clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Miami Hurricanes Football: 2014 Spring Practice Preview, Dealing With QB Setbacks

Miami begins the 2014 season without the shadow of the NCAA looming large over their previously questionable tactics. No more excuses, Hurricanes: time to turn up.

Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

We continue our "Behind Enemy Lines" series by taking a look at our eighth opponent—and fourth ACC opponent—for 2014: the Miami Hurricanes. This will mark the Hokies’ second straight week on Thursday Night Football. Let’s Goooooooo!

From the "What Had Happened Was" File:

Overview        Miami began the season 7-0, and the talking heads couldn’t keep themselves from talking about how "The U" had certainly returned. The Canes promptly did what they do and finished the 2013 season at 9-4 with a 5-3 ACC mark. They finished tied for 2nd in the Coastal Division with the Hokies and Georgia Tech, but lost out on a tie-breaker by having fallen to the Hokies.

vs. the Hokies Logan Thomas was an absolute beast in the Florida rain, going 25 of 31 with 366 yards, 2 TD’s, and no interceptions. The VT offense took advantage of multiple inopportune Miami turnovers and Trey Edmunds punched in 4 touchdowns as the Hokies embarrassed the then-number 11 Hurricanes. Alert the presses: Cody Journell managed to not miss any extra points this week. Thankfully, he was not asked to attempt a field goal.

Losses Florida State (41-14), Virginia Tech (42-24), Duke (48-30), Louisville (36-9)

Signature Win Miami upended the mighty SEC’s Florida Gators 21-16 in early September. Come to find out, Florida was terrible last season. Whoops.

Postseason The Hurricanes were shut down by the Teddy Bridgewater express in the 2013 Russell Athletic Bowl, falling to the Cardinals 36-9.

From the "Fortifying the Ranks" File:

With junior tailback Duke Johnson (5-9, 206) sidelined for spring as he continues his recovery from a broken ankle suffered last season against Florida State, Spring Ball presents a prime opportunity for Al Golden and fellow Miami coaches to take long looks at the other backs on the roster in hopes of shoring up the depth chart behind Johnson for the regular season. Dallas Crawford (5-10, 195) took over for Johnson after he went down and did more than hold his own, notching 12 TD’s, but surprisingly, he is not currently considered a candidate for the RB2 job in 2014 after moving back over to the defensive side of the ball to play safety. Says Dorseyitis (seriously.) over at SBNation’s "State of the U" in this nifty article:

"That leaves us with Gus Edwards and Walter Tucker at running back and they will be getting heavy usage all spring due to injuries (and that  surprise change to Safety by Dallas Crawford). Gus Edwards showed flashes over the course of last season and has added muscle on to his already large frame. Now playing at 232 Gus said "It feels good, I don't think I lost anything [speed]." When I asked how it felt to suddenly be the top back, Gus seemed aware of the opportunity he now has. Walter Tucker is every bit as big as Edwards and is slotted to take over at the fullback position. Over the spring he will be playing RB with the second team. I fully expect Duke and Yearby to jump right in during Fall camp and make an impact, but for now the defense is getting a heavy dose of big back power football."

From the "Must Be Nice…" File

Miami had the #12 recruiting class in the country according to 247Sports, second to only Florida State (#4) in the ACC. The Hurricanes signed 27 prospects in 2014, highlighted by 247Sports #3 DE, 5* Chad Thomas (6-5, 240), a Miami native. The breakdown of Miami signees is as follows:















Furthermore, the Hurricanes have a ridiculous 9 January enrollees. Those are:

Braxton Berrios





Leesville Road (Raleigh, NC)

Trevor Darling





Miami Central (Miami, FL)

Trent Harris





Winter Park (Winter Park, FL)

Calvin Heurtelou





Trinity-Pawling School (Spring Valley, NY)
Scottsdale C.C. (Scottsdale, AZ)

Ryan Mayes





Northwestern (Miami, FL)

KC McDermott





Palm Beach Central (West Palm Beach, FL)

Darrion Owens





Oakleaf (Orange Park, FL)

Joseph Yearby





Miami Central (Miami, FL)

Juwon Young





Albany (Albany, GA)

Sixteen of Miami’s 27 signees are from Florida. Must be nice to a.) have a national recruiting footprint, and b.) be located in a state with such a ridiculous amount of highly-regarded talent. Don’t get me wrong, Virginia produces many fine prospects; however, Virginia’s not Florida. Or Texas. Or California.

Two Biggest Question Marks for 2014

Replacing Stephen Morris

First off, let’s just call a spade a spade: with the skill position players Miami is able to bring in, all their quarterback needs to do is be able to get them the football and get out of the way. However, that seems to be an issue with the Hurricanes, as they seem to trip over themselves regularly on offense in meaningful games. At least they did in the Morris era. Perhaps his successor will perform better. The candidates going into the spring? In the red corner, Sr. Ryan Williams. No, not THIS Ryan Williams.

Ryan Willams drags a defender into the end zone (via strummr)

What, did you think I’d pass up an opportunity to hit that softball? That’s my all-time favorite Ru run, by the way.

Anyway, back to the Hurricanes.

In the red corner, Sr. Ryan Williams (6-6, 225). Williams, a 247Sports 3* quarterback, was originally a Memphis commit and started 10 games for the Tigers as a true freshman. He then transferred back to home-state Miami and sat his sophomore year due to NCAA transfer rules. The last two seasons, he has played behind Morris.

In the blue corner, r-Fr. Kevin Olsen (6-3, 210), brother of current Carolina Panthers starting Tight End and Hurricane alum, Greg Olsen. Olsen was rated a 4* prospect by 247Sports in 2013, listed as the #5 overall pro-style quarterback in his class, and ranked #94 in the 2013 Top247.

David Kenyon of Bleacher Report lays out the landscape in this nifty article:

"Williams is easily the most experienced quarterback on the roster, having started the majority of one season while at Memphis. Through nine appearances for Miami, Williams is 37-of-52 for 506 yards, throwing four touchdowns and one interception. During the second week of spring practice, head coach Al Golden called Williams his starter.

Olsen has a better arm than Williams, which is definitely a positive asset for the quarterback. Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald says Olsen "throws with more zip" than his counterpart.

But in Golden's eyes—the only eyes that ultimately matter—Williams has the advantage in the mental area. Now, Olsen's mental capacity is not being questioned, it's just that Williams having two additional seasons in the Miami system is a contributing factor."

That WAS the narrative heading into Spring Ball down in Coral Gables, and even through the first part. However, as of this past weekend the Canes began singing a different tune. Why? Presumptive starter Williams suffered a tear in his right ACL during a rollout pass in a closed scrimmage on April 4th.


Way Too Early Prediction:

There’s nothing to predict here, as with Williams sidelined, Olsen looks to be the quarterback of at least the foreseeable future. (Let’s table any thoughts of current Miami QB commit Brad Kaaya until he reports to Coral Gables this summer.) I must admit though, as a Hokie, it does warm my heart a bit to think that Olsen was losing the QB battle to Williams, who played behind Stephen Morris. I thought Morris was a great asset to the Hokies when the two teams met, and if he beat out Williams, who was beating out Olsen for the job…  On a serious note, look for Miami to lean on their rushing attack, at least in the early going until they figure out exactly what Olsen brings to the table on meaningful Saturdays.

Putting the "U" back in D?

The Miami defense was terrible down the stretch in 2013, giving up more than 500 yards of offense in five of their last six games and an average of 37.3 points during that time. Predictably, the Hurricanes dropped four of those six final games and ended the season yet again with a sour taste in their mouths. Unfortunately, the defense wasn’t markedly better during the regular season. How bad was it? Tell us, Bob Ferrante, of FOX Sports Florida (more from Bob here, if you’re curious.)

"Miami was 65th in scoring defense (26.8 points per game) and 116th in total defense (486.4 yards per game) in 2013. And this follows up a 2012 season in which the Hurricanes gave up 30 points per game."

If consistency has anything to do with it, the 2014 version of Miami’s defense should be markedly improved, as Head Coach Al Golden chose to look past the unit’s um, shortcomings and retain defensive coordinator Mike D’Onofrio. The Canes are fortunate to have a slew of returning starters—notably Sr. Defensive End Anthony Chickillo (6-4, 277) and leading tackler Sr. Denzel Perryman (6-0, 242). Additionally, they have a young early enrollee with a huge amount of upside in Florida native Outside Linebacker Darrion Owens (6-3, 217), a 247Sports 4* OLB (#15 overall, Top247 #200). Add to the mix wildcard tailback-turned-safety Dallas Crawford, and the Hurricanes appear to be ready to make a huge jump defensively.

Way Too Early Prediction:

I believe they will do just that: make huge strides. Miami will have a solid defense with athletes flying all over the field, as they always do. The question with them—as always—is can they be self-disciplined enough to win football games, and if not, will there be a break in the ranks? This could go either way, honestly. But, as long as they’re having success, Miami will be hard to beat…if that makes any sense.

The Final Word—Fun Fact Edition

Miami is the latest team to willfully line up to take a sledgehammer to consistency and brand purity: the Hurricanes have announced that they will have redesigned uniforms in 2014. I’m sure they’ll be lighter and shinier than anyone else’s redesigned uniforms…until the next week. Sigh…fancy uniform strikes again.