Although our last game was also against Miami, enough has changed in Coral Gables that I decided to reach out again to Hurricanes blogger Vishnu Parasuraman answer a few questions. Vishnu made his name shooting holes in the Yahoo! Sports report on Miami. Now he's back to get us up to speed on the new roster and assess Year 2 of Al Golden.
ATLEagle: The offense is replacing most of its starters, but has a QB in Stephen Morris that has played. How will things be different? What do you expect Miami to try to do against BC?
VP: The offense should be much more run heavy. Last year, when Miami needed key conversions in short yardage, they were unable to consistently run the ball. Instead, they relied on a short, accurate passing game. Stephen Morris has played some, and he has shown a very strong arm but does have the tendency to spray the ball a bit. The goal for Miami will be to rely on a strong, consistent running game. If that happens, then they can use Morris from positions of strength, where he can make big plays out of the passing game. He has the arm to make all the throws, but he might not be able to be consistently accurate. Last year, it was pass to set up the run, this year, that script should be flipped.
ATLEagle: Last season's defense was mediocre and only returns five starters. Do you expect much improvement? Who will be the difference maker? How much of a loss was Ray Ray Armstrong?
VP: I think mediocre was likely too much of a superlative to describe last year's defense. Save a few games, they had all sorts of trouble simply forcing the other team off the field. There were several games where it seemed like the other team didn't punt. Obviously, Chase Rettig torched the secondary last year. He wasn't the only QB to have that kind of success. I do expect some improvement as familiarity with the defensive schemes increases. The Miami defense had essentially been running the same system since Jimmy Johnson was the head coach in the 80s, so overhauling it was certainly a drastic step.
There are a few key players to watch. 2 sophomores that had big freshman years are expected to break out: Defensive End Anthony Chickillo and Linebacker Denzel Perryman. They are clearly the most talented players on the defense. Ray Ray is a loss because of his experience, but he never lived up to the hype he had as a recruit. Also, in total, he was suspended for 5 games last year, so the team should be comfortable playing without him. I feel bad for him on a personal level, because I wanted him to have another opportunity to get his career where it was supposed to go before he got to Miami, but as a football loss, I don't know that it will impact the team too much.
ATLEagle: With Al Golden entering Year 2, what is your opinion of him and the direction of the program? Last year was unique in that it was his first season and their was the huge distraction because of the Shapiro scandal. What are you minimum expectations for this season?
VP: I am a big fan of Al Golden. Obviously, when he was hired, we all thought he would be rebuilding a program that was stuck in a rut. No one knew what was about to land on his doorstep. And the school is really lucky they hired him, because he is a top notch character guy and someone that they are very lucky to have as the face of the program through this mess.
From a football standpoint, I think the first year was disappointing record-wise. But, I thought the team played a lot better than the 6-6 record. There were several close losses, and obviously, with all the off field stuff, I think Golden did a great job keeping them motivated. Overall, I was happy with his first year. Not happy enough to give him the 8 year contract extension that Miami did, but happy nonetheless.
This year, I think it is important that the record improves from a perception standpoint. Miami lost a lot of key players, so it will be difficult. But I felt the team was much better than 6-6 last year, so I would expect 7 or 8 wins for the season to be successful.
ATLEagle: What's your prediction for the game?
VP: Well, this is a tough one. Last year's game is still fresh in my memory. I thought Miami would win last year, and not only did they lose 24-17, but that score was horribly misleading. BC completely dominated the game. And I hate opening the season with a conference road game. I do like the talent and balance of the Miami squad, but there are so many unknowns, it is hard to feel confident. On the other hand, it seems like BC's entire team has gotten injured. I am sure they would also rather open with a directional school. I really like Miami's special teams. I think there a couple of players that can make big plays in the return game, and both the kicker and punter return from last year. I look for that to make the difference and Miami to win by a FG.