Should Youth Be Served?

On Saturday afternoon the unranked Miami Hurricanes take on the undefeated Houston Cougars at the Orange Bowl.Coming off a bye week, after taking a 31-7 shellacking at the hands of the Louisville Cardinals, the Canes are unranked for the first time since 1999. Despite this, UM is still more than a two touchdown favorite over their Conference USA foe.

Led by coach Art Briles, the Cougars run an unorthodox, wide open offense, capable of piling up yards and points.But coming into this contest they haven't exactly faced a murderers row, downing the likes of Rice, Tulane, Grambling and most recently Oklahoma St. And while their offense is productive, their defense is still very vulnerable and prone to giving up huge chunks of yardage.

In other words, even in this dilapidated state, Miami should find a way to beat the Cougars at home. After this contest, comes a lowly UNC squad, followed by FIU and Duke, before heading into the heart of the ACC schedule. It's almost a given that Miami should be 5-2 in about a month.

But the question is, should the Canes be in the midst of a youth movement? And can Larry Coker, who's seat can't get any warmer, afford to be in one?

My point?

While there are still nine games remaining on the schedule, it's time for the Hurricanes to find out about their future. Because we all know what we need to about the time being. The problem is, they may have a coach who's already in the past tense. Unlike a Butch Davis, who took his lumps in 1997 with youngsters like Santana Moss, Edgerrin James, Reggie Wayne, Dan Morgan and Bubba Franks, Coker isn't afforded any five-year rebuilding plans.

The future may not be now, but it certainly does not lie in its present.

For example, if Jon Peattie keeps missing more kicks than he makes during his senior year, what would it hurt to have the highly regarded young freshman Matt Bosher kick the rest of the year? The staff knows what they have in Peattie, it may be time to start developing the kicker of the future.

At running back, Ty Moss still seems gimpy –and a tad heavy- coming off his knee injury suffered last year against Virginia Tech. Charlie Jones, has shown that while he is steady, he certainly isn't spectacular and his fumble against Louisville was a crippling blow. But in limited time true freshman Javarris James has shown promise. As has perennial Greentree Practice Field standout Derron Thomas. One of the problems the UM offense has had post-Willis McGahee is the lack of a true breakaway threat at the running back position. Before facing the likes of Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech, would it hurt to shuffle the deck at the running back position and see if this offense can be given a burst of energy and life?

Upfront, the offensive line has struggled. Yeah, I know, that is no big revelation, but it is time to see the Mario Cristobal recruited players get out there and develop some chemistry and gain valuable experience. True freshman Jason Fox has already been pressed into duty and looks very promising. Now it's time to see if guys like AJ Trump, Chris Barney and Ian Symonette can play. This is one position, due to past recruiting mistakes, where redshirting is not a luxury.

At quarterback, it's time to get Kirby Freeman some meaningful snaps. No, I don't believe he our best option but Kyle Wright has struggled at times and has taken a beating. Freeman, is always one play away from getting under center. It's may be time to get him warmed up in the bullpen.

At wide receiver both Sam Shields and Ryan Hill have already worked their way into the rotation. Shields, has the look of a future standout. At tight end, with this potentially being Greg Olsen's last season in Coral Gables, it's time to see Richard Gordon and Dedrick Epps get some grooming at that spot.

On the other side of the ball, one of the most mystifying things has been the disappearance of Daryl Sharpton. Listed as starter throughout the majority of fall camp, he suddenly can't get past the un-productive duo of Glenn Cook and Romeo Davis. How does a guy that was compared favorably to Jon Vilma, by Coker no less, suddenly become a complete non-factor. Then you have Spencer Adkins, a physical specimen who cannot seem to get any meaningful time on the field outside of special teams.

The bottom line is simple, at 1-2, it's unlikely that Miami will somehow regroup to win the ACC title. Nobody is intimating that the Canes throw games away. However, for the good of the overall program, it is time to develop and cultivate this team with an eye towards the future.

But can that be done with a coach who may not have one?


- Say what you want, but USC's young defense is really jelling and should be among the nations best very soon. They have an NFL stable of linebackers.

- Ever get the sense that with John L. Smith at the helm, Michigan State will always fall just a bit short of really achieving big things?

- Is there any doubt that the SEC is the best conference in the country? And that the ACC is perhaps the worst?

- Don't count out Cal, yeah, they imploded at Tennessee to begin the year, but Nate Longshore is beginning to look like a Jeff Tedford-coached signal caller and they have an athletic group of playmakers surrounding him.

Steve Kim can be reached

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