Earlier in the week our Chief Editor and leader of the site, Jerry Steinberg asked the contributors of State of the U what we thought the win-loss record for the Canes would be for the upcoming season. This would be put into his preseason breakdown which you can find HERE. The question that was posed got me thinking and as I saw the answers from my fellow columnists I just felt a disconnect. At one point our always positive radio personality/writing correspondent Larry "The Amigo" Milian replied to Jerry with (which can also be found in the link above) in paraphrased form: "We have a difficult schedule.. 10-3." Now, when I saw this I kind of took a double take and it got me thinking about this team and a program as a whole.. What type of expectations should we have with this team compared to the reality of the situation.
For the record, as I said last week, I believe Al Golden is a good coach and is steering the program in the right direction. When you look at the construction of this team compared to other top level programs.. What on earth makes us think as a fan base that this team is a 9+ win team? The great talent at wideout and running back? The road graders on the offensive line? I can point out warts that are just as apparent as the positives listed too. The defensive effectiveness the last 3 seasons.. The inability to have consistent offensive drives that take time off the clock and score touch downs. The positives and the negatives go on and on. The one I want to highlight though and discuss at length however is the recruiting being executed by the staff and why, to be honest, we're probably one to two ears away from being the "hunted" instead of the "hunter."
If you look at the makeup on the team it trends young. In the sense that the more dynamic, premiere players on the roster are redshirt sophomore (or juniors) and below. Check out the list:
Players that will Start or Contribute This Season
Ricky Carrol - if Vogel poo's the bed as our starting punter...
Ryan Williams (if he takes over for Kaaya that is)
Clive Walford - starting tightend that will look to be a security blanket for Kaaya.
Rashawn Scott - backup wideout if (IF!!!) he stays healthy could get valuable minutes.
Olsen Pierre - Listing him due to starting, hasn't been terribly impactful in his time starting though..
Denzel Perryman - all everything, period.
Shane McDermott - starting offensive lineman.
Ladarius Gunter - nice corner who should start unless one of the juniors takes his spot.
Jon Feliciano - starting offensive lineman.
Phillip Dorsett - potential starting wideout who is looking to have a bounce back year from his injury plagued junior season.
Anthony Chickillo - starting defensive lineman, we'll have to wait to see his impact. So far this camp he's played well. We'll have to see what happens on game day.
Thurston Armbrister - starting linebacker due to attrition.
This pieces are pretty solid when it comes to the overall group but when you look deeper, who are the real impact players? Right now I'd take Perryman as a near lock for All American honors. Chickillo, Dorsett, McDermott, Feliciano, Gunter and Walford I would put in the group behind Parryman as nice starters but not next level great talent so far in their college careers. Moving on to the next group..
Ufomba Kamalu - starter on the defensive line. Hasn't made a huge impact yet.
Now, let's start to take a look at the guys who Golden has been able to bring in the last 3 off-season's. List is going to start getting longer because, well, they have been pressed into playing since they were freshmen.
Michael Wyche - we simply don't know yet. Will be counted on as the season develops though due to need of a true nose guard.
Herb Waters - he shows up for an 80-100 yard performances on occasion and then disappears for long periods. Potential starter at wideout though.
Tyriq McCord - Had a decent freshman season and a slightly better sophomore season as a pass rushing specialist. Coaches are looking for him to take it to the next level but he's been passed by AQM and possibly Chad Thomas on the depth chart.
Raphael Kirby - being asked to start but no real meaningful statistics so far in his career as a linebacker
Duke Johnson - just as Perryman means everything to the defense, Johnson means everything to the offense.
Tracy Howard - 3 year starter as a CB and will be looked to as a leader this season. Same level of importance as Duke.
Calvin Heurtelou - Transfer defensive lineman, we have to wait and see.
Matt Goudis - kicker. Always important to list them :)
Ereck Flowers - starting left tackle. If and when he decides to leave for the pro's he will be a second round pick at latest.
Dallas Crawford - has played offense and now is starting Safety for the Canes.
Antonio Crawford - in the mix in the cornerback rotation
Deon Bush - in the mix to start as a Safety
I like the above list of players. It has a solid mix of impact guys (Howard, Johnson, Flowers) as well as starters that will need to contribute this season for the Canes. My point on this thread is simply this: could you imagine this amount of talent if they were true seniors or even redshirt seniors for that matter? We simply don't have it yet when looking at the senior group currently on campus. Now on to the sophomore grouping..
Malcolm Lewis - in the mix for reps this season at wide receiver season. Could have a nice bounce back year from his injury plagued campaign last year.
Apparently Golden doesn't like to redshirt because that's our list..
Justin Vogel - starting punter. Yay?
Walter Tucker - exceptional athlete that is looking to fill in at backup linebacker and possibly fullback or running back if needed.
AQM - played on pass rushing situations last season. Is looking to play more on rushing downs as well this coming season.
Danny Isidora - starting at right guard but will play heavily in the offensive line rotation.
Jermaine Grace - Backup linebacker that as the season wears on may take a starting position.
Taylor Gadbois - he and Darling as well as McDermott are fighting for the right tackle position.
Corn Elder - in the mix to be a starting corner.
Gus Edwards - the bruising running back (hopefully).
Standish "Stan" Dobard - with the transfer of Sandland will be inserted into the lineup more often.
Stacy Coley - teams #1 wideout and possibly kickoff and return specialist. Very important piece to the UM air raid.
Jamal Carter - Looking to fight his way into the starting safety rotation. Has a tremendous upside with big hit ability and great closing speed. Very much a "center field" type safety.
Artie Burns -same upside if not more than Carter. Is a track athlete that excels in the hurdles. If he gets the technique of the position down has the ability to be a lockdown corner.
Just like the Juniors there is a nice mix of talent that has already started gaining experience in the class when it comes to starting as well as coming off the bench. This group though compared to the class previous looks to have more upside that would be associated with a Miami Hurricanes type team. AQM, Tucker, Elder, Carter and Burns are relatively "raw" in their football acumen but if they can be developed this group could be outstanding. Coley is the cream of the crop and lastly don't forget Isidora and Gadbois as solid starters for the next few seasons moving forward.
Sunny Odogwu - listed just because I know he's a bigtime project the team has been happy with him when it comes to growing as an offensive line prospect. Has a long way to go though.
Yet again, that's it on the redshirts. Not much to write home about. Yes, I know Kevin Olsen is a freshman but besides bringing headaches to the coaching staff he hasn't contributed anything on the field of play.
Joseph Yearby - looks to get about 5-10 touches a game out of the backfield. Will be another option behind Duke.
Chad Thomas - will play on passing downs to start the season but look for his role to expand as the season goes on. Possible starter by end of the year.
Darion Owens- Has been running with the starters at points during the spring. Could see valuable playing time throughout the season.
Kc McDermott - Besides Darling and Gadbois the younger brother of Shane will be filling in at right tackle when needed and possibly stints when Ereck Flowers needs a break on the left side.
Brad Kaaya - starting quarterback. Enough said.
Trent Harris - Just like Owens, Harris has started for long stints during spring. Look for him to expand his role throughout the season based on in game success.
Trayone Gray - an uber athlete with no set position. Golden has already hinted that he'll play all over the field this season but mainly will be seen on special teams.
Trevor Darling - Competing for the three way tie at right tackle with Gadbois and McDermott. Will see lots of time in the rotation on offense.
Braxton Berrios - Looks to play on special teams and possibly in the wide receiver rotation. Could be a possible redshirt candidate but he could play his way into meaningful minutes as the season progresses.
It's really hard to grade freshmen because some from the list above may redshirt but off the information we've known throughout spring ball I doubt most if any will. There were quite a few not on the list (Tyre Brady, Darrell Langham for instance) that I don't believe will contribute this season and are candidates for redshirting. The list above though, most of those players could be game breakers. Whether it be the 5 star recruit Joe Yearby or Chad Thomas, impact players are chalked full on the list for the seasons to come.
Getting back to the main point at hand.. Miami, in my opinion is a year away if not two from being a real threat for the national title. You can see in the listing of players that the talent as it gets younger seems to be brighter. I think the two main reasons for this were due to the fact that Golden and his staff had to get used to recruiting the local high level talent as well as having to deal with the Shapiro/NCAA Investigation mess.
When Golden was at Temple the formula for recruiting players was relatively (in a sense) straight forward. Get the best talent (duh, right?) but if that wasn't possible find "project" players to develop in your system. Come year three or four the player should be a viable bench guy or even starter. One example of that could be seen in Muhammad Wilkerson who now plays for the Jets. He was a lightly recruited player who played very little football going into college and Golden worked his magic. Now he's a cornerstone on the Jets swarming defense. However, this isn't Temple. This is the University of Miami where you play the likes of FSU, VT and a tougher out of conference schedule than compared to Conference USA (Temple is now in the AAC). UM simply cannot wait around for players to develop for that amount of time. Throwing players into the fire is needed sometimes due to depth issues (hello Armbrister and Chickillo) but if you're recruiting too many project players who may not be ready when their number is called.. It can stunt a program's growth.
Besides bringing in a few too many project players in the program the NCAA investigation crushed this team when it came to the premiere talent. Top notch players shied away because of the possible impending doom that was to be levied against the program. It definitely stunted the growth and the success in the first two seasons on the Golden regime. It's apparent that once the investigation concluded that recruiting picked up and the quality of targets exponentially increased.
All of the above points lead me to my final thought (if you've stuck with me this far I thank you!!). I think this program is going in the right direction. I think the defense will go up another 25-30 spots in the rankings for overall yards given up. By the way, that places them in the mid 50's in the country. So, still some work to do. I also think the offense will do well this season but not as well as previous years due to the youth at the quarterback position. No, I don't think Kaaya will be a disaster but I do think statistically the offense will be more subdued this season. The thing that I worry about the most with the team heading into the season is that they have a relatively tough schedule and it's compounded by three of their toughest games (Louisville, Nebraska and Virginia Tech) being away games. I also think the Coastal as a whole is going to be a headache to figure out and one or two games could be lost when they simply shouldn't be. With all that said I see 7-5 overall and a finish in the middle of the pack in the ACC.
My question to all of you.. Based on my points above.. Is that good enough?