For those who thought this old standby was gone, think again. The out-of-town Q&A returns, albeit a little later in the game week than is usually the case.
This afternoon, Susan Miller Degnan, the Miami football beat writer for the Miami Herald, takes a little time to discuss the zaniness that is Hurricanes football heading into Monday’s game against Maryland. You can read her blog here and the entirety of the paper’s coverage of Miami football here.
1. Because Stephen Morris played toward the end of last season (including a victory over Maryland), is Miami reasonably well-suited to withstand the suspension of Jacory Harris for Monday’s opener?
Answer: If you’re just talking about Morris, then the answer should be yes. The rest depends on him. Morris, a true freshman in 2010, was supposed to redshirt last year. But with only a moment’s notice, he was forced to enter the game at Virginia in the second half after starting quarterback Harris was hammered and sustained a concussion. He threw three touchdowns in that game, but, as has been Miami’s downfall the last few years, also threw two interceptions and Miami lost by five points. The next week, Morris made his first career start against Maryland and completed 18 of 30 passes for 286 yards and the winning, last-minute touchdown for the 26-20 victory. Again, he threw two interceptions, and finished with nine for the season in six games played and four starts. After Harris returned to start in the Sun Bowl against Notre Dame, Morris replaced him and completed 22 of 33 passes for 282 yards, two touchdowns – and a pick.
Morris also is very quick and is not afraid to run. Keep in mind he’s missing his top receiver, Travis Benjamin, in this game. UM will probably choose to throw a good share of its passes to the running backs.
2. How much will the suspensions hinder a Miami defense that held Maryland to less than 260 yards last season?
Answer: This is probably the key question for the Hurricanes going into the opener. The answer: a lot. The Canes, who finished last season No. 1 in the nation in tackles-for-loss and No. 9 nationally in sacks, are missing three of their four starting defensive linemen Monday because of suspensions. Both starting defensive ends are gone – and they’re good. Another tackle who was fighting for a starting spot is out with a hand/finger injury. Weakside linebacker Sean Spence, very smart and extremely talented, is suspended. And preseason All-American safety Ray-Ray Armstrong? Suspended. Freshmen galore – ones right out of high school – are now listed as backups on the depth chart. If the Terrapins are going to win this game, they must exploit UM’s ailing defense.
3. Miami was successful in last year’s game largely because it was able to effectively rush to the perimeter and chew up clock. Is it likely that new coach Al Golden takes a similar approach in this year’s game?
Answer: Not sure about rushing to the perimeter, but you can bet that UM’s coaching staff will use running backs Lamar Miller and Mike James as much as possible to take some pressure off Morris (and in turn, they hope, open up some opportunities for him) and wear down Maryland’s defense. Sophomore Miller (646 yards and six touchdowns in 2010 for a 6-yards-per-carry average) is fast and agile. If he gets a hole, he will tear down the field and be hard to catch. James (398 yards and three rushing touchdowns in 2010 for a 5.7-yards-per-carry average), a junior who played fullback his freshman year, is more of a power back. The two are very close, and have a system of subbing for each other if one gets weary and needs a quick rest. Golden said he’ll try to keep in the one who’s hot at the time.
4. How well has Golden weathered the initial phase of the NCAA investigation and does it seem like he is in it for the long haul in Coral Gables?
Answer: Considering he walked into this mess without knowing it was brewing, he has handled the situation amazingly well. The man is absolutely perfect for this situation. From the day he was hired last December, Golden has absolutely changed the face of this program. He is meticulously organized, instituted a conditioning program unlike any UM has seen in the past decade – maybe more – and has brought boundless energy and unity to this program. However, who could blame Golden if he bolts after this season, or after the NCAA hands down its final verdict to the UM program as a whole? Guaranteed he will be in demand, and others will try to lure him away. Whether he leaves or not is something nobody really knows.
5. One of Miami’s biggest losses from last season was Matt Bosher, who handled kickoffs, punts and the place-kicking duties for the Hurricanes. How well-equipped are the Canes to effectively replace him?
Answer: This has to be one of the most nerve-wracking questions for UM fans and coaches alike. Bosher’s backup, Jake Wieclaw, a redshirt junior, handled one kickoff – one – the past two years. Nothing else. He will do the kickoffs and field goals and extra points. Golden said he has done well in fall camp, but since the media only sees the first few minutes of practice (mostly stretching, etc.), we have no idea how he will perform. Same goes for redshirt sophomore Dalton Botts, a transfer who has won the punting job. Suffice it to say that Miami fans will collectively be holding their breath whenever someone lines up to kick.
Thanks again to Susan Miller Degnan for taking the time to discuss the Hurricanes.
—- Patrick Stevens