The Miami Hurricanes were supposed to show the most improvement in Al Golden's tenure this coming season. Instead, his players did not get the memo and showed early on in the 2013 season they were a team on the rise. It was a little too quick, and the team did not know how to handle last sesaon injuries and losses, but nonetheless, Golden and his trooops have faculty, staff, fans and students at "The U" giddy over the prospects of being an elite program once again in the not too distant future.
Now comes the fun stuff. After showing the college football world it could ascend to the seventh ranked team in the country last seson was is the encore for this school? Can Golden pull another rabbit out of his hat with a new quaretrabck, a recovering running back from injury and graduation to the offensive line.
The defense looks like it can challeneg teams in the ACC again, but it will take more than defense to win this conference and play in a major bowl game.
Here are the five most pressing questyons for this team heding into the ACC and the 2014 college football sesaon.
Information obtained in this article come from athlonsports.com and wire services.
Who wins the quarterback battle?
Stephen Morris earned third-team All-ACC honors last season and finished with 3,028 yards and 21 scores. Although losing a proven quarterback is never a good thing, Morris was inconsistent at times and the Hurricanes have four intriguing options vying for time this spring. Ryan Williams has played in nine games since transferring to Miami and threw for 369 yards and three touchdowns in a backup role last year. He enters spring as the frontrunner, but sophomore Gray Crow, redshirt freshman Kevin Olsen and true freshman Brad Kaaya are in the mix.
How do replace the offensive line?
Ereck Flowers, Shane McDermott and Jon Feliciano return It is the others to worry about, Miami should have one of the top offensive lines in the ACC next year. However, there are two vacancies to fill in the spring. Guard Brandon Linder departed after earning second-team All-ACC honors last season, while tackle Seantrel Henderson expired his eligibility after 2013. This unit’s depth took a hit when Malcolm Bunche decided to transfer to UCLA. Can line coach Art Kehoe find the right answers this spring?
Who plays running back?
It may not be one of the bigger concerns of the team, but it should be. Duke Johnson is sidelined this spring due to a leg injury, while touted freshman Joseph Yearby is also out. Dallas Crawford finished second on the team with 558 yards last season but is expected to move to defensive back. With Crawford playing defense, Gus Edwards and Walter Tucker are the top two options at the position.
Can the defense get better?
The best thing for defensive coordinator Mark D'nofrio is seven starters return on defense. The Hurricanes also allowed 5.8 yards per play, which ranked 12th in the conference. That’s the bad news. The good news for D’Onofrio? Likely All-ACC selections in end Anthony Chickillo, linebacker Denzel Perryman and cornerback Tracy Howard all return. The depth seems to have improved thanks to recruiting, so there is hope for some growth by the defense in 2014.
How many games can this team win?
I say nine. The diviion is one where Miami can take it and play in the ACC Title game. Th Assuming running back Duke Johnson returns at full strength, and the defense shows slight improvement, Miami should be the favorite in this division. The schedule isn’t too bad, but a non-conference date at Nebraska will be tough, and the Hurricanes won’t be favored to beat Florida State on Nov. 15.