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4 posts from September 4, 2013

September 04, 2013

Sound The Alarm: Call for the Mailbag

It's Florida-Miami week (Sep. 7 @ noon, ESPN) and lots of people are jazzed.

(Google Images | sluniverse.com)

No doubt, you have questions, I have answers.

Post your inquiries in the comments section, via email (see side link) or tweet me @JesseReSimonton.


Meet the Hurricanes

I understand this isn't exactly novel information for many of y'all, but for the select few unfamiliar with Miami, here you go...  

2012 Record: 7-5 (5-3 ACC)

Returning Starters: 19: Offense: 10, Defense: 9

Key departures: RB Mike James (Tampa Bay Buccaneers sixth round selection, 9 total TDs in 2012), CB Brandon McGee (team-leading 2 INTs, St. Louis Rams fifth round pick), LB Eddie Johnson (dismissed, fourth on team in tackles as a freshman with 59), LB Gionni Paul (transfer) 

Player to watch offense: RB/return specialist Duke Johnson – The 'Canes’ dynamic tailback exploded onto the scene as a freshman in 2012. The former Miami Norland standout earned multiple freshman All-American honors -- as well as ACC Rookie of the Year -- after rushing for 947 yards and 10 touchdowns, averaging 6.81 yards per carry. Johnson, who broke UM star Clinton Portis’ school freshman rushing record, also tallied a pair of kickoff return touchdowns and will again run behind a massive offensive line returning all five starters and plenty of experience (3 seniors, 2 juniors). 

Player to watch defense: DE Shayon Green – Miami’s injury-maligned defensive end finished first on the team in tackles in 2012, but the senior failed to record a single sack while also collecting just three quarterback hurries. With Eddie Johnson kicked off the team, an already porous ‘Canes defense will need a new playmaker to emerge. Green has shown flashes of productivity throughout his career, but he’s struggled to stay on the field with multiple ACL injuries and a broken wrist.

2013 Outlook: Hopeful

Finally (maybe) eligible to compete for a conference title, the Hurricanes are the early favorites to win the newly expanded ACC Coastal Division. With a high-octane attack led by junior quarterback Stephen Morris (3,345 yards, 21 TDs), Johnson and a quintet of young and explosive pass catchers, UM’s offense is expected to carry the load early as sorts out its defensive question marks. Morris, who broke Bernie Kosar’s school record for total offense (3,415 yards) -- was an All-ACC performer in 2012 and is considered one of the top returning signal callers in the country.

The Hurricanes haven’t won 10 or more games in a decade, and despite a navigable schedule, things won’t change if their defense continues to yield points at an alarming rate. Defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio managed to keep his job even though his unit surrendered 40+ points three times and 30 or more points seven times. The ‘Canes were awful against both the run and pass, finishing No. 115 nationally in sacks (13) and No. 114 in rushing defense (217.9 yards/gm). Miami isn’t devoid of defensive talent -- especially with the likes of linebacker Denzel Perryman, Green and defensive lineman Anthony Chickillo (team-leading 4.0 sacks) -- but it’s a unit without a lot of direction.

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South Florida Gators talk Miami

UF wideout Quinton Dunbar (Booker T. Washington) and cornerback Marcus Roberson (St. Thomas Aquinas) both grew up in the heartland of 'Canes country. Roberson was childhood friends with UM receiver Phillip Dorsett, while UM linebacker Denzel Perryman is Dunbar's cousin. 

Here's a snipet of what Roberson and Dunbar had to say about Saturday's game. 



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The learning curve

If you had Kelvin Taylor as Florida’s second-leading rusher -- 43 yards on five carries -- in Saturday’s win over Toledo, kudos.

Taylor -- an early enrollee -- starred in UF’s Orange & Blue Debut in the spring, but the freshman’s monumental expectations were promptly tempered during a frustrating training camp due to issues in pass protection, ball security and general system knowledge.

While Taylor was never in the coaches’ doghouse, the freshman was buried on the depth chart as others (Mack Brown, Mark Herndon, Valdez Showers) emerged. A potential redshirt season -- IMO, it was nothing more than a motivational ploy -- was discussed publicly by Will Muschamp.

But after Saturday’s strong debut in the fourth quarter -- an especially delightful treat for the fans who battled the heat and stuck around for Florida’s final drive -- Taylor’s progress was addressed by Muschamp, who admitted the freshman has made great strides of late.

“I think his role will continue to develop through the season. We’ll see how much as we move forward. He’s a natural runner, he has really good vision. He has to continue to do some of the other things you have to do at the position. But he’s a guy we’re excited about, no question.”

Muschamp highlighted Taylor’s development, saying, “It’s been night and day [since spring camp].”

Florida’s coach added, “No question, you continue to see the improvement. I kind of look at Matt Jones last year. He was a guy early in the year did some nice things for us, then he hit a little bit of a freshman lull. When I asked him last week in front of the whole team for the freshmen and the young players what was the difference in you playing more later in the year and being more productive. And he just laughed. He said, ‘I was able to stay awake in the meetings. I practiced better. I knew what to do at practice. I executed my assignments and gave the coaches confidence to play me.’ It was totally him. I just asked him. Like Matt in those situations, he says the exact same thing you want him to say.”

Muschamp stressed the importance of practice for younger players -- even exceptionally talented ones -- including a not-so-subtle jab at the previous regime at Florida.

“My point being to the young players was if you don’t know what to do and struggle to know your assignments and if you don’t give us confidence on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, you’ll never play. You’ve never seen them do it on that stage.  Some of the older players, I can deal with them busting an assignment on Tuesday because I’ve seen them do it on Saturday afternoon. Some of those young guys, I’ve never seen them do it before. I am young, but I’m old-fashioned. You will play like you practice, I do believe that. And you do have to practice here now. That’s part of the deal.” (emphasis mine)

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