There is no denying that 2011 was a wild roller-coaster ride for the Miami Hurricanes.
After dismissing Randy Shannon last December the Canes settled on Temple Head Coach Al Golden to right their ship. Before Golden could even get his team on the field, Yahoo Sports dropped a bomb on the University with the allegations from Nevin Shapiro. On the field it was just as odd of a year as it was off the field. Miami netted wins against bowl bound teams like Ohio State, North Carolina and Georgia Tech but they also lost to the likes of Maryland (won only two games the entire year) and Boston College (won only four games). Miami ended up declining to go bowling despite finishing bowl eligible at 6-6, as a self-imposed penalty. One of the bright spots for Miami was RB Lamar Miller, who ran for 1272 yards on the year. Miller has just announced his intention to turn pro so it looks like Al Golden's job just got a little bit tougher next year. We caught up with Danny Hobrock of Canes Warning: to get his take on the 2011 Hurricanes and also to get a quick peak into 2012.
CFBZ: Obviously it was a rough 1st year for Al Golden as he walked into more issues than he was expecting. What are your overall impressions of Al Golden after one year on the job at Miami?
Canes Warning: Despite a 6-6 record, he did a very good job in Year One. He managed to keep last year's recruiting class in-tact to a degree, even bringing in two players who turned out to be freshman All-Americans in LB Denzyl Perryman and DE Anthony Chickillo. So far he's collected a good class of verbal commitments for next season, even in the face of potential NCAA sanctions.
The players bought in very quickly. Progress was evident on offense fairly early, and on defense as the season wore on. Offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Jedd Fisch got more out of Jacory Harris than any OC in years past. It's safe to say Golden hadn't planned on starting his UM tenure at 6-6 without a bowl game, but fans are excited with the culture and direction he's taking the team and were relieved to see him sign his extension.
(As a little side note, Golden is the third Hurricanes coach in the last four not to play in a bowl game in the first season. Butch Davis was also dealing with a bowl ban—NCAA-imposed—and Randy Shannon finished 5-7 his first year. Larry Coker won the national title his first season.)
CFBZ: Which players surprised you the most with their performance this season?
Canes Warning: Jacory Harris. He's struggled with interceptions much of his career, but through the first eleven games threw just five picks as he made better decisions and thrived in Fisch's offense. He threw the ball out of bounds when he had to, took off on the ground when he saw an opening, and—save for a few exceptions—avoided tossing it into coverage. He ended the year with a 65.0% completion percentage, 150.6 quarterback rating (career-highs), 2,486 yards, 20 touchdowns, and nine picks (four in the finale).
CFBZ: What is the lasting memory you will have of this season (good or bad)?
Canes Warning: Harris' improvement will be a good memory, and so will the improvement the defense showed as the year wore on. But by far the lasting memory of this season is a bad one, and it centers squarely on the man whose name Al Golden refuses to utter and who I've come to refer to as He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. This is a person who validated his self-worth by surrounding himself with teenagers barely out of high school, and then sought attention by calling the media when he was no longer able to steal attention elsewhere.
The NCAA is still investigating, of course. One player, Marcus Robinson, has already been cleared, several current players were suspended just one game for violation of NCAA rules, and the initial reaction to the Yahoo! Sports story was extreme; so it's hard to say exactly what punishment the Hurricanes are facing. But it's clear this mess will be what all Hurricanes fans will remember about the 2011 season.
CFBZ: With Jacory Harris moving on will this be Stephen Morris's team next year or is there somebody else to look out for?
Canes Warning: It's difficult to say. Morris has the advantage having traveled with the team and seen game action in Fisch's offense. Ryan Williams practiced with the scout team as he redshirted the season following his transfer from Memphis. Williams was the starter for the Tigers as a freshman, but left when the new coaching staff installed a spread system. In all likelihood, it'll be Morris or Williams who wins the job, but there are also three quarterbacks in the 2012 recruiting class—Gray Crow, Preston Dewey, and David Thompson.
CFBZ: What do you see as the biggest opportunities for this team next year?
Canes Warning: First, there's going to be plenty of new starters with players graduating and leaving early for the NFL Draft (RB Lamar Miller, WR Tommy Streeter, and DT Marcus Forston are all leaving early), which means there's plenty of opportunity for young players to see the field. That's probably contributed to the large recruiting class that Golden's amassed so far.
Team-wise, Golden has pointed to a tendency to 'freelance' as part of the reason for the defense's struggles. 'Freelancing' is when players leave their assignment and instead try to make a play. With the improvement shown towards the end of the year, it'll be interesting to see how the defense performs in Year Two of Golden's tenure.
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