I wasn't in Boston today for the end of the worst football season at UM in 30 years. I was here at home in Miami, watching Frank Haith's basketball team grow a little more.
The Canes survived 55-51, improving without its star Jack McClinton and against a team in Morgan State that is likely good enough to win the MEAC and get into the NCAA Tournament. Last year's basketball season was as dreadful as any I've had to watch. Injuries completely destroyed UM in a 12-20 campaign. Yet, still, the season somehow ended on a positive note. Miami upset Maryland and I left the ACC Tournament feeling like, man, this basketball team, if it only had some healthy players they might be pretty good.
UM's football season ended Saturday in Chestnut Hill and even though I wasn't there, I felt totally different watching Miami's football season end compared to the way UM's basketball season ended last March. When I saw Kyle Wright get smashed in the stomach one last time and his final pass fall incomplete, I tried to find a positive. I couldn't. Then, the question popped into my head. What can honestly make UM fans feel good going into next year? Last year, when Miami finished 7-6 and with a bowl win, you had something to look forward to. You had a new coach in Randy Shannon. You had a good defense with Kenny Phillips and Calais Campbell. And you had hope with 18 starters returning.
None of that will come into play next fall. The only thing UM has going for it right now is the hope its next recruiting class is balls to the wall spectacular. How much growth do you expect to see from Kirby Freeman next season? How much better will Patrick Nix's play calling be? How much better of a defensive coordinator is Tim Walton going to be after 12 games? Didn't we just watch this team regress in its final four games? What are the Hurricanes honestly good at?
Offense? Let's see, Darnell Jenkins the team's best receiver is gone. Sam Shields and Ryan Hill, talented, but will they ever stop getting into trouble? The offensive line? Morse, the guy coach Randy Shannon made an example of as true Hurricane earlier this year, will be gone. Yes, you got Orlando Franklin and Jason Fox, but where are the other superstars? Quarterback? Exactly. A redshirt freshman quarterback in Robert Marve who has a lot to prove. Running back? Javarris James had 3 yards on three carries Saturday. Graig Cooper wasn't much better. Where were the long runs everyone expected to see? Where were those Willis McGahee-type screen passes that went to the house?
Defense? Here's three numbers for you -- 48, 44 and 28. Miami finished the season with tread marks on its back, victims of the prolific offenses Virginia, Virginia Tech and Boston College have always had (I'm joking about the prolific). Calais Campbell and Kenny Phillips, the team's two best players, are likely headed to the NFL. How about the defensive line? Eric Moncur and Antonio Dixon will be back, Adewale Ojomo will be a year older, but not much else to choose from. Linebackers? Gooden, the best of the group, is gone. Well, there's Colin McCarthy and... and how many times did we see guys out of position on pass plays?
Special teams? Where is the game breaker on returns? Where is the kicker who can make chip shot field goals? Matt Bosher was an average punter this season at best.
I don't mean to pick on the Canes when they are down and their season is over. I know some of you die-hards will take offense. But in a season when so much went wrong and so little happened positively, I ask you these question: What is this team good at right now? What can Miami say going into next season that it is good at? The reality is nothing. All Canes fans have right now is hope.
Hope that Robert Marve is as good as advertised and not a product of the system he was in at Tampa Plant (his predecessor, junior Aaron Murray, broke his state record with 51 touchdown passes this season).
Hope that Javarris James, Graig Cooper and Shawnbrey McNeal's poor finish to this season was a result of a downtrodden team, injuries and bad blocking.
Hope that Jason Fox, Orlando Franklin and Reggie Youngblood can stay healthy next season and anchor a very young offensive line that will feature freshmen that couldn't get on the field this year, but are supposed to be better next.
Hope that Jermaine McKenzie's neck is in good shape and those stories you hear about him in practice are true, and that Leonard Hankerson doesn't drop the ball anymore and that Hill and Shields grow up.
Hope that a tight end emerges from a group that couldn't emerge except for one game-winning catch against FSU.
Hope that Antonio Dixon's knee gets healthy, he can play more than 20-30 plays and that Adewale Ojomo really is as good as Eric Moncur was in spurts this season.
Hope that Glenn Cook can come back and play the middle, Colin McCarthy gets even better, Daryl Sharpton finally gets it and Allen Bailey doesn't get so big they need to move him to defensive line.
Hope that DeMarcus Van Dyke puts on a little more weight in muscle, Chavez Grant gets a chance to start at corner and Randy Phillips and Lovon Ponder are so good they keep Damien Berry and Jojo Nicholas off the field.
Hope that someone can finally become the game breaker UM needs on special teams.
And most importantly, hope that all of these young talented players Shannon and his staff are recruiting are not only great players, but good enough to start contributing right away.