Miami Hurricanes head coach Al Golden is entering his fifth season in Coral Gables, but he has yet to return the program back to prominence. The team finished the 2014 season with a 6-7 record. The Hurricanes lost some talented players off last year's team, but they do return quarterback Brad Kaaya, who was named the 2014 ACC Rookie of the Year.
During the last three seasons, the Hurricanes have averaged 7.3 wins a year. Can Golden and Kaaya lead Miami to their first ACC Championship Game appearance since joining the conference in 2004?
Miami’s Five Biggest Fall Camp Storylines
1. Will Brad Kaaya Suffer From a Sophomore Slump?
Last year at this time, no one knew who the starting quarterback for the Hurricanes would be. Projected starter Ryan Williams was still recovering from reconstructive knee surgery.
That left Miami to choose between Kaaya and veteran Jake Heaps, a battle in which Kaaya came up victorious. Kaaya had an excellent first year at Miami as he threw for 3,198 yards, 26 touchdowns and just 12 interceptions.
Last year, there were no expectations of Kaaya since he was put through a baptism by fire in his first season. Now that he has been named to preseason watch lists for the Davey O’Brien Award and the Manning Award, among other accolades, can Kaaya live up or exceed expectations in his sophomore season?
2. Who Can Replace Phillip Dorsett and Clive Walford’s Production?
Now that wide receiver Phillip Dorsett and tight end Clive Walford are in the NFL, who are the players that will replace their production?
Stacy Coley has been considered one Miami’s hardest workers on the roster, but that hasn’t translated into production on the field. The Hurricanes will also rely on Braxton Berrios, Herb Waters and Standish Dobard to replace Dorsett’s and Walford’s production.
3. Lack of Experience on the Offensive Line
Miami loses 111 career starts with the departure of offensive linemen Ereck Flowers, Jon Feliciano and Shane McDermott. The only full-time starter returning up front is right guard Daniel Isidora.
Kc McDerrmott and Trevor Darling have gotten some meaningful snaps on the line but they're not very proven. Kaaya isn't mobile, so the offensive line will need to come together in a hurry.
4. Can Miami’s Front Seven Improve?
The Hurricanes’ defense ranked No. 14 in the country last season, but defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio took a lot of heat. In Miami's four losses against Nebraska, Georgia Tech, Virginia and Pittsburgh, the Canes gave up a combined 1,082 rushing yards.
The biggest question among the front seven is at linebacker, where tackling machine Denzel Perryman now plays for the San Diego Chargers. Raphael Kirby will be asked to take Perryman’s place. Jermaine Grace is undersized (6-1, 208), but he made a number of plays during the spring game.
5. Al Golden
There aren't many coaches in the country with a hotter seat than Golden’s. Sure he took over at Miami when the NCAA was investigating the program, but fans have grown impatient with the lack winning during the last decade.
Golden is 28-22 entering his fifth season in Coral Gables. Last season, Miami came into its game against Florida State with a 6-3 record. The Hurricanes finished the season 6-7 and lost four straight games to end the year.
If Golden doesn’t have Miami contending for an ACC Coastal Division title, he could be shown the door at season’s end.
— Written by Antwan Staley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and has extensive experience covering Florida sports teams. Staley has written for Bleacher Report, Pro Player Insiders and is a reporter for Sports Talk Florida. Follow him on Twitter @antwanstaley.