I couldn't help but feel pretty good after leaving the BankUnited Center Saturday afternoon. Not only because Frank Haith's basketball team capped its best week ever in the ACC with an impressive victory over Maryland, but because for the first time in a while there is a sincerely good feeling around The U again as a whole.
* The baseball team opened the season with a three-game sweep of Cincinnati. With the mix of talent and experience this team has, it looks and feels like this could be a special year (at the very least a return to the College World Series type of season).
* Haith's bunch just beat Duke, is red hot and appears to be on its way to its first NCAA tournament appearance since 2002.
* And the football team, which just signed one of the nation's top freshman classes a few weeks ago, is set to begin spring practice today without any talk about rebuilding or fired coaches or Kyle or Kirby. This spring there is nothing but good old fashioned optimism.
Being born and raised in this city and having spent many Saturdays at the Orange Bowl and Friday nights at the Light as a kid, it's hard for a South Florida guy like me to at least not admit I'm a little happier these days (I'm human after all) that the Canes are doing better. So, I started thinking... When was the last time as a Canes fan have you felt this good? Better yet, when was the last time you were looking forward to what would happen next at Miami while not having to cover one eye while doing it?
I know I haven't given you a real topic to chew on in a while. But I figured as you sit at your computer today waiting for updates on what's happening out at spring practice, you can take a moment to reflect, pound your chest a little and give me your thoughts on the question posed above.
As for spring ball, I never completed my spring forecasts because I was unable to speak to any other position coaches in the two weeks leading up to today's first practice (media availability was about the only thing that hasn't been going well at UM lately). So, instead, I've decided to make them spring reports. I'll be at practice in the coming weeks. There, I plan to do some more in depth reporting as the practices roll on. For now, though, these are the more intriguing story lines I'm sure all of us will be following.
* Bill Young's new defense. What is it going to look like and what are players going to be saying about it? Young told us Friday in a five minute press conference not to expect much change because he stole most of his idea from Randy Shannon and other UM coaches over the years. But come on... you know this team is going show some different looks. The Hurricanes rarely blitzed under Shannon's leadership when he was the defensive coordinator. Young's defense at Kansas was all about taking chances, creating pressure and turnovers. UM used to have one of the most exciting, play making defenses in the country. Last year, they just looked sorry. I can't wait to see how different UM will look come on March 6th and the first spring game at Traz Powell Stadium.
* The quarterback battle. After three years of Kyle, Kirby and some of the worst quarterback play the program has ever had I'm extremely interested to see what two of the state's best high school quarterbacks -- Robert Marve and Jacory Harris -- are going to do being thrown into the fire. Coach Randy Shannon told us Friday he wasn't going to name a starter by the end of the spring and he wouldn't rule out using a two-quarterback system come the fall. What he didn't say is what we should already expect. We're not going to hear him or offensive coordinator Patrick Nix say anything to give us an idea which quarterback is performing better during practice. Nix and Shannon didn't do it last year. They certainly aren't going to do it with these two young guys. The two dates to catch Miami's young QBs and do some critiquing of your own are March 6th (at Traz Powell Stadium) and March 29th (the spring game at Lockhart Stadium).
* The Search For The Playmaker. Shannon has said repeatedly Miami's biggest problem offensively in the past few seasons has been finding that player that could "make somebody miss." With the addition of seven talented receivers in this signing class -- including the early arrival of Aldarius Johnson -- and the return to health of redshirt freshman Jermaine McKenzie, I'm convinced UM has a playmaker or the set of playmakers its longed for. The question is: Who is going to be emerge and be the man at receiver? Sam Shields, assuming he shakes off his off the field woes, should be that person. He's got the talent and ability to be. But will these young hungry guys who are just as talented push him out of the way? It certainly is going to be fun to watch.
* Big Boss Bailey. Allen Bailey was considered the most prized defensive recruit Miami hauled in 2006. He's grown into a walking muscle -- 6-4, 289 pounds with 7 percent body fat. How scary is he going to look on UM's defense now that's made the move from linebacker to defensive line? Is he the most talented player on UM's defense now that Kenny Phillips and Calais Campbell are gone?