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Could Canes be on path to national title in '09?

Before the 2009 season began all anybody wanted to talk about was how tough the first four games on UM's schedule was. Now, the Canes are a road win in Blacksburg, Va. and an inspiring win over Oklahoma at home from a 4-0 start.

Canes share postgame celebration with the student section. I'll tell you what they are also two wins away from: being a serious national title contender. Sounds nuts after what Randy Shannon's program did in his first two years. But why can't the Canes think national title this year? I know. It's early. I'm not trying to say this will happen or cloud any players' thoughts (some of you think that's what I aim to do).

But the blueprint most of us believed didn't call for UM's championship aspirations to truly develop until 2010. You know, when Jacory Harris and all those Miami Northwestern guys and recruits from the Canes No. 1-ranked recruiting class were going to be juniors. But after further review, it almost seems like 2009 might be worth a shot -- maybe even better than 2010. How so? Let me count the ways.

- How could the BCS not love a Canes team that starts the year with four straight wins over ranked opponents and potentially wins on the road against a ranked North Carolina to clinch the ACC Title? The 2010 schedule has a Sept. 11 date at Ohio State. But the other three non-conference games? FAMU, at Pittsburgh and a home date with South Florida. The strength of schedule argument is obviously better for 2009.

- Have you seen how good Miami's offense has been through two games? Do you honestly think the NFL or other teams in college football aren't going to come after offensive coordinator Mark Whipple with a bigger piggy bank than the one The U carries around. Fact: Whipple will be a hot offseason commodity. Just saying...

- The Hurricanes offensive line has been tremendous through two games. They've given up one sack and given Jacory Harris all the time in the world to pick apart Florida State and Georgia Tech. Sadly, Jason Fox, AJ Trump and Matt Pipho -- three of the guys in the current six-man rotation -- are seniors. They need to be replaced. Thursday night, some of their replacements -- Jermaine Johnson and Ben Jones -- were in street clothes on the sideline.

- UM's defense has plenty of young talent and room to grow. But they've also got a special group of senior leaders in Randy Phillips and Eric Moncur who won't be here next year. And who is to say big bad Allen Bailey won't make the jump early to the NFL? Ditto for junior running back Graig Cooper, who keeps displaying some special abilities used all over the field.

I repeat: I'm not trying to throw the Canes off track, put thoughts into their heads that shouldn't be there this early in a young season. The coaches are doing a good job of not allowing that. So, are the players. All Jacory Harris kept talking last night about was "the next game."

I'm just looking down a street I think most of us never though this team, this 2009 team could find themselves on this early: the one that possibly leads to Pasadena for the national championship game. I'm saying it might really be OK for everybody else to start wondering or daydreaming what most us thought was impossible.

REMEMBER THIS: The most poignant thing Randy Shannon talked about in his postgame press conference Thursday night was the focus his team showed leading up to the game. Pregame meal? Quiet. Bus ride to the stadium? Quiet. Pregame locker room? Quiet. Shannon said he and his assistants "didn't need to beg and plead for this team to stay focused. They were focused through the pregame." You definitely got that sense throughout practice last week. I'm not sure you could always say that about this program in Shannon's first two years. When you have leaders like Jacory Harris, Randy Phillips and Jason Fox who keep everyone in line, you put teammates in line -- that's when you could start believing a team could be really special.

GAME BALLS: Offensively, you could give one to Jacory Harris for his near-perfect night (20 of 25 270 yards, 3 TDS) throwing the football. Or, you could give it to LaRon Byrd for bouncing back from his O-fer against Florida State by leading UM in receptions and yards. But I'm handing it to the offensive line for completely shutting down Georgia Tech's pass rush. When I asked Harris if Derrick Morgan had even breathed on him, he said "I saw him early in the game from the corner of my eye. But they picked him and blocked him. I didn't worry about the defensive line the rest of the game." When a quarterback can have that much confidence in his offensive line, he can put up scary numbers. So here is to you Jason Fox, Orlando Franklin, AJ Trump, Harland Gunn, Joel Figueroa and Matt Pipho.

Defensively, Miami's front seven and Brandon Harris can share the love. Huge game by Darryl Sharpton with eight tackles and Harris had his second straight eye-opening performance. He had three pass deflections and looked like a shutdown corner. Oh, by-the-way, Georgia Tech finished with 95 yards rushing. That's a little bit less than the 472 they put up last year.

WORRY ABOUT: The special teams. Alex Uribe is a nice kid. But it looked like someone was standing on the sideline with a football magnet every time he kicked off Thursday. Matt Bosher had two missed field goals from point blank range. Like Shannon said, unacceptable. The Canes have plenty of work to do in kickoff coverage too -- especially with the special teams demons who play for Virginia Tech.

INJURY WATCH: We should find out shortly what the deal with defensive tackle Marcus Forston and running back Lee Chambers is. Both needed help limping off the field Thursday night. Josh Holmes had a tough time walking off on his own too in the second half. Our Susan Miller Degnan should have an update from coach Shannon's press conference later this morning.

SHAMELESS PLUG: Be sure to check out our newest product -- the Canes new app for your iPhone. Download it and have easy access to all the audio and Canes news we produce.

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1st

Manny, Manny, Manny!!

Why fill their heads up? Are you doing this on purpose, so you can write about the letdown and the negativity associated with it?

I am following Randy Shannon's lead - The last game has nothing to do with the next game.

My message to the canes is - Stay in the present. Like in golf, the most important swing is the one you have to make right now. The last swing doesn't matter, the next hole does not matter.

I wish in my heart of hearts this kind of writting could, should and would just stop. There are 2 more games to be played before you can count Miami at 4-0. Two very tough and demanding games yet to be played, and then what after that, PLEASE lets do the talking after we have done the walking. This team is special no doubt. I told this blog earlier that I felt they could do the impossible. I have seen this before. All those so called fans that damned this team and the coaching staff are SILENCED. And noe you write that we are going to have trouble keeping an assistant coach... Come on people give this team its chance to excell. Leave the NC retoric till alter in the season. If you want to HYPE this team lets get a puch for the Hiesman Trophy for J. Harris, he sure has set the nation of NCAA college football on its ear as of right now. Lets go team, lets go fans. Lets go the writers that cover the action. Please just do not add mopre to the story than has to be said. At least not till the proper time. Thanks

Definitely slow down with the 4-0 National Championship talk. Right now we need to celebrate that this team is 2-0 against to pretty decent teams, but they are not yet looking like a national power. Let's not delude ourselves, this team has some glaring weaknesses at the moment (pass defense and special teams). They are good, I don't think they are great. They may be able to hold their own against the ACC and win the title there, but I don't think they are ready to go up against the elite teams in college football.... yet. Whipple leaving is something to worry about, but with the talent they have and Shannon is continuing to get, I am not worried too much. If your players are that much better than the other team's, you will win regardless of scheme. Just remember the 2001 Title. The players were top notch, the coaching (in my opinion) were not.

Manny I usually love your writing, but was not a big fan of this blog....a lot of football left to be played...this is only Game 2...come on now.

c'mon manny!
let's focus on the next game.
let's get the special teams straightened out
and i have a bit of concern when our D goes up against a good passing team

as for whipple - hopefully he'll stay at least until jacory moves on...

go canes! one at a time!!!

Does anyone know which recruits and former players were at the game?

Don't jynx us Manny!

FSU was a better throw/catch away from victory and last night Georgia Tech played its third game in 12 days. Before the National Championship talk/blog's start to heat-up; let's do something we HAVE NEVER done before - like win the ACC Championship game. Unless that happens, nothing else does.

Manny - breathe and hold the horses. We are looking great, but we need to focus on VT only. Then when we focus on the game after that Oklahoma - period. This is clearly going to be a special team and a Heisman QB in the future (he is that great). It is too early to start that talk especially with a young team. As a long time Canes fan no one would be happier than me if that does happen this year or next.

I went Lane, its one of the loudest stadiums I ever been to. I can't wait to go next week, and witness the Canes silence it down.

Manny, I do can without the negative postings about "what-if's". After so many years with negatives, let us enjoy the moment for what it is! You still have the best blog in the land......

IMO it was more about coming out of the box strong and the difference great leadership can make on a program
Keeping this team focused on the next team on the schedule and in the end see where it takes us
RS and staff wont let us be satisfied, hell he gave the team a C grade on the game last night
Alot of us Miami fans said we would make a big run in 2010/2011 and thats really looking ahead
Like Manny said why cant the time be now?

Now that I vented my thoughts about the article I would like to take this time to tell you all what I saw and what really impressed me about this game and what left me wondering. First the good views: J. Harris what poise what dedication. no wonder he lead his HS team to all those wins. This kid is really top notch. I like the fact that there were no sacks and no interceptions to his passing. The OF Line is working wonders and this is really great to see. The running game was there against a team that was suppose to shut down the run, we proved we can run with the best and win. Really happy for the TE once a BB player Jimmy Graham. This was a real plus. (He should have kept the ball for a memory). The DF had the perfect pkg. and Harris proved that the first game was no fluke and he deserved the ACC honor. I like the ratio of third down completions. good statistic. What I did not like and feel there is room for improvement is Penilties that allow the other team a first down. The kick off's someone has to be able to kick to the end zone or at least the 5 yard line. The coverage on KO was ok but not great. The lack of intensity in the 4th Qtr. Sure we had the game won but having 2 missed field goals and the last GT touchdown was just a lack of concentration. This is a game of 60 min. and should be played that way. With your first string players or whoever is on the field. The coaches have this team at a great running pitch. The players really feel that they can not be stopped and that is great to see. Don't let up..... Keep the spirit flowing. When you are playing like this only one thing can beat you and that is yourself. Now it is on to Va Tech. Lets show the nation that the swagger is back. Thank you

we shouldn't even be talking about this. . .

Why are we talking about a coach leaving...so every team that's enjoying early success their coordinators are going to leave? Coach Whipple has coached 2 games at Miami and Manny is talking about him leaving.Lets enjoy our victories and keep encouraging the players and coaches. Go Canes!!!!!

I agree with everyone else. We thought before the season that a 2-2 start would be great, and obviously the 2 everyone was thinking about winning were FSU and GT. We've done that, and that's great, but it doesn't mean the liklihood of beating the next two teams has gone up. They're still good, and we're still talented, young, and thin on D. Still, putting a smack-down on GT rather than just pulling it out is pretty nice.

Why is it that every canes coach that has success is automatically going to be hired away the next year? Whip will be in demand, but that doesn't mean he's dumb enough to jump at the first NFL team that comes calling. Other great coordinators have spent years at other great programs before they left. We can't offer him the world, but I think we can be competitive enough to keep him from jumping at the first offer that comes along. Fingers crossed there anyway.

If we don't do something about that kickoff coverage we're going to get our ears boxed at VT next week. Our offense may be good, but VT is known for punishing that kind of complete incompetence, and special teams are huge momentum changers.

Manny, is there any word on whether we're recruiting another kicker in this years class? I know Bosher will probably (fingers crossed again) be around again next year, but if Wieclaw can't wrestle the kickoff duties (much less placekicking) away from a walk-on that kicked the first TWO kickoffs out of bounds, perhaps he's not developing as planned.

I think we're too young and too think to run the table yet, but for the first time in a while we're more talented and more disciplined than anyone else. Youthful mistakes will bite us for 1 or 2 losses, but I'm still feeling pretty darned good right now.

Go Canes!

I'm as excited as anyone about the 2-0 start, but this talk of NC is crazy this early in the season. We are one dropped TD pass away from being 1-1 and this is the first 2-0 start this program has had since Berlin's first year in 03. We can discuss NC when we are 12-0 and heading to the ACC title game, but until then just stay focused on the next game.

Manny,

I thought it - but for less than a second. It truly is too soon to be speaking of any National Championship. Just last week you were saying that they were a dropped pass away from being 0-1.

Besides, with the soft schedule Florida and Texas have this year, they can easily run the table and be 1 and 2 the whole year. As you see way to early to be focusing on things other than VT.

I have to admit. I'm impressed by the fact that most of you guys are staying true to cautious optimism with this team. Normally, you all would be jumping on the here we go to a National Championship bandwagon.

That wasn't what I was trying to convey in the article. All I'm trying to say is the Canes have a serious shot at it. They are halfway to what we all thought was impossible at the start of the season.

Last night, that defense did a complete 180 from last year. I was extremely impressed. The pass defense still made some mistakes. But Brandon Harris looked very, very good. So did Vaughn Telemaque. The point is, you all can be really excited about Canes football again.

I might not have conveyed that well enough in this blog. But my point is it has to feel good to think this team is really capable of doing something special. I'm not sure many of us believed it would happen this quickly in 2009 or with the kind of schedule the Canes are facing.

You guys are right. It is early. Very early. I said that in my blog several times. But you would be lying to yourselves if you didn't have that little glimmer of hope in your heart that this might be REALLY special.

stupid article....Manny cmon..man..were 2-0

we played the two easy games...we lose the next 2 and you wil have shannon haters etc....grow up anddo a better job..

Dude,

It's way too early to even consider something like that.

Great app Manny! Just picked it up on my iphone. Thanks!

Way too early for this talk. Va Tech will be a rough game, we can do it, but we have to play better on special teams to win. I liked Uribe's last kickoff, seemed like they did a better job on that one. I think they were angling for the corner and he just kept getting it too close and it went out. Va Tech is the game we need, then don't forget traveling to UNC isn't going to be easy either.

we played the two easy games...we lose the next 2 and you wil have shannon haters etc....grow up anddo a better job.. Posted by: nealtrom | September 18, 2009 at 12:54 PM

A: OK. Point taken guys. Guess I got a little too excited over that win last night.

FYI... I'm off to watch film of last night's game. Then, I'll be posting my report card later this afternoon. If you have questions for me, leave them here. I'll answer some as I watch the replay on my DVR.

Absolutely think it can happen. Book your tix now for Pasadena. HAH HA HA HAH AHAHA

Let the speculation begin. I don't think there's anything wrong with it. The "one game at a time" mentality is important for coaches and players. Writers are supposed to do the opposite, in my opinion...and so are fans (if they can handle the potential disappointment of their dreams crashing and burning). That's why he's a writer and not a news reporter...there's some creativity involved.

As for the next two games, I think we have as good a shot as anyone to go into blacksburg and hit these guys where it hurts. Special teams is a big concern, and unfortunately I don't think it can be corrected overnight (or by next week for that matter). We will have a couple of extra days before that game so I hope they spend it on special teams. Uribe got his head on straight after the 1st couple of kicks and got decent depth. the hangtime was a bit of an issue but it looked better than bosher. The coverage is a huge issue though...

Every game on our schedule right now is winnable. There's nobody these guys can't play with if they do what they've been doing and stay healthy. We have a ton of talent and FINALLY some serious leadership. I think if we do win these next two games, we have a very good chance of winning out. I guess only time will tell.

Either way, whether they win or lose, they will be competitive in every game this year, which is more than we've been able to say in years. Whipple needs to stick around and we need to give him reason to...making a run at a national title would be pretty convincing...that and a fat paycheck, which he deserves. Whoever posted earlier that we can put up these numbers without whipple if we need to is delusional. We have tremendous athletes, but i think everyone who's witnessed the transformation of this offense, besides you, can say with confidence that Whipple's scheme has made a HUGE difference. you're flat out wrong if you think otherwise.

One question for you all..where do you think the Canes will be ranked next week? Crack the top 10? Obviously depends on what happens to teams ranked above us, but let's throw some guesses out..

ALL U HATAZ:

LAY OFF MANNY ( EXCEPT FOR THE NEGATIVE WHIPPLE TALK).

DID ANYONE THINK, AFTER THE WASHINGTON GAME IN 2000, WITH A SOPHOMORE QB, NOT KNOWING THE TRUE TALENT WE HAD, THAT UM WAS B()S DECIMAL POINTS AWAY FROM PLAYING OK FOR THE NC? THAT UM WOULD HAVE BEAT NC FSU WITH ANQUAN AND WEINKE? THAT UM WOULD HAVE WOOOPED REX GROSSMAN-LED UF SO SOUNDLY?

THE ANSWER TO ALL OF THOSE- NOT IN A MILLION YEARS. BUT WE ALL KNOW, THE 2000 CANES WERE ALMOST AS GOOD AS THE 2001 CANES, AND WOULD HAVE BEATEN OKLAHOMA. OF THAT, I AM MOST CERTAIN!

SO....WHY NOT?

AND FOR ALL YOU NEGATIVE NINNIES: YEAH, SO WE WERE A DROPPED PASS AWAY FROM 0-1, BUT DID YOU STOP TO THINK, THAT UM ALSO COMMITTED MISTAKES AND HAD BAD CALLS DURING THAT GAME? LIKE THAT SILLY PASS INTERFERENCE THAT GAVE FSU 1ST DOWN ON THE 3?

Great article Manny. I've been thinking about the Whipple situation since the first game. Teams are going to be coming after this guy...college and NFL. Every ESPN closeup of him puts him closer to head coaching job or in the league. Even if we break the bank for him we would still have a tough time retaining him as an OC.

If we were losing games I would say he could become Head Coach, but Randy Shannon is earning the right for an extension. I suppose we need to look at this situation as a test of the program. If Whipple leaves, we get another OC to run similar schemes and keep moving forward. If we can't do that, then we're really not back.

As far as national championship this year...would most similar to 1983. Can you imagine UM v. UF for the title. Would be nice to see those boys again. My fab blogger is probably praying it doesn't happen.

our pass d-fence is not that bad. we bend but dont break. will only get better as the season progresses. remember bosher last year? he WILL be back. quit picking them apart. its only the second game and according to the haters we should be 0-2 and J12 out for the season.focus on the possitives and the rest will come

Manny totally agree with your article and have thought the same thing even before the season started.

More whys, things seemed to fall in place this yr. ex. needed te and Graham came along. Shields helped, for tackling against the run , which accounts for 1st 3 games.

Not sure the team will be better in 2010, might depend on Whipple being at the U. So I think 2009 might be the yr. to win it all, long ways to go , however.

The U should offer a huge package along with Shannon 5-6 yr. deal with the understanding that if Whipple wants he can coach until he retires at the U, make him feel at home and wanted.

Manny what the heck are you doing? Whipple is gone , Bailey turning pro, oline in shambles? Please put a sock in it! You say you are not trying start something but guess what, you did.

Manny,

Q: What freshmen played in the game, not counting special teams?


Thanks for the updates!

All this one dropped pass and we start 0-1

Well the pass was incomplete and we started 1-0

Geez we start 2-0 and some fans still want to complain

Enjoy the ride, these guys are playing their azzez off with heart and pride

we played the two easy games...we lose the next 2 and you wil have shannon haters etc....grow up anddo a better job.. Posted by: nealtrom | September 18, 2009 at 12:54 PM

Easy games??? a preseason #18 rival on the road and a #13 ranked team that beat us 4 years straight are easy games?
Who are you refering to when you say we?
With statements like that you have to be a Trailorville fan

Let's get over the dropped pass aspect, not sure what this team is capable as of yet, I still say prove it to me on the field, but lots of great seasons could be brought down with the "one dropped pass away" type of commentary. 1991 - one wide right away from FSU winning the national title, 1983 - one 2 pt conversion away from Nebraska winning the national title, 2001 - one dropped 2 pt conversion away from OT with VT...

with all the whipple talk he is here for the present and doing a fantastiC JOB. why wouldn't whipple stay until j12 leaves they have an incredible bond also whip had his kid transfer from u-mass to miami. isn't his son playing QB for st.thomas aqunias? the fact of the matter is why would whip leave a team that will be very dangerous next year? yes he will get money thrown at him this year but, for him to improve will only allow more money to thrown at his feet.

USC does not have that problem with rotating coordinators so why is it a big deal here? yes USC has a track record but, RS is a very capable coach he is the one that did his homework and found whip. this team will be dangerous what coach would not want to coac these boys?

Lou Holtz is such a HATER. How does this guy still have a job? He always picks ND and has a horrible slur when he talks. They should fire him.

Manny ne ballers in VA tech secondary i havent seen them play yet this year? And did u hear Coach paul johnson ask his lineman if he was stupid last nite in the 2nd half that was classsy lol?

what was the point of this post? to explain to us that our hopes for 2010 aren't as realistic as we thought? to get us overhyped before the toughest two games of our schedule?

thanks manny.

Manny,

What freshman played in the game, not including special teams?

We need to keep whipple. Second, this team still has room to grow but I have to say, Oliver Vernon will be a monster. I really like Futch's and Vaughan's swagger. Keep in mind, the two big plays thomas made were blown coverage by Shields, I think DVD would have did better. We had alot of guys out in this game and still came through, this team is playing through injuries, Aldarius, Odjomo, DVD, etc. are all out.

Cut Manny some slack guys he does a gr8 job here.
he just got a little excited is all. And isnt the goal evry yr for the canes to go to the title game. If ur gonna dream dream big, but lets take it 1 week at a time lol

umm...can we just get a really rich dude to throw money at whipple ("donation to the football program") so we can all stop worrying. this guy is golden.

honestly though, if we don't have the $ to pay him, maybe we need to rearrange the coaching structure. sounds crazy and we would be the only team in college football to have it, but if we had whipple and shannon as co head coaches and shannon would be DC and whipple OC, we could split lovett's salary between them.

that would probably create some serious confusion in leadership but who knows, it might just do the trick.

2010 NC Game UM-UF would be the greatest story ever, esp after we dominate them!

Maybe if ponder wasn't runnin for his life on that final play wit rp and cmac chasin him he cudda made a betta pass...but that's not the case ppl...how many way if have the canes had the last few years that kept them from winnin??? Yeah to many to count.

MTX-Cane,

I don't have the full list, but I can remember Mike James running back a kickoff and Oliver Vernon playing a lot. Any other freshman must have been on special teams and that's about it.

Here's hoping we get McGee in there soon (if he's ready) or Van Dyke back. Every long pass completion last night went over Shield's head. I love the guy for the hard work and sacrifice he's putting in this year. It's a huge turn around for him, and I hope it pays off. But right now, he's a gaping hole out there.

Everyone hating on Manny needs to realize that he is not saying anything that everyone else is already thinking. Kids on campus are probably telling JH he's gonna win the heisman and a NC.
That being said we should have one goal and one goal only this year... WIN THE ACC and finally get back to a BCS bowl.

This is a pathetic article. You not only talk about something ridiculous, you don't even mention Colin McCarthy when discussing senior leadership, who is the heart and soul of that Defense. At least give credit where credit is do.

This is a pathetic article. You not only talk about something ridiculous, you don't even mention Colin McCarthy when discussing senior leadership, who is the heart and soul of that Defense. At least give credit where credit is do. Posted by: True UM fan | September 18, 2009 at 01:54 PM

A: McCarthy is a junior.

Q: What freshmen played in the game, not counting special teams> Thanks for the updates! Posted by: MTX-Cane | September 18, 2009 at 01:18 PM

A: Olivier Vernon was the only true freshman to play in this game on offense or defense. Mike James, Brandon McGee and Ray Ray Armstrong all played on special teams.

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