTEMBER 24: Coach Al Golden of the Miami Hurricanes directs play against the Kansas State University Wildcats September 24, 2011 at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
Today we enter in to that boring period in recruiting we all know as the Dead Period. Between now and January 3rd, 2012, there can not be (and please God let there not be) any contact with current or potential recruits. The last few days have seen a number of potentially great kids either commit to the Canes or include them in their top choices. We have also seen a few kids who are already committed perform pretty darn well in their respective High School playoff games, most notably Duke Johnson. All that being said, while we wait out this long 2 weeks, lets take a look at the current Hurricanes roster going into 2012 (barring any more announcements of players leaving early, that is.)
This post will cover the skill positions, and is assuming that all the guys that will be leaving for the draft have already declared their intentions, or of course are seniors and have no choice. As far as I am aware, the last holdout was Ojomo, and that was due to his application for a 6th year, which sadly he was denied. So this list is subject to change, albeit it shouldn't be much different aside from the new kids on campus.
Gone is Jacory Harris, a lightning rod of praise, anger, disbelief, and dammit. For better or for worse, we dealt with him for 4 years, and while according to the record books he was a very good quarterback, the game outcomes and fan base will tell you otherwise. Personally, I am glad to see him gone, if for no other reason than his lack of consistency in a position that demands it. Here is the current list of QB options we will have in 2012:
Stephen Morris - 6'2", 210 lbs.
Ryan Williams - 6'6", 220 lbs.
With the departure of Spencer Whipple (thank you jeebus!) the current roster houses only two juniors in Morris and Williams. Morris has been a Cane his whole career, while Williams transferred from Memphis last year and was forced by our NCAA overlords to sit out the season. Morris, when he played, showed so much promise that it led to him being rotated out along with Jacory at parts of last season, to the annoyance of the fans. Morris' game lends itself more to him being in the game 100% of the time, however, so barring a huge performance from Williams or an incoming freshman, I would put my money on Morris being our starter next year. He has a cannon for an arm, is a very capable runner, and aside from a few crunch time panic plays last year, seems to have the smarts to not make too many mistakes. There is not much known about Williams at this point aside from players and scouts talking about him performing well in practice. He has the feeling of a very talented kid that was stuck in a horrible program in Memphis, so it would be a very nice surprise if he shows up and actually competes for the starting job. I am a firm believer in having too many quarterbacks that can start, save for the Uncle Luke philosophy that they all must come from Dade County (no Luke, we will not be seeing Godfrey on the roster. That is a stupid, stupid idea, so shut up.) The upcoming class has a couple of kids who are very highly touted in Gray Crow and Preston Dewey. Crow is a Clearwater kid who should turn out to be pretty good based on his name alone. Dewey is very talented kid that Golden snatched away from Texas, and should be a very tough out in the QB competition.
This is probably the one area where Canes fans and coaches alike have felt the most confidence the last couple of years. Miami always seems to have a stable of very good running backs, regardless of the ups and downs of the other positions around them. Last year was no different. While a pre-season favorite in Mike James fizzled out, Lamar Miller stepped up in a huge way, showing off his speed, agility, and skill at breaking tackles on his way to a monster year that eventually led him to declaring early for the draft. His departure is a blow to the Canes, but it is certainly not surprising. Yet, once again, the current horses in the barn and the promise of those that will be coming to campus in a few months have myself and other fans feeling fairly confident that while Miller will be missed, in the long run it wont matter than he is gone. Here's the list:
Eduardo Clements - 5'9", 195 lbs.
Maurice Hagens - 5'11", 240 lbs.
CJ Holton - 6'1", 230 lbs.
Darris Hughes - 5'10", 195 lbs.
Mike James - 5'11", 222 lbs.
David Thompson - 5'10", 240 lbs.
Darien Hall - 5'11", 195 lbs.
Let's clear this list out a bit by taking CJ Holton, Darris Hughes, and David Thompson out of contention. While they obviously are talented kids due to them being on the roster in the first place, they are all at least juniors, and since they have not seen a whole lot of playing time yet, they more than likely won't. Darien Hall is a red shirt sophomore, so we have not seen any from him yet, meaning I can'treally speak on him. That leaves us with Clements, Hagens, and James as the main focus of this post. Hagens is in his own class, as he has established himself as the full-time full back. It makes me so happy to have a coach who will actually use a full back in certain situations for something other than blocking, and Hagens is very capable at that as well as running and catching out of the backfield. Mike James is the biggest question mark here, since he was heralded coming into last season, but underperformed. His decline may have a lot to do with Miller's emergence, though. The skill set is there, he just has to apply it to real time game action. Clements is, in my opinion, the incumbent starter coming into 2012. He proved himself on numerous occasions last year, picking up key third downs both out of the backfield and catching passes on slants and screens. He, along with now departed Storm Johnson, were the prize RB's of last years class, so it is not a total surprise that he is a high performer. The upcoming class will have at least one kid that will challenge all 6 of these running backs right away for their job, and thats Duke Johnson. If you haven't yet seen tape of him, i suggest you hit YouTube immediately, because this kid is going to be special. Another 4 star RB by the name of Greg Garmon announced recently that his final 2 schools were Iowa and Miami, and that he will decide on Jan. 3rd. If Golden and Miami (Garmon said that Miami is his dream school) cannot beat out the likes of blasted Iowa for this kid, then the curse of Shannon has not yet been exorcised from the program. I expect him to pick Miami, which would give us two 4 star kids in the backfield along with the dudes listed above, which means that Miller making bank in the pro's won't hurt us too bad.
This is where the waters get a bit murky. With Aldarius Johnson being a moron and lying to the NCAA, forcing him to miss his senior season, Travis Benjamin leaving due to being a senior, LaRon Byrd leaving as a senior as well, and Tommy Streeter deciding to forgo his last year after 8 good games in his career, the WR pantry is pretty damn thin. I'll skip the pleasantries and get right to the list:
Phillip Dorsett - 5'9", 170 lbs.
Allen Hurns - 6'3", 185 lbs.
Garrett Kidd - 6'2", 170 lbs.
Shawn O'Dare - 5'10", 190 lbs.
Rashawn Scott - 6'2", 198 lbs.
Kendall Thompkins - 5'10", 182 lbs.
Obviously, Dorsett and Hurns are the highlights of this group, based on their performance last year. They both emerged as threats both mid-range and deep, as well as in the red zone. Kendall Thompkins is in the second tier here, as a senior he has yet to live up to the potential he came in with, but there is no better chance for him to do so than 2012. Kidd, O'Dare, and Scott are all wild cards. Kidd and Scott were both freshmen last year, and most likely did not see paying time because of the guys ahead of them. They both could be set up for good years for no other reason than necessity. O'Dare is a red shirt junior, and barring an unforeseenslew of injuries or a sudden explosion of talent not seen in 2 previous years, will most likely ride the pine. This group could be very good, or could be very mediocre. The lynch pin to their success will mainly rest on the effectiveness of the QB, which as we noted above, could be fairly good. With Morris in there, the deep ball is always a threat, and Hurns and Dorsett both have the speed to be a major problem for opposing defenses. The upcoming class has a couple of standout names in Malcolm Lewis and Angelo Jean-Louis that could see immediate playing time. Lewis had a particularly amazing catch a few days ago, and made a point the throw up the U afterwards, so there's that. Jean-Louis is the higher ranked of the two, and shows just as much potential. All told, the WR corp should not be too much of an issue, as they at least provide depth if not a lot of promise.
This position, along with Running Back, has been a Miami staple for a long, long time. There is always at least one very good, pro-calibre tight end at The U, if not more. This season should be no different. The one guy that was lost to graduation was Chase Ford, and that's not a big loss because he had no hands. Literally. He very may have just stapled gloves onto some wristbands and worn them. We also saw the horrible end to a promising career with USC transfer Blake Ayles. He was on his way to starting when he suffered a concussion that forced him to retire from football. Thankfully he loved The U so much in his short time that he decided to stay on as part of the coaching staff, and will help groom future TE's. Here's the current list:
Asante Cleveland - 6'5", 255 lbs.
Dyron Dye - 6'5", 275 lbs.
Billy Sanders - 6'4" 245 lbs.
Clive Walford - 6'4", 245 lbs.
Cory White - 6'6" 275 lbs.
The two names that jump off this list as potential big play guys are Asante Cleveland and Clive Walford. Both showed a hell of a lot of promise last year, and both have the size and speed that you have come to expect from Cane TE's like Shockey, Graham, and Olsen. Dyron Dye is a big name as well, although he has proven himself to be more of a blocker up till now than anything else. Billy Sanders and Cory White are both red shirt juniors, and again, barring injury or hidden talent, they will most likely serve as backups. I expect big things from this position next year, as Golden and Fisch love to use the TE's as much as their WR's. So far the incoming class is pretty bare at TE, although word on the street has a few promising kids that have recently visited campus who came away very impressed. We will have to wait and see how the position is bolstered from here on out.
That's how we look at the skill positions coming into next year minus a nailed down list of recruits. Overall its a very talented group, and on top of that, its a group that understands you have to work for your job and you have to earn the praise. That is the one huge complaint that I had with that heralded Miami group that included Benjamin, Harris and the like. they treated each year like success was going to be handed to them because they came in with so much hype, and they did not play hard every game to make sure they earned the hype they got. Golden has started to instill a sense of hard work and heart into the program that hasn't been seen in a long, long time. He will get the chance to coach mainly HIS guys, instead of trying to take Shannon's Softies and mold them into good football players from flash in the pan spotlight seekers. That being said, with all of the departures for the NFL (the worst of which will be covered in Part 2 of this post), it's not realistic to expect big things right out of the gate. Be prepared for the potential of another mediocre season as Golden and the rest of the staff get things going their way (I am trying to very hard to not use the word process.) I think at worst a 6-6 season would be reasonable, although I do believe that they will do much better than that.
Questions? Comments? Throw 'em in the comments section and I'll see y'all for part 2!