COLLEGE FOOTBALL 2012 PRESEASON TOP 25
ACC Coastal PREDICTION
HEAD COACH: Al Golden, 13-11 (2 years) | OFF. COORDINATOR: James Coley | DEF. COORDINATOR: Mark D’Onofrio
The Hurricanes are a slight favorite to win a crowded Coastal Division.
Stephen Morris finished his junior season as one of the hottest quarterbacks in college football. In his final four games, Morris completed 60 percent of his passes and threw for 11 touchdowns without an interception. Equipped with a big arm and great feet, Morris is also durable, tough and now has the experience and playmakers around him to thrive.
Tailback Duke Johnson didn’t even start on a full-time basis as a freshman, but he’s one of the best players in the ACC. After breaking Clinton Portis’ school freshman rushing record, Johnson will see his workload increase substantially. Johnson has amazing vision, quickness and speed, and his versatility as a runner and receiver makes him a defensive nightmare.
There’s no shortage of solid pass-catching options on the roster. Back are Phillip Dorsett and Rashawn Scott, the team’s leading receivers last season. Dorsett isn’t very big, but he’s plenty dangerous. Scott and Allen Hurns give the offense a pair of big receivers who can go up and catch the ball. The tight end position has been a black hole on offense recently, but Clive Walford finished last season by catching a combined seven passes for 234 yards and two touchdowns against USF and Duke.
All five starters return on the offensive line. When right tackle Seantrel Henderson is focused, he can be dominant. He’s big enough to swallow defensive ends and light enough on his feet not to get beat on speed rushes.
Miami’s defense was awful last season, allowing school records in virtually every important statistical category. Much of the blame goes to a defensive line that couldn’t rush the passer or stop the run. Despite leading the team with four sacks, end Anthony Chickillo endured a sophomore slump. Shayon Green, playing the end opposite Chickillo, is solid against the run but didn’t have a single sack despite starting every game. When Curtis Porter is healthy — which isn’t often — he might be the team’s best defensive tackle.
Denzel Perryman is a ferocious hitter who has started games at middle and outside linebacker. Perryman isn’t particularly big, but he’s relentless and delivers blows that separate runners from the ball and their senses. Raphael Kirby was the starter at middle linebacker in spring practice and did nothing to make coaches think he can’t do the job. Disciplinary issues ended the Miami careers of starting linebackers Gionni Paul and Eddie Johnson.
Ladarius Gunter is a big cornerback with the ability to play the run and pass equally well. Tracy Howard, Miami’s top recruit in 2012, has yet to make an impact and is playing behind Antonio Crawford at the other corner spot. The safety positions will be manned by a pair of ball-hawking, athletic sophomores — Deon Bush and Rayshawn Jenkins.
Matt Goudis is regarded as a better kicker than punter, but he had a chance to fill both vacancies until post-graduate Cincinnati transfer Pat O’Donnell arrived on campus. Johnson was one of the nation’s top kickoff returners and, despite an increased workload on offense, will not see his special teams chores reduced.
It’s been a decade since Miami last won 10 games in a season, and the lack of success has gradually eroded expectations. But things could be on the upswing in Coral Gables despite a never-ending NCAA investigation that has dogged Al Golden in his two-plus seasons as coach. With eight starters returning for a potentially explosive offense, four starters back on a rebuilding defense and a manageable schedule, the Hurricanes are a legitimate contender for a Coastal Division title and their first trip to the ACC title game.