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17 thoughts and observations on the Canes heading into the start of spring football

Some thoughts and observations on the Hurricanes heading into the start of spring football Saturday:

### I never quite understood why Stephen Morris received as much criticism as he did during his tenure as UM’s starting quarterback. Only four starters posted better passer ratings than Morris (137.8) throughout their careers at UM and all four were either national champions or Heisman winners: Vinny Testaverde (152.9), Ken Dorsey (147.4), Steve Walsh (142.2) and Bernie Kosar (139.8).

Tied with Morris in fifth place is Craig Erickson, who also had a passer rating of 137.8 and won a national title too. Put Morris around the same supporting cast and defenses those guys played with and ask yourself if Morris doesn’t win a national title as well. Sure, he ranks 7th all-time in career interceptions at UM with 30. But that’s still only one more than Kosar and two more than Dorsey had during their careers.

My point is you’re going to miss Morris more than you know this coming season. You’ll start to see why by the spring game.

### Ryan Williams is a nice kid. He’s taller (6-6, 225) than Morris and he’s been waiting in the wings for three years for his turn. But his arm isn’t as strong as his predecessor and that counts for something in James Coley’s offense. Coley likes to go vertical. A lot.

UM ranked 17th nationally last season with 57 pass plays of 20 yards or more and third with 36 pass plays of 30 yards or more. Sure, some of those came on short pass plays Stacy Coley turned into much longer ones. But not the majority of them. Coley told me several times throughout the season Williams’ arm strength had been improving. We’ll get to see how much soon enough.

### I don't want to throw an extra blanket of pressure on redshirt freshman Kevin Olsen, but this spring wouldn't be the time to have any more mental lapses. Brad Kaaya, the four-star All-American recruit from California that Coley handpicked, will be arriving soon. 

### Duke Johnson and Joseph Yearby won’t be participating this spring because of injuries, but there’s a reason you should still keep an eye on the Canes' backfield. They badly need depth to develop.

Want to know where the Hurricanes ranked in rushing over their final five regular season games in November? Try 107th. UM ran for 567 yards or 113.4 a game. Take away the 97 Johnson ran for back on Nov. 2nd when he tore up his ankle in a blowout loss at Florida State, and the Canes ran 118 times for 470 yards or about 3.98 yards per carry without him. UM topped it off with 14 yards on 28 carries in the bowl loss to Louisville. Despite all that, the Hurricanes still finished 72nd nationally in rushing with 160.3 yards per game.

My point is obvious -- Duke carries a huge load. Without him the Hurricanes aren’t average. They are well below average. Dallas Crawford’s move back to safety this spring – the original position UM recruited him for – will put the onus on big Gus Edwards (6-2, 225) to prove to us his 5.1 yards per carry average last season wasn’t a mirage. Because his stats tell us they might have been.

Edwards chugged for 230 of his 338 yards as a freshman (6.97 yards on 33 combined carries) against Savannah State, South Florida and Pittsburgh in games UM easily ran away with. Meanwhile, he ran another 108 yards (3.27 yards per carry on 33 combined carries) against FAU, Virginia Tech, Duke, Virginia and Louisville.

### There probably won’t be a more electrifying sophomore receiver in the country next season than Miami’s Stacy Coley. Among freshman in 2013, only Bowling Green’s Ronnie Moore had more yards  per catch (19.54, 10th nationally) than Coley (17.91, 22nd nationally). You know who finished second among freshman receivers in yards per catch in 2012? Alabama’s Amari Cooper (17.22 yards per catch).

Coley only caught 33 passes total in 2012, but had 12 catches go for 20 yards or more (tied for 85th) and eight go for 30 yards or more (tied for 38th). To put Coley’s yards per catch average into context, only three receivers with at least 70 catches in their Hurricanes careers put up career averages that were better. They are: Andre Johnson (19.9), Eddie Brown (19.7) and Brian Blades (18.7).

Now the task for Coley will be going from being that quiet, talented freshman in the back of the room to front and center now that the Allen Hurns, the seventh-leading receiver in Canes history (121 catches, 1,891 yards, 14 TDs) is gone. Hurns converted 15 catches last season on third down for first downs (tied for 20th best in the country). The Hurricanes didn’t have another player with double-digit catches on third down. Those are huge shoes to fill.

### It’s going to be a very important this spring for seniors Phillip Dorsett (injured) and Rashawn Scott (suspended and injured) to bounce back. They were UM’s leading receivers two years ago with 98 combined catches for 1,354 yards and seven touchdowns. Last year? Dorsett had 13 catches for 272 yards and two scores in eight games and Scott had three catches for 38 yards in four games.

### Clive Walford’s 34 catches for 454 yards and two touchdowns last season were good for the third most catches and yards on the team. The Hurricanes haven’t had a tight end post a season like that since Greg Olsen led the team in catches back in 2006 with 40 receptions for 489 yards and a score.

UM was quick to point out on numerous occasions that many of Walford’s catches (19) produced first downs. The stat they didn’t share? Only two of Walford’s 34 catches the entire season were made on third downs. Both produced first downs, but considering third down is a time when a lot of tight ends make their mark, this is the area Walford should be concentrating on.

By the way, for your record keeping, only four tight ends at UM have more career catches and yards than Walford (77 catches, 1,077 yards, 7 TDs) does. They are: Kellen Winslow (119 catches, 1,365 yards, 9 TDs), Willie Smith (117-1,544, 6 TDs), Glenn Dennison (106-1,095, 5 TDs) and Olsen (87-1,215 yards, 6 TDs).

### UM has three other scholarship tight ends in camp this spring we would like to see more from: sophomores Jake O’Donnell (no catches) and Standish Dobard (1 catch, 15 yards) and senior Beau Sandland, who had nine catches for 94 yards and a score. Six of Sandland’s catches came against Savannah State. He didn’t catch a pass after the Florida State loss. That’s disappointing considering how highly touted Sandland was coming in from junior college.

### Don’t underestimate the losses to graduation on the offensive line. Brandon Linder (42 career starts), Seantrel Henderson (26 career starts) and Jared Wheeler (6 starts all as a senior) anchored the right side and did a fine job while here. UM only surrendered 17 sacks last season (tied for 21st and second in the ACC). That's the same number they gave up in 2012.

Freshman KC McDermott, UM’s best recruit on offense, is in for the spring and that’s huge. All eyes figure to be fixated on him as he tries to solidify himself as someone who can start right away. Same for Miami Central’s Trevor Darling, who at 6-5, 320-pounds has the size to play early too.

The other options to start alongside junior left tackle Ereck Flowers, senior left guard Jon Feliciano and senior center Shane McDermott? Guys we’ve hardly seen: redshirt freshman Sunny Odogwu (6-8, 324), sophomores Danny Isidora (6-4, 316), Alex Gall (6-5, 306), and Taylor Gadbois (6-8, 316) and junior Hunter Wells (6-6, 312). My thoughts are Gall and Isidora are probably the only two guys Darling and KC McDermott will be getting real competition from.

### Count your blessing that linebacker Denzel Perryman decided to return for his senior season. It’s not that Perryman is a dominant player (108 tackles, 1.5 sacks, five tackles for loss and one forced fumble). It’s that he’s one of the few experienced, reliable players in UM’s front seven.

Miami’s defense has wreaked something stanky two years running (26.8 ppg, 90th in yards per game in 2013 and 30.5 ppg, 120th in yards per game in 2012). But even with talented new additions in the 2014 signing class, you still need someone out there who can point people in the right direction.

Four of the team’s top six more experienced players and tacklers in the front seven (Jimmy Gaines, Shayon Green, Tyrone Cornelius, Justin Renfrow) are gone. Perryman, senior defensive end Anthony Chickillo (46 tackles), junior linebacker Thurston Armbrister (33 tackles) and senior defensive tackle Olsen Pierre (33 tackles) are all that is back in terms of players who saw heavy workloads.

So this spring is going to be all about players like sophomore linebacker Alex Figueroa (17 tackles in 9 games), junior rush end Tyriq McCord (13 tackles in 13 games), senior defensive lineman Ufomba Kamalu (13 tackles in 9 games), sophomore defensive end Al-Quadin Muhammad (8 tackles in 13 games) and sophomore linebacker Raphael Kirby (10 tackles in 13 games) all growing up from role players.

### While last season’s 29 sacks were a huge improvement over 2012’s 13 sacks for UM's defense, there’s no question the Hurricanes still have room to grow when it comes to putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Miami ranked 44th nationally in sacks.

They were eighth in 2010 with a total of 37 sacks. That season they finished 27th nationally in scoring defense (20.7 points per game) and 22nd in total defense (323.3 yards per game).

### While UM loaded up in the front seven on Singing Day, only four are here in camp for the spring. They are defensive tackle Calvin Heurtelou, who comes in from junior college, defensive end Trent Harris, and linebackers Juwon Young and Darrion Owens. It’s probably asking a lot for those last three guys to come in right away and be nothing more than role players.

All eyes should really be fixated on sophomore linebacker Jermaine Grace, who is still slim at 6-1, 210 pounds, but probably has more speed and natural instincts than anyone else for UM at linebacker.

### The stats say the Hurricanes finished 92nd in pass defense last season, giving up 249.8 yards per game. But the stat I prefer to look at it opposing quarterback rating.

UM finished 57th there last year (130.33 rating) and fell two spots to 59th in 2013. But they actually improved (125.71 rating 2013) for the third straight year (142.66 rating in 2011). That’s because the Canes produced more interceptions (18) than touchdowns (16) allowed in 2012 (15 TDs, 11 INTs). UM gave up 16 TDs and had only six interceptions in 2011.

Remember that pass rushing stat stat I used a little while ago? Back in 2010 the Hurricanes finished fifth nationally in opposing QB rating (99.10). My point: When you have a pass rush, your defense has teeth.

### Dallas Crawford’s return to defense – likely at safety -- makes things interesting to me. We all know what a healthy Deon Bush can do (he finished 13th on the team with 31 tackles in 11 games). He and fellow junior Rayshawn Jenkins (46 tackles, 5th on the team) should be your starting safeties. But at least now if either of them get hurt you have a player in Crawford (6 tackles in 2013) who has 16 career tackles and knows how to deliver a hit back there. He’s shown it on special teams.

### UM’s cornerbacks certainly have some experience under their belts now. Senior Ladarius Gunter leads the way with 17 starts. Junior Tracy Howard has made 13; junior Antonio Crawford (2 starts, 25 games); speedy sophomore Artie Burns (11 games).

### The Hurricanes finished 42nd nationally in passes defended (62) in 2013. They had 61 pass breakups in 2012 and only 30 total (ranked 115th) in 2011. The last time they had a good defense in 2010 they broke up 63 passes (25th nationally).

### So who is going to replace one of UM’s most dangerous weapons in Pat O’Donnell at punter? Glad you asked. We’re not sure either. 

Comments

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where does ray lewis III fit in? I haven't heard anyone talking about him

Manny is writing as if the honeymoon is over for the Mac .500!!!

Goldie piss'd on everybody's leg and insisted it was raining in his end of the season interview. Telling everybody that the defense improve knowing dayum well most knew better! Over the last 6 game the Swiss cheese of a 'efense gave up an average of 500 yds and 30+ points a game. AG gave us the continuity over change crap and the folks that know what hurricane Defense looks like call bs!!

Manny took an honest look at the opposing qb numbers and it shows that average qb put themselves in the heisman race when they play the Mac staff!

Our best pass rushers McCord and AQM only had 13 tackles a peace??? Who's coaching our d'line. Those sack number we're inflated because 75% of them came vs fau, usf, and savannah st.

One thing that will be a subtle sign in spring ball. If our O with a new qb, rebuilt ol, and 2 rate running back are gashing out 'efense the Bobby Petrino will be licking his chops on Labor Day!!

I agree nash. The D has been swiss cheese under Golden. How could you go out there with that garbage scheme for this long and say your not goin to change it. AL ISA JOKE. Fire your but buddy already. The reason Morris didnt enjoy the success like the old qbs is because he didnt have a defense behind him like we had in the past. He needed to put up 50 point games to get a win the last two years. Dont worry Cane Nation the U will rise again when we dump these clown coaches.

Comparing Morris to Dorsey on ints. How many more games did Dorsey play? Geez

Manny is showing signs of questioning Al Golden's coaching abilities. By pointing out many instances where talent will be missed on this team. Showing the belief that Al Golden did not previously use the talent to the best of their abilities.

I think these players are extremely talented, despite Al Golden's inability to coach.

Anyone with eyes could see that Stephen Morris was gawd awful and how much he digressed his final year was a complete joke. Ryan Williams should've played more last year. Thanks for pointing out how terrible our defense was and completely shading my optimism for this upcoming season. Hopefully Coach No D can finally teach our front 7 to attack the other team instead of sitting back and letting the opposing offensive lines punch us in the mouth.

If they cannot stop the push up front with JUCO DT's Wyche 6.4, 340 lbs with a 500 bench, 650 squat and Calvin Heurtelou 6.3, 324 lbs with a 475 bench and 575 squat then it has to be coaching and scheme.

Thats exactly what it is Carlos. Al can recruit em but he cant coach em.

We will see Labor day weekend if the defense has gotten better.

Manny underscores what people who understand the game have been saying for months. No running game and no pass-rush makes you less than average. Duke was our heart and soul. Stephen was a talented QB with players who dropped balls quite a bit. Put him on championship teams and he would have played won more.


I don't have a problem with Morris. The problem is with the coach. Morris was hurt and should not have played until he was healthy. The Duke game Morris gets a 15 yard penalty on the 10 yard for throwing the ball at the defensive player. I would have benched him so fast. Discipline has to improve.

Morris is so overrated… name one game against a good opponent that he actually played well? He put up gaudy stats against garbage teams, but the minute pressure hit him, he was a deer in headlights.

stats don't tell the whole story

So Manny warns us that the QB production will actually be worse without Morris, that is a scary thought.
Then he goes on about the lack of depth in the running game and the need to count on unproved freshmen to step in right away.
Next he tells us about the defense and it's many holes and few answers.
But worse of all at the end he brings up the most important fact, who will replace the best offensive player, the punter? Scary.
The only bright spot I can find is that the team will have new uniforms. That has to count for something, no?

You're as good as your weakest link.

ACC, I'm sure your team weakness' would span millions of pages of scripted cyber-web language, effectively causing the internet to explode. So we don't have time for that discussion.

Re: Morris - my knock on him was not playing the percentages. Less exciting plays that keep drives alive matter. Too many 3 and outs. Sometimes I feel a lesser arm forces a QB to play more with his head (Dorsey) and I think that ultimately trumps a big arm. In the pros, you need both. Not to mention extended drives keep the defense rested.

Manny navarro... You sound amateurish by throwing out the QB rating as an excuse for morris.

Its the other way around. BECAUSE of god awful morris and his 3 and outs, and inability to throw that slant and make a first down in key situations, the defense had incredible pressure on them. We beat uf thanks to the defense making key plays at the right time, no thanks to stepehn mr three and out morris.

Dont beleiev how stanky morris was? How did he do in the senior bowl? Did u see him finish his career? INT! Please.

Morris doesnt belong in the same sentemce as ken dorsey.

The time of possession for miami las season was dead last. When louisville figured that out, and realized morris couldnt read a defense to save his life, they threw in stunts and a bunch formations. Morris tried throwing it dwonfield, and destroyed any semblance of a game in the first possesion after the safety, when he couldnt even get a first down.

Morris s...ked period. Get over it. Miami has sked bc we havent had a qb since dorsey. Berlin was ok. But without a qb, um will never compete.

Analyze that

I am not very optimistic about this team. I guess it is good we are losing most of our defense. When will the excuses stop? We are getting into only Golden players now.

I gotta agree with Calgal.

Morris was a terrible QB when it mattered most. The UL game was THE exclamation mark on his weaknesses.

Yes, Our OLine snap count giveaways contributed heavily, and Morris had to stop presnap to get a play confirmation read, so that's on Coley, Kehoe, & Offensive staff; but the guy definitely doesn't deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as Dorsey.

I liken Manny's SM apology to a straight faced argument that Chris Rix was a great QB statistically for FSU....yet, in games against UM, HE was UM's best defensive player.

2014 could be rough, kiddos.

half of these guys never played sports a day in there life let alone high-school or college ......i always said the same thing if miami had any defense we would have one atleast 11 games..morris gave us everything he had every time his number was called since Virginia in2010,,,,theirs no 1st rounder recievers our best reciever is a freshman,no dorsett or scott all year ,,,also he played the best secondaries in fsu,vtech,florida,lville,and didnt pad stats against garbage teams,in the 4 games we lost he totaled 3int

Seems most want to blame Morris. He was not the best we ever had, but not the worst either. Let's remember, these players are barely coached over the high school level. Until UM gets coaches, the results will be the same. The defense was horrible, so was the offense. Only the fact we play a soft conference gives some wins. If the win total is down this year, don't blame Williams, or players, it's the lack of coaching. PERIOD

Agreed deland,

Back to the "Coaching Matters" mantra. We inarguably have the talent to go 8-5, even considering a tougher schedule and revamped Oline and Defensive personnel. At QB, look no further than any number of successful redshirt and true freshman QBs in the league over the last few years.

Unfortunately, one cannot count on Spring or Summer practices to glean anything meaningful about the next season's prospects. The QB Battle may be the lone signifier.

I hope it's Kaaya and Rosier.
RW? meh - temp stopgap
GC? - nope
Olsen? - maaaaybe, but early returns suggest a bust; which is partially on AG's recruit evaluation.

The whole; "AG can recruit, but can he coach?" question is ALMOST answered. Not confident he can, will be more than happy to be wrong. I wanted AG to be the next JJ or BD, but that definitely remains to be seen, with the evidence suggesting otherwise.

Morris is going to be missed because we're going to watch a qb learn the position throughout the course of this season. My money is on Kaaya because he has the most ability.

No Duke or Year by means Gus is going to have to carry the load at the beginning of the season. Golden runs his ran Duke into the ground last season...hope he doesn't do the same to Gus.

Manny has his finger on the pulse of the fans right now.

The offense won't be as good as last year, so no one slam them for running up points.

The defense doesn't deserve to be analyzed.

Golden is getting no love.

Not running up points.

CANES 2014 SPRING NATIONAL CHAMPIONS !!!

Back to Back to Back to Back !!!

I totally disagree on missing Morris well except for the fact this Hurricane is glad he is gone! Stats are for losers he could hit the occasional long ball and some screen plays that went for long yardage but if you wanted someone to drive the team down the field hitting 6 to 8 yard passes and mixing it up he was not the guy at all. He could never lead a drive and that is so important for momentum and for the defense on the side line getting some rest. I would think if you looked at your stats you would also find he lead in 3 and outs as well. He was the king at that, face it Miami has not had a real good QB at the helm since Dorsey and he was a product of all of the talent around him hence why he never did anything in the NFL. We are in NEED for a good QB and I will except a great one to come but for now just one that can lead a drive.

What up nash, manny is being political, but he's going in the right direction. Come labor day weekend, should be no excuses, Louisville will be starting a new qb too, basically a whole knew coaching staff, lost a 1st round qb and and more than likely a 1st round safety and maybe even a 1st round defensive end. The mac morons have been in place going into year 4 at UM but year 9 of the penn disgrace cowards, point blank, their system is not a championship quality system.

Unless we play opponents that we completely overwhelm with talent we're not going to win with these morons at the helm, they having out-coached one opponent since they've been here.

Guys lets cut to the chase here, 8-4 7-5, mail it in. Maybe a minor bowl win if we play a team that matches up well, like they have no D either. It's going to be another year of hearing about the process. 2015 will be when Golden has to deliver and if he does it will be because he fired his BFF and his OC somewhere along the line. Not excited at all about the coming season other than it will be football season again and I can watch other great teams as I wait for the process to pay off.

i think manny is dead wrong i think williams will have excellent year this kids throws a nice ball and we won't miss morris at all, this kid is going to put some numbers that will be hard to believe and very unexpected. you been selling this kid short he will prove you very wrong.

Too bad Kayaa couldn't get in early. I think he would add a lot to which will be a very open qb competition.

Btw, Morris throws a nice long ball, Some intermediate outs are ok. Most over the middle throws were dreadful and generally removed from use. Absolutely no ability to hit an RB in stride on a swing pass and no concept as to how to finesse the other team on a screen pass.

With Duke and our deep passing game we should be a great screen team. Real screens not that flanker stuff.

Hope your right rhr, but I don't see it. I'd love nothing better than to be shown wrong. I just don't think he is athletic enough or even aware enough to move within the pocket effectively.

Good insight Manny - I think we may not miss Morris as much as you think. He did have a very strong arm and the combine showed us he has great speed -- I thought he played several games injured ( I think he should have pulled ) I don't think he played with confidence and did not display leadership , again the coaches may have been part of the problem. The players have talent , but so do the other teams . I think the schemes are not as important as the actual practices where skills are sharpened and confidence is built. Coaches need to coach- coaching is done in practice . Who plans and runs the practices ? My question is: Who will be the team leaders? Leadership drives the practices ,,, Will the team want it more than the other guys ? It will be an interesting season ... GO CANES !!!

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