CORAL GABLES – When USF had its run under Jim Leavitt – reaching as high as No. 2 in the country in 2007 – and Miami struggled, the Bulls challenged the Hurricanes in recruiting and even won a couple of battles.
Their biggest coup was getting Miami Gardens defensive back Kayvon Webster – now a member of the Denver Broncos – to de-commit from Miami to USF on signing day in 2009.
“That shocked (then-Miami coach) Randy Shannon,” said Matt Shodell, CaneSport’s recruiting reporter.
As of late, Miami has regained control. USF no longer is battling the Florida Big Four. In fact, the 2013 edition may be one of the four worst teams in the FBS.
Miami has eight players out of the Tampa area (where USF is located) on this season’s roster – quarterback Gray Crow, linebacker Tyriq McCord, defensive backs Antonio Crawford and Rayshawn Jenkins, fullback Maurice Hagens, linebacker Akil Craig and defensive end Anthony Chickillo and defensive lineman Earl Moore.
McCord has been a playmaker so far, and Chickillo is performing at an all-ACC level.
For the 2014 recruiting class, Miami coaches are interested in linebacker Vincent Jackson from Tampa Jesuit, and beyond that, they’re looking at offensive lineman Jake Fruhmorgen from Tampa Plant and defensive end Scott Patchan from Tampa Freedom.
“I think they’d like to cherry pick one to three kids out of Tampa and maintain an active presence,” Shodell said.
Strong Start, But Questions Remain
The leading scorer on the University of Miami football team is Dallas Crawford.
Its second-leading rusher is true freshman and fourth-stringer Gus Edwards.
It seems Ryan Williams has played at much at quarterback as Stephen Morris.
There have been injuries to starters and top players, but it has mattered little.
About three-fourths of the Hurricanes’ roster earned letters with the amount of action players had against Florida Atlantic (34-6), Savannah State (77-7) and South Florida (49-21).
“We’re excited, we’re excited,” Miami coach Al Golden said. “We’ve played a lot of guys, we’ve grown up.”
So the question is, how good are the Hurricanes? How much have they grown?
They are 4-0 and have a huge win over state rival Florida, which helps their recruiting as well as their national ranking. But we are one-third of the way through the regular season, Miami hasn’t played an ACC game yet and there are questions.
Don’t worry, the Hurricanes will have a steady diet of league foes coming from now through the day after Thanksgiving.
“We haven’t played all three facets for four quarters yet,” Golden said. “We’ve left a lot of plays on the field. We’re trying to get better every day. Clearly in the last three weeks, we’ve improved in a lot of areas, but we have a long way to go. Although we’re 4-0, we really haven’t done anything yet.”
As little as three of the non-conference victories showed, Miami’s lone significant win – 21-16 over Florida – also left many wondering how good this team is.
Is the Hurricanes’ offense among the best in the country? It didn’t show a lot against the Gators. Then again, Florida’s D – which has given up 10 points per game in three wins – is one of the best in the country.
Miami has forced 13 turnovers, five against the Gators. It also is giving up fewer than 284 yards per game, an incredible turnaround that has it ranked No. 10 in the country. Already, the Hurricanes have more sacks so far this season (16), than all of last year combined (13). As Golden noted, a lot of players have their confidence built up with sacks and tackles-for-losses.
Can that continue? Remember the competition. Other than Florida, the combined record of FAU, Savannah State and USF is 2-12 with those two wins being over USF (by FAU) and Fort Valley State (by Savannah State).
“They’re surprisingly better than I thought they would be in every facet of the game, especially defense,” said Jim Martz, CaneSport editor. “It’s too early to put much credence on stats but in the last two weeks, but they played two teams they should’ve beaten and they were very focused.”
Concerns include injuries and mistakes. Tailback Eduardo Clements, center Shane McDermott, wide receivers Phillip Dorsett and Rashawn Scott, offensive lineman Danny Isidora have missed time this season because of various ailments.
Then there’s Morris and tailback Duke Johnson, Miami’s two top offensive weapons.
Morris reinjured his right ankle against South Florida. He said the Bulls were unsportsmanlike as they took liberties by twisting and turning his ankle in piles.
“South Florida is a dirty team to say the least,” he said. “When you’re down and tackled and everything and everybody is on top, they’re going to try to go for your ankles. We were already up. … I was like, ‘You know what? Ain’t no point for me to try to mess with these guys who are going to play dirty.
“It is what it is. I wanted to, like, score 70 points on them. They disrespected us, so I had no respect for them at all. At that point, I felt like we should keep pushing it, keep killing them.”
By Sunday morning, Golden said Morris’ ankle was much improved over the past 24 hours. The injury was similar to last season when he hurt his left ankle against North Carolina but recovered during the week and played against Florida State.
Johnson, meanwhile, had his second concussion test in a row. He may have put on 10 pounds of body armor, but he’s still just 5-9, 196.
After he returned, Johnson dropped a pass, then fumbled twice, once at the goal line.
“Tried to do too much,” he said.
Johnson’s teammates also made their share of mistakes against USF. They had four fumbles. Third-stringer Crow threw a pick-six. Special teams penalties meant no 100-yard kick return TD by Johnson and no 61-yard punt return for Dorsett.
The great thing among this first month of the 2013 season is that Miami has won, gotten playing time for everybody, yet made enough mistakes that the Hurricanes coaches can show them in film study, get players’ attention and keep them from getting too overconfident.
After a home game against Georgia Tech on Saturday, Miami will have a bye the following week, then will face North Carolina, Wake Forest, Florida State, Virginia Tech, Duke, Virginia and Pittsburgh in successive weeks. We’re about to see how the Hurricanes fare if they don’t turn teams over or don’t move up and down the field.
Or maybe they’re good enough to mow down these opponents, as well. The fact is, teams like Oregon, Louisville, FSU and Oklahoma are asking the same question as the Hurricanes: How good are we?
What they all can say is they’re still very much in the running for either a BCS bowl or the national championship.