Midseason Grades: RB

The Hurricanes are a little past the halfway point of the 2011 season so lets evaluate the state of the team, this time evaluating the running backs.

The Good Stuff: Lamar Miller -- over the first five games of the season. Against Miami's two toughest opponents -- Ohio State and Virginia Tech -- Miller was clearly the best offensive player on the field for either team. He ran wild on those first five opponents, getting up into the top five nationally at one point. Not only was he running wild but he also caught nine passes during those fives games and was one of the team's primary kickoff return specialists. He's on pace to have one of the best seasons of any running back in school history.

Maurice Hagens has been a quality blocker all season but you have to wonder what happened after the season opener when he had four carries for 15 yards against Maryland. He was a solid short-yardage option for the Canes but has carried the ball just one time since. He's a good lead blocker for Miller, though, and has been that way all season.

The Not So Good: When the new coaches chased Storm Johnson off most people thought it was a big opportunity opened up for backup Mike James. After a couple solid seasons in Mark Whipple's offense, James was expected to play a key role for the Canes this season. For whatever reason, he just hasn't taken off. He had a few nice runs, notably against Virginia Tech, but has been quiet all season. He has just 188 yards rushing and three scores; and just 35 yards and one score through the air. In four of Miami's eight games this season, he's rushed for just 10 yards or less. James had two of the goal-line carries on the final drive against Kansas State and wasn't able to punch them in.

John Calhoun plays behind Hagens at fullback but seems to be far less effective. He was on the field on the final series, lead blocking for James, when the Canes weren't able to score on the final drive against Kansas State. He hasn't had any carries and his only target as a pass-catcher came against Georgia Tech and the ball went right through his hands and into the hands of a Yellow Jacket defender.

After five very good games, Miller has been very quiet over the last three. The Canes still have a major vertical passing game threat so it can't be opposing defenses stacking the box to defend number six. Perhaps all the touches and inside running early in the season are catching up to him.

Bottom Line -- Moving Forward: Miller has shown All-American type flashes and the Canes need to do everything it can to get him back on track like that. A strong November could still salvage a decent season for James. Eduardo Clements is playing a minor role as the number three, while Darion Hall hasn't seen the field as the number four. Getting Hagens more involved in the short yardage running game would be a plus, too.


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