Jim Young from ACC Sports Journal recently had a one-on-one with our Brian ‘The Beast’ London, talking everything from spring football, to newcomers, as well as expectations for the 2012. Check out the interview below or head over to ACCSports.com for more.
ACCSports.com : Miami had 6-6 record but then had a league-high six players taken in the NFL draft. I know it was his first year and that transitions can be tricky, but was there any grumbling that Al Golden’s initial ‘Canes team underachieved?
London : That’s a yes and no. Of course down here in South Florida, 6-6 is not going to keep the natives very happy. On the other hand, with the ginormous mess that Al Golden inherited, the team’s final record has to be taken with a grain of salt. The ‘Canes almost never had the same starting lineup, due to suspension or injury. When you add that adversity on top of the roster mismanagement by the previous coaching staff, the ‘Canes were probably lucky to finish 6-6.
ACCSports.com : Is this now Golden’s team? Or will he need to have more of “his guys” on the roster for it to take on his personality?
London : It’s getting there. While losing that many underclassmen to the draft hurts from a numbers and depth standpoint, it also helped filter out guys who were probably not on the same page in Golden’s “process.” You can really see the young guys on this team buying into Golden’s philosophy and that’s only going to improve as more and more of his players arrive on campus.
ACCSports.com : So … umm … quarterback. Any thoughts?
London : There’s no doubt in my mind that junior Stephen Morris will be the starter. Yes, Morris missed most of the spring after recovering from back surgery and redshirt sophomore Ryan Williams, a Memphis transfer, was given an opportunity to compete for the starting job. But Williams wasn’t overly impressive during the spring and it would be shocking if he was able to unseat Morris. Offensive players have told me that Morris has looked impressive during 7-on-7 work. His arm is as strong as any arm we’ve had around here in quite some time. This is without a doubt Morris’ job to lose, and it would take gaffes of monumental proportions for him to lose the job.
ACCSports.com : Were you surprised that Miami was able to still put together a good recruiting class in the wake of the Nevin Shapiro scandal? Which of the newcomers do you expect/hope to see make an impact this fall?
London : Al Golden and his staff did a great job of trying to reassure the recruits that the worst is behind the program. Whether that’s the truth or not, we shall see. I can tell you that the NCAA has been extremely appreciative of the amount of cooperation they’ve received from Miami. The bottom line though is that kids in South Florida grow up dreaming of playing for the ‘Canes. With the amount of amazing players in the program’s backyard, they are always going to get players, regardless of what is going on.
As far as newcomers whom I expect to make an impact, I’ll go with CB Tracy Howard and RB Duke Johnson. Miami hasn’t had a bona fide shut down corner since Antrel Rolle was roaming the campus. Howard has those type of skills. He pulled off a signing day surprise by picking Miami over Florida, and I think he’ll come in and play right away. On offense the overwhelming favorite to make an immediate impact is Randy “Duke” Johnson. Here’s a kid who ran for 375 yards in a Florida high school playoff game! He averaged over 10 yards per carry in 2011 for Miami Norland. With the loss of Lamar Miller, Miami needs a playmaker in the backfield and Duke is expected to be that guy.
ACCSports.com : What do you feel good about coming out of the spring?
London : I feel much better about the defense, especially the move of sophomore Denzel Perryman to MLB. It’s becoming abundantly clear that Perryman and DE Anthony Chickillo are becoming the heart and soul of the defense. The biggest upside coming out of spring was the continuity of the coaching staff. A few assistants, such as OC Jedd Fisch, had opportunities to go else where but stuck by Al Golden’s side. I’m not sure that continuity can be understated, especially with the amount of adversity this team may face.
ACCSports.com : What’s still freaking you out?
London : Where are the playmakers? While I just talked about Duke Johnson, it’s hard to put my trust in a freshman. Also, who’s going to fill the void left by the loss of wideouts Tommy Streeter and Travis Benjamin? Miami has always had a fleet of fast playmakers but during spring football, those players were hard to find. WR Rashawn Scott certainly came on strong, and WR/RB/Slash Dallas Crawford looks like he’s have an intriguing role in the offense, but I’m really worried about the lack of experienced playmakers.
ACCSports.com : What are some questions that still linger for you after the spring?
London : This is a team that went 6-6 and lost a lot of talent off of that team. Yes, there is a talented freshman class that’s arriving on campus as we speak, but as I look at the schedule, with trips to Manhattan (to play Kansas State) and Chicago (to play Notre Dame), I’m not sure how this team is going to make massive leaps forward in the fall. I think it takes Al at least another year or two – to get the roster balanced – before this team does what it hasn’t really done since it entered the ACC in 2004 – compete for the conference championship.
ACCSports.com : Who’s the fantasy sleeper I should consider drafting off your team next fall?
London : For the past few seasons a WR has stepped up to out-play expectations. First it was Leonard Hankerson, then it was Tommy Streeter. I think next year it will be junior WR Allen Hurns. Hurns did have 31 catches and 4 TDs last season, but he was dealing with an injured shoulder. Now that Hurns is healthy, I think he’ll have a breakout year, and will be someone you might want to keep your eyes on.