If ever there was a man that was the perfect guy to rebuild the Miami Hurricanes football program, it is Randy Shannon.
Few men have overcome such great obstacles through life. His father was murdered when Randy was just three years old. He had twin brothers who battled an addiction to cocaine. Three of his siblings died of the AIDS virus. All of this happened in Miami as Randy grew up as a high school star athlete. Shannon used sports as his alternative to a troubled life and earned all-state and honorable mentions for All-America on the football field as a top linebacker for his high school. He didn’t stop there, averaging 19 points per game for the Miami Norland High School basketball team and competing in the triple jump for the track and field team.
Shannon stayed close to Miami, playing his college football under Jimmy Johnson and playing a role as outside linebacker for the 1987 national championship team and playing for the 1986 championship. After his brief NFL career with the Dallas Cowboys Shannon returned to Miami to get started on his coaching career. Where else to start than home? Shannon spent the next seven seasons taking on various roles with the Miami coaching staff led by either Dennis Erickson or Butch Davis. Shannon later joined his old coach, Johnson, on the Miami Dolphins coaching staff but returned to the Hurricanes sidelines after three seasons in the pros.
Miami is Shannon and Shannon is Miami. After six years as a defensive coordinator for the Hurricanes under Larry Coker and a BCS championship ring to show for it, the head coaching duties were finally handed over to Shannon as Coker was terminated at the end of the 2006 season.
Shannon has had his plate full from the start. After seeing his beloved Miami program struggle in years after losing to Ohio State in the BCS championship game in 2002 Shannon has taken his own steps to slowly rebuild the program. At one point Shannon took the names of the players off of the back of the Miami jerseys to demonstrate that he was serious about his team approach. Gone were the days where Miami players were recognized as the cream of the crop, and Shannon realized it.
The Hurricanes struggled in Shannon’s first year as head coach but the building blocks for future success were planted. A blow-out loss to Oklahoma in 2007 was embarrassing for Miami, but it showed just how far Shannon and Miami had to go to become one of the top teams in the country. In 2008 the Hurricanes lost to both Florida and Florida State, and a three game losing streak to end the season (including a bowl defeat to California) started to raise doubts as to whether or not Shannon could get the job done in Miami.
If we learned anything last year it was that Shannon still remains the best candidate for coaching The U. Early season victories against Florida State and Georgia Tech, the eventual ACC champion, demonstrated that Miami may have finally become the team to beat in the conference, but a blow out loss at Virginia Tech quickly brought Miami back from cloud nine.
Finally the team to beat in the ACC
This all brings us to 2010. When Miami first joined the ACC, ditching the Big East, it was widely believed that the Hurricanes would finally be the challenge to Florida State’s reign that had been missing form the football part of the conference.
That was back in 2004. Six seasons have been played now and Miami has not made it back to a BCS bowl, an automatic trip that comes with an ACC championship. Coming off a string of four consecutive BCS bowl games that is a harsh bit of reality for Miami. It is their longest big bowl game drought since their first trip to the Orange Bowl came in 1983. The longest drought before this was five seasons (1995-1999), so you know the fans in Miami are eager for this year to end with a bang.
And they should be ready for just that.
The Hurricanes may not return the most starters from last season in the ACC, but they return some of the best. The offense will be captained by junior quarterback, and Heisman hopeful, Jacory Harris. Last season Harris threw for 3,352 yards and 24 touchdowns. With a full season under his belt and some time spent studying defenses he should cut down on his rather high interception total of 17.
As much attention as Harris will receive, he has some good supporting cast members on the offense. Wide receiver Leonard Hankerson is the seventh leading returning receiver in the conference this season and has the ability to total 1,000 yards this year. Miami’s offense will also bring back their top two running backs from 2009 in Graig Cooper and Damien Berry. The two combined for 12 rushing touchdowns and over 1,500 yards on the ground.
But when you are talking about Miami you are talking more about the defense. As you might expect under a guy with Shannon’s defensive background, the 2010 season will be no different.
What may be surprising is that Miami ranked in the middle of the conference last year in just about every defensive statistical category. Sixth in average points against, fifth in total yards allowed, and eleventh in sacks. Looking to break from the mediocrity will be linebacker Colin McCarthy (95 tackles, 9.5 sacks in 2009) and cornerback Brandon Harris (58 tackles and 5 sacks). Allen Bailey and Marcus Forston will anchor the defensive line up front.
2009 Capsule – 9-4, 5-3 in ACC Coastal Division (3rd place), lost Champs Sports Bowl to Wisconsin.
HOME games, * ACC Coastal games
September 2 (Thur) – FLORIDA A&M
September 11 – @ Ohio State
September 23 (Thur) – @ Pittsburgh
October 2 – @ Clemson
October 9 – FLORIDA STATE
October 16 – @ Duke*
October 23 – NORTH CAROLINA*
October 30 – @ Virginia*
November 6 – MARYLAND
November 13 – @ Georgia Tech*
November 20 – VIRGINIA TECH*
November 27 – USF
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