The NCAA has ruled eight Miami players will miss time in 2011, as a result of an investigation into improper benefits from a booster. A Yahoo Sports investigation released in August concluded Nevin Shapiro, a former booster, supplied money to several players and this announcement from the NCAA is a first step in the sanctions process.
The eight players suspended will have to serve their suspensions immediately and pay restitution for benefits received. All eight players will miss Monday night’s opener against Maryland. As a result of the suspensions, the Canes will be shorthanded for the matchup against the Terrapins. Several true freshmen could see time in this game, especially on defense with depth an issue on the defensive line and in the linebacking corps.
Additionally, receiver Aldarius Johnson has been suspended indefinitely from the team. The Sun-Sentinel is reporting Johnson’s suspension was a result of being “less than forthright in two interviews with NCAA investigators.”
A breakdown of the eight suspended players:
Defensive end Olivier Vernon: 6 games – Vernon was the team’s top returning sack leader with six. His first game back will be on Oct. 22 against Georgia Tech. The Hurricanes will turn to seniors Marcus Robinson and Andrew Smith to pickup the pass rush in his absence.
Safety Ray-Ray Armstrong: 4 games – Armstrong still had plenty to prove this season, but was expected to be one of the top safeties in college football. The junior was a second-team All-ACC selection last year, despite starting only three contests. His first game back will be against Virginia Tech on Oct. 8. The secondary was a concern going into this year, so Armstrong will be missed.
Tight end Dyron Dye: 4 games – Was moved to offense in the fall, but expected to be a limited contributor this season. Tight end is a position without a lot of proven depth on the roster, however.
Linebacker Sean Spence: 1 game – Spence is expected to be one of the top linebackers in the ACC this year and missing him for one game is a huge break for the defense. Spence was a preseason first-team All-ACC selection by Athlon Sports and should be one of the leaders for the defense when he returns.
Wide receiver Travis Benjamin: 1 game – With Benjamin and Aldarius Johnson sidelined, the Hurricanes will have to turn to senior LaRon Byrd and junior Tommy Streeter for production. Benjamin was the team’s top leading receiver, catching 43 passes for 743 yards and three scores last season. He will also be missed on punt returns.
Quarterback Jacory Harris: 1 game – Harris was locked into a tight battle with sophomore Stephen Morris for the No. 1 spot. Morris will start in the opener, but Harris will have an opportunity to win the job going into the second game of the year against Ohio State. Harris has the ability to be a solid ACC quarterback, but needs to do a better job of limiting his mistakes.
Defensive tackle: Marcus Forston: 1 game – Forston came to Miami as a highly-regarded recruit, but hasn’t lived up to the hype. However, big things were expected out of Forston if he could stay healthy in 2011. He will return in Week 3 against Ohio State.
Defensive lineman Adewale Ojomo: 1 game – Was slated to be a top backup at one of the end spots. Collected 38 tackles and five sacks last season and expected to be a significant contributor to the rotation when he returns.
Although this was a positive announcement for Miami, the NCAA has yet to rule on what sanctions the program may face. The Hurricanes could face a loss of scholarships, as well as a bowl ban for a couple of seasons.
The NCAA’s inconsistency in different rulings makes it difficult to judge the exact penalties Miami may face. However, the Hurricanes will still face intense scrutiny from the NCAA.
The announcement of these suspensions is just the start of what could be a long clean-up process in Coral Gables.