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Progress report: Florida State

I tried to get this done yesterday, but had Randy Shannon's press conference to get to and then transcribe. So, here it is today. Once again, feel free to share your grades and your thoughts on the progress of this team. In fact, I'll leave you with a few questions to ask yourself: Are you still willing to sit back and watch this team grow? Or, are you getting tired of the losing and demand wins now? And, finally, is this football team better than last year's team which started 4-1?

Onto the progress report. I'll remind you my grading system system, in honor of the Canes, is simple: National championship material (excellent), BCS worthy (good), MicronPC Bowl here we come (average), Coker-esque (poor) and Scout Team reserve (the bottom of the barrel).

Quarterbacks: This was the first time this season Robert Marve and Jacory Harris didn't look like All-Robert_marve_stuffed Americans. Rather, more like what they really are: freshmen. Marve wass 17 of 40 for 122 yards and an interception. He said afterward the ball was a bit slippery because of the rain, but wasn't really trying to make excuses. Florida State had a lot to do with his problems. The Seminoles defense applied a ton of pressure. Harris, meanwhile, also threw his first interception of the season. But he proved yet again he can at least move the team down the field. He drove UM down the field before the half and had a touchdown pass dropped by Leonard Hankerson in the end zone. Still, coach Randy Shannon said Sunday Harris deserves to play. And I agree with him. He's certainly not hurting the team. This week's progress report says: MicronPC Bowl here we come. The numbers weren't great. But a lot of that had to with receivers dropping passes. I liked the fight both quarterbacks showed dealing with heavy pressure and all in all, there weren't really a ton of mistakes on their part.

Running backs: It's hard to grade this unit this week considering Miami had to Graig_cooper_bottled_upabandon the run so early. But here are the facts: Graig Cooper's run of back-to-back 100 yard games came to an end. After getting off to a snails' pace on UM's first two possessions, he finished with 31 yards on six carries and actually moved UM downfield before a sack pushed the Canes back. Ultimately, I thought Cooper did a very good job picking up blitzers in blocking situations, something he asked Shannon to let him do. Marve and Harris after all only got sacked twice despite the constant pass rush. And neither time was it Cooper or any of the running backs' faults. Cooper also led the team in receiving with seven catches. This week's progress report says: BCS Worthy. I'm ultimately grading Cooper and this unit on what they had a chance to do -- catch the ball and block -- and not what they didn't (only 14 rushing attemtps in all). And I thought they did a good job at it.

Receivers/tight ends: Tough day when it came to the drops for the receivers -- especially the veterans Leonard_hankerson like Sam Shields, Leonard Hankerson and Kayne Farquharson. But I thought the freshmen did a great job when given opportunities. Aldarius Johnson appears like he's emerging from the pack. He had 5 catches for 55 yards including a beautiful play late in the game when he broke a tackle and scurried up field for a 27-yard gain on Miami's final scoring drive. Travis Benjamin had the biggest catch of the game on the trick play pass from Graig Cooper and Laron Byrd came through with a key fourth down catch to keep a drive alive. But the veterans are killing this unit. Shannon talked Sunday at length about his receivers and I get the sense he's ready to commit to the freshmen more and more. He also said position coach Aubrey Hill is stressing "stacking" where receivers sort of box out defensive backs to shield them from the ball -- something receivers haven't been doing enough. This week, Hankerson could be out with an injury, which means Jermaine McKenzie (who we thought would play and didn't) will get his chance in the slot with the only other healthy slot receiver on the team -- Farquharson. This week's progress report says: MicronPC Bowl here we come. Like you, I'm getting tired of seeing the drops by the veterans. Wet ball or not, they got to come up with it. The freshman certainly aren't having those problems.

Offensive line: No running game and lots of pressure on the quarterback. That's how the offensive line performed Saturday. The highlight? Left tackle Jason Fox scoring on a trick play. Florida State's front line was obviously better than UM's. The Canes certainly missed Reggie Youngblood at right tackle. Chris Rutledge started in his place -- not Tyrone Byrd like we were told -- and missed a key block early that led to one of two FSU sacks. Overall, for a unit Miami thought it was its offensive strength, this unit played the worst of any Saturday. Still, it was only two sacks officially. So, it wasn't that bad. This week's progress report says: MicronPC Bowl here we come. We all expected more and got less especially early. But Fox's touchdown and the fact there were only two sacks allowed saved the line's grade this week.

The Front Seven: All week long we heard about how great Miami's run defense had performed through four Antone_smiths_winning_td games. Then, they reverted to looking like they did against Virginia a year ago. Christian Ponder didn't feel much pressure at all and wasn't sacked once. Instead, he escaped the pocket on countless occassions and eluded slower Miami linebackers. 144 yards by an opposing quarterback on the run? Inexcusable. The lone bright spots for Miami were freshman Sean Spence, who led the team with 10 tackles and scored on a deflected pass/interception return for a touchdown, and Glenn Cook's stop of Antone Smith on a key third down situation. But that -- and a few nice stops by defensive tackle Marcus Forston in the backfield and one play by Joe Joseph -- was it. This week's progress report says: Bottom of the barrell. It certainly hurt not to have Colin McCarthy and to have Eric Moncur go down. But now this defense must get used to it. Both won't be back this season. There are just too many missed tackles and blown assignments happening. We'll have to see if it really is fixable.

The Secondary: The poster boy for UM's day in the secondary was freshman Brandon Harris, who was Fsu_abuses_brandon_harris flagged twice for pass interference, once for holding and missed several open field tackles. Harris, making his first start at corner, had a bad day and its excusable. But where is the veteran help? Florida State's receivers didn't abuse Miami like North Carolina's did a week earlier. But Miami still didn't do a great job wrapping up. Shannon said there is still too much arm tackling going on. The one positive was Bruce Johnson's interception -- the first for the secondary this season. But there were too many blown coverages and mistakes. How FSU scored on third and goal from the 20 is beyond me. Where were the safeties? This week's progress report says: Coker-esque. I'm beginning to wonder if I should change this category because not even Coker's defensive backfield was this bad.

Special Teams: Here is the one area Miami shined Saturday -- and Benjamin deserves all the credit. He Travis_benjamin not only scored on a 18-yard end around and a 51-yard catch, but he kept UM in the game and helped a struggling offense with his great returns. He finished with 274 all-purpose yards. Matt Bosher also had a great day. He was 3 for 3 on field goals on a wet field and averaged 45.3 yards a punt (that includes a 57-yarder). He also did a great job on kickoffs, kicking the ball into the corner and not allowing FSU to put together many big returns. This week's progress report says: National championship material. You can't ask Benjamin, Bosher and the special teams unit to do anymore than they did. Well, maybe play defense too.

Coaching: Aside from a few successful trick plays and some good efforts on special teams, Patrick Nix Randy_shannon and Bill Young were taken to school Saturday by Jimbo Fisher and Mickey Andrews. Miami didn't fall behind 24-0 by accident. FSU shutdown Miami's running game and put immense pressure on Marve and the quarterbacks with blitzes it seemed UM only was able to adjust to in the second half. Young honestly never made the adjustments to stop Fisher's offense. This week, the real challenge begins for Young who has to find a way to make this defense better without Moncur and McCarthy. This week's progress report says: Coker-esque. All of the offensive woes (drops by receivers) weren't all Nix's fault. But the offense didn't look great. I've already ripped the defense enough.