Posted on: December 2, 2010 4:19 am
Four years ago, Miami couldn't buy a coach. Figuratively and literally.
Miami was turned down at every turn, from former 'Canes coaches like Greg Schiano to alums like Mark Richt. Eventually they had to go to the man they knew wouldn't say no: life-long Hurricane Randy Shannon.
Four years later, things have a much different feel. The U might not be back, but the appeal seems like it is.
Miami so far was, from all indications, throwing bookoo bucks at the hottest coaching candidate in the game ... NFL or college. Although the 'Canes were pretty much rebuked by Jon Gruden, it signaled an important and meaningful change. First of all, it shows Miami is serious about getting a top-notch coach. Secondly, it helps to ease an old concern for coaches about the job: they have money to pay and are willing to spend it.
The school is in a better financial state than the last search, and it's evident. Ironically, that's partly due to Miami not spending in the past. The lack of success -- per Miami standards -- has roused boosters to contribute to the effort. Plus, school president Donna Shalala launched a fundraising campaing -- the Sprint for Miami Athletics -- that targeted $75 million. Mission accomplished. The goal was to help remove one of the old stigmas about the job, the one that says the facilities are poor. Just recently, the school announced plans for a $13 million reconstruction of the athletic center, upgrading it to a level to compete with other major programs. In addition, the university boasts a renovated baseball stadium and new fieldhouse for basketball.
Plus, they don't have the burden of paying off a pair of former coaches. At the time of the last search, there was a large buyout owed to Larry Coker while the school was still paying fired basketball coach Perry Clark. There wasn't much cash to go around.
Point is, Miami got the money and has invested in getting on par with the competition. A quality coach would be the next step in that department.
Also adding to the appeal is the fact that Miami's cupboard isn't bare. When Shannon took over from Coker, the program was clearly headed in a decline and didn't have the talent needed to win. The dearth of first-round picks at the end of Coker's time and beginning of Shannon's demonstrates that. The school's celebrated first-round draft streak has come to a screeching halt. Well the talent is back. There are a couple of possible first-round picks that could be in the upcoming draft and a few more second-round quality guys. There's the star that every program coveted anchoring the offensive line in mega recruit Seantrel Henderson. There are playmakers to tantalize every offensive engineer.
This is what doomed in Shannon. Everybody could see the talent was there to win, but he couldn't do it. Now other coaches will see it, too.
There's also no cleanup necessary. Shannon is leaving the program from an academic and behaviorial standpoint in pristine condition. There's no arguing that. In this day and age, one arrest in a four year tenure is unheard of.
Add these once-lacking factors to the ones that the school already possesses. Remember the first rule of real estate: location, location, location! There's the championship pedigree and exposure, too.
Yes, things are different this time. The questions aren't out there anymore about if Miami is a top job anymore. Last time it wasn't. Now, it's back to being one. The 'Canes are getting their seat back at the adult table as far as appeal goes. On the field is another matter, but they are banking on being able to get the right guy this time to take care of that.
It has the dough to buy a coach, and it doesn't seem it will have as hard of a time getting the chance to throw a sales pitch.
Of course, if the search becomes a sequence of denial, we reserve the right to retract.
Posted on: December 2, 2010 4:11 am
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Posted on: September 18, 2009 12:18 am
Edited on: September 18, 2009 10:47 am
MIAMI -- It's time to ask the question. Again.
It was asked last season. Then Paul Johnson made everybody look silly for even asking.
"LSU beats us so therefore the offense is null and void ...," Johnson said sarcastically before the season. "You guys keep telling me it won't work.”
But now it is starting to look silly.
Will the triple option work in the ACC?
It did last season. Georgia Tech's new version of the old-school offense ran through the conference like a buzz saw, making Jonathan Dwyer the ACC Player of the Year and an instant Heisman candidate.
But now, the second time through, you have to wonder.
LSU was seemingly the first to crack the code, shutting down the Ramblin' Wreck in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl. Since then, the offense has been, well, a wreck.
Just look at the first two conference games this season. Sure, the Jackets put 30 points on Clemson, but 14 of those came on special teams. For three quarters of that game, Clemson dominated play and got back in the game.
Then there's Miami. The same defense Tech demolished last season, rushing for an embarrassing 471 yards. That's also the same defense that was carved up like a Thanksgiving turkey by Christian Ponder and Florida State on Labor Day.
What a difference a year makes.
The Hurricanes held Georgia Tech to only 95 yards rushing, 400 yards less in the difference of one season. It was the lowest rushing output by Georgia Tech since October of 2008.
"The coaches were really on us about tackling, tackling, tackling," Hurricanes cornerback Brandon Harris said. "They are going to grind, grind, grind you."
Grind? They certainly didn't tonight. A 2.4 rushing average just put them in a bind.
"Main point of emphasis, take Dwyer out and the rest comes crumbling down," Harris said.
Did the Jackets miss Dwyer, who didn't play after halftime with a shoulder issue? Perhaps. He is the main back. But even when he was in, you couldn't call him effective. Five carries for 8 yards was all he racked up.
"I think we -- as an offense -- should apologize to Yellow Jacket Nation," center Sean Bedford said, "because we've been talking all year about how much better we’re going to be on offense, how we're going to execute and how you haven't seen anything yet. We haven't done that to this point."
The Jackets defense certainly didn't help the cause much, if at all.
"We didn't have the ball very much," Johnson said. "We got beat in all facets, some worse than others, obviously."
That's certainly part of it. Tech became the second team this year Miami has lit up for at least 30 points.
"I thought we were ready to play, but obviously we [weren't]," Johnson said.
The best drives of the night came on the opening possession of each half. For the rest of the game, Georgia Tech had next to nothing.
This was all with possessions routinely starting near mid-field thanks to Miami's horrific -- I don't think that word adequately describes the unit -- kickoff coverage team.
Of course, the penalties didn't help the cause either. A block in the back here, a false start there. Not a recommended strategy to move the ball the way you want.
But give some credit to Miami, too. A lot. The 'Canes shut down the offense, playing perfect, assignment football. Tech had some success hitting the edges early, but teams like Miami have too much speed to allow for that all game.
"Coaches made sure we were ready," Miami linebacker Colin McCarthy said. "Just playing our assignments and make them pass it."
Ah yes, the pass. The last thing Georgia Tech wants to do. Obviously passing isn't one of the three options, but when you fall down, sometimes it needs to be. Has to be. And for Georgia Tech, it flat out isn't much of an option.
So, mission accomplished for the Hurricanes. The Yellow Jackets actually had more yards through the air (133) than on the ground (95). Much of that came late, when the game was not much in question.
Johnson put it best.
"We're not as good as we'd like to be."
So we return to the question at hand. Can this offense work in a power league where the players are bigger, faster and stronger?
Despite three consecutive games of minimal production, the jury is still out. While it doesn't look promising after a rough night in Miami, it's too early to judge. You have to let a coach get his real stamp on a program with his own players. Remember, Johnson is still working largely with players he didn't recruit. If he's able to find a quarterback who can be a true dual threat, just maybe the Jackets will be able to take the next step. Until then, they might have to figure something out.
"It's disappointing, but we're in the same exact position as last year, when we had a chance to win the division," Johnson reminded. "It's a long year."
With the offensive struggles right now and the brutal part of the schedule only part-way through, it could be really long.
Posted on: August 25, 2009 4:23 pm
Edited on: August 26, 2009 5:11 am
With the news of not one, but two University of Miami quarterbacks transferring, that makes three quarterbacks to depart under Randy Shannon in the last eight months, four if you go back more than a season when fifth-year senior Kirby Freeman left for Baylor.
It's not unheard of for backup quarterbacks to transfer, but two on one day? What the heck is going on in the Gables?
First off, everybody knows the job is now Jacory Harris', he earned it last year by outplaying the since-departed Robert Marve (in addition to keeping a cleaner slate off the field). So in that regard, these quarterbacks leaving doesn't mean much. But these two, Taylor Cook and Cannon Smith, figured to be the primary backups this season. But all three guys came in under the same recruiting class, so all along it seemed inevitible one of them would transfer at some point. All that's odd is the timing, two weeks before the start of the season.
After Shannon named Cook the No. 2 guy out of spring practice, the situation seemed to be going as most expected. That was until fall camp started and true freshman A.J. Highsmith -- son of Hurricanes great Alonso Highsmith -- reopened the battle for the backup.
From all reports -- and there aren't many, Shannon keeps doors so tightly shut on his program that David Blaine would have a hard time escaping -- Highsmith was performing the best of the backups despite attending his senior prom a few months ago. The writing apparently was on the wall and the two guys decided to head for greener pastures. And suddenly, there's a lot of concern about Miami's quarterback situation ... again.
But hold the phone. Miami's situation today is no different than it was yesterday. Either way, if Harris were to go down for whatever reason, Miami would be in a real pickle, no matter which QB is stepping in as a replacement. From the sounds of things, it would have been Highsmith in that role regardless if Smith and Cook were still in the program. So essentially, we might be talking about third- and fourth-string guys here. We don't know definitively that's the case, but in Camp Shannon, all we have is program and player chatter.
Some are claiming things smell fishy. Perhaps. They see a 6-7 QB with good measurables being passed up by a 6-0 true frosh, and leaving on the same day as another signal caller. I get it. But keep in mind classes start at the University of Miami on Wednesday, so these guys bolting at the same time makes a little more sense, there was an apparent reason for the timing.
What happened between now and the spring when Cook was the obvious No. 2? Easy, Highsmith wasn't in the equation at that time. Remember, Cook might have been highly regarded as a recruit, but that was based largely around his physical attributes and much less about his play. As a senior, he completed just 48.4% of his passes and had one INT for every 11 completions.
Add in new offensive coordinator Mark Whipple and it becomes a little more clear. Under Patrick Nix, Miami was running a hybrid spread offense -- in all honesty, they never had any identity. With Whipple, the 'Canes are headed back to a pro-style offense and, despite his size, Cook is more suited to a spread attack. He runs well for a big man.
So when the dust settles in Coral Gables, two quarterbacks are out of the picture and the only real concern here is the depth. If the No. 1 goes down, Miami's in trouble. If No. 2 is out, then they're up the creek without a paddle. But who isn't at that point? Outside of perhaps USC, who has a one-time top-rated recruit at third string, every team is in trouble then.
The only problem I see now is finding somebody to run the scout team.