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Fresher, healthier Canes to start 2010 season

CORAL GABLES -- University of Miami coach Randy Shannon isn't very forthcoming when it comes to questions about depth charts, injuries and starting jobs (just ask our Susan Miller Degnan and The Palm Beach Post's Jorge Milian, who got two completely different answers on whether or not Graig Cooper will play Thursday night).

Randy Shannon So, I've learned over the years to take Shannon's answers to those particular questions with a grain of salt. But if you ask him a question he feels won't slight one of his players or take away from the competition in practice, he'll usually answer it candidly. After missing the last two weeks of camp, I only had one question I figured Shannon would answer Monday: What did he learn about his team this fall that maybe he didn't know or see from them before camp started?

His response: "They didn't hit a wall. My first year here, when these guys were young, they hit a wall and I couldn't get them out of it. When we went 7-6, we hit a wall against Virginia. There's no way in the world, I could get those young guys out of it. We went through the process [this fall] and they didn't hit a wall. 

"One day in practice we had a walkthrough at 10:30 at night. We came back and brought them back at 6:30 the next morning. Nobody was tired. Nobody was late. They responded and had a great day of practice. We've had scenarios where lightning [alarms] went off. We went out half an hour later, and got practice done in an hour. We've put them in situations -- we scrimmaged in the rain, had hot days -- they responded. We went one-a-day, two-a-days, nobody had to have [intravenous fluids] or any of that. They practiced hard, their tempo was great. Anytime you can do that, it's great."

If you bleed orange and green, you have to like what you're hearing from your coach. Maturity and growth were inevitable. But to hear it is actually happening is encouraging. 

There's no doubt the Canes looked like a beat up and tired football team at the end of the last two seasons. After Monday morning's practice, Shannon told reporters this is the healthiest his team has been coming out of camp. Running back Damien Berry said of the previous camps he had participated in, this one was the least physical. Those shorter and less physical practices should definitely benefit this team when it comes time to strap it up with the Florida States, North Carolinas and Virginia Techs in October and November.

A few other notes of interest...

> The depth chart is supposed to be released to the media during Tuesday's practice. My money is on Jermaine Johnson starting at right tackle over a banged up Joel Figueroa -- regardless of what the depth chart says. 

> Travis Benjamin said that he, cornerback Brandon Harris and running back Lamar Miller will start the season as the team’s punt returners. Harris, Miller and running backs Storm Johnson and Eduardo Clements are working on kickoff returns.

> Shannon told reporters a few days ago his rotation at running back would likely be the trio of Miller, Berry and Mike James. I think it's really going to be four players -- freshman Storm Johnson being the other. Berry said Johnson has done an exceptional job in pass blocking situations. That's the difference, I believe, in a redshirt or a freshman season in which he contributes.

"Those guys are picking up the playbook very quickly, very rapidly," Berry said of Miller and Johnson. "Especially Storm. I didn't expect him to come in and learn the way he does. He came in on a mission. He was really competing for the starting spot and still is."

As for Graig Cooper, I'm not convinced he's healthy enough yet to play this season. He didn't play in any of the scrimmages and didn't really participate in any real contact drills. Shannon's motto has always been: you don't practice or hit, you don't play. If Cooper plays, he becomes the exception to that rule.

PUNT BLOCKS A FOCUS: Special teams Jedi master Matt Bosher said one thing the Canes have focused intently on during this fall has been blocking punts. 

"It's been a big focus by the coaching staff," Bosher said. "They want to make sure we get more punt blocks as a team. We're trying to change the game, flip the field around and if we can block a punt and give our offense great field position or even scoop and score, it's a great game changer. We really have a lot of the athletes to get it taken care of. The schemes are really coming along and giving us a chance to go out there and go after the ball."

Damien BerryA BERRY FUNNY MAN: Running back Damien Berry looks like he's taken the lead in the race for best quote on the team this season. Berry held a fun 10-minute back and forth session with reporters Monday. Among Berry's best hits from Monday: 

- On what it feels like getting tackled by Allen Bailey:  "It feels like a car wreck. It's just different from other people. Most guys have a little stomach and it's fat. Allen is all muscle. That's 300 pounds of muscle falling on you. He's not a real finesse guy."

- On what it was like watching Bailey accidentally sack Jacory Harris this fall: "That was scary. It's like a lion getting a little baby gazelle. It was like, 'Hey Bailey chill.' He's a beast. I don't know why we let him practice."

- On player nicknames: "We just go off what they look like. [Walk-on linebacker Sean] Goldstein. The first time we saw Goldstein we were like he looks like [Tim] Tebow. He don't like it. He's like, 'Chill with that bro."

- On OT Seantrel Henderson’s eating habits: “I’ve seen this guy with a salad. I was like, ‘Bro, I know you ain’t been growing up on salads. He likes steaks and stuff, too.”

- On why he thinks the Hurricanes’ group of running backs is the best in the nation: “It’s kind of hard not to be the best when you’re so diverse back there. It’s like the Lakers. Their bench is great. I think our bench is great.”


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Can't wait for Thursday! Gonna be a great season.

All about This U!

Manolo, good to have you back.... when you have a sec, it'd be good to get your take on the supposed book from this past booster and what you are hearing.

this season been a long time coming and can't wait for it to actually get it started. let's go baby i'm ready and been ready since the end of last season. lets go canes

personally i cant believe this game isnt being televised. granted im prolly goimgnto
it, but i still like to tape it. hopefully i see a bunch of canes fans at the game! canes!

its great to have you back manny! no offense, but susan asks the worst questions during her shannon interviews... but i guess thats why you're the one who gets to sit down and have lunch with him. props. good story as usual.

Manny ur a champ man. 3 hour rain delay and you're putting up UM stuff.... gotta love the dedication!

2 more days!!!

Steve Walsh: go play with yourself...get a life...but more importantly get off this mesage board, this is for Canes fans...loser

Thank God you're back Manny! Susan was a nice stopgap but, as you said at the top of this post, she doesn't know how to ask the right questions and so got back very generic, unsatisfying answers. That was great stuff you got.

I am glad this team is working on turnovers and punt blocks and things like that. A great offense is one thing, but to really destroy teams and bury them early requires turnovers, defensive touchdowns and special teams touchdowns. There's a guy on YouTube (probably someone in here) called canefreak2001 putting up the real game highlights for every game of the 2001 season, and every game..and I mean EVERY GAME...we had 3-4 takeaways, a defensive touchdown or two and usually a great special teams play (usually a score as well). Our offense was great, but that's how you dominate...by scoring with your defense as well, and I'm hoping for a bit of that again this season.

Can't wait for FAMU! It would be a mistake treating this one like a scrimmage. They may not have anywhere near our talent, but they have a great coach and we've learned that David can always slay Goliath if he's not paying attention. Let's jump on these guys and get ready for Ohio State.

Go Canes!

The keys to the ship:
1.Create more T.O.'S. I dont' know where we finished last year in that department but it was way below the mendoza line and as a matter of fact, in the last 4 years we probably haven't averaged 7 interceptions a year.
2.Which, if we are going to improve on #1, we have to have a pass rush and get to the Q.B. to many times in the past, they've had all day to sit back there and drink a cup of coffee and pick us apart, especially the opposing T.E.'S.
3.Which, brings me to #3, we have to pass block better. Way to many sacks allowed last year.
4.Finally, we have to learn how to win again on the road. We used to go into these bums houses and treat it like it was our home field. Personally, I don't see a team on the schedule that has the overall talent we do but of course that is on paper and until we can beat UNC & Va. Tech on a regular basis, that's what we are going to be paper champs. I'm tired of watching us play like dogs, everytime we play these 2 teams. It's like watching a horror story.

Marcus Forston needs to go out against FAMU and get 2 sacks along with Allen Bailey. If the DL gets pessure the the picks will come and i hope we have finally learned how to cover a Tight end. Cant wait for Miller and Thompkins to show out this season and Ray Ray will quickly become a household name around college football.

Steve Walsh: go play with yourself...get a life...but more importantly get off this mesage board, this is for Canes fans...loser

Posted by: ted | August 31, 2010 at 09:57 AM

ted, was this directed at a message that got deleted?

Glad that Manny takes out the garbage, keeping this blog for discussing the Canes. Thanks, Manny.

As for what they need to do this game, I want a 3 TD lead, then let the backups get some reps, including Highsmith and Henderson. Too much of the season depends on Jacory's health (which is true for most college teams, the starting QB is crucial), just ask Texas what it is like trying to win a title game with their backup QB.

So excited for the season to start!

Great points Carolina Cane... I want to see havoc in the opposing teams backfield and tons of INT this year by our defense.

Time for the offense to be dynamic also. TD's through the air, TD's on the ground, ALL GAME LONG!

FAMU and Ohio State won't know what hit 'em.

Go Canes!!!

Sup Manny?
Just stoppin by to say hey.
Hows the family?
Great stuff by U always!!!
This is my new gig check it out...

I'm tired of watching us play like dogs, everytime we play these 2 teams. It's like watching a horror story.

Read more: http://miamiherald.typepad.com/umiami/2010/08/fresher-healthier-canes-to-start-2010-season.html#ixzz16HcitUdB

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