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2007 Miami Hurricanes
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CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Jan 21, 2008


2007 Miami Hurricanes Season Game-By-Game Recaps and More

Miami Hurricanes

Recap: On paper, the Hurricanes appeared more than capable of winning eight or nine games, but on grass, they managed just five in Randy Shannon’s first season, resulting in the program’s worst record since 1977.  At 4-1 Miami looked to be on solid footing before completely collapsing in the second half of the year, including a 48-0 loss to Virginia in its Orange Bowl swan song.  Although the defense was a year-long disappointment, there were even bigger concerns on an offense that’s still pining for a reliable quarterback, and finished next-to-last in the ACC in scoring and total offense.           

Offensive Player of the Year: RB Graig Cooper

Defensive Player of the Year: S Kenny Phillips

Biggest Surprise: Reeling from back-to-back losses to North Carolina and Georgia Tech, Miami stepped up at rival Florida State on Oct. 20 for a 37-29 victory.  The ‘Canes got a Kirby Freeman-to-Dedrick Epps touchdown pass and a Colin McCarthy fumble return for a score in the final 75 seconds, snapping an ugly five-game road losing streak. 

Biggest Disappointment: The defense.  With S Kenny Phillips and DE Calais Campbell acting as the cornerstones of a veteran unit, the defense figured to be a mainstay of this year’s Hurricanes.  Uh-uh.  They allowed 312 points, more than any ‘Cane team since 1984, coming apart at the seams in losses to Oklahoma, Virginia, and Virginia Tech.  

Looking Ahead: Even after going 7-6 a year ago, Miami actually regressed in 2007, needing Duke to avoid the ACC cellar.  If the rebuilding timetable is to be shortened, the ‘Canes desperately need an offensive firebrand, say freshman QB Robert Marve, to step forward in 2008.       

- 2007 Miami Preview
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2006 Miami Season

2007 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
8-4
CFN Record: 5
-7

Sept. 1 Marshall W 31-3
Sept. 8 at Oklahoma L 51-13
Sept. 15
FIU W 23-9
Sept. 20 Texas A&M W 34-17
Sept. 29 Duke W 24-14
Oct. 6 at North Carolina L 33-27
Oct. 13 Georgia Tech L 17-14
Oct. 20 at Florida State W 37-29
Nov. 3
NC State L 19-16 OT
Nov. 10 Virginia L 48-0
Nov. 17 at Virginia Tech L 44-14
Nov. 24  at Boston Coll L 28-14

Nov. 24
Boston College 28 ... Miami 14
Boston College overcame four turnovers with two Matt Ryan touchdown passes in the second quarter and punctuated the win with a 45-yard Andre Callender scoring dash for the program's first victory over Miami since the 1984 Doug Flutie Hail Mary game. Miami tied it at 14 early in the fourth quarter on a two-yard Sam Shield touchdown catch from Kyle Wright, who also connected with Ryan Hill from 23 yards out in the third quarter following a turnover. Ryan answered the Shields two plays later with a 20-yard touchdown pass to Clarence Megwa, and Miami never had an answer.
Player of the game: Virginia Tech LB Vince Hall made 13 tackles
Stat Leaders: Miami - Passing: Kyle Wright, 23-42, 198 yds, 2 TD, 1 INT
Rushing:
Demaryius Thomas, 15-43. Receiving: Sam Shields, 5-39, 1 TD
Boston College - Passing: Matt Ryan, 26-43, 369 yds, 3 TD, 1 INT
Rushing:
Andre Callender, 15-96, 1 TD. Receiving: Rich Gunnell, 9-135

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Miami has to address the offense this offseason and make it the program's sole focus. Miami has too much talent at running back to be as bad as it was throughout the season, and it has to figure out who can play quarterback early on. For Miami to be this abysmal week in and week out is inexcusable. Losing six of the final seven games will put the Randy Shannon era on a quick early watch. Rebuilding is one thing, but this didn't feel like a rebuilding year. The Canes had better come out roaring in 2008.

Nov. 17
Virginia Tech 44 ... Miami 14
Virginia Tech blew open a tight game with 24 unanswered points with short touchdown runs from Branden Ore, Carlton Weatherford and Jahre Cheeseman in a dominant performance to set up a game against Virginia for the Coastal title. Miami got a four-yard touchdown run from Kyle Wright and a one-yard pass to Leonard Hankerson, but finished with a mere -2 rushing yards and 213 yards of total offense. Virginia Tech took a 17-0 lead helped by a 15-yard Justin Harper touchdown catch and the first of Ore's two runs.
Player of the game: Virginia Tech LB Vince Hall made 13 tackles
Stat Leaders: Miami - Passing: Kyle Wright, 21-36, 215 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Javarris James, 10-7. Receiving: Sam Shields, 6-81
Virginia Tech - Passing: Sean Glennon, 13-24, 171, 1 TD
Rushing:
Branden Ore, 15-81, 2 TD. Receiving: Josh Hyman, 3-60

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... -2 rushing yards, 213 yards of total offense, and a 44-14 loss to Virginia Tech. This is Miami football as things have gone from lousy to worse as there's a big concern now with the team getting worse by the week instead of better. The offensive line isn't doing nearly enough to let the skill players operate, and the defense isn't coming up with enough game-changing plays, even though it did a good job of getting into the backfield this week, to pick up the slack. Boston College doesn't have anything to play for, so if the Canes can't come out roaring, the heat will be turned up on Randy Shannon in the off-season.

Nov. 10
Virginia 48 ... Miami 0
Virginia destroyed Miami in the Canes' final game in the Orange Bowl as Mikell Simpson ran for two one-yard scores, Maurice Covington caught a 29-yard touchdown pass, and Chris Gould nailed field goals from 33 and 41 yards out. Miami's offense went nowhere with nine first downs, five turnovers, and a lost fumble to Virginia's Chris Cook, who took it 44 yards for a score. Virginia outgained Miami 418 yards to 189.
Player of the game: Virginia QB Jameel Sewell completed 20 of 25 passes for 288 yards and a touchdown with an interception, and ran eight times for 28 yards and a score.
Stat Leaders: Virginia - Passing: Jameel Sewell, 20-25, 288 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Mikell Simpson, 22-93, 2 TD. Receiving: John Phillips, 4-77
Miami - Passing: Kyle Wright, 9-21, 94 yds, 3 INT
Rushing:
Javarris James, 15-53. Receiving: Chris Zellner, 2-35

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... There have been some lousy moments in recent Miami history, but the blowout loss to Virginia was the most embarrassing low point. Not only did it lose in the Orange Bowl finale, it suffered its worst shutout loss ever in the stadium with a ridiculous nine first downs, 189 yards of total offense and five turnovers. The passing game is a joke with Kyle Wright completing just nine of 21 passes a week after Kirby Freeman completed just one of 14 in the loss to NC State. Now Miami has to beat either Virginia Tech or Boston College on the road to go to a bowl. Forget about it.

Nov. 3
NC State 19 ... Miami 16 OT
In overtime, Miami's Daren Daly missed a 27-yard field goal, and NC State's Steven Hauschka connected on a 42-yarder for the Wolfpack win. Hauschka hit three fourth quarter field goals to give the Pack a three-point lead, but Daly was able to force overtime with a 27-yard field goal with :19 to play. Miami's Kirby Freeman only completed one of 14 passes, but it was for an 84-yard touchdown to Kirby Freeman in the second quarter. NC State got its only touchdown on a one-yard Daniel Evans run in the second. Miami ran for 314 yards, but lost three turnovers, all Freeman interceptions.

Player of the game: NC State PK Steven Hauschka hit four field goals from 31, 35, 47 and 42 yards
Stat Leaders: Miami - Passing: Kirby Freeman, 1-14, 84 rds, 1 TD, 3 INT
Rushing: Jarvarris James, 16-103. Receiving: Darnell Jenkins, 1-84, 1 TD
NC State - Passing: Daniel Evans, 19-40, 207 yds
Rushing:
Jamelle Eugene, 27-89. Receiving:
Darrell Blackman, 2-69
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Kirby Freeman can't be given the keys to the car anymore. Against NC State, he showed once again that he's unable to lead the Miami offense, completing just one of 14 passes, even though he had help from the running game. There's no excuse for Miami to run for 314 yards and lose a game 19-16. Now, with Virginia, at Virginia Tech and at Boston College ahead, and at 5-4, Miami is in big trouble in the bowl hunt.

Oct. 20
Miami 37 ... Florida State 29
And the rivalry just keeps getting more bizarre. Florida State got five Gary Cismesia field goals, including two 45-yarders in the second half, a 45-yard Toddrick Verdell interception return for a touchdown, and a six-yard Xavier Lee touchdown run on the way to a 29-24 lead late in the fourth quarter. The game appeared to be all but over when Miami's Kirby Freeman was stuffed on fourth and one on the FSU two, but the Canes got another chance and went 83 yards in 1:30 with Freeman hitting Dedrick Epps for a 13-yard touchdown pass with 1:15 to play. The two point conversion failed, leaving the door open for the Noles, but 11 seconds later, Colin McCarthy scooped up a Lee fumble for a 27-yard score to seal the win. FSU turned it over five times, Miami four times.

Player of the game: Miami LB Colin McCarthy made ten tackles, a tackle for loss and recovered a fumble for a 27-yard touchdown
Stat Leaders: Miami - Passing: Kyle Wright, 6-10, 88 yds, 1 INT
Rushing: Graig Cooper, 10-80, 1 TD. Receiving: Darnell Jenkins, 4-106
Florida State - Passing: Xavier Lee, 14-32, 208 yds, 2 INT
Rushing:
Antone Smith, 22-114. Receiving: Preston Parker, 5-83

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Just when it seems like the Hurricanes are left for dead, they come up with a stunning late win over Florida State to potentially change things around. Kyle Wright might not be Tom Brady, and Kirby Freeman might have led the offense to the big late touchdown to get ahead, but there are huge problems if Wright isn't healthy and playing. Freeman is just way, way too inconsistent. The running backs came through to save the day, with the 1-2 punch of Javarris James and Graig Cooper making up for the passing game's issue. That has to continue through the final month.

Oct. 13
Georgia Tech 17 ... Miami 14
Taylor Bennett ran for two third quarter touchdowns and Tashard Choice ran for 204 yards as Georgia Tech held on to beat Miami. Tied at 14 midway though the fourth, Travis Bell hit a 39-yard field goal to give Tech the lead for good. Miami never came close again. The Canes got a 39-yard touchdown dash from Shawnbrey McNeal on fourth down in the first quarter, and Sam Shield caught a three-yard touchdown pass in the fourth, but they only gained 223 yards of total offense and got 12 first downs.
Player of the game: Georgia Tech RB Tashard Choice ran 37 times for 204 yards, and caught one pass for 13 yards
Stat Leaders: Georgia Tech - Passing: Taylor Bennett, 11-28, 114 yds, 1 INT
Rushing: Tashard Choice, 37-204. Receiving: Demaryius Thomas, 3-35
Miami - Passing: Kyle Wright,  8-17, 56 yds, 1 TD
Rushing:
Graig Cooper, 12-66. Receiving: Sam Shields, 4-22, 1 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... The inconsistency on both sides of the ball is maddening. Overall, the defense did a fine job against Georgia Tech, but Tashard Choice ran way too well behind a great day from the O line. Offensively, there just isn't anything happening with the running game for a full 60 minutes. The Canes have way too much talent in the backfield to be struggling so much, but the biggest issue continues to be at quarterback, where Kyle Wright had yet another off day. Now Miami is in a real danger area with Florida State, Virginia Tech and Boston College, all on the road, still to deal with.

Oct. 6
North Carolina 33 ... Miami 27
North Carolina roared out to a 27-0 lead highlighted by a 54-yard Brandon Tate touchdown on an end around, and a 39-yard Anthony Elzy scoring dash, and then held on for dear life. Miami roared back in the third quarter, scoring 20 points on a one-yard Kyle Wright touchdown run, a four-yard pass to Sam Shields, and then a 97-yarder bolt of lightning from Darnell Jenkins. The Tar Heels were able to stay ahead with two of Connor Barth's four field goals for just enough points to overcome a one-yard Javarris James scoring run set up by a long Jenkins punt return. UNC recovered the onside kick and ran the clock out. Miami threw four interceptions, while UNC only lost one fumble.
Player of the game: North Carolina LB Durrell Mapp made eight tackles with an interception
Stat Leaders: North Carolina - Passing: T.J. Yates, 15-23, 218 yds
Rushing: Anthony Elzy, 25-95, 1 TD. Receiving: Hakeem Nicks, 5-76
Miami - Passing: Kyle Wright, 17-33, 302 yds, 2 TD
Rushing:
Graig Cooper, 13-77. Receiving: Sam Shields, 5-80, 1 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Where was the tackling against North Carolina? Where was the running game? The Canes might have come out roaring in the second half, but it was almost too late. When the Tar Heels needed to go on a scoring drive, they did, and when they needed to come up with a huge defensive play, they did. Now it's become official; the A&M win was an aberration. But this is Miami. It's just flaky enough to come back with wins over Georgia Tech and Florida State to get right back in the ACC race. To do that, all the weapons in the backfield have to get rolling, and that's up to the play of the offensive line.

Sept. 29
Miami 24 ... Duke 14
Miami struggled to put Duke away, but got nine sacks from the defense, and a 33-yard Dajleon Farr fourth quarter touchdown catch, to escape. The Blue Devils came up with two long scoring drives, with Ronnie Drummer taking a pass 41 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter, and Eron Riley catching a 31-yard touchdown pass in the fourth, but the Canes were ahead throughout, starting off with a five-yard Kayne Farquharson touchdown catch. Graig Cooper added a two-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.
Player of the game: Miami QB Kyle Wright completed 19 of 23 passes for 230 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions
Stat Leaders: Duke - Passing: Thaddeus Lewis, 18-27, 241 yds, 2 TD
Rushing:
Re'quan Boyette, 14-71. Receiving: Ronnie Drummer, 4-53, 1 TD
Miami - Passing: Kyle Wright, 19-23, 230 yds, 2 TD, 2 INT
Rushing:
Graig Cooper, 12-101, 1 TD. Receiving: Darnell Jenkins, 3-72
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Miami didn't exactly come up with a stellar performance against Duke, but it was efficient offensively when it had to be, and the defense came up with the timely sacks when desperately needed. Was this a bit of a letdown after the Texas A&M win, or is this indicative of how average the Canes really are? The defense has to do a better job of playing a full sixty minutes, while the offense simply isn't going to be a thrill ride. As long as the mistakes are kept to a minimum, this will be Miami football all year long.

Sept. 20
Miami 34 ... Texas A&M 17
Miami dominated the first half with 24 points, helped by a flurry in the final five minutes off of A&M miscues. Graig Cooper and Javarris James each ran for short touchdowns, and Kyle Wright connected with Cooper for a 12-yard score and Chris Zellner for a seven-yard touchdown on the way to a 31-0 lead. Texas A&M came up with 17 fourth quarter points on a short Stephen McGee run and a Jerrod Johnson 33-yard chuck to Martellus Bennett with five seconds to play.
Player of the game: Miami QB Kyle Wright completed 21 of 26 passes for 275 yards and two touchdowns
Stat Leaders: Texas A&M - Passing: Stephen McGee, 11-20, 109 yds, 1 INT
Rushing: Stephen McGee, 16-39, 1 TD. Receiving: Mike Goodson, 5-53
Miami - Passing: Kyle Wright, 21-26, 275 yds, 2 TD
Rushing:
Graig Cooper, 7-50, 1 TD. Receiving: Sam Shield, 6-117
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... All of a sudden, Miami goes from afterthought to fast, talented, and productive again after blowing past Texas A&M. This is the Kyle Wright the program has been waiting for, and if he's able to make the correct decisions and get the ball in the hands of his playmaker on the move like he did against the Aggies, Miami suddenly becomes formidable. To nitpick, fumbles were and issue, and the team didn't close well, but this was still a big win for Randy Shannon and the program. It doesn't mean Miami is back to being Miami, but it was a good step.

Sept. 15
Miami 23 ... Florida International 9
Kyle Wright connected with Lance Leggett for an 80-yard touchdown in the third quarter, Graig Cooper ran for a three-yard score, and Francesco Zampogna hit two field goals as Miami won easily in a civil, respectful game that had none of the bitterness of last year's brawling battle (at least on the field). FIU's offense sputtered and coughed all game long, only managing a 24-yard Chris Abed field goal until late in the fourth, when Trenard Turner caught a 65-yard touchdown pass.
Player of the game: Miami RB Javarris James ran for 92 yards on 19 carries and had a pair of receptions for 12 yards.
Stat Leaders: Florida International - Passing: Wayne Younger, 6-14, 105 yds, 1 TD, 2 INTs
Rushing: A’mod Ned, 18-87. Receiving: Jason Frierson, 2-20
Miami - Passing: Kyle Wright, 10-19, 224 yds, 1 TD, 2 INTs
Rushing:
Javarris James, 19-92. Receiving: Darnell Jenkins, 5-108
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... It wasn't the blowout over FIU that Miami fans might have liked after the ugly performance against Oklahoma, but this game was about getting back on track. Kyle Wright had a decent day, but through two interceptions, and the offense still lacked consistency in all phases. Outside of the 80-yard Lance Leggett touchdown, the receivers didn't make enough plays. FIU managed 159 rushing yards, and things will have to tighten up considerably with the battle against Texas A&M on Thursday night. To pull off the win, the passing has to be crisper, the running game has to keep things moving, and the penalties have to slow down, after committing 12 for 93 yards.

Sept. 8
Oklahoma 51 ... Miami 13
Sam Bradford threw five touchdowns, with three to Malcolm Kelly, and Reggie Smith returned a fumble 61 yards for a touchdown as Oklahoma annihilated Miami. The Hurricanes appeared ready to make it a game early in the second half after a 45-yard Francesco Zampogna field goal cut the OU lead to 21-13, but the Sooners turned it up a notch and scored the final 30 points of the game. OU backup Joey Halzle even got in on the act with a 61-yard touchdown pass to Adron Tennell in garbage time. Miami's Kyle Wright threw a six-yard scoring pass to Ryan Hill at the end of the first half for Miami's only touchdown.
Player of the game ... Oklahoma QB Sam Bradford completed 19 of 25 passes for 205 yards and five touchdowns
Stat Leaders: Miami - Passing: Kyle Wright, 7-14, 65 yds, 1 TD
Rushing: Javarris James, 8-78  Receiving: Darnell Jenkins, 3-36
Oklahoma - Passing: Sam Bradford, 19-25, 205 yds, 5 TD
Rushing:
DeMarco Murray, 15-64  Receiving: Malcolm Kelly, 4-102, 3 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Oklahoma is one of the nation's best teams, if not number one overall, but for a Miami team still in desperate need of a big game to turn things around, this was an embarrassment. The defense was supposed to be among the best in America, and it didn't exactly quit in the second half, but it sure wasn't flying around once it became obvious the offense wasn't going to do anything. The biggest problem is at quarterback; there isn't one. Kirby Freeman simply isn't a BCS conference passer, and Kyle Wright isn't able to move the ball. On the plus side, Javarris James had a few moments running the ball, despite only getting eight carries, and Florida International is up next week. The Canes have to use the game to settle in on one quarterback and sink or swim with him.

Sept. 1
Miami 31 ... Marshall 3
Javarris James ran for touchdowns from five and eight yards out and Kirby Freeman connected with DahLeon Farr for a one-yard score as Miami easily blew past Marshall in head coach Randy Shannon's debut. The Herd was held to 51 rushing yards and only managed a fourth quarter 37-yard Anthony Biswanger field goal, but four turnovers and a variety of mistakes, helped caused by the Cane defense, never gave MU a chance. The Canes ran for 260 yards and three touchdowns.
Player of the game ... The Miami running back tandem of Graig Cooper and Javarris James combined for 227 yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries.
Stat Leaders: Marshall - Passing: Bernard Morris, 16-26, 162 yds, 3 INT
Rushing: Bernard Morris, 17-29  Receiving: Darius Marshall, 5-17
Miami - Passing: Kirby Freeman, 9-21, 81 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing:
Graig Cooper, 12-116  Receiving: Lance Leggett, 4-31

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... The quarterback situation is far from settled. Kirby Freeman didn't exactly take the job by the horns with a 9-of-21 performance against Marshall with only 81 passing yards and a touchdown with an interception. While he didn't have to force any throws and mainly had to hand off to the tremendous rushing tandem of Graig Cooper and Javarris James, he's going to have to make plays for the Canes to have any shot against Oklahoma, and he hasn't shown yet that he can actually play with the big boys. Fortunately for Miami, the defense will take care of most teams. It never let Marshall in the game.

Sept. 1 - Marshall
Offense: Not since Byron Leftwich graduated has Marshall been Marshall on offense.  That should begin to change this fall provided erratic senior quarterback Bernard Morris can make the most of a receiving corps that’s brimming with young game-breakers.  All-conference back Ahmad Bradshaw, a 1,500-yard rusher in 2006, left early for the NFL, leaving Chubb Small to shoulder the load.  If he can’t handle the promotion, look for one of three blue-chip freshmen to rise up and accept an expanded role.  While the offensive line has pending issues at tackle, Doug Legursky is a beast at center that could parlay big efforts early versus Miami and West Virginia into post-season awards.
Defense: Disgusted with the play of last year’s defense, head coach Mark Snyder changed course, hiring veteran Steve Dunlap as the coordinator.  While last year’s team sat back, and often paid for the conservative approach, the 2007 edition will attack wherever and whenever it makes sense.  The chief attacker will be junior end Albert McClellan, a sack machine that’ll be in the mix for just about every individual award given to defensive players.  At linebacker, junior Josh Johnson is good enough to consider early entry into the 2008 NFL Draft once the season concludes.  Dunlap’s biggest concerns in his first season on the job surround a pedestrian group of tackles and a beatable secondary that allowed way too many long gainers last season.

Sept. 8 – at Oklahoma
Offense: If a quarterback comes through and shines, this could be the nation's most effective offense. If the offensive line isn't the best in college football, it's number two, the running backs are very fast and very talented, and the receiving corps, led by top pro prospect Malcolm Kelly, is very big and very fast. It all comes down to the quarterback battle between junior Joey Halzle and redshirt freshman Sam Bradford. Whichever one can be steady will get the plum gig with a chance to lead the loaded attack in a national title chase.
Defense: It'll be an interesting defense that has the potential to be a killer, but has some major concerns. The secondary should be among the best in America with enough size, speed, and talent to keep the NFL scouts buzzing. DeMarcus Granger is a rising superstar tackle who should combine with Gerald McCoy, Cory Bennett and Steven Coleman to stuff up everything on the inside. If the unknown ends come though with a halfway decent season, and the untested linebacking corps is nearly as good as last year's, look out.

Sept. 15 - FIU
Offense New offensive coordinator James Coley has a lot of work to do with an offense that finished dead last in America in scoring averaging fewer than ten points per game and 116th in the nation in yards averaging 233 per outing. Eight starters return, including the entire offensive line, and there's good potential in the backfield with the 1-2 rushing punch of Julian Reams and A'mod Ned, but the passing game needs work with Paul McCall likely to take over at quarterback and no experience at receiver to rely on. 
Defense: The defense did what it could with no help from the offense, and now seven starters return with a shot to be among the league's best. The secondary gets all four starters back, led by Lionell Singleton at corner. The line is big and good with a pair of strong 300-pounders (Roland Clarke and Jonas Murrell) inside. Now for the problem: the great linebacking corps loses all three starters. The top four tacklers are gone, along with the top pass rushers. Keyonvis Bouie, Alexander Bostic, and Antwan Barnes were stars who won't be easily replaced.


Sept. 22 - Texas A&M
Offense: Run, run, and run some more. The Aggies finished last year eighth in the nation in rushing, and now the line should be even better with four legitimate All-Big 12 candidates paving the way for the devastating rushing tandem of Jorvorskie Lane and Mike Goodson. QB Stephen McGee was better than anyone could've hoped for last year taking over for Reggie McNeal, and while he might not throw only two interceptions again, he'll be one of the league's best all-around quarterbacks. The tight end tandem of Martellus Bennett and Joey Thomas would get all the conference attention if it wasn't for Missouri's tremendous pair, but the receivers are suspect and could be the Achilles heel if there Earvin Taylor doesn't have a huge season.
Defense: First of all, realize what amazing strides the defense made under defensive coordinator Gary Darnell. The pass defense was the worst in the nation in 2005 and became more than just respectable last season in a 4-2-5 alignment that led to a solid year until the Holiday Bowl meltdown against Cal. There wasn't enough of a pass rush outside of Chris Harrington, but that could change if tackle Red Bryant is healthy again and occupies two blockers on the inside. There aren't any all-stars in the back seven, but it's a good, sound group that will do just enough to get by.


Sept. 29 - Duke
Offense: Eleven starters return to an offense that lived through the growing pains of a youth movement in an attempt to take a giant leap forward. New offensive coordinator Peter Vaas, who comes over from Notre Dame, should help make quarterback Thaddeus Lewis more consistent. Helping the overall cause even more is a veteran line that needs to be far better after doing next to nothing well throughout last year. It'll be tailback by committee with several different options to see carries, while the overall strength will be at receiver with several young, big, good-looking targets for Lewis to use to push the ball deeper.
Defense: The defense is still not going to be a rock, but there's promise with several good young players to revolve around. Top prospects Vince Oghobaase and Ayanga Okpokowuruk are rising stars on the line, while Patrick Bailey is a playmaker who'll be one of the ACC's better pass rushers. Michael Tauiliili is a playmaker at middle linebacker, but the outside linebackers are question marks. Safeties Chris Davis and Adrian Aye-Darko are good, and they'll need to be with major concerns at corner.

Oct. 6 – at North Carolina
Offense: The offense only cranked out 293 yards and 18 points per game with fits of wild inconsistency. Expect a bit more of the same with a young team still trying to figure out who the starters are going to be, but the overall production should be better. Step one is to determine who the quarterback will be to handle the passing game that'll run three and four wide sets. T.J. Yates was the star of spring ball, but he'll have to hold off star freshman Mike Paulus. There are plenty of good, inexperienced running backs to work with, and Hakeem Nicks is a potential star number one receiver. However, there aren't any certainties in the depth chart quite yet. The line will be serviceable, but nothing special.
Defense:
It might take a year to turn things around after a disastrous 2006, but the young talent is there to get really, really excited. The defensive line has a slew of great prospects to work with, while the back seven has athleticism and quickness by design with a smallish linebacking corps. The return of Trimaine Goddard at safety will be a big help for the secondary, while the hopeful emergence of more pass rushing help for end Hilee Taylor should help the coaching staff implement it's attacking, aggressive style.


Oct. 13 - Georgia Tech
Offense: Is it possible an offense can lose the offensive coordinator, a sure-fire NFL superstar and a four-year starting quarterback and be better? Absolutely. Calvin Johnson's departure will sting, but the passing game should be even better with Taylor Bennett (or any one of a slew of terrific prospects) taking over for Reggie Ball. Patrick Nix left to take over the Miami offense, but John Bond is a veteran who did a good job with the Northern Illinois program for the last three years. James Johnson will be a decent number one target, and now someone else has to quickly emerge to take the heat off and give Bennett more options. Tashard Choice is an All-ACC caliber back leading a deep and talented group of runners working behind a fantastic line loaded with experience and
depth.
Defense: The defense had two lousy games against Clemson and West Virginia and was solid against everyone else. With just about everyone returning, expect another great year holding almost everyone to under 300 yards and around 20 points. The defensive line will be one of the team's strengths with one of the best groups of ends in America. MLB Philip Wheeler deserves All-America attention while the safety tandem of Jamal Lewis and Djay Jones will be one of the ACC's best. The corners are a bit suspect and the proven linebacker depth is a bit thin, but those aren't glaring problems.

Oct. 20 – at Florida State
Offense: After a dreadful two seasons, the offense is under new leadership with new offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher coming in to breathe life into the nation's 70th ranked attack. Step one is to find some semblance of a running game, and that starts with talented junior Antone Smith getting more carries. The offensive line, problem one over the last few years, gets a big upgrade with the addition of line coach Rick Trickett from West Virginia. He's immediately pushed everyone to get into better shape and to get a lot tougher. The passing game won't be forgotten about, with Fisher wanting to bomb away down the field to Greg Carr and DeCody Fagg. Now a steady quarterback has to emerge between Drew Weatherford and Xavier Lee.
Defense: The defense came up with a better year than it got credit for, but it gave up too many points. Now the potential is there for this to be a Florida State defense again with tremendous speed and talent in the secondary and a good enough front seven to come up with a big year. There are question marks. Everette Brown is a good-looking pass rushing end, but he needs help from the other side. The linebacking corps will be special as long as Derek Nicholson and Marcus Ball can quickly return from torn ACLs, otherwise it'll be an undersized group with no depth. As always, there's a slew of NFL talent to work around, highlighted by tackle Andre Fluellen and safety Myron Rolle.

Nov. 3 - NC State
Offense: This won't be a bombs away attack under Dana Bible, but it could be with a big, fast, experienced receiving corps that should be able to spread the field. The trio of running backs, Toney Baker, Andre Brown and Jamelle Eugene, should be a major plus, but the line has to be far better and needs to replace the starting tackles. It'll be a three-man race for the starting quarterback job between Daniel Evans, Nebraska transfer Harrison Beck, and Justin Burke, with the one of them needing to be able to move the offense consistently, something that wasn't done this spring. This will be a running offense that will eventually grow into a 50/50 balance.
Defense: This will be a solid defense, but it won't be spectacular. It could be fantastic in 2008 when all the promising young prospects are ready to shine, but for now, this will be a good, sound D that should be far more consistent than last year. Demario Pressley and Martrel Brown lead a strong line that should be the strength, while three senior linebackers will keep the mistakes to a minimum. The secondary has to come up with more big plays after helping the Pack pick off just seven passes.

Nov. 10 - Virginia
Offense: Until the receivers prove they can play, it'll be run, run and run some more with mobile quarterback Jameel Sewell and decent backs Cedric Peerman and Keith Payne working behind a much improved, veteran line. The tight ends are excellent, but the receiving corps suffered a nasty blow when it lost leading receiver Kevin Ogletree with a knee injury. Now it'll be up to Sewell, a rising star but an inconsistent passer, to make everyone around him better. Don't expect anything flashy for a while.
Defense: Somewhat quietly, the Virginia defense had a terrific year finishing 17th in the nation in total D and 22nd in scoring D. It should be even better with ten starters returning, including top linemen Chris Long and Jeffrey Fitzgerald to anchor the front three. All four starting linebackers are back to form a solid group that doesn't make a whole bunch of mistakes. This might not be the most athletic defense, but it's aggressive and is always around the ball.

Nov. 17 – at Virginia Tech
Offense: Can Tech win a national title with a mediocre offense? It was 99th in the nation in total offense, but it did a great job of taking advantage of all the breaks generated by the defense. Eight starters return, led by ACC Player of the Year candidate Branden Ore at running back, but he needs the line to be healthy for a full season, and better. The passing game has good pieces, but it has to be far more consistent considering there are four talented senior receivers returning. Quarterback Sean Glennon had a good off-season, and now it has to translate into better production.
Defense:
For two years in a row, Tech has led the nation in total defense, and last season, was number one in scoring defense allowing 11 points per game. There's no reason the D can't be even better with eight starters returning led by the 1-2 linebacking punch of Vince Hall and Xavier Adibi. Corner Brandon Flowers is emerging as one of the best in the nation, "Macho" Harris is a good defender on the other side, and the line is loaded with size, quickness, depth and experience. As good as things were, and will be, it's not like the D played a who's who of offensive machines, so the overall numbers might be a tad bit overrated, but make no mistake about it; this is a special defense.

Nov. 24 – at Boston College
Offense: It's Matt Ryan's offense and everyone is just playing in it. The new coaching staff will install a new zone blocking scheme, putting a premium on quick, flashy runners, but the line might not be suited for the system. The receiving corps is decent, but nothing special, and the tight ends are promising. It all comes down to Ryan, who'll have more control in the attack, able to change things up a bit on the fly, and he should be tremendous now that he's healthy. He was the best quarterback in the ACC last year, and that was with a broken foot.
Defense: Is it time to start giving the BC defense a little love? It allowed 17 points per game in 2004, 15.92 in 2005, and 15.69 last year. With defensive coordinator Frank Spaziani back, it should be even better with nine starters returning including the entire front seven if linebacker Brian Toal is back from a shoulder problem. The monster tackles, B.J. Raji and Ron Brace, will gum up everything inside, while the deep linebacking corps will quietly be among the ACC's best. DeJuan Tribble is one of the league's best shutdown corners, and Jamie Silva is a top free safety. The problem? There isn't a reliable second corner, and strong safety is a question mark.

 

 

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