He was the star in UM's last recruiting class, a player ESPN described as possibly the best in the country based on his size (6-4, 215) and athletic ability. So, is Ray Ray Armstrong ready to breakout and help the Canes this weekend against the eighth-ranked Oklahoma Sooners?
We'll find out soon enough. With Randy Phillips and JoJo Nicolas ruled out for this game with injuries, Jared Campbell or Chavez Grant will likely get the start alongside Vaughn Telemaque in Miami's secondary. But chances are Armstrong, who finally saw some playing time at safety at the end of the Virginia Tech game, will see more minutes than he has all season. UM coach Randy Shannon said on Thursday night's edition of Hurricane Hotline that Armstrong "has been practicing well the last two weeks."
That's a good sign for a UM defense who could certainly use upgrades all over. But Armstrong better be ready. Oklahoma's offense is no joke and the no-huddle attack will present serious problems for the Canes who already blow enough time outs getting the right personnel on the field.
From what I've heard, it definitely sounds like Armstrong has improved. At Canesfest, Grant told me Armstrong "needed to work on his hips and feet." During camp, defensive backs coach Wesley McGriff said Armstrong was coming along, but needed time to "get more comfortable in the scheme," and said Amrstrong "may not be playing fast because he's not sure." After the Florida State game, Brandon Harris told me he thought Armstrong had improved "a lot" and was ready to see action. This week, DeMarcus Van Dyke said Armstrong had progressed to the point where he wasn't just making checks and calls, but making plays every time he was on the field.
CANES HAVE PREPPED FOR NO-HUDDLE: UM coach Randy Shannon didn't talk a lot about how UM's defense was preparing for Oklahoma this week other than to say his team was "going back to basics" on tackling and shedding blocks. But he did say on Hurricanes Hotline, the Canes have also been working on defending the Sooners' no-huddle attack.
"They try to get about an average of two to three plays in a minute," Shannon said. "It's a hurry, hurry type situation. You're going to have time, but you have to be ready to go. You can't get off the ground and turn your back to the offense. They'll get you. They'll snap the ball and get going. The defensive line always to be in a three-point stance, ready for the next one."
O-LINE HAS TAKEN EXTRA TIME TO PREPARE FOR OU'S FRONT SEVEN: One look at Oklahoma's defense should instantly instill caution in Canes' fans hearts. Not only do the Sooners have a future first round pick in Gerald McCoy at tackle, but a front seven considered one of the best in the country. The way Jacory Harris was harassed last week by Virginia Tech's defense has made UM take extra precautions this week to try and make sure it doesn't happen again. But it's going to be a huge challenge stopping the Sooners, who have averaged four sacks a game.
"It's going to be a major league challenge for us," Shannon said. "We've been doing a lot of good things in practice, hyping on making sure we finish out blocks. Not just getting on a guy, but actually staying on them until the whistle is blown. The receivers blocking the cornerbacks is another key. We don't want to have a situation like last week where one guy may miss a block and it makes a difference in the game. We've stressed it all week. Our guys believe in it."
Center AJ Trump said guards Orlando Franklin and Joel Figueroa are looking forward to their matchup with McCoy. "Those guys are going nuts over the challenge," Trump said. "I remember a couple years ago Orlando played against Chris Long and had a great game. You get up for big games. How can you not?"
> If you are looking for a key matchup on the offensive line, keep your eyes fixated on Matt Pipho at right tackle taking on Jeremy Beal. Here's what ESPN's Todd McShay wrote about the matchup: "Pipho has proven to be the weak link along Miami's offensive front. He is a tall lineman who has marginal lateral mobility and a narrow base. Virginia Tech DE Jason Worilds took Pipho to school last week, using quickness-to-power moves to consistently disrupt plays off the edge. Look for Beal -- and occasionally Auston English when lined up on that side -- to do much of the same to Pipho on Saturday night. Beal has even better speed than Worilds and displays the same type of upper-body strength to push the right tackle around. If the Hurricanes fail to give Pipho adequate help, it should once again lead to some major breakdowns in pass protection."
> Don't underestimate the loss of fullback Patrick Hill this week to an ankle injury. Or the fact tight end Richard Gordon is still out with a shoulder injury. Even though UM's running game hasn't had a lot of success (the Canes rank 93rd running the ball), Hill has been huge when UM has moved the ball on the ground. Gordon is by far UM's best blocking tight end in the passing game. Freshman Mike James could help fill in at fullback this week. But I expect Tervaris Johnson to see a lot of snaps when UM calls on its fullback.
SO YOU KNOW...
> UM announced gates will open 90 befores kickoff for the rest of the season. For Georgia Tech, gates opened only 60 minutes before the opening kick.
> Former WQAM sideline reporter Brian "The Beast" London is back on the air. He has an internet show at sofloradio.com weekdays from 3-5 p.m. Co-host Allyson Turner and London discuss “a variety of topics from current events and pop culture to sports and politics.”