As spring football season draws to a close across the country, BlueandGold.com will be providing a breakdown of how things wrapped up for each of Notre Dame’s 2012 opponents courtesy of the reporters that cover them on a regular basis.
Al Golden stepped into a sticky situaiton last year during his first season as Miami's head coach.
Oct. 6, 2012 — 7:30 p.m. EST
Soldier Field, Chicago, Ill.
Head coach: Al Golden (6-6 record entering his second full season)
2011 record: 6-6
The heavy cloud that has been hanging over the Hurricanes since last August doesn’t appear to be breaking up yet. Miami stumbled to a 6-6 finish last season under new head coach Al Golden after news of several serious violations broke during training camp. Sanctions from the NCAA could come this summer or may drag out into the fall, but Golden and his team have enough on-the-field concerns to keep them busy in the meantime.
Six former ‘Canes were selected in the NFL Draft in late April, many of whom decided to leave school early for a pro career and left big gaps in the Miami lineup. Quarterback Jacory Harris graduated in the spring, and while he wasn’t taken in the draft he leaves another question mark heading into the 2012 season.
Junior Stephen Morris is expected to take over as the full-time starter despite missing spring practice with a back inury, according to InsidetheU.com’s Christopher Stock. Redshirt sophomore Ryan Williams took first team snaps in his place but didn’t do anything to take the job away from Morris.
“Ryan essentially played himself out of the position. Not that he was horrible, but he didn’t do anything to win the job,” Stock said. “[Morris] started throwing late in the spring. We’ve always felt that Stephen was a better player and that showed.”
On defense, the Hurricanes will try to replace all-conference linebacker Sean Spence with sophomore Denzel Perryman, who started as a weakside linebacker last year and finished second on the team behind Spence in total tackles. Most of the defense's experience will come from returning safeties Ray Ray Armstrong and Vaughn Telemaque.
Biggest Strength After Spring: Offensive Line
The big men up front for Miami make up for their relative youth with a lot of size and promise. Senior Malcolm Bunche and former Notre Dame recruit Seantrel Henderson anchor the group as tackles. Center Shane McDermott, at 6-foot-4, 290 pounds, is easily the smallest of the starting five.
Junior Seantrel Henderson leads an oversized group of the offensive line for the Hurricanes.
“The starting five average out to 6-foot-6, 319 [pounds], so they’ve got a big line,” Stock said. “They’ve got size there and they have some depth that they can plug in.”
Biggest Question Mark After Spring: Skill Positions
Stock said he couldn’t choose just one position group that kept the coaching staff awake at night. Losses like running back Lamar Miller and wide receivers Tommy Streeter and Travis Benjamin leave a serious lack of playmakers that is almost taken for granted at Miami.
“It’s the lowest collection of talent that they’ve had in quite some time to be honest,” Stock said.
Allen Hurns is the team’s most productive returning receiver, but may not even have a starting job next fall. Mike James and Eduardo Clements will both get a shot at running back. Neither are expected to be as explosive as Miller was.
Biggest Surprise of the Spring: WR Rashawn Scott
Scott, a sophomore, might become the next go-to target at receiver for the Hurricanes. He had an impressive spring season after catching only one ball for two yards during his first season on the field in 2011. The 6-foot-2, 200 pounder flew under-the-radar as a recruit but might be forced into a position where he can produce numbers for the offense starting this fall.
“He’s not an elite physical specimen that you’re just blown away by, but for this team he’s going to have to step up and there’s no question he’ll be in the mix,” Stock said.
Summer Storyline: Freshman Impact
With likely scholarship cuts looming, Miami stocked the shelves this recruiting season with a class of 33 incoming freshmen. Golden and the rest of the staff will be counting on several of those players to make an immediate impact if this team is going to have the athleticism to improve on last year’s 6-6 record.
Cornerback Tracy Howard is expected to win a starting job almost immediately. He’ll be part of a rotation at that position that’s expected to continue throughout the year. Duke Johnson, the third-best running back in the country according to 247Sports, could also get on the field right away if he proves his 5-foot-10, 175-pound frame is durable enough to handle college defenses.
With so many young contributors and relatively low expectations, this season for Golden and staff will be more about trying to establish the identity of their team going forward than trying to win conference championships and other titles.
“They’re kind of putting their stamp on the program as a staff,” Stock said. “Playing harder, competing, those kinds of things will be the benchmark.”
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