Gearing up for the 2009 college football season takes a lot of work. Ranking players, critiquing coaches and drinking massive quantities of beer is tough. That’s why The Nine Commandments is creating its first T9C Top 25 Countdown. To see all of the previous ranked teams, be sure to check the links at the bottom of this post.
Some of the best pro athletes pave their way to the league by starting at Miami. The program has always bred great athletes out of raw talent and Randy Shannon’s new era of football at the U is no different. The success of this program relies on how fast Shannon can facilitate his great talent into a winning team. 2008 was the first step as the Hurricanes went 7-6 and made it to the Emerald Bowl (a 17-24 loss). 2009 is the next step, but it will be a lot tougher, especially in the first four games.
This team will be facing a tough slate early in the season, facing Florida State in Tallahassee, a home game against a tough Georgia Tech team, a trip to Lane Stadium to take on Virginia Tech, before settling down at home… against Oklahoma. Ouch.
At times in this countdown, I have stressed the importance of the play at quarterback and Miami is no different. Sophomore Jacory Harris will need to step up because he won’t have to share snaps with Robert Marve, who decided to transfer this off-season. Splitting snaps with Marve in 2008, the true freshman was able to notch 1,195 yards on 118 completed passes and a 60.8 completion percentage. For the Hurricanes to succeed in 2009 relies on how cohesive the connection between Harris and the tremendously athletic receiver corps. It shouldn’t be a problem for Harris to find the passing lanes over his large offensive line either. His size will definitely help him find successful dump-off passes over the middle.
The running back position will be up for grabs but Shannon will be able to choose from two six-footers in Javarris James and Craig Cooper. James is talented and will hope to return or better his 802 yards in his breakout freshmen year in 2007. 2008 was a different story because he was injured for much of the season. Cooper picked up the slack last year notching 841 yards on 171 carries. I’d say Shannon will tap Cooper as the primary rusher while James will work more in short-yardage situations.
The receiving corps used a lot of freshmen in 2008, and while they were successful then, they can only get better. Aldarius Johnson led the team in 2008 with 31 catches and plays a lot like Oklahoma State’s Dez Bryant. He’s physical, has the size to outmuscle corners, and will be able to come down with a good amount of jump balls. Travis Benjamin is the opposite. At 5 foot 10, 170-pound sophomore, Benjamin is a fast player that the Canes may also look for to field kicks. LaRon Byrd will settle in to the back-up role but will still be able to make a good impact for Miami.
The offensive was shaky last year and will have to regroup after losing graduating players at right tackle and center. These guys have size (all players are over 300 pounds, easily) and need to use it to help open up the holes for James and Cooper in the running game.
Bill Young made his way back to his alma mater Oklahoma State, meaning the Hurricanes will need to rely heavily on their athleticism as they break in another defensive coordinator.
This defensive unit has a special kind of depth that may actually hurt the team in the long run. Look for Allen Bailey to break out after missing all but four games last season. His size and speed is absolutely incredible as he notched 36 tackles, 9 for loss, and five sacks in the four games that he did play. This guy should be an All-American if he can stay healthy. Freshman All-America Marcus Forston will be back, solidifying a tough defensive line that didn’t live up to expectations last year. Eric Moncur delivers the veteran leadership for the d-line, coming back as the top pass-rusher in 2008, despite playing in just four games.
Sean Spence headlines the linebackers, showing he has what it takes to play on Sunday in the near future. Named ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year, Spence is a hardhitting LB that will be sure to scare running backs from around the league. Darrryl Sharpton is the veteran with 39 games of experience and 20 starts. He will need to shut down the run to the outside but be able to help Spence in the middle as well.
The secondary is shaky at times and will need to plug some holes due to graduation. Senior Randy Phillips will be back after being granted a medical hardship by the NCAA and needs to be able to make the big play. Vaughn Telemaqu has shown he has what it takes at safety with his athleticism, but he needs to stay focused during the game to avoid blowing coverage and costing the Hurricanes touchdowns.
The Hurricanes are a young team that could mature into a possible national championship contender, but that won’t happen in 2009. The first four games will make or break Miami’s season with all four games marked up as possible losses, but if they’re able to win one, or better by splitting them 2-2, this team should be able to chalk up 9 wins.
9/7 at Florida State
9/12 OPEN DATE
9/17 Georgia Tech
9/26 at Virginia Tech
10/10 Florida A&M
10/17 at UCF
10/31 at Wake Forest
11/14 at North Carolina
11/28 at South Florida
Just look at the first four. That’s rough.
Vegasinsider.com over/under: 7.5
Rest of the best:
#21 Nevada Wolfpack
#22 Kansas Jayhawks
#23 Illinois Illini
#24 UNC Tar Heels
#25 Pitt Panthers