ACC 2012 Season Preview: Miami Hurricanes

Miami Head Coach Al Golden Has Already Come Under Tons of Fire Since Taking the Job for the 2011 Season

Team: Miami Hurricanes

2011 W-L: 6-6 (3-5)

Head Coach: Al Golden (6-6; one season)

Returning Starters: 9 (5 Offense, 4 Defense)

When the ACC recruited Miami a decade ago, it was going after a program that had spent the past two decades as the sports’ most dominant program. Five national championships, nine conference championships and two Heisman trophy winners, all for a team that had also developed a bit of a (warranted) lawless attitude. While they’ve dealt with some issues before, the gauntlet for this program, after an ever-growing scandal involving former booster Nevin Shapiro, may yet to have been dropped. But as they await their fate, the Hurricanes still have some football to play. How well they manage to do so this season is up for some serious debate.

As part of the “sinking ship” mentality adopted by many in the Miami program last year, the ‘Canes offense lost six offensive starters, including all of its primary playmakers. So while there’s a pretty steep ramp at all of the skill positions, they will play with the benefit of an experienced O-line in front of them. Obviously, with so many departures, Miami coaches are also faced with decisions on who’ll be getting the ball as they try to kick-start an offense that scored around 26.5 points per game last year (good for middle-of-the-road in FBS). With their depth largely made up of new, young talent, it will not be an easy task.

At quarterback, it does appear the team is set on Stephen Morris, who has played in 11 contests over the past two seasons (with four starts in 2010). Since arriving at the U, Morris has shown glimpses of what made him such a highly-coveted recruit out of college, yet has yet to put the total package together. He’ll have the ramp to do so in 2012, though redshirt sophomore Ryan Williams is also waiting in the wings. Continue reading

2012 NFL Draft Preview: Miami (FL)

Lamar Miller is Among Eight Miami Hurricanes With a Great Chance to Be Selected in the 2012 NFL Draft

Leading up to this month’s NFL Draft, we’ll be taking a look at each ACC‘s school’s prospects and where they’re slated to be chosen. While 43 ACC players were invited to the NFL Draft Combine, those not in attendance also have ample opportunity to hear their name called between April 26 and 28.

Given the current state of Miami Hurricanes football, it’s amazing that there are only eight players on this list. Yet, they all create massive holes that the team must fill this spring as they try for a successful season amidst controversy. No one blames the players below for departing, however. Faced with a potential multi-year postseason ban, how could you?

Lamar Miller, RB, Sophomore

While Miller may lack that true “breakaway” speed (he ran a 4.45 40-time at the Draft Combine), he does have a strong early burst to the line — allowing him to quickly gain leverage against would-be defenders. As a sophomore last year, he proved himself a workhorse for an inconsistent offense, eating up over 1,500 all-purpose yards and scoring 10 touchdowns. While not overly fast or strong, his instincts and vision served him well while at Miami, and they translate well to the NFL. Ideally, he’d serve a LaDainian Tomlinson-type role in a West Coast offense as a prime target out of the backfield as well. He’s currently projected as a late-first or early-second round pick, and sure starter as a pro.

Sean Spence, LB, Senior

From his physical appearance (5’11”, 231 pounds) and basic Combine numbers (4.71 40-time, 12 reps on bench), Sean Spence appears to be a lower-tier prospect with little upside. Yet, the linebacker has managed All-ACC selections and is a monster tackler — among the surest in wrapping up in the conference, to be precise. While he lacks the speed, size and strength that many project as vital to NFL success, he’s a player whose instincts keep him on par with his competition. A team leader for Miami, Spence of course raises some questions. But for those willing to insert him on at least a limited basis, they could be plenty surprised with this potential late-second or early-third round pick. Continue reading

ACC 2012 Spring Practice Expectations: Miami Hurricanes

Veterans Like Jimmy Gaines Will Be the Key to This Miami team Having a Productive Spring

As spring practices get under way, we’ll be previewing what needs to happen for the teams and players of the ACC, culminating with notes on all 14 spring games.

Today’s featured team: Miami Hurricanes

After a respectable 6-6 season amidst off-the-field distractions, there was a predictable mass exodus for the Hurricanes on both sides of the ball. While senior quarterback Jacory Harris was an expected departure, underclassmen like RB Lamar Miller and WR Tommy Streeter declared early to avoid the repercussions of an NCAA investigation, sprinting from Coral Gables as fast as their 40-yard dash times (each recorded a 4.4) would imply. To replace them, head coach Al Golden will rely on a cast of young, unproven players. Just four offensive starters returned for the ‘Canes in 2012, none of whom beyond senior receiver Allen Hurns play at the big-three skill positions. The leadership role in this young, retooled group then falls to junior QB Stephen Morris — or rather, it would if he wasn’t missing spring practice due to back surgery. Without Morris for the time being, Miami stands little chance at developing the type or rhythm and comfort with the system necessary to succeed at this level. Adding in the fact that you’re dealing with an inexperienced team at nearly every position and it’s a recipe for disaster. The only senior starter is predicted to be running back Mike James, who put up seven touchdowns in limited relief of Miller last year. For the spring at least, he’ll be the glue that helps these players mesh while they wait for their quarterback to heal up.

Continue reading

Top 15 ACC Players at the 2012 NFL Draft Combine

Boston College LB Luke Kuechly Leads a Strong Crop of ACC Players to the NFL Draft Combine

Another crop of players leaves the college ranks this spring to take part in one of my favorite events growing up (that is, until Roger Goodell ruined it): the NFL Draft. In preparation for their selections come April, the league released its official Combine invite list, and there are plenty of ACC players in attendance. In total, the 14 teams had 51 selections, with Miami scoring the most (eight). No surprise with the questions still looming over that program.

Below, we’ll list the top 15 prospects invited to the Combine, followed by a quick team-by-team list based on total numbers.

Top 15 ACC Players at the 2012 NFL Draft Combine

1. Luke Kuechly, LB/Boston College

2. David Wilson, RB/Virginia Tech

3. Andre Branch, DE/Clemson

4. Lamar Miller, RB/Miami

5. Dwight Jones, WR/North Carolina

6. T.J. Graham, WR/NC State

7. Sean Spence, LB/Miami

8. Chris Givens, WR/Wake Forest Continue reading

2011 ACC Season Recap: Miami Hurricanes

Can Miami Overcome the Loss of Players Like Lamar Miller in 2012?

Team: Miami Hurricanes

W-L: 6-6 (3-5)

Postseason: N/A

Top Offensive Performer: Lamar Miller, RB

Top Defensive Performer: Sean Spence, LB

Rocked by an offseason scandal, subsequent suspensions, and even murmurs about the NCAA “death penalty,” the fact that the Hurricanes were still able to win six games this season is miraculous. With a black cloud hanging over much of the season, Miami would trade wins and losses with regularity — yet they were within one score in all six of their defeats, which included four-point losses to nationally-ranked Florida State and Kansas State, plus another heartbreaker to Virginia Tech by three. Of course, with the NCAA’s ruling still pending, not only has it been difficult to recruit the usual top talent that regularly shuffles into Coral Gables, Fla., but many of its current stars are sprinting for the exits.

For all the talent the Miami offense possesses, it was amazing the team could only put up 26.1 points per game. Quarterback Jacory Harris and running back Lamar Miller were regularly two of the best players on the field during ‘Canes games, yet the squad would fail to score more than 24 in eight of their 12 contests. Miami would finish near the middle of the pack in nearly every offensive measurement, scoring just 39 touchdowns on the season — “good” for eighth in the ACC. For all of their speed and apparent skill sets on the offensive side of the ball, one of the Hurricanes’ biggest concerns was its inability to pick up first downs. Recording just 220 on the season, they’d rank 11th in the league, sitting just ahead of Boston College, one of the worst offenses in the country. Continue reading

ACC’s Top 25 Players of 2011: No. 18, Sean Spence

Miami's Sean Spence is Number 18 On Our Countdown of the ACC's Top 25 Players

To recap the 2011 season of ACC football, we’ll be ranking the top 25 players in the conference this year, starting at 25, and heading all the way to the number-one slot. While these rankings can surely be debated, it’s still entertaining to assemble them. And on we go…

No. 18: Sean Spence, LB/Miami (FL)

Playing in just 11 games after serving a one-game suspension for the ‘Canes various off-the-field misdeeds, Spence still became a force in the middle of the field in his senior year. He averaged nearly 10 tackles per game during the season, at one point racking up 47 stops in just a four-game span. Spence also recorded 13 or more tackles in four different contests, forced a fumble and recorded a three sacks (tied for a career-high). Even playing in two less games than last season, he still managed to nearly equal his output from 2010 in every category. While his size holds him back slightly in most pro evaluations, quickness and ability to get to the ball carrier have been well-documented and could help push him into the earlier rounds.


#19, Bryn Renner

#20, Chris Givens

#21, Josh Bush

#22, Aaron Donald

#23, Sean Renfree

#24, Julian Burnett

#25, Terrell Manning

Atlantic Coast Convos All-ACC Team (Defense)

Despite BC's Losing Record, Luke Kuechly Dominated on Defense in 2011

The Atlantic Coast Convos All-ACC Team honors the best players at each defensive position. We’ve provided a list of both first- and second-team selections based on what we’ve observed throughout the season. Feel free to disagree, however, since we did on several of the official ACSMA list.

First Team

Defensive End: Andre Branch, Clemson

Defensive End: James Gayle, Virginia Tech

Defensive Tackle: Nikita Whitlock, Wake Forest

Defensive Tackle: Matt Conrath, Virginia

Linebacker: Luke Kuechly, Boston College

Linebacker: Sean Spence, Miami (FL)

Linebacker: Julian Burnett, Georgia Tech

Cornerback: David Amerson, NC State

Cornerback: Merrill Noel, Wake Forest

Safety: Matt Daniels, Duke

Safety: Josh Bush, Wake Forest

Punter: Shawn Powell, Florida State

Second Team

Defensive End: Quinton Coples, North Carolina

Defensive End: Brandon Jenkins, Florida State

Defensive Tackle: Joe Vellano, Maryland

Defensive Tackle: Brandon Thompson, Clemson

Linebacker: Terrell Manning, NC State

Linebacker: Zach Brown, North Carolina

Linebacker: Jeremiah Attaochu, Georgia Tech

Cornerback: Kyle Fuller, Virginia Tech

Cornerback: Chase Minnifield, Virginia

Safety: Antone Exum, Virginia Tech

Safety: Eddie Whitely, Virginia Tech

Punter: Dalton Botts, Miami (FL)

Breakdown by team: Virginia Tech (4), Wake Forest (3), Clemson (2), Florida State (2), Georgia Tech (2), Miami (2), NC State (2), UNC (2), Virginia (2), BC (1), Duke (1), Maryland (1)

Check out the All-ACC Offensive Team, too.