2010 Miami Preview - Offense
Miami QB Jacory Harris
Miami QB Jacory Harris
Posted Jun 16, 2010

CollegeFootballNews.com 2010 Preview - Miami Hurricane Offense

Miami Hurricanes

Preview 2010 - Offense

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What You Need To Know: For a change, Miami hasn't hired a new coordinator in the offseason, the first sign of progress on this side of the ball. Mark Whipple is back for a second year, with two primary goals, coaching junior QB Jacory Harris to a higher level of play and getting more from the offensive line. Harris looked like an All-American last September before showing his youth and tossing more picks than any other ACC hurler. As he grows, so grows the ‘Cane attack. The front wall is a problem of a different kind, wrought with years of mediocrity and a collection of kids, like RT Jermaine Johnson and LG Brandon Washington, who hope to blossom early in their promising careers. The most promising news surrounds a collection of skill position players, such as RB Damien Berry, WR Leonard Hankerson, and WR LaRon Byrd, that will elevate the play of Harris under center.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Jacory Harris
242-406, 3,352 yds, 24 TDs, 17 INTs
Rushing: Graig Cooper
134 carries, 695 yds, 4 TDs
Receiving: Leonard Hankerson
45 catches, 801 yds, 6 TD

Star of the offense: Junior QB Jacory Harris
Player who has to step up and become a star: Junior C Tyler Horn
Unsung star on the rise: Senior RB Damien Berry
Best pro prospect: Berry
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Harris, 2) Hankerson, 3) Senior LT Orlando Franklin
Strength of the offense: Speed and athleticism, experience at quarterback, depth at the skill positions, converting on third down, converting in the red zone
Weakness of the offense: Consistency in the passing game, the offensive line, tight end


Projected Starter: Junior Jacory Harris is more than just important. He might be the most pivotal Hurricane player in a decade. Yes, he showed flashes of excellence in his first full year as a starter, but he was also maddeningly inconsistent, which has to change if Miami is going to win an ACC championship. He wound up going 242-of-406 for 3,352 yards, 24 touchdown passes, and a league-high 17 picks. A slender 6-4, 190-pounder, he has a great feel for the pocket and is one of the most poised players at the position late in games. However, if he can't stop forcing passes into tight spaces and bird-dogging many throws, it's going to have a negative impact on the entire program.

Projected Starters: Over the last 18 months, Robert Marve has transferred to Purdue, Taylor Cook has left for Rice, and Cannon Smith bolted for Memphis, draining the ‘Canes of quarterback depth. The moves pushed sophomore A.J. Highsmith into the backup spot as a rookie, a role he'll likely reprise in 2010. The 6-0, 195-pounder saw some spot duty in three games and was able to showcase his athleticism, quick release, and poise throughout practice.

Highsmith's stiffest competition could come from 6-2, 183-pound true freshman Stephen Morris, who graduated early from high school to participate in the spring session. He has the strongest arm among the reserves and just enough foot speed to force defenses to respect his scrambling ability.

Watch Out For … Harris to move his development into overdrive. Yes, he made a ton of mistakes a year, but don't forget that it was his first full season as the starter. More than just physically gifted, he's loaded with all of the intangibles needed to be a successful quarterback. After throwing too many picks, his touchdown-to-interception ratio is about to improve markedly.
Strength: Harris. Despite the flaws, Miami still boasts a returning starter, who threw 24 touchdown passes and has his best days ahead of him. Harris has seen everything over the last two seasons and has the luxury of a second full year with coordinator Mark Whipple. Barring an improbable regression or problem with his hand surgery, the ‘Canes could be staring at their best season for a passer since Ken Dorsey was eligible.
Weakness: Proven backups. This is a very precarious situation that could make an already fragile Harris more cautious than ever. When all of the backups have combined for six career passes, you know you've got a depth issue that could change the trajectory of the season with one hit or awkward turn of the ankle.
Outlook: Is there a more valuable player in America than what Harris means to Miami? Considering what could be ahead of him and the youth behind him, it's incumbent upon the junior to stay healthy and take flight as the second half of his career begins. He has enough talent and quality receivers to deliver on that much-needed consistent year.
Unit Rating: 8

Running Backs

Projected Starters: While it's been a long, strange trip to this point, injuries and graduations may have thrust 5-11, 217-pound senior Damien Berry into the top spot at tailback. A former defensive back, he gave a shot in the arm to the running game a year ago, running 93 times for 616 yards and eight touchdowns. Down the stretch, he was at his best, providing an omen of what's to come. A power back, he always runs with assertiveness and an attitude, hitting the hole hard and defenders even harder. With proper support from the offensive line, he has a shot to be one of the biggest breakthrough players of the year in the ACC.

The program is thrilled to be getting back 5-9, 255-pound senior FB Patrick Hill, who redshirted a year ago to recover from an ankle injury. A ferocious lead blocker, who treats defenders like bowling pins, he was one of the offense's unsung heroes in 2008, his first out of El Camino (Calif.) Junior College. Even if he doesn't touch the ball, he's going to be a boon for the ground game.

Projected Top Reserves: In an effort to bolster the tailback position, the staff has shifted 5-11, 220-pound sophomore Mike James from fullback. It's a smart move because he has the talent of a feature back and will be treated as such at some point in his career. As a rookie, he started six games, but only had 15 carries for 46 yards and a score, and 15 catches for 105 yards and another touchdown. A downhill runner and a blue-chipper from 2009, he has soft hands out of the backfield and the leg drive to bounce off would-be tacklers.

One of the wild cards out of the backfield will be 5-11, 205-pound redshirt freshman Lamar Miller, who's quickly working his way up the depth chart. Also a member of the Miami track team, he has the homerun hitting speed that the offense sorely needs. While at his best on the perimeter, he's still big enough to hit the hole and work between the tackles before bouncing outside.

When the Hurricanes need instant offense off the bench, it might turn to 5-10, 192-pound junior Lee Chambers. More of an all-purpose or third-down back, who's trying to find his niche, he has the speed and quickness to take a short pitch and turn it into a long gain. In nine games, he logged 42 carries for 153 carries and a touchdown, but is in danger of being lost in the crowd.

Watch Out For … any updates on the recovery of 6-0, 205-pound senior Graig Cooper. Last year's leading rusher and probable starter in 2010 is still rehabbing the serious knee injury he suffered in the bowl game with Wisconsin. While ahead of schedule, it remains to be seen how much he'll actually contribute this fall.
Strength: Depth. Even with the graduation of Javarris James and injury to Cooper, Miami will have plenty of options out of the backfield. While Berry and James will provide the pop and physicality between the tackles, Miller and Chambers are big-play threats as runners and receivers.
Weakness: A proven workhorse. If Cooper can't get back to full strength for the opener, Miami will go into the season with a converted defensive back as the feature guy. Now, Berry was terrific down the stretch in 2009, but he's not far removed from being on the other side of the ball.
Outlook: No matter what happens with Cooper's recovery, the ‘Canes are going to have a new look in the backfield. Berry warrants the attention of an every-down runner, and James and Miller are two of the young upstarts just itching for an expanded role. Just because there's a different mix of players does not mean Miami can't run the ball effectively, provided the line handles its business.
Unit Rating: 7.5


Projected Starters: With four of last year's top five receivers back, Miami should have more than enough quality targets for Jacory Harris. The veteran and top returning pass-catcher is 6-3, 215-pound senior Leonard Hankerson, who enjoyed a breakthrough year with a team-high 45 catches for 801 yards and eight touchdowns. He uses his size exceptionally well, getting proper position on defensive backs and adjusting to bad balls. Underutilized in his first two seasons, he's one more productive year away from continuing his career at the next level.

Although the numbers may say otherwise, there's no question that 6-4, 215-pound junior LaRon Byrd has a trajectory that'll someday land him in the NFL. On triangle numbers alone, he has the size, speed, and leaping ability that command more looks from the quarterbacks and the coaching staff. While the Hurricanes do like to spread the ball around, he still has way too much upside and natural ability to duplicate last year's modest 33 receptions for 460 yards and a touchdown.

In terms of tight ends, this is not going to be a vintage Miami squad. It's not even close. The ‘Canes are banking on 6-4, 270-pound senior Richard Gordon to somewhat offset the losses of Dedrick Epps and Jimmy Graham. He earned a medical hardship after missing all but the opener with Florida State. A better blocker than receiver at this stage of his career, he's only caught four passes for 32 yards, but has shown more growth and maturity this past offseason.

Projected Top Reserves: The undisputed playmaker of the group is 5-10, 175-pound junior Travis Benjamin, a gamebreaker catching passes, taking handoffs, or returning kicks. One of the fastest players in America and an improving pass-catcher, he's instant offense, jetting through the secondary before defenders can even break his stride. He only started a pair of games, yet finished his second year with 29 receptions for 501 yards and four touchdowns. Even as a decoy, he's so quick and electrifying, it can put defenses on their heels.

Although 6-3 and 208-pound junior Aldarius Johnson hasn't quite panned out in his first two seasons on campus, the program remains optimistic about his future. Drawing comparisons to former ‘Cane Andre Johnson when he arrived, he's struggled with injuries and consistency, making just 16 catches for 276 yards and a touchdown in 2009. Still, he has the hands, size, and body control on jump balls to never be too far from erupting when given the opportunity.

In the slot, 5-9, 192-pound junior Thearon Collier is barely holding off the competition heading into the summer. A dangerous playmaker from the inside, he caught 18 passes for 250 yards and a touchdown, while standing out as a punt returner. He's tougher than his size might indicate and has the quickness and change of direction to make defenders look silly when he gets out into space.

Watch Out For … the rotation to be a small and tightly-held group. Randy Shannon prefers to lean on a core of four or five receivers, which is going to make for some fierce competition in the summer. Talented players, like sophomores Kendal Thompkins and Tommy Streeter, are knocking on the door, but if they can't enter in August, they might be overlooked all year.
Strength: Raw athleticism. As expected, the Hurricanes are flush with gifted athletes on the outside, who give the passing game a nice mix of length, speed, and breakaway ability. The two-deep at wide receiver might all wind up in the NFL at some point, testament to the potential within this ensemble.
Weakness: Tight end. Tight end U.? Not so much this year. Gordon has always had the athletic ability, but it just hasn't translated into on-field production. If he can't evolve in his final year, Miami might be inclined to immediately take the wraps off Chase Ford , the 6-6, 245-pound downfield threat out of Kilgore (Tex.) College.
Outlook: Sure, they can be inconsistent at times, but the Hurricanes have a dynamite corps of receivers that will do more good than harm for Harris' development. Able to beat defenses in a multitude of ways, they're coming together at the right time and poised to unleash their myriad skills on ACC defenses.
Unit Rating: 8

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: No other offensive unit will be more closely monitored than the line, which was sub par even before all-star Jason Fox graduated. The favorite to supplant him at left tackle is 6-7, 318-pound senior Orlando Franklin , a 13-game starter predominantly at left guard a year ago. A physically imposing run blocker, he's able to bully linemen off the ball, but still has plenty to prove and must perform with greater consistency. Prone to being a little stiff and bending at the back, he has work to do before becoming a complete pass protector.

Right tackle is the scene of a very close competition currently being led by 6-6, 310-pound redshirt freshman Jermaine Johnson. While he has all of the physical tools, including great feet, to be a pillar up front in Miami, his lack of experience is going to be a concern in 2010. If all goes well, he'll continue to mature as the starter and eventually replace Franklin on the left side of the line.

The team's veteran at guard on the right side will be 6-5, 330-pound senior Joel Figueroa, a veteran of three letters and 13 starts over the last two seasons. Like Franklin, he possesses the raw power and leg drive of a road-grader, but can get overmatched when lured into space. He's gotten in better shape and worked on his fundamentals in an effort to retain his job and take a step closer to becoming a more complete player.

Over at left guard, 6-4, 330-pound sophomore Brandon Washington has been penciled in as the starter. Another blue-chipper from the 2009 class, like Johnson, he played well in his debut, even starting a pair of games. A powerful kid, with the frame of an upperclassmen, he'll quickly get into the body of a defender and maul him at the point of attack. Once he gets more snaps and improves his fundamentals, the sky is the ceiling for No. 72.

At the all-important pivot, the ‘Canes are keeping their fingers crossed that 6-4, 300-pound junior Tyler Horn can handle the promotion after appearing in only seven games as a reserve. A nimble lineman with decent feet, he gets off the snap in a hurry and has added significant muscle in anticipation of landing this job. If he squanders this opportunity, Miami will have big problems at center.

Projected Top Reserves: Assuming he doesn't win a job, the team's top reserve lineman will be 6-2, 315-pound junior Harland Gunn, who started five games at right guard in 2009. An explosive drive blocker, who plays with outstanding pad level, he'll play considerably in the rotation at guard and center while competing for no worse than a regular gig in 2011.

Johnson's competition at right tackle is coming from 6-5, 300-pound sophomore Ben Jones , another big and physical blocker, with a bright future ahead of him. He played sparingly in five games on offense and special teams, but got a better feel for the game in 2009, which has showed in the offseason. While he didn't arrive with the same number of press clippings as Johnson, he has not backed down in this fight.

Watch Out For … the emergence of the underclassmen. Franklin and Figueroa are very nice players, but the potential of the line depends heavily on the maturation of Johnson and Washington. While their long-term potential is undeniable, the ‘Canes are holding out hope that it doesn't actually take a lot of time getting to that point.
Strength: Raw power. Miami is loaded with behemoths in the trenches, offering the size advantage to simply bully opponents off the ball. At an average of 6-5 and 320 pounds, the Hurricanes have one of their biggest projected starting five in school history and the wide-bodies to play some smash-mouth football.
Weakness: Pass protection. Bigger, in fact, is not always better. The ‘Canes proved to be a lumbering bunch at times in 2009, ranking 100th nationally 10th in the ACC in sacks allowed. With a converted guard at left tackle and a redshirt freshman at right tackle, a swift turnaround could be a longshot.
Outlook: While there's individual potential and an interesting mix of youth and experience, Miami just never seems to fully put it all together up front. The group lacks consistency and a cohesive personality, which will be the biggest roadblock to success for an otherwise exciting group of skill position players.
Unit Rating: 7

- 2010 Miami Preview | 2010 Miami Offense
- 2010 Miami Defense | 2010 Miami Depth Chart
- Miami Previews  2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006