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September Report Card

With the Canes set to begin ACC play this week, I figured it was a good time to reflect on the first month of the season and what happened during the non-conference schedule.  I've found some interesting tidbits by looking through the stats alone -- numbers that will open some eyes (check out the o-line). My goal is to give some overachievers some credit and underachievers some heat. But beyond grading, rewarding and reminiscing, I want to have a little fun and look back at what we were thinking/predicting before it happened. And when it calls for it, what was being said by Miami's coaches and what we -- the Eye on The U Crew -- were thinking about certain decisions.

*But before that... PROGRAMMING REMINDER: Tonight from 8 to 9 p.m. at Canespace.com I will be fielding questions live. Feel free to tune it or leave me some questions here. On with the program...

Let's start with the hardware before we breakdown each position.
Offensive MVP: The line -- Jason Fox, Andrew Bain, John Rochford, Derrick Morse, Reggie Youngblood, Chris Rutledge and Orlando Franklin. See below.
Defensive MVP: Linebacker Tavares Gooden. A lot was expected from Gooden when Tavares_gooden_mugGlen Cook went down. He's held his own, leading the team in tackles with 34.
Rookie of The Month: Linebacker Colin McCarthy. Say what you want about Graig Cooper, McCarthy has been the most valuable of the new starters in my eyes. Second on the team with 30 tackles and a handful of big plays already.|
Overachievers: Safety Willie Cooper and defensive lineman Vegas Franklin. Cooper has filled in nicely at safety for the injured Lovon Ponder and has 16 tackles to go with two big fumbles forced against A&M. Franklin is tearing it up on the defensive line (see below).
Disappointments: Defensive back Randy Phillips. Was supposed to be counted on to be the team's No. 1 corner. Got exposed against Oklahoma before being moved to safety.

Quarterbacks:
Before the start of the season everybody wanted to know who would end up being named Miami's starting quarterback. We all had an opinion. I thought Kyle Wright was going to get it. Then, Randy Shannon and Patrick Nix picked Kirby Freeman the Tuesday before the Marshall game saying he gave the team the best chance to win.
Kyle_wright_mug- What The U Crew thought: They agreed. Kirby Freeman got 49 percent and the majority of the vote in the Eye on The U pre-decision poll question on August 27. Kyle Wright got 39 percent of the vote.
- What happened: Freeman started two games before being pulled in the second quarter of Miami's 51-13 loss at Oklahoma. Wright gets the job in Week 3 and cements his role a week later by beating 20th-ranked Texas A&M at home with a stellar 21 of 26 performance for 275 yards and two TDs last Thursday.
- Eye On The U Grade: D+. Before Kyle Wright broke loose and Miami recorded its biggest win of the season last Thursday against Texas A&M, this unit alone was one of the worst statiscally in the country. Miami's passing game moved from 115th to 103rd after its 275 yard outbut. Not a giant improvement. But it brought enough optimism in me to raise the grade from failing to a solid below average grade.
- Bonus: HEY SOUP! How's this for a reminder? You responded to my Should Kyle Start vs. OU blog earlier this month this way: "Manny... I know what you are up to and it may just work! My answer is NO to Kyle! I have said it a thousand times... let Kirby play the whole season and then judge not just the opening game." Just messing with ya SOUP!

Running backs: We all remember Randy Shannon's goof before fall practice started when he called Javarris James and Graig Cooper 'Butt Buddies.' We heard all about how they were going to become a great tandem in the backfield and share the load peacefully.
Graig_cooper_action- What's happened: So far, so good. The Canes rushing offense, which ranked 84th nationally and averaged 116 yards a game last year, has picked it up. Miami's rushing offense currently ranks 52nd in the nation and is averaging 160.8 yards a game. James has 265 yards and three touchdowns on 61 attempts and is on pace to finish the season with 794 yards. Cooper has 240 yards and two touchdowns on 48 attempts and is on pace to finish the season with 720 yards. Pretty equal. More successful.
- Eye On The U Grade: B. Cooper and James have proven to be a solid combo, but they were held in check against Oklahoma and were held to 127 yards against A&M. They need to have big days when UM needs them most.

The Big Boys Up Front: We all heard how Miami's offensive line was going to be improved. John Rochford was named the surprise starter at center. Coach Jeff Stoutland talked about how he was going to rotate players along his offensive line and how it would make the unit better as a whole.
- What's happened: The Canes offensive line rotation has worked well. Chris Rutledge, Reggie John_rochford_mug Youngblood and Jason Fox have all split time at tackle while Orlando Franklin has spelled Andrew Bain at left guard. Miami's running game has not only improved, but the o-line has only given up five sacks, a 1.25 average that is good for 26th nationally. Rochford, meanwhile, has had just one bad exchange -- with Kirby Freeman in the season-opener.
- The eye-popping stat: The line itself has drawn just six penalties for 40 yards of Miami's 27 penalties for 218 yards this season. Don't believe me, I went play-by-play! Here it is: Orlando Franklin was flagged for holding against Marshall, nullifying a big Javarris James run. Chris Rutledge was flagged for holding against Oklahoma in the first quarter. Against FIU, Derrick Morse was hit for a false start in the first quarter before Rutledge was flagged for an illegal shift and false start in the second quarter, and Youngblood jumped offsides in the third quarter. And finally, UM's line went error free against Texas A&M. Freshman receiver Leonard Hankerson has been flagged twice for illegal blocking on his own.
- Eye On The U Grade: A. Without a doubt, the best unit on the offense. I'm not sure Miami is even close to being 3-1 if this unit wasn't as good as it has been.

Receivers: Miami's receivers have gotten a lot of heat for their poor production in recent history. Heading into the season, most figured the receiver woes weren't over. Most pointed to talented sophomore Sam Shields and Darnell Jenkins, who had a great camp, to be the leaders of the receiving game.
- What's happened: According to the stats, Miami's receivers have had just four drops this season. Still, most observers would consider what the receivers have accomplished thus far to be Darnell_jenkins_catch underachievement. Before he caught 6 passes for 117 yards in the win over Texas A&M last Thursday, Shields had just one catch for seven yards. Jenkins, meanwhile, has turned into Miami's go-to man for big plays. He leads the team with 12 receptions for 178 yards, including 11 that have gone for first downs -- including six on third down. Lance Leggett has six catches for 151 yards and a score, but a big chunk came from that 80-yard TD catch against FIU. Ryan Hill has four catches for 42 yards and score. Meanwhile, the rest of Miami's receivers -- Leonard Hankerson and Kayne Farquharson -- have combined for three catches for 29 yars. Not great support.
- Eye On The U Grade: D+. Same scenario as the quarterbacks. Simply not enough production and without the A&M effort it would have been an F.

Tight Ends: Were expected to have a drop off with the departure of Greg Olsen.
- What's happened: On paper it looks far worse than most expected. Starter Dajleon Farr has one catch for one yard and one touchdown. Third-stringer Chris Zellner has three catches for 17 yards and a touchdown, Dedrick Epps two catches for 20 yards and Richard Gordon one catch for 8 yards. That's a total of 7 catches for 46 yards and two scores. After four games last season, Olsen had 8 catches for 90 yards and no scores. Hey, maybe they're not doing so bad after all.
- Eye On The U Grade: C. This group wasn't expected to do a lot. The good news is they haven't been penalized yet. That gets them the C.

Defensive line: This unit was expected to do big things before the start of the season. Calais Campbell was targeted as the team's best player. I thought Eric Moncur would lead the team in sacks. Line coach Clint Hurtt said Teraz McCray, Josh Holmes and Antonio Dixon would provide a solid trio up front at tackle.
Vegas_franklin_mug- What's happened: Miami's d-line has produced plenty of pressure on the quarterback including 9 sacks -- two more than UM's d-line had last year after four games. Some have been knocking Campbell for having only 1.5 sacks after four games. But he had only one sack at this time last year. Despite injuries to their three best defensive tackles, Miami's defense has still been one of the stingiest in the country against the run and rank 32nd overall (106 ypg). Moncur is second on the team in sacks with 2.5.
- The surprise: The stellar play of Vegas Franklin, who leads the team with 3 sacks and shares the lead with Campbell at 3.5 tackles for loss. Franklin is a player who was expected to fill in at both tackle and at end. He's done great at both.
- Eye On The U Grade: A-. There's no doubt this unit has played as good as advertised. Watch for Campbell, who has three QB hurries to lead the team, to pick up some more sacks soon.

Linebackers: This unit was seen as an area of inexperience even before Glen Cook's injury forced Randy Shannon with a tough decision. Shannon moved Tavares Gooden to middle linebacker and put sophomore Colin McCarthy alongside Spencer Adkins.
- What's happened: Gooden has turned out to be a pleasant surprise at middle linebacker. He leads the Colin_mccarthy_mugteam with a combined 34 tackles and a had big interception that got Miami's offense rolling in the season opener. McCarthy, meanwhile, has held up just fine. He's got 30 tackles, two for loss, a sack, an interception and two pass breakups. Adkins has done OK himself. He has 15 tackles, two for loss and had a big sack and hit against Texas A&M QB Stephen McGee. But his fame thus far has come from getting beat by Trenard Turner for FIU's only touchdown two weeks ago. The backups, meanwhile, have been virtually non-existant. Darryl Sharpton has five tackles. Allen Bailey has four. Eric Houston three.
- Eye on The U Grade: B. Linebacker was a cause for concern, but so far, they've played better than average. Each starter has one interception. And the shutdown of A&M's vaunted running game was impressive.

Secondary: With Kenny Phillips back at safety and Randy Phillips back at corner, most expected whoever started opposite them to keep Miami among the nation's best pass defensesWillie_cooper_mug.
- What's happened: Despite getting lit up by Oklahoma for 6 TDs and 295 yards, Miami's pass defense has kept itself among the upper echelon of units in the country. The Canes rank 30th Pass D with 181.75 yards a game. In fact, if not for the OU fiasco, UM's secondary has only given up two other passing TDs -- a fluke 65-yarder against FIU and the end of the game grab by Martellus Bennett against Texas A&M. The secondary, meanwhile, has four interceptions -- three more than Miami had after four games last season. Kenny Phillips, third on the team with 28 tackles, is the only player in the secondary flagged for pass interference. And as unit, UM's DBs have drawn just two penalties for 15 yards.
- Eye On The U Grade: B. Despite the ugly showing against OU, UM's secondary has more than survived in the early going. Willie Cooper has been a solid fill-in for Ponder. Freshman DeMarcus Van Dyke did a decent job when he was in there. And Carlos Armour, Bruce Johnson and Chavez Grant have made good plays when they've been on the field.

Special teams: New kickers, new return men were the call of the day before the start of the season. Tight end Richard Gordon was tabbed as one of the surprise kick returners with the explosive Graig Cooper handling punts. Francesco Zampogna, a sixth-year walk-on, was given the kicking duties. Daren Daly kickoffs and sophomore Matt Bosher the punting duties.
- What's happened: Only Zampogna and Cooper have worked out. Zampogna has been solid, converting on 8 of 11 field goal attempts including a season-long 45-yarder. Cooper has looked on the verge of breaking one and has an average of 6.8 a return. But the Canes have drawn quite a few penalties on special teams, nullifying some of his bigger returns. Gordon, meanwhile, is no longer returning kicks. The trouble is more on the punting end where Bosher's 35.6 average is way below the 40.2 average opponents have against Miami.
Eye on The U Grade: C. Still now big plays from the special teams as a whole. Zampogna has been good, but not great. And the punting needs work.

Comments

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Our kicking game is horrible...Are we recruiting any kickers???

1st! Nice stats Manny! Let's hope we can improve in all phases, if we can get at least get each unit functioning at a B+ level minimum, we'll be FLYING HIGH!

Damn, then not 1st, but 2nd. LOL

Manny:
Very fair assesment on your part, the receivers and the kicking game are the two that need the most improvement. If the team can match the A&M effort against Duke it will certainly help build more confidence going into confrence play.

Good breakdown, Manny. One thing:

Give more props to the TEs for their blocking. They're not a featured position in our passing game, but they're doing what they're supposed to be doing. They deserve more than a "C".

I didn't realize Zampognia is 8 for 11 on the year. That's a lot better than any of us expected. And his name is fun to pronounce.

"ZAMPOGNIA!"

I only disagree with you on one section: The kicking game is far worse than C material. The punting is atrocious, the kickoffs are always short (I think I've only seen two go to the endzone), and the 3 field goals Zampognia has missed were all makable.

This unit deserves an D, and special teams together deserve a big red F. They are by far the weakest part of this team.

Nice job Manny but no way the secondary is a "B" after that OU game. At best they are a C or C-.

Texas A&M had no passing game. the good news is the secondary may not be tested until maybe FSU, maybe UVA, or maybe until the end of the year at BC. Sounds good to me! Just my two cents.

http://www.theacc.com/genrel/092407aad.html ACC-All Access (6:30p 9/25 on FSN) features f$u for the 3rd straight episode. why? I smell anti-UM/pro-f$u sun sports! PUT MY FOOT DOWN

http://www.usatoday.com/sports/weekend-tv-ratings.htm notre lame's TV ratings plummet : ) does god root against touchdown jesus?

Insightful Manny.

Know anything about Jacory Hill becoming a soft verbal?

Any verbal is a soft commit cause it doesn't till they sign but just wondering. I was thinking Jacory was not enthused competing with Marve.

790 kicks the stuffing out of 560 ... again. the august trend details the upstart's dominance. even Neil Rogers can't rescue the once-proud sports leader ... TOPPLED

is Neil Rogers worth $1M a year?

we don't wanna hear dolphin happy talk shoved down our throat. REPUGNANT! we found an alternative. 790's roster: Sid Rosenberg (UM alum); jorge sedano (UM fan); Lebaturd (UM alum); kevin rogers (college fan); Allan Strauss (UM alum) & larry milian (UM fan). notice the thread ...

Agree with Manny's grades for the most part, though you could shift some of them up or down one and still have a valid point. Special teams is definitely the chink in Miami's armor as a unit. The offense as a whole tends to leave points on the field with turnovers as well. They need to fix both or it's going to cost them a game they should win, probably at FSU or Va Tech.

The secondary actaully will be tested this week. Duke's QB Thaddeus Lewis or something like that has actually thrown for some big games and although Duke sucks if the secondary doesn't play hard they might and will get torched on some plays. Weatherford is similar in not likely but potentially being a threat. It all comes down to Matt Ryan and BC though. The secondary has to come together by our last game or we are getting absolutely demolished in Boston. Keep the Hail Flutie curse alive!

did 560 make a deal with the devil to reacquire dolphin rights? 560's roster: save Neil Rogers, current & former dolphin employees from sunrise to sunset. FAUSTIAN BARGAIN

Thanks for the stats Manny!

I can only grade on an overall scale.

I give the canes a C+. with plenty of room for improvement.

Going into ACC play we control our destiny and it is up to The U to decide where we will be bowling.

The only way I see the Canes is up from here on out. They have the speed and the talent butg we have to dominate these ACC teams to show our recruits we can still get it done.

One recruit I think we need to put the pressure on is Sabino from Krop he can not get away from us. Same goes for Streeter, we need these two keys in recruiting.

There is a kid Named Kavarrio Middleton who I think will be the replacement for Campbell @ end. We need to give him alot of attention because he can play a versitile TE and dominant DE!

I was watching a game on saturday and Authur Brown of Kansas said he is considering The U. Manny whats up with this recruit.

Yo manny all these kids are commiting but taking all these visits what up with that. Who do you see commiting in the very near future.

Manny great post! Props to you for the work and effort that you have put on this topic. This just to show that this team is getting better and we need to have a good showing against Duke and not have any let downs. The OL and LB play have been a huge impact on this team so far.

I agree for the most part with the grades. However the DB's do not rate the B, I would give them a solid C. They got torched agaisnt OU and have givin up a few big plays late in the game. I do think they will inprove if we keep getting presure on the QB. Kenny Phillips has played good but not great thus far. I expect KP and the group to start improving each game, at least they better or we could be in trouble. I cant say enough about the O-line, they have improved a lot from a year ago. We have a good unit and rotate them well, Kyle will continue to due well with time in the pocket. He should rack up some good numbers agaist Duke this weekend. GO CANES!!!!!!!

Green-leave the Faust musings to me if you don't mind. Personally, I don't know how anyone can listen to Rogers, but if he's making them money, he's worth it.

Manny must be using the new math to come up with 4 drops by the receivers. I've noticed at least two per game. The receivers are the area of the team that I feel we have the greatest room for improvement. Very little production so far, but the A & M game showed me that upside of this group may be higher than I thought. A little confidence can go a long way. I guess we'll see.

Randy Phillips is a player, which is why they keep putting him on the feild. He was not a corner, but he may prove to be a great safety. Keep an eye on him.

I don't usually sweat recruting that much, but I get the feeling that J. Harris may be the key recruit. If he's the team leader that everyone says, what happens to the rest of those commits if Harris goes elsewhere? The comments I've heard from him have been anything but soft, so maybe there's no concern.

I think Randy Shannon always intended to start Kyle(i.e.. Kirby was set up),and just let Kirby be the goat against Oklahoma. I'm sure this was a result of letting Kirby know that he would have an equal chance when he considered transferring last year.

Green-leave the Faust musings to me if you don't mind.

Posted by: Mephistopheles | September 25, 2007 at 11:33 AM touche'

I think Randy Shannon always intended to start Kyle(i.e.. Kirby was set up),and just let Kirby be the goat against Oklahoma.

Posted by: Bill Black | September 25, 2007 at 11:51 AM Coach Shannon gave Kirby enough rope to hang himself?! ABSURD

http://www.contractormag.com/articles/newsarticle.cfm?newsid=1243 can't complain about our new restrooms ...

I again agree with Green (I can't believe I just typed that). Bill Black, your conspiracy theory is rigoddamdiculous. You think Randy would tank the OU game just to keep Kirby around?

To quote the great Melvin Udall, "Go sell crazy somewhere else. We're all stocked up here."

I think there is a little too much fretting about recruiting considering it's not even October yet. These kids aren't coming until their name is in ink, and I give Randy credit for getting great talent interested, but I reserve judgement until he seals the deal in February. Also, flashy signings are great, and seem to have panned out for USC maybe, but Bobby Bowden always seems to get that last big name recruit to sign a letter of intent on national TV and that hasn't paid off recently has it? Get them in and coach 'em up. Don't worry too much about the process, that's Randys job.

If I had to guess about the Kirby thing, I think Kyle's knee was hurt to start the season, which might have tipped what was a generally even scale in Kirby's favor. Kyle was always the surperior passer, but Kirby hypothetically had better mobility and Kyle had taken lots of sacks. Shannon didn't want sacks, and didn't want the sore knee injured worse. When Kirby's mobility equals nothing but choosing to run instead of throwing downfield, Shannon benched him. I don't think it was any more complicated than that. No conspiracy to keep Kirby or motivate Kyle. Improved O-line will hopefully help Kyle rock out from here on out and improve on Manny's grades.

Manny here is one for the Q&A tonight. Dont know if this has been asked before tonight probably has but anyway.

What is the status of Robert Marve? Is he even close to being able to take some snaps in garbbage time; if we get some.
Do you think or know if he will be RedShirted or not?


Go Canes!!!!!

the standout to me thusfar has been Vegas Franklin.

Yea, manny, those were some pretty dam good stats, and I usually don't comment on here, but I have to give you props on that!!!

Link to LIVE chat tonight from 8-9 PM with Manny Navarro:

http://canespace.typepad.com/canespace/

Manny, Cooper fumble twice in last game. Have you talk to him, and is he doing anything different so it doesn't happen again?

the o-line and the d-line is where the fury of the canes begins and ends. both are doing well. as a team we still have a long way to go-- but randy has us on the right path.

hey Manny i pretty much agree with your grades.I think the offensive line is clearly the best unit and is deserving of an A grade. with the d line not far behind. The most surpising unit to me has been the play of the linebackers especially Tavares and Colin they are seeking and destroying. The most disappointing unit has got to be the recieving unit and secondary but i see improvement in both DVD is going to be a player has any one caught a pass on him? I would like to see more of dedrick epps he is a player as well as Shawnbrey his speed is what we are missing in the running game he reminds me of Clinton Portis. i like the way he hits the holes at full speed unlike baby J who tip toes and dance way too much.

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