2014 CFN Preview - Miami Hurricanes
Miami LB Denzel Perryman
Miami LB Denzel Perryman
Posted Jul 11, 2014

Preview 2014 - Which Miami team will show up? Can this be the rebound year? (Getty Images)

Miami Hurricanes

Preview 2014

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By Rich Cirminiello

Head coach: Al Golden
4th year: 22-15
9th year overall: 49-49
Returning Lettermen
Off. 23, Def. 28, ST 3
Lettermen Lost: 17
Ten Best Miami Players
1. RB Duke Johnson, Jr.
2. LB Denzel Perryman, Sr.
3. WR/KR Stacy Coley, Soph.
4. OT Ereck Flowers, Jr.
5. CB Tracy Howard, Jr.
6. WR Phillip Dorsett, Sr.
7. TE Clive Walford, Sr.
8. C Shane McDermott, Sr.
9. DE Anthony Chickillo, Sr.
10. OG Jon Feliciano, Sr.
2014 Schedule

Sep. 1 at Louisville
Sep. 6 Florida A&M
Sep. 13 Arkansas State
Sep. 20 at Nebraska
Sep. 27 Duke
Oct. 4 at Georgia Tech
Oct. 11 Cincinnati
Oct. 23 at Virginia Tech
Nov. 1 North Carolina
Nov. 15 Florida State
Nov. 22 at Virginia
Nov. 29 Pitt

Just who are you, Miami? Are you the team that opened 2013 7-0, or the one that ended the year 2-4?

The Hurricanes have a bit of an identity crisis these days. Yes, there was undeniable progress and hints of contention, such as the Sept. 7 upset of Florida. But it’s also obvious that this program isn’t ready to compete with the likes of Florida State and Clemson. It’s a good thing the Seminoles and the Tigers are in the Atlantic Division, which allows Miami to focus on seizing a far more manageable Coastal Division.

Miami is trending north for fourth-year head coach Al Golden, who’s done a solid job of shepherding the program through the distractions and noise of NCAA sanctions. The Canes have upped their win total each of the last two seasons, going 9-4 in 2013. Against the toughest opponents on the schedule, though, they struggled; a 41-14 loss to Florida State. Falling by 18 points to Virginia Tech and Coastal champ Duke. And getting whipped by Louisville in the Russell Athletic Bowl. Miami learned in the first-half of 2013 that it was heading in the right direction. The second-half showed there’s still a long way to go.

Golden and his staff are keeping top recruits, such as DE Chad Thomas and RB Joseph Yearby, in South Florida, a must for future success. Now the Canes have to develop their talent, especially at quarterback and on defense. Like him or not, Stephen Morris was better than whoever gets the ball for the opener at Louisville on Labor Day night. The offense needs one of the quarterbacks to maximize the potential of an exciting set of backs and receivers. But the situation became clouded by an ACL tear suffered in April by projected starter Ryan Williams.

The D is a problem that shows no signs of disappearing. Golden might want to get a jump start on hiring a new coordinator for 2015, in the event sharply-criticized Mark D’Onofrio and his players continue to underachieve. The Canes were once again pedestrian in 2013, yielding an average of 42 points over the final four losses. And more support is needed for LB Denzel Perryman, the lone All-ACC first or second-teamer over the last two seasons.

Make no mistake about it. Miami is going in the right direction, with Golden methodically overseeing every stage of the rebuilding plan. Are the Hurricanes ready to compete for championships again? Not quite. But there’s stability, momentum and radically changed culture in Coral Gables. Oh, and the botched NCAA investigation is finally completed, too. Golden will bring the 10-win seasons back to Miami. Cane fans need to exercise patience for just a little while longer.

What to watch for on offense: Who’ll be taking snaps in the Louisville opener? Miami will spend the next few months making plenty of decisions, none bigger than the one at quarterback. It had been Ryan Williams’ job to lose, but an ACL tear suffered during a spring scrimmage has ended his season before it could start. The Canes needed him to pull away, because no one else has much experience at this level. Sophomore Gary Crow attempted eight passes in 2013, and touted recruits Kevin Olsen and Brad Kaaya are a redshirt freshman and true freshman, respectively.

What to watch for on defense: Fresh faces in the front seven. The Canes will be sound in the secondary after losing just a couple of safeties to graduation. And the middle will be manned by Denzel Perryman. But the beleaguered D needs some pop off the edge from younger legs, such as junior Ufomba Kamalu and sophomore DE Al-Quadin Muhammad. LB Alex Figueroa started two games as a rookie, and showcased speed and intensity, but he got the boot from the program in July. Muhammad possesses the burst off the snap that the bigger linemen can’t duplicate. At 6-4 and 242 pounds, he has the size and quickness to consistently pressure the pocket.

The team will be far better if… it develops a backbone against the run. The Canes got gashed at times in 2013, ranking 12th in ACC run defense, while allowing 26 rushing touchdowns. Perryman is a force in the middle of the D, but he has to get more help from the interior of the defensive line. Miami is going to be better against the pass in 2014. But if opponents figure out the weak link of the defense, they’ll be content to ram the ball down Miami’s throat.

The Schedule: It starts out with an emotional bang, going to Louisville as the Cardinals start out life in the ACC. It's also a rematch of the 36-9 loss to UofL in the Russell Athletic Bowl. Three of the next four games are at home, but that one road date is at Nebraska in another statement moment. Hosting defending Coastal champion Duke and going to Georgia Tech will be trying, but the second half brings the real battles with Virginia Tech, North Carolina, and the showdown with Florida State, but the Noles and Tar Heels have to come to Miami Gardens. Closing out at Virginia and Pitt isn't bad.

Best offensive player: Junior RB Duke Johnson. The Canes got a taste of life without Johnson, who was injured on Nov. 2. And they did not like it. Miami wasn’t the same without its speedster in the lineup, lacking the pop and big-play ability that No. 8 brings to the offense and special teams. Johnson is a one-cut and go skill position player, providing instant offense to an attack that’ll be breaking in a new quarterback. He’s stronger, wiser and on the brink of parlaying a full season of health into a chase for national awards.

Best defensive player: Senior LB Denzel Perryman. See the man with the ball. Destroy the man with the ball. Perryman plays with a very simple credo that has served him well over the past three seasons as a starter. He’s the heart-and-soul of a Hurricane D that needs a few more defenders like him. Perryman is continues a legacy of undersized Miami middle linebackers who will cover a lot of ground and alter the tempo of a game. His intensity level and passion for the game resonates in the locker room and throughout the stands.

Key players to a successful season: The untested quarterbacks. The defense needs to be fixed. In the meantime, the Hurricanes better be ready to crank up the offense. The biggest question mark is at quarterback, where senior Ryan Williams was angling to succeed Stephen Morris before injuring his knee. Miami is in great shape at the skill positions, with RB Duke Johnson, TE Clive Walford and wide receivers Stacy Coley, Phillip Dorsett and Herb Waters. Now it desperately needs an unproven underclassman, Gary Crow, Kevin Olsen or Brad Kaaya, to consistently feed them the ball, minus the mistakes that kill drives.

The season will be a success if ... Miami wins the Coastal Division. The lesser half of the ACC will again be wide-open, so why not the Canes? They were close a year ago, finishing tied with Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech a game behind Duke. It’s Year 4 for Al Golden, who now has the personnel and the momentum to bring the program one step closer to its first league title since the Big East days more than a decade ago.

Key game: Sept. 27 vs. Duke. The Blue Devils are the defending Coastal Division champs and a favorite to repeat in 2014. Miami gets David Cutcliffe’s team at Sun Life Stadium in the fifth week of the season. The Canes will be seeking revenge for last November’s 48-30 loss in Durham, which kept them out of the ACC championship game. The winner of this year’s matchup will begin October with a small cushion in a race that will once again be hotly-contested until the end of the regular season.

2013 Fun Stats:
- Yards per catch: Miami 15.3 – Opponents 12.2
- Third-down conversions: Miami 35% – Opponents 42%
- First-half scoring: Miami 260 - Opponents 179

- 2014 Miami Preview - What You Need To Know & Top Players