Q&A: Miami under the Microscope

When California and Miami meet in the Emerald Bowl there will be a lot of underclassmen on both sides of the ball that will be expected to lead their teams to successful seasons in 2009. CSD got a chance to ask Manny Navarro of the Miami Herald some questions about the Miami program…

Miami QB Jacory Harris will get the opportunity to show his team and the rest of the country that he is capable of leading the Hurricanes back to their former stature of a national power.

Has coach Randy Shannon made a decision on the future of Robert Marve? With Robert playing a position that is expected to lead the team how disappointed is coach Shannon?

The only decision Shannon made was to suspend Marve from the Emerald Bowl. According to what Shannon told us last week, he expects Marve back after the bowl game. As for his level of disappointment, he didn't sound very troubled by the fact his starting quarterback has now been suspended twice in one season. He may have been downplaying his emotions. But for a guy who likes to portray himself as a strict disciplinarian, Shannon didn't exactly come down too hard on Marve in the media. It might be because he knows there is a real possibility Marve could transfer.

At times this season, it looked as if Jacory Harris was able to move the offense better than Marve. In your opinion, would the program be comfortable with Harris behind center for the next three years?

Absolutely. I think what Harris did late in games, helping Miami comeback on the road at Duke and Virginia has really given this coaching staff confidence he can lead this program to victory. There have been constant comparisons of Harris to Ken Dorsey, who you remember led UM to the 2001 national title. Harris is a kid who is just a natural leader and one of the best in the country and reading defenses. At times, it seemed to me, he knew how to do it better than Marve.

Miami played a lot of young players at key positions this season. Sometimes going young can cost the team a few wins. Do you feel that players like Graig Cooper, Jacory Harris, Aldarius Johnson, Sean Spence and Marcus Forston will continue to progress in the off-season and have they shown the potential to be special players?

I see no reason why Cooper, Harris, Johnson, Spence and Forston will all not be much better at the start of next season. Those are hungry players, who know their potential and know they're good. They aren't arrogant and they aren't the type to rest on what they accomplished this season. They are the backbone of this program right now and I'm sure they'll be pushed to continue to push themselves even harder.

Do you feel that there are certain positions that freshmen will be able to contribute at next season?

I think anywhere in the secondary and linebacker especially will be two areas where you will see a lot of youth playing next year. Vaughn Telemaque is a guy who I believe has to see some playing time at safety. Jordan Futch and Arthur Brown will have to be used at linebacker. I think some incoming recruits will also see some time there as well.

What part of the Hurricanes do you think needs to improve for this program to get back to playing at a high level?

That's a question I could spend a day answering. I think right off the bat Miami needs playmakers on defense. That's really what lacked on this team this year -- especially at linebacker. Sean Spence showed you flashes with his forced fumble at Virginia and his interception return for a touchdown against Florida State. But the Canes need those guys in the secondary to join in and start making more plays. Secondly, I'd say depth. This program has been rail thin for years. Miami went 5-7 in 2007 because they had zero depth on the defensive line and no receivers. They've answered those problems through recruiting. The next holes to fill are offensive line, linebacker and the secondary.

Has Miami faced a back with the skill level of the Bears' Jahvid Best and how do you think the Miami defense will attack the California offense?

Miami has faced a few top-tier running backs in the ACC. Jonathan Dwyer comes to mind. But I think what really has given UM's defense trouble this year hasn't been great running backs as much as quarterbacks who can create confusion with their own running ability. Florida State, N.C. State and Georgia Tech torched Miami because the option killed them. I'm not sure how they plan to defend Cal and Best. But if the Bears' quarterbacks aren't a part of the running game, that plays in Miami's favor. The Hurricanes did do a decent job against Virginia Tech earlier this year in part because their quarterbacks were coming off injuries and couldn't really run themselves.

The ACC and the Pac-10 was heavily criticized this season for their play. How do you see the next few years of the ACC playing out? Will Miami, North Carolina, FSU and Georgia Tech begin to rise in the polls?

It's so hard to really know who is going to emerge in this conference and become the next national power because all four of those teams are equally talented and because they beat up on each other so much. Miami, you'd think, would have an opportunity with some of these special recruiting classes they've put together. But then you look and they went 0-3 against those three teams. I think Georgia Tech right now would have to be considered the most well coached team and the program who could emerge as the front-runner to lead this conference. That win over Georgia at the end of the year impressed the heck out of me.

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