It’s here. Kickoff is this Thursday. All the chatter — the message boards rants, pre-season rags, over the top radio shows and TV talking heads — all that information overload has simply been filler. The main course is finally here.

Amazing how much more difficult the off-seasons are these days. You think it’d be easier with all the non-stop, around the clock coverage, but it’s worse. Used to be you could almost train yourself to ‘forget’ about football during those dog days of summer. Hardly the case today, thanks to the Internet, handheld mobile devices, ESPN programming running non-stop and various websites devoted to both specific teams and the game itself.

The end of August is here and with FAMU on deck this week, as a fan you feel like you’ve already endured a full season.

Expectations are all over the map with the 2010 Miami Hurricanes. Ranked has high as #4 in one poll and #20 in another, the majority have UM ranked somewhere in between.

Either way, the preseason polls and throwing-darts-at-a-dartboard predictions all go out the window once that ball is kicked off Thursday night … which is why we’re not really doing a “preview” here, per se. You can talk talent, depth and coaching, but entering this fall the million dollar question remains; is this Miami’s year?

Anyone who’s followed this crazy game of college football over time has learned that best teams don’t always win and the worst ones don’t always lose. Championship teams are generally talented and well-coached, but an element of luck always plays into the equation, as well.

Simply put, are the football gods with you or against you?

Solid as Alabama was last season, if not for the outstretched hand of Terrence Cody, blocking a potentially game-winning field goal attempt against lowly Tennessee, the Tide aren’t in the championship game. Same to be said for the counterparts in Texas, who needed Instant Replay and some clock scrutiny to earn a shot at their own destiny-changing kick, punching their ticket to Pasadena.

Same with Miami in 2001 (Miracle at Chestnut Hill), Ohio State in 2002 (fourth down touchdown against Purdue) or even Oklahoma in 2003 (getting an undeserved title shot after getting throttled 35-7 in the Big XII title game). Every year you look back at those two title game teams and see a handful of moments or plays that could’ve gone either way, inevitably changing the landscape of the season and many teams’ collective fates.

Put your own team under a microscope annually and you’ll see many close games with either / or type moments. Miami could’ve just as easily won games against Clemson and North Carolina last year as it could’ve lost to Florida State, Oklahoma or Wake Forest. Is it one team stepping up, another cowering or are they simply getting some lucky breaks and bounces en route to determining their history that season?

Make no mistake, expectations are high in Coral Gables this off-season and they damn well should be. Randy Shannon inherited a joke of a program three seasons ago and as much as many wanted to deny it then, all the talk of it being a four to five year rebuild looks pretty spot on these days. Depth and talent have returned, but so has experience. The much-heralded recruiting class of 2008 are no longer newbies. They enter this year as juniors and it’s time to elevate their game to that next level.

Each fan views this program from a different perspective, so there will always be disagreement regarding expectations. Based on my vantage point, I see improvement and a commitment to getting things right. Doing so requires patience. There is no short cut to getting back on top — not if you want to do it the right way. Rebuilding takes time. Depth and talent need to return. Young, inexperienced players need to grow into seasoned veterans, none of which happens in a few years, let alone overnight.

Brian “The Beast” London had CaneSport’s Matt Shodell on allCanes Radio last week and I thought it was one of the most telling, candid interviews (regarding the state of the program) that I had heard in forever. Shodell has covered UM for what seems like a lifetime (on and off between ’93 and ’10), experiencing all the highs and lows and has his thumb on the pulse regarding where things are, were and where they’re headed.

If you missed the interview, check it out because it can’t help bring some much-needed perspective – especially regarding recruiting and getting away from that UM blueprint (re: finding quality two and three stars instead of being enamored with the highly-touted four and five stars who might not be Miami guys and don’t fit the system.)

A few years of straying from what worked and not sticking to that proven recipe? That’s when a 7-6 season, four-game losing streak, on the field brawl and head coach firing becomes the new norm – all less than half a decade removed from a 24-0 start, a championship and back-to-back title games.

Anti-Shannon folk are quick to play the “stop blaming Larry” card, but there’s a different between attributing blame and logically explaining a situation.

If those same fans were accepting of how far the program slipped and were willing to give Shannon ample time to fix things, there would be no argument. Puff your chest out, build emotionally-fueled arguments, talk about ‘swagger’ and demand that things are fixed within a year (“Look what Nick Saban did at Alabama!”) and you’re going to get the Coker-heavy facts and stats ad nauseam.

For those refusing to acknowledge the forward steps taken these past few years, your head is simply in the sand. A once-dominant program earlier this decade was reduced to a shell of itself five seasons later and after a few down years picking up the pieces, is finally ready to make a run again. The turnaround didn’t happen by accident and if you’re not giving Shannon some credit, you’re simply biased. Even the biggest anti-Randy type out there has to admit that there has been improvement and steps forward each of the past three seasons.

Turn on your TV. Pick up a preseason rag. Miami has worked it’s way back in the mix. Some of you have short memories and have forgotten that ESPN’s preview shows virtually ignored the Canes between late 2006 and summer 2009. Meaningless as it may be, when you see the question posed on the bottom of the screen “Will Miami compete for the national championship this season?” it should serve as a reminder that things are pointed in the right direction.

People are talking about The U again, in a positive light – both on and off the field. Analysts nationwide are at least acknowledging the talent level, the depth and the job Shannon and staff have done to make the Canes a contender again and while their opinion means little in the grand scheme of things, they’re paid to talk football and UM a top many lists right now … which is better than being ignored or criticized.

While Miami looks ready to make a run, the pieces haven’t all completely fallen into place. (Hence the four- to five-year rebuild projection.) This is a young and inexperienced (albeit, talented) offensive line. There is much unproven talent at running back. There are still some glaring holes at linebacker and in the secondary. The depth is returning, but hasn’t fully returned.

If the Canes can stay injury-free, the sky is the limit. Lose a key player here or there and that becomes the difference in an overtime loss, a special teams breakdown or inability to spark a late-game winning rally.

It’s also the reason “ACC champs or bust” mentality needs to be checked at the door. Miami needs to show improvement this year and if healthy, needs to take another big step forward. Everyone will measure that in their own different way, but regardless it’s something that needs to be done as season’s end – not on a game-by-game basis.

Last year, 2-0 out the gate last year had many prematurely putting the Canes in the title hunt, after not even being ranked to start the season. A quick loss at Virginia Tech had everyone writing Miami off while an upset against Oklahoma had folks lukewarm on The U again.

Too much grief was given over an anybody-could’ve-won-it loss to Clemson, while Miami seeming got a pass for pulling out a win against a lesser Wake Forest team, with fans simply elated that the Canes “showed heart” in the comeback.

As for the loss to North Carolina, again too much was made about Shannon’s 0-3 record to Butch Davis instead of admitting that an injured Jacory Harris was something this team didn’t have the depth to absorb (which could again be the case this year).

Harris and the Canes torched a top-five Tar Heels defense for 435 yards last November. Of course that stat is meaningless when four of J12′s fifty attempts on the day fall into UNC hands. (Hopefully Mark Whipple learned how to change up his game plan with an injured quarterback. Less deep balls, por favor.)

Look back at 2009 and grade out this team based on what was accomplished versus where it started. Going 9-4 with a few signature wins on the heels of 7-6 was positive. Losing a second straight bowl game and dropping that shootout with Clemson (when riding a 5-1 record, ranked in the top ten and in the ACC hunt), big negatives that need to be corrected in 2010.

If you need further proof, just pop in a copy of last year’s 21-20 win over Oklahoma and follow it up with game footage from that 51-13 beat down in Norman back in 2007. Again, if you refuse to acknowledge the growth, you’re living in denial.

This year’s Hurricanes need to keep their focus and not get ahead of themselves – something they have since admitted doing last year. Two quick wins produced some faux swagger and looking back, these one-year-older Canes know they let a few get away in 2009. With many of their collegiate careers coming to an end soon, this season just got that much more meaningful. Learn from past mistakes and grow.

The schedule is again brutal and for all the flack the ACC received, the Coastal Division boasts five top 25 teams this year. Toss in road trips at Ohio State and Pittsburgh in weeks two and three and the paths to both Charlotte and Glendale are that much harder to predict.

An ACC title isn’t the benchmark for this season, though if healthy, Miami does have the horses to get there. Regarding the national championship, way too premature to even talk about that right now. This team is still learning how to win and needs to prove that it can endure the pitfalls of an entire season before making post-season plans.

Even though they lacked the depth and talent, Miami at least found itself in the conference hunt at some point since joining the ACC, but the Canes haven’t had any legitimate title game talk since upsetting Virginia Tech in 2005 and climbing to No. 3 in the rankings. UM needs to worry about being in the top ten come November before even mentioning that next-level goal.

We’ll get into the meat of the schedule each week of the season, but looking at this twelve game gauntlet, a ten-win season should be very within reach – again, if key guys remain healthy and role players step up.

Ohio State and Pittsburgh are tough road games, but both are winnable. Clemson isn’t last year’s squad without C.J. Spiller. Florida State is breaking in a new coach and defensive coordinator. North Carolina is in some hot water and could be without some big time players on the defensive side of the ball. Georgia Tech has offensive players to replace. Virginia Tech has some defensive ones.

Point being, everybody has some holes somewhere. Every team on Miami’s schedule is in some way fallible. What it comes down to is who shows up on any given Saturday (or Thursday)? Which team executes and who gets those little breaks along the way that determine a season?

You’d think with the rash of misfortune the Canes have had the past few years that they’re due for things to go their way. Guys staying healthy. Clutch plays when you need them most. The misfortune of others. That said, there’s no rhyme or reason to this game and things will play out as they play out.

Either way, it finally starts this Thursday and we’ll all be tuned in to see how the season begins to unfold.

Go Canes.

13 thoughts on “Miami Hurricanes 2010 Season Preview

  1. Totally agree with you here. There are many things that factor in, when looking at what Miami has to do to be successful and live up to expectations. Improvement from the lines and linebackers, smarter play from Jacory, senior leadership and mental toughness contribute. Staying healthy is a must and getting lucky has to happen on the occassions that luck is needed. Taking one game at a time and maintaining focus and intensity is essential this season as well. So, as you stated, it will take many factors for Miami to reach their goals. Improve on allowing 35 sacks, improve on applying pressure on opposing quarterbacks and better pass coverage from the linebackers. Keep focus and intensity throughout the season, so you don't fade down the stretch and be physically and mentally tougher, as not to be pushed around by bigger teams(see last year vs Wisconsin). Another thing they need to do is win turnover battles and play with more confidence as a unit if they are down late in ball games.

  2. Dude most of your points are well taken But if Miami fans cannot say ACC or bust then we have a problem. Of all the teams in the ACC we have the least amount of questions.

    FSU breaking in a new DC and a semi new HC, VT; 7 new defensive starters, UNC; well what more can i say? not to mention their offense was not very good to begin with, GT; new DC and they lost pretty much all their key players from last year especially on the D, i wont discount Clemson but they lost the core of their offense. Now when u add that to the fact we get FSU, UNC and VT all at home, its time these players and coaches start producing results that match the level of talent of this team.
    \
    No more excuses about youth and when u want to point to depth, every team has the same issues, its called College football. I see a team with a steady QB, RB depth, DL depth, WR depth and the best K/P in the ACC probably NCAA. Thats more than u can say for our ACC counterparts. When the ball kicks off against FAMU, all Coker related topics should be thrown out. And OH yeah we have the same coordinators for consecutive years for the first time under Shannon

    And i definately do not want to hear anything about next year because the meat of our ACC schedule is on the road where we got trampled by VT, lost to UNC and barely squeak by FSU last year. Added to the fact we lose Bailey, Hankerson, Franklin possibly Brandon Harris. The time is now or shut up and accept we have become a middle of the road team who aspire to play in the champs sport bowl annually.

    BTW am praying for Shannon to succeed because then we wont have the 5 year feats and 5 year famine which we have become since the 90s probation.

    Anything other than Jacory getting injured, i dont want to hear it, its that simple.

  3. "The much-heralded recruiting class of 2008 are no longer newbies. They enter this year as juniors and it's time to elevate their game to that next level."

    This season is here and I am "Ready for some Football" South Florida Style. To me the biggest thing about the Hurricanes is J12. With him healthy the Canes can compete and beat any team in the NCAA. Will the O line protect him and help him stop the INTERCEPTIONS or will they let J12 get knocked around. I don't buy Highsmith as a competent backup. This team must Run the ball. Give Berry the Ball at least 25 plays a game. Runs inside, outside, Screens and dunk passes. Give him the rock. A ball control will ease the pressure on Jacory and the Defense.

  4. Dude most of your points are well taken But if Miami fans cannot say ACC or bust then we have a problem.

    When our fans say "ACC Champs or bust", from what I've seen, to them it means Shannon has to go … which is why I deem it an idiotic statement.

    There are SEVERAL TEAMS every year who are good enough to compete and only one can win.

    A list of ACC teams and the last time they won a title: Clemson (1991), Maryland (2001), Virginia (1995 co-champs), Duke (1989 co-champs), North Carolina (1980) and NC State (1979).

    Florida State dominated, winning 12 of 13 from 1992-2003 and have since won one in six seasons. The competition in the ACC is harder than ever.

    Rattle off the stats you want, but there are four top 25 teams in the ACC Coastal this year.

    I flat out said that if healthy, Miami absolutely has the horses to win the conference this year. That said, it'll take a bit of luck and good fortune to get the bounces needed to do so.

    When you say "bust" what do you mean? Dump Shannon and start fresh with someone new if the Canes miss the title game or get there and lose?

    The "bust" mentality doesn't work because it's black or white. Nothing else is factored in — injuries and what not. That's why I disagree.

    Again I state, the Canes have enough to win the ACC crown this year. Whether they put it all together and get the breaks, time will tell.

  5. Canes fans want to see Miami win an ACC title or at least make an appearance in the game. From a fan's perspective, this team looks to be the most talented and deepest we've had in years, therefore, you'll see the fans go harder with the ACC title or bust mentality this year. I mean c'mon, can you really blame fans for this train of thought?? We haven't been back to a BCS bowl game since 2005, we haven't won a conference title in years and we haven't even won our division since joining the league. I can sympathize with my fellow fans to a certain degree in their frustration. This is the University of Miami we're talking about here, not a middle of the pack team, not a no name school. I love Shannon as a coach and feel he deserves our patience, but if this season doesn't yield double digits in the win column, at least a spot in the conference title and a win in a higher tier bowl game, Shannon's seat will warm up. Our fanbase will turn their optimistic views toward Shannon into doubtful ones. Just my opinion.

  6. Canes fans want to see Miami win an ACC title or at least make an appearance in the game. From a fan's perspective, this team looks to be the most talented and deepest we've had in years, therefore, you'll see the fans go harder with the ACC title or bust mentality this year. I mean c'mon, can you really blame fans for this train of thought??

    Again, not only do I not BLAME Miami fans for that opinion, I flat out stated in the piece and in this comments section that I believe the Canes have the horses to get there.

    I am simply against what I feel is a pig-headed "ACC or bust" mentality as it takes nothing else into consideration.

    Hypothetically Miami and Virginia Tech are set to square off for the Coastal berth on 11/20 and Harris is hurt or it's some neck and neck game decided by one late play — the fact that some would want to scrap Shannon over that I feel is idiotic.

    See where the course of the season takes this team. How do they respond to challenges in Columbus, Pittsburgh and Clemson? How do they handle ACC foes? Is this team prepared for North Carolina and other late season road blocks?

    Last year Miami started fast BECAUSE Mark Whipple was new. No one was onto his offense yet but as defensive coordinators caught on, UM was figured out a bit. (That was the biggest issue at VT — not the rain, but the lack of a ground game which didn't allow you to air it out in the rain. Need to run the ball, which UM did little of against FSU and GT.)

    Miami could've had "double digit wins" last year and still not reached the conference title game. GT lost one ACC game and Miami lost three. Give back that UNC game and Miami goes 10-3 last year (maybe 11-2 against a difference bowl opponent) but STILL wouldn't have had a shot at the ACC crown after that Clemson loss.

    Miami needs to improve this year and improvement needs to be assessed AFTER the season, not before.

  7. Point blank, the goal that Miami needs to reach for the most this season is an ACC title appearance period. Without a trip to that game, they will continue to be mediocre in the eyes of everyone. It has to be an ACC title or bust mentality put forth by the fans because until you win your conference, there is no multi million dollar BCS bowl, there is no possible top 10 finish, and there is no way in hell your going to be discussed in reguards to relevancy in college football. Shannon is a great coach in my opinion but, he's been here 4 years now, meaning the longer he goes without winning a conference title, the hotter his seat gets. Especially with the level of talent and expierence he has this year.

  8. I hear and respect the point, but one less conference loss and Miami could've reached the BCS as an at-large last year.

    Simply making the point that "ACC or bust" is a dumb stance for fans to take … and even if they DO take it, Randy isn't going anywhere after this year, so the point is moot.

    To your point, yes, the longer Shannon is at UM without reaching the ACC, the hotter the seat gets … but that still doesn't make it right.

  9. I agree with your arguements, I'm just stating why it is that so many hurricanes fans take that stance. Again, we're talking about MIAMI. A program steeped in tradition and decorated in dominance over the past 20 plus years. When your a fan of a program with those kind of accolades, then have had to witness it struggle the last 8 years unable to remerge as the power it once was, you get frustrated.BUST in ACC TITLE OR BUST, to me doesn't transalate to "Shannon should be fired". To me, it means we have to win an ACC title or cease all the talk about being "back", like we've said the past 2 years as a fanbase. I know Shannon isn't going anywhere nor do I want him to, but alot of heat will be brought upon him if he can't win a ACC title within the next 2 years. That's all I'm saying. Hence, for him and his players it truely is ACC or Bust. Your mediocre if you can't win your conference, that's just how it works in college football. We haven't been to a BCS game since 03, that needs to change.

  10. I agree with your arguements, I'm just stating why it is that so many hurricanes fans take that stance. Again, we're talking about MIAMI. A program steeped in tradition and decorated in dominance over the past 20 plus years. When your a fan of a program with those kind of accolades, then have had to witness it struggle the last 8 years unable to remerge as the power it once was, you get frustrated.

    Completely understand and like any fan, I'm reeling as well.

    That said, we have to be honest regarding where college football has gone as a sport the last several years.

    The game has grown more from 2000 to 2010 than it grew from the 80s to the end of the millennium. This has turned into a big money game and UM isn't a big money football program, full of big time boosters and state funding.

    UM has the accolades of a powerhouse, but the budget of a lesser school. It will have to remain creative and cutting edge with how it stays relevant — starting with locking down local talent and building the brand so that tomorrow Jacory Harris-type kids want to stay home and Defend Dade.

    Frustration is one thing, but we still have to remain logical. When a program is decimated the way Coker worked this program for six years … it takes its tool and you don't rebuild overnight. Randy is putting the pieces back in place, but it's not quite there year. I think UM can overachieve this year (if healthy), but is still one year away from being a legit top five powerhouse.

  11. I posted above, dude no matter how u spin it, this is Shannons 4th season. Players who came in with him even though they're weren't all his recruits are going to graduated. There are barely any player left over from Coker. The point still remains, of all the things u brought up u can bring up more issues for other teams except maybe OSU. And let's not forget the ACC is not some juggernaut. We are competing against primarily basketball schools or schools who got no relevance nationally. I hope the team is not sitting there talking about "oh it doesn't matter if we win the ACC or not", thats called loser mentality. It needs to be eradicated bra. Aim for the moon, u miss u end up a star. And no am not calling for Shannon head, i respect the guy and am not saying anything about firing him….as a matter of fact i can say i been around the message boards and i barely hear anyone saying anything of the sort. Its like u are preparing for the team to belly up. So keep blaming Coker, then you jump to how CFB has changed and then switch to the fact we are cheap. Everything except the people who go out and the field and the ones responsible for coaching the team. I defend Shannon every day on the boards especially last season but when i hear this constant mentioning of Coker before a ball is kicked. It makes me so sick and irritated

  12. Almost all the pieces are in place to make a run at the national title this season. (Caveat: depth at linebacker is a major concern.) It will take great coaching, heads-up performance on the field and a bit of luck, but it is possible.

    Fan expectations are rightfully high this season. Anything less than a 10-2 season and a berth in a BCS bowl would be a disappointment.

    Shannon has done a great job of recruiting top talent, maintaining discipline on and off the field and elevating academic standards.

    We've seen marginal improvement in the win-loss column over the past two seasons. Now it's time for Shannon to turn the corner. The fan base is growing restless.

    No more excuses.