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Vanilla Spring

Vanilla, vanilla and more vanilla. That's the word we heard Saturday when UM's spring session concluded at the Orange Bowl and coaches described what we were supposed to take from a 7-0, offensive-less game. The Commander, Randy Shannon used it. The offensive coordinator Patrick Nix used it. Even defensive coordinator Tim Walton used it. So, should vanilla be the taste Canes fans have in their mouths when they think about their football team until they get back together on the field in the fall?

SmoresNot me. Not vanilla. As a frequent connoisseur of Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream, the craving I got after seeing two of the spring scrimmages is for another flavor: 'Smores! As in, I want to see 'smores from this offense than 7 stinking points in a spring game. Shannon cited injuries and even used the excuse his offense looked so vanilla this spring was because "you never want to show a lot when you practice open to the public because you never know who is there filming."

Randy, I like you. I do. I like the old school mentality you've brought to the Canes. But you cannot honestly think we are that dumb. Unless UM is planning on running the Single Wing this fall, there is nothing UM will end up running this coming season that already hasn't been seen a thousand times somewhere else. And honestly... who in the world game plans off of a spring game anyway? Think Marshall was there game-planning for Terrance Thomason or Eric Kirchenberg or Jake Byrne or Dan Warren or Jonathan Teske?

VanillameltingsmUM's offense was "Vanilla" -- I prefer to use the word "Ugly" --this spring for three reasons: One, this is the third different offense the team has had to learn in three years; Two, they are still installing and learning it; Three, injuries and a lack of talent.

All we really learned this spring is that UM's offense still has miles upon miles to go before it gets to the point where opponents fear it. And I'm not sure how much progress was made in other areas. The only groups in my mind that probably got anything out of the scheduled 15 spring practices was the offensive line and the tight ends, which had more balls thrown their way this spring than any other position. Let's face it, like every spring, there were injuries. Several key players/starters -- OL Derrick Morse, OL Jason Fox, LB Daryl Sharpton, WR Lance Leggett, WR Darnell Jenkins, RB Graig Cooper, CB Glenn Sharpe and CB Bruce Johnson -- didn't get a whole lot of work in, if any at all. Yes, their absence meant other guys -- their backups -- got more work, but it also meant the guys who start opposite them went up against inferior players for most of the spring. How good can you honestly guage this defense to be when they weren't necessarily having to go up against UM's best offensive weapons?

Ultimately, though, that's not what this spring was about. Randy Shannon's goal this spring wasn't to Shannon_52479turn UM from a 7-6 team into national championship contender in two weeks. It was to turn a team divided after a 7-6 season into a team again. I know it sounds corny, but listening to Randy speak all spring, one message is constant in all of his usual mishmash of coach talk: team play, team chemistry, team unity, team competition, team, team and more team.

For a guy connected to the program for as long as he has been, to me the way Shannon put so much emphasis on team unity this spring speaks volumes about how deep UM's in house problems came to be over the past few seasons. After all, there were reasons Randy made offensive and defensive players, once divided into sections in the lockerroom, sit next to each other in the lockerroom this spring. There was a reason he turned the Offense versus Defense spring game into an Orange versus White. There was a reason he never once let the word "starter" enter his or his players' vocabulary. And there was a reason he made his quarterbacks off limits to the media (so they wouldn't keep saying they were the right guy for the job).

And the reason is simple -- he wanted to bring The U back together. Saturday, I finally got someone -- receiver Sam Shields -- to admit there was a problem with unity last year. And in a world where nobody wants to speak ill of the past or hurt somebody's feelings, that's an accomplishment. Shields said "Everybody wasn't working together last year. But we're starting. We had to regroup."

The Hurricanes seemed to have accomplished that this spring. Unlike last season when you could get Larry Coker to tell you who practiced well, who was excelling and who was struggling, getting that kind of information this year from anybody has been tough. The usual answer to a question about who played well is: "Everybody." On a team that's important in the lockerroom. Everyone needs to feel like they have some importance, like they aren't busting their rears for no reason. Last year, there was no question you could sense a divide between offense and defensive players. For the past five years, the defense has carried this team. This coming season looks no different. But at least now, you get the sense there will be no fingerpointing behind the scenes. There will be no division in the lockerroom.

I've got more to breakdown. But now that I've got the big picture out of the way in terms of what I thought UM was able to accomplish this spring, I'll come back tomorrow with a position-by-position break down, who I believe excelled this spring individually and my MVP awards. In the meantime, leave your thoughts and questions. I'll try to answer. Also, check back for an update after the basketball team's banquet tonight. I'll be going to get an update on men's hoops.

Peace.

Comments

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The QB position is still the glaring problem in the UM offense. We have not anything to realy cheer about since Dorsey left. I do not think our receivers were that much better then. I just think they had more confidence in their QB. When you know the ball is going to get to you each time you know you are expected to make a catch. Instead of first having to size up if it is a ball worth playing as a receiver or something you just want to make sure the other team does not intercept. I hope Marve comes in, in the fall and takes the starting job. I watched this kid at Plant High and he has all of the makings of a great QB and if he can mentally adjust I believe he is the best of our three options.

I agree with Scott. I believe Freeman and Wright are both square pegs that we are trying to force in a triangle. They just aren't working and after 3-4 years that should be evident by now. I'm not too thrilled about Shannons choice of offensive coordinator in Nix either and i told him this to his face at a recent banquet. I do believe in Shannon though and quite frankly i'm tired of all the talk. i don't care about the team chemistry, who's the QB, who has an injury, or any of the other topics, that seem to have made headlines I JUST WANT LOTS OF WINS!!!!!!!!!!

I think coach Shannon is pointing this team in the right direction. In order for everybody to put 110%, they have to play as a team. Regarding the QB, I think it had to do a lot with coaching. I think both QB's where victim of really bad coaching the last few years. If coach Nix doesn't do his job right, then we will have the same result as the last two years. I think we are going to be surprise of how well the offense is going to look. I'm not saying is going to light up the scoreboard, but we will see more than 14 points a game. Go canes!!!!!!!!!

Brock Berlin stunk and we beat FSU, UF, won the Orange Bowl and lost 2 games by less than a touchdown combined. Almost exactly the same thing his second year. Kyle Wright stunk two years ago and we lost the opener against FSU and a late season game to GT, again by a combined total of less than a TD (I think, but close to that). WE DON'T NEED DAN MARINO BACK THERE TO WIN THE TITLE! If the TEAM doesn't fall apart like it did a year ago, or like it did in close games, then we're right back to high rankings and title contention. Did you realize that every loss we had in the past 25+ years when leading at the start of the fourth quarter happened either under Coker or while we were sanctioned? That's the team falling apart, not just the QB's. That's why Shannon is doing what he's doing...because the team needs to show up this season. If it does, those two loss seasons 3 of the past 4 years turn into undefeated seasons, regardless of whether the QB's are hall of famers of just abover average.

Manny,

I believe this is the first time I have walked away from something you have written actually feeling that what I just read was inciteful. This is an interesting story line, that Shannon is concentrating on building a "team". If you think back to the glory days at the University of Miami, the key to all of those teams was an immense sense of pride. Those players, Michael Irvin, Lamar Thomas, Warren Sapp, etc. they bled orange and green. The University of Miami was something they carried with them. Even recent players such as Edgerrin James, Mcgahee, Jonathan Vilma, and Ed Reed had that swagger. Lately, and I mean over the course of the past few years, there have not been many players that have that "aura" about them. Perhaps Shannon is doing the right thing. Circling the troops, turning it into an "us against the world" scenario. And everyone knows that at the "U", that is when they are most dangerous. Get those players angry, give them an agenda, make them believe in this team again. And, above all, bring that buzz back to the orange bowl, or where ever we end up playing. The fans at the stadium last year were abysmal. They were not into the games at all. Bring back that attitude where being a Cane meant something.

Manny,

Good blog entry.

Just a suggestion... Stop promising that you will be back by a certain date with more entries and not deliver. People see blogs as an ongoing story - unlike a regular article that has an ending.

-Dru-

Scott, our receivers weren't better under Dorsey? Andre Johnson, Reggie and Santana? As opposed to Darnell Jenkins and Lance Leggett? Come on! But the consensus here is correct, play as a team and we will be just fine. Andhold those four fingers up for 4Q!

I dont' think Randy Shannon is the right coach. Our D was exploited while Shannon was running it. We have had good players. If you ever saw Brock Berlin play in high school you would see he belonged in the shot gun. We just haven't had good coaching for quite a while, and no one to teach the kids how to play. We have been out coached for the last four years. Other teams know what we are going to do all the time. As for Shannon? Everyone was going deep on us and since when do teams beat us deep???
We will continue to stink up the field untill we get a real coach. Not a cheap left over bunch of coordinators. Our only bright spot is Michael Barrow.

During the mid to late 80's and the 90's, the dominant Miami Hurricane football teams believed the 4th quarter belonged to them regardless of the score. If you looked on the miami side line at the end of the third quarter and start of the fourth quarter every single player had four fingers up in the air. Under Jimmy Johnson Miami started the holding up of 4 finger for the 4th quater victories, in recent years miami players now have their heads bowed while the other teams are holding up the 4 fingers. Randy Shannon was apart of that sucessful era as a player, as a quality defensive cordinator he consistently produced highly ranked defense, now as the head coach, I hope he will bring back that confidence, followed by acc titles and national championships MIAMI HURRICANE STYLE.

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