By Shandel Richardson South Florida Sun-Sentinel
CORAL GABLES – So many expectations have been placed on the eight high school signees who enrolled early at Miami, in time for spring practice.
Quarterback Jacory Harris and kicker Jake Wieclaw immediately competed for starting jobs. Defensive tackle Marcus Forston, wide receiver Aldarius Johnson and linebackers Sean Spence and Arthur Brown almost certainly will receive immediate playing time this fall.
"Nobody in the program wants to go 5-7," second-year Miami head coach Randy Shannon said, referring to the Hurricanes' record last season. "We're recruiting players from winning teams who win championships. You're going to develop that winning attitude by recruiting that type of guy. That sense of urgency will come back."
But what about those who didn't get an early start? What about the freshmen who will arrive this summer? They feel they shouldn't be left out when it comes to discussions of instant impacts. And don't expect them to act like their late arrivals will hurt their chances.
"I mean, it might hurt me a little bit, not being there in the spring," said quarterback Taylor Cook, a signee from Texas. "But there have been many times a quarterback has come in during the fall and won the job. I know I'm not out of it. I learn things pretty quick."
The 6-7 Cook said he has every reason to believe he can compete with Harris, Robert Marve and Cannon Smith. All have more experience, but not by much. Harris and Smith are both true freshmen, although Smith spent last year at Hargrave Military Academy in Virginia. Marve is the elder statesman of the group, having redshirted last year.
"We were excited about how the progress of the quarterbacks came along. Those guys did a tremendous job of working a quick game, getting the ball out to the wide receivers," Shannon said. "The biggest addition was getting eight guys in (early). Now they have the rhythm and pace of what we're trying to do in practice."
Laron Byrd is another newcomer yet to arrive. He played his high school ball in Louisiana, where he was one of the state's top receivers. With receiver being a problem area for the Hurricanes in recent years, he feels he can come in and possibly earn some early playing time.
That won't be easy. Shannon made a point to stockpile the position this year. He signed eight wide receivers, including two (Johnson and Tommy Streeter) from Miami Northwestern High, which finished No. 1 in the nation in most polls. The Hurricanes also inked two receivers from Florida Class 4A state champion Miami Booker T. Washington, in Davon Johnson and Thearon Collier.
Still, the 6-3 Byrd isn't concerned with the depth.
"Your talent should speak for itself," Byrd said. "If it does, it shouldn't matter, just as long as you're good enough."
Another player not afraid of having to play catch-up is linebacker Gavin Hardin from Tennessee. He was considered one of the top players in the class but was unable to enroll early. He still is awaiting a qualifying score on the ACT but is expected to arrive on campus in late June.
It will be difficult for Hardin to overcome the play of fellow freshmen Spence and Brown. Both were starters in the spring game and arguably had the best performances. Spence had two interceptions, and Brown was the leading tackler.
"We didn't talk about (enrolling early)," Hardin said. "I watched the spring game, and I wish I could've done it. I've always wanted to do it, but I had some things I had to finish up here in high school. But I'll be ready when I get down there. I'm ready now. I'm supposed to come in July, but I'm going to ask if I can come a little early, maybe June."
Linebacker Jordan Futch of Chaminade-Madonna High in Hollywood, Fla., also did his best to get a head start. He was all set to enroll early but ran into a snag with a paperwork issue. So he has spent the last semester of high school doing everything possible to prepare himself, even though he knows he won't be on an even level with the more experienced freshmen.
"I can't say I was disappointed," Futch said. "It was a paperwork mix-up. When it comes to the collegiate level and admissions, the athletic department needs everything. It was a minor setback for me. I got a chance to have fun before going to college and being a full-time student and full-time athlete.
"I felt it was fun to watch (Spence and Brown) ball out in the spring game. To be honest, it just made me hungrier and want to go out there more."
Cornerback Brandon Harris may be the most anticipated of the late-arriving freshmen. He was the Gatorade player of the year in Florida as a senior at Booker T. Washington. He widely was considered the No. 2 corner in the state, behind Patrick Johnson of Ely High in Pompano Beach. When Johnson de-committed from the Hurricanes a month before national signing day, Harris immediately became the top recruit in the secondary.
Harris said he could've enrolled early but decided he wanted to live out the last few days of being a high school kid. He didn't regret his decision and figures to still make a push for a starting job when preseason camp opens in August.
"I wanted to enjoy high school," Harris said. "It's only one semester. It won't hurt me much. I'm from Miami. I'm around that environment all the time. It's not like I'm missing out on that much."
There were a few position changes during the spring, most notably sophomore safety Damien Berry moving to running back. Berry, who was expected to compete for playing time, had been flirting with the idea of making a switch since last season. When he approached the coaching staff about it, they welcomed it because of depth reasons.
The Hurricanes are stocked at defensive back, but running back was a concern last year. In the final game, they had only one healthy running back because of so many injuries.
Berry rushed for more than 1,000 yards during his senior season at Glades Central High in Belle Glade, Fla. He likely will be the fourth-string tailback, behind returnees Graig Cooper, Javarris James and Shawnbrey McNeal, if everyone stays healthy.
"Damien is doing a great job at nickel, but we need more depth at running back," Shannon said. "Last year we play Boston College at the end of the season, and we have no backs. I'm always concerned about that."
Also on the move was wide receiver Ryan Hill. He is now at cornerback, the position for which he was recruited. Hill's change also was because of depth reasons. The Hurricanes are full at wide receiver, after having such a big recruiting class. Receiver Daniel Adderley moved to tight end.
"Those (freshmen) have brought something to the team, that mentality of competing and winning. It makes you develop depth," Shannon said. "This is the first time in a long time (we could) go first and second team, both sides of the football. That's a tremendous part of what we were trying to get done."
SPRING 2008 OVERVIEW
OG Andrew Bain, DE Calais Campbell (early NFL), S Willie Cooper, LB Tavares Gooden, WR Darnell Jenkins, WR Lance Leggett, FB, Jerrell Mabry (transfer), DT Teraz McCray, OG Derrick Morse, OC John Rochford, S Kenny Phillips (early NFL), QB Kyle Wright, PK Francesco Zampogna
DS Ross Abramson, LB Glenn Cook, PK Daren Daly, LB Romeo Davis, TE DajLeon Farr (transfer), DE Vegas Franklin, QB Kirby Freeman (transfer), RB Charlie Jones, WR George Robinson, DT Chris Perry (transfer), CB Glenn Sharpe, LB Demetri Stewart, RB George Timmons, CB Doug Wiggins (transfer), OT Cyrim Wimbs
2008 Returning Starters^
Pos. Name Ht./Wt. Class
RB Javarris James 6-0/214 Jr.
TE Chris Zellner 6-2/247 *Sr.
LT Jason Fox 6-6/306 Jr.
RT Reggie Youngblood 6-5/312 Sr.
DT Joe Joseph 6-3/304 *Jr.
DE Eric Moncur 6-2/250 *Sr.
LB Spencer Adkins 5-11/230 Sr.
LB Colin McCarthy 6-3/230 Jr.
CB Bruce Johnson 5-11/172 Sr.
CB DeMarcus Van Dyke 6-1/174 So.
Special Teams (1)
P Matt Bosher 6-0/195 *So.
- -has utilized redshirt season
^ -six/more 2007 regular-season starts
Other Tested Returnees
RB/PR Graig Cooper, FB/TE Dedrick Epps, WR Kayne Farquharson, OG Orlando Franklin, TE Richard Gordon, WR Leonard Hankerson, WR Khalil Jones, RB/KR Shawnbrey McNeal, OT Chris Rutledge, WR Sam Shields (2006 starter), RB Derron Thomas, OC A.J. Trump
CB Carlos Armour, DT Antonio Dixon, CB Chavez Grant, DE Courtney Harris, DT Dwayne Hendricks, CB Ryan Hill, CB Randy Phillips (2006 starter), S Lovon Ponder (2006 starter), S Anthony Reddick, LB Darryl Sharpton
Year ACC Overall Postseason
1998 5-2 (2) 9-3 MicronPC Bowl (W)
1999 6-1 (2) 9-4 Gator Bowl (W)
2000 7-0 (1) 11-1 Sugar Bowl (W)
2001 7-0 (1) 12-0 Rose Bowl (W)
2002 7-0 (1) 12-1 Fiesta Bowl (L)
2003 6-1 (1) 11-2 Orange Bowl (W)
2004 5-3 (3) 9-3 Peach Bowl (W)
2005 6-2 (2C) 9-3 Peach Bowl (L)
2006 3-5 (4C) 7-6 Humanitarian Bowl (W)
2007 2-6 (5C) 5-7 None
ACC: 16-16 (.500)
Overall: 94-30 (.758)
Date Opponent 2007 Record
Aug. 28 Charleston Southern 5-6 (1-3)
Sept. 6 at Florida 9-4 (5-3)
Sept. 13 OPEN
Sept. 20 at Texas A&M 7-6 (4-4)
Sept. 27 North Carolina 4-8 (3-5)
Oct. 4 Florida State 7-6 (4-4)
Oct. 11 Central Florida 10-4 (7-1)
Oct. 18 at Duke 1-11 (0-8)
Oct. 25 Wake Forest 9-4 (5-3)
Nov. 1 Virginia 9-4 (6-2)
Nov. 8 OPEN
Nov. 13 Virginia Tech 11-3 (7-1)
Nov. 20 at Georgia Tech 7-6 (4-4)
Nov. 29 at N.C. State 5-7 (3-5)
NOTE: Most game times still TBA.
ACCSPORTS.COM RE-LAUNCH COMING IN AUGUST!!