Miami Beat: Despite Obstacles, Optimism Abounds

Never did I expect this. Not even in this day and age, where everyone thinks they have a voice, did I think I’d get the opportunity to write about my team.  And I sure didn’t expect it to be this hard. I’ve literally been staring at a blank screen for 30 minutes while the Olympics play in the background. I know what’s going to happen on the television momentarily, but I have absolutely no clue what to say about the ‘Canes! Because the truth is I’m a fan, and there is no way I can bring myself to pen anything negative about a team I’ve defended for years. Well, at least not during the preseason, when optimism abounds!

For many reasons, some of which I will absolutely refuse to address, the next four-plus months figure to be a fun and trying time for ‘Cane Nation. But August has become to football what February and March are to baseball — everyone’s undefeated and everyone has a chance. 32 of 33 signees are enrolled (Albert Jean Louis will attend prep school, and remains committed,) and by my count, Miami’s roster has just 15 seniors. I know I’m not alone in my excitement — it’s going to be fun watching this team develop. We’re just about a week into fall camp, the ‘Canes first scrimmage is scheduled for Sunday, and news is already coming out of Coral Gables with great regularity.

Quarterback “competition” — This is one spot where I’ll be a little emphatic, and not care if head coach Al Golden hasn’t officially named a starter. Barring injury, Stephen Morris will be under center September 1st in Chestnut Hill. And I felt this way in April.

I love Ryan Williams. The kid wanted to be a ‘Cane, and he finally got his chance to live out a dream, and put on that U helmet. And he’s going to give Miami a very viable option in a pinch, should Morris struggle or get hurt. But he’s a simply a piece to a giant puzzle. Five years ago, I couldn’t have imagined this type of quarterback depth. He’ll be forever worth his scholarship (sorry, distracted by Aly Raisman on the beam … I like the patriotic outfit this evening, and forgot what additional kudos I had for Williams.)

As for Morris — most ACC fans have seen glimpses. He’s got a tremendous arm, but overall  is simply lacking experience. Miami hasn’t had a quarterback that can throw it as far as Morris can in years, and with more snaps he’ll find his touch.  Tight end Clive Walford offered this juicy quote when asked about Morris after practice Tuesday, which I immediately latched on to.

“He’s taking control of the team, the leadership role which we were missing in the quarterback position. He’s taken over that role and everybody is listening to him because he’s like our vocal leader and our mental leader right now.

“Jacory wasn’t as vocal as Stephen. Jacory didn’t take charge how Stephen is taking charge right now. Not downplaying Jacory, but Stephen is just running the offense, taking over.”

I’ve obviously never been in the huddle with this group, but I love what I read here. Optimism … that’s the theme.

Further providing hope for a breakout season from Morris is the stellar play of ACC quarterbacks in general. Nine of this season’s projected first teamer’s were new starters a year ago. And can you name one that failed? I’m not expecting Morris to provide 3,000 yards and 30 scores, especially without a proven receiving corps, but I feel confident Miami has a quarterback who can both will his way, and play his way, into victories.

Who catches Morris’ passes? — Travis Benjamin and Tommy Streeter’s departures left a giant hole for playmaking pass catchers. In keeping with my honesty, I have no clue who will lead Miami in receiving this year. It’s really not important. What is important is that there are options here, and if this ends up being a Florida State-type situation, where five or six guys all catch 25 or more passes — terrific. Allen Hurns is the safe bet here, Phillip Dorsett is allegedly the fastest of the group, Kendall Thompkins, according to Golden, is finally able to keep his intensity up for a full 2.5 hour practice, and Rashawn Scott was the star of the spring.

Oh yeah, there’s also five rookies to sort through. I’m surprised by the lack of early returns on Jontavious Carter. Though raw, his 6-foot-4, 202 pound frame is built to contribute early. D’Mauri Jones, on the other hand, needs a year (or more) to bulk up and learn to play at this level. That leaves Herb Waters, Robert Lockhart and Malcolm Lewis as potential contributors. The latter of the two have been regulars in week one practice reports, led by one-time Virginia Tech commitment Lockhart. At 6-foot-2, he’s got solid size, and is a solid route runner who’s impressed wide receivers coach George McDonald with his hands, and ability to “go up and get” the ball. He’s going to make an impact.

What’s up with Duke? — While Miami’s recruiting class rebuilt their roster with sheer volume at other positions, the most heralded freshman is running back Randy “Duke” Johnson. The good news is that Johnson sounds as good as advertised. Walford offered this when asked about Johnson:

“One-on-one, open field, you’re not going to tackle him.”

Duke is going to get his touches, whether it be out of the backfield or operating from the slot. But he also sat out some of today’s practice while wearing a non-contact jersey. Johnson apparently suffers from migraine headaches, and though no one seems concerned here, ‘Cane fans need only look north to an unmentioned school that refuses to schedule them, and see how much migraines can effect a star player (cough cough, Percy Harvin, cough.)

Wowsers — I just went on a pretty solid offensive tangent. Next week’s beat will hit on the defensive side of the ball heavily, as well as reports of significant improvements in strength and conditioning, but we’ll wrap up with a few quick tidbits from the first week of camp.

  • Offensive Lineman Seantrel Henderson is back at practice, and reportedly looks svelte. 350 pounds svelte.
  • Freshman Tracy Howard has earned a black jersey, signifying his place amongst the first team’s defense. Fellow newcomers Antonio Crawford and Vernon Davis are also making headway.
  • Rumors have circulated that frosh linebacker Josh Witt’s career could be over before it starts due to concussions, but he’s currently still on the roster.
  • Late, late news courtesy of Canesport.com, and ESPN’s Joe Schad that dismissed safety Ray Ray Armstrong is seeking legal action in order to return to practice. I’m going to save my personal comments on this situation until the dust settles.

 

Chris Bennett currently covers the ACC for Rotowire, and previously for College Fantasy Football Insider. Though a graduate of South Carolina, he had his allegiances well formed, and didn’t deviate despite spending four years in Columbia. Though completely against social media, he’s starting to warm up to Twitter as a reasonable reporting source, and thus will have a handle to follow sooner than later. Is it even called a handle?

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