NEEDS A BIG SEASON FROM | Defense
With a true freshman under center this fall, it will be up to Miami's defense to stand tall and allow the offense some time to find its groove.
Sure, there's Heisman Trophy hopeful Duke Johnson in the backfield, but the Duke's campaign for those honors last year as a sophomore was halted by injury. Early reports are that Johnson is stronger and has recovered, without losing a step.
On defense, it starts up front with senior Anthony Chickillo (129 career tackles, 20½ for loss and 12 sacks) keying the effort in the trenches. Then there are the linebackers, including hard-hitting seniors Thurston Armbrister and Denzel Perryman. Defensive coordinator Mark D'Onfrio has labeled Armbrister his "most versatile player" since practice began.
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The secondary has the real talent with junior Deon Bush (a Rivals four-star recruit) and Dallas Crawford, who was used as a running back the past two years but has experience at defensive back during his South Fort Myers High days, at the safety spots, while Tracy Howard and Ladarius Gunter are being pressed by several other talented reserves at cornerback.
It's not a question of if the Canes have the talent on defense to win games, it's just a matter of whether they can do it.
IMPACT NEWCOMER | TREVOR DARLING | freshman | offensive lineman
The former All-American tackle at Miami Central enrolled early at Miami and has earned his stripes as the starting right guard after the camp's first depth chart. At 6-foot-5 and 320 pounds, Darling could be key in providing the right blocking for Johnson and protection for fellow true freshman, quarterback Brad Kaaya.
DEEP AT | CORNERBACK
Miami is deep in the secondary in a way that most programs can only dream about. There are only two starting spots and a loaded group vying for playing time. Tracy Howard, Ladarius Gunter Artie Burns, Antonio Crawford and Cornelius "Corn" Elder all figure to make their marks this fall.
THIN AT | QUARTERBACK
Better late than never, Miami's quarterback situation was cleared up in late August when Brad Kaaya won the starting job. He's a true freshman. The lack of experience could be the Canes' undoing if Johnson can't carry the load.
BY THE NUMBERS
Number of rushing yards Johnson compiled in eight games before suffering a season-ending ankle injury against Florida State.
Average seasons Miami head coaches lasted during the national title era.
Career college games for starting QB Brad Kaaya, while backup Jake Heaps has played 33 games during his time at BYU and Kansas.
fourth season, 22-15
FAU W, 34-6
FLORIDA W, 21-16
SAVANNAH ST. W, 77-7
at USF W, 49-21
GEORGIA TECH W, 45-30
at North Carolina W, 27-23
WAKE FOREST W, 24-21
at Florida St. L, 41-14
VIRGINIA TECH L, 42-24
at Duke L, 48-30
VIRGINIA W, 45-26
at Pittsburgh W, 41-31
Russell Athletic Bowl
Louisville L, 36-9
1 at Louisville, 8 p.m.
6 FAMU, 7 p.m.
13 ARKANSAS STATE, 3:30 p.m.
20 at Nebraska, 8 p.m.
4 Georgia Tech
23 at Virginia Tech
1 NORTH CAROLINA
15 FLORIDA ST.
22 at Virginia
Game times to be announced, unless noted
HOME GAMES IN ALL CAPS
GAME TO WATCH | NOV. 15 VS. FLORIDA ST.
While earlier games against ranked teams in Nebraska and North Carolina will determine whether Miami can contend for the ACC crown, the Canes matchup with in-state rival Florida State is the game to watch. Miami gets the top-ranked team and defending national champs at home and could play the spoiler.
Expect bowl appearance
Despite a huge question mark at quarterback, the Hurricanes have enough talent on defense and other offensive weapons coupled with a favorable schedule to produce enough wins to get to a decent bowl game. Just don't expect contention for one of the four national playoff berths or an ACC title.
-- Capsule by Jason Dill, Herald sports writer