FSU is 3-2 over the last five games in the series, but that immediately followed a six game winning streak by Miami (which followed an FSU five game winning streak). Last years game came down to the final play and literally a couple of inches. This year the Noles head to Miami for the traditional early October game.
Quarterback Jacory Harris might be the most important player to his team in all of college football. There is no proven depth behind him, thus an injury to Harris is a recipe for disaster for the Canes. Harris showed flashes of brilliance last season, he has a lot of 'it', he knows how to win games, and can make most of the throws. He threw too many interceptions last year however and that will need to change in 2010. He is not a runner per say, but can make plays with his feet.
Like FSU, Miami has a lot of depth at Running Back. Damien Berry(sr), Lamar Miller(fr), Mike James(so), and Storm Johnson(fr) are the top four; they are long on potential, but short on experience with only Berry having a significant number of carries under his belt. Miller is the potential gamebreaker of the group, but he is just a redshirt freshmen. Overall, Miami has more talent here than they have had in 5-6 years.
The WRs at Miami have a case for being the top unit in the country. Leonard Hankerson(sr), Aldarius Johnson(jr), Travis Benjamin(jr), Laron Byrd(jr), and Thearon Collier(jr) each have a ton of experience under their belts. There is size and just enough speed to be dangerous. FSU fans are all too aware of Benjamin who has had his best games vs. the Noles each of the last two seasons. Hankerson took the next step last season, the Canes need uber talented Johnson to do the same this year. For once, there is no proven TE for the Canes, they will hope that JUCO signee Chase Ford is ready sooner rather than later.
The Offensive Line is clearly the weak point of the offense. Orlando Franklin(sr), Joel Figueroa(sr), and Brandon Washington(so) are the only proven commodities; each is probably best at OG. Franklin will almost certainly take one of the tackle spots.....he had two starts there last year, one good (USF) and one bad (Wisconsin). Ben Jones(so) and Jermaine Johnson(fr) figure to compete in August camp for the other tackle spot. Tyler Horn(jr) has the early line on the Center spot, he has been used sparingly in the past. There is no proven depth here although the Canes do finally have some bodies.
Thoughts: Miami has the skill position talent, but the OL is going to have to be at least serviceable. They are not going to blow teams off the ball in the run game, this is a concern because they really need some balance offensively. Miami, at times, was much to "play action happy" last season.
Best case scenario is that the OL out performs and this is one of the top offenses in the country. Worst case is that Harris gets hurt, the OL is weak, and they really struggle to score points.
The defensive line received a huge upgrade when the Canes hired Rick Petri. He will have an abundance of talent and depth on the Defensive Line. The Canes go five deep at both DE and DT; this group should be one of the better fronts in college football.
The Canes can count on Sean Spence(jr) and Colin McCarthy(sr), both players are capable of All Conference type seasons. McCarthy has been dinged up in the past, he is expected to take over in the middle. Jordan Futch(jr) and Ramon Buchanan(jr) should fight for the third spot, both players have flashed potential in the past. There is depth in numbers, but no one else would figure to take any playing time from this group of four. Overall it is a solid, not spectacular unit.
Miami should be in good shape at Cornerback with Demarcus Van Dyke(sr) and Brandon Harris(jr). Both have plus speed and plenty of experience. Highly touted Brandon McGee(so) figures to take over as the nickel. Any injuries to the above three will force a freshmen into action, likely Kacy Rodgers or Keion Payne.
Vaughn Telemaque(so) and Ray Ray Armstrong figure to be the starters at Safety; both have potential, but are very inexperienced. They should be excellent vs. the run, but neither is fast which could affect their range. Jared Campbell(sr) and JoJo Nicholas(jr) are the depth and both have started games in the past. Veteran Ryan Hill returns and could factor in someplace.
Thoughts: While this defense won't remind anyone of some of the top units that Miami has produced, it should be a little better than last season as long as they can avoid injuries to the LBs. There is legit concern at Safety as well, but that is mostly because of the lofty standards that have been established at the position.
Next up we will preview the Florida Gators, stay tuned to NoleDigest.com as we head into the season.