Offensive: Junior quarterback Jacory Harris, who missed spring drills after undergoing thumb surgery, could potentially emerge as one of the nation’s top players at his position. He’s a cool customer and a playmaker who knows his biggest priority, cutting down on mistakes (17 interceptions last season). The availability of senior tailback Graig Cooper, who suffered a torn ACL in his right knee in the Champs Sports Bowl, will be an evolving question. But there is depth in the backfield. There’s also mix-and-match possibilities at receiver, where senior Leonard Hankerson has star power. The Hurricanes need senior Orlando Franklin to make a smooth transition from guard to left tackle. Overall, the offensive line is massive with senior guard Joel Figueroa assuming the cornerstone role.
Defensive: This looks like a vintage Miami defense. There’s an NFL-ready edge pass-rusher in senior Allen Bailey, who leads an exceptionally deep defensive line. There are agile and aggressive linebackers in senior Colin McCarthy and junior Sean Spence. There’s blinding speed in the secondary, paced by junior cornerback Brandon Harris. Also watch for big-hitting sophomore free safety Ray Ray Armstrong, a future star who plays with the ferocity of a linebacker.
Specialists: Senior Matt Bosher might be the nation’s most valuable specialist. He was first-team All-ACC as a place-kicker and second-team all-conference as a punter. Thearon Collier showed flashes of excellence as a punt returner (13.2-yard average, two touchdowns).
Coaching: Miami still hasn’t approached national-championship caliber under Randy Shannon, but the talent level has improved. The Hurricanes are positioned to make a jump. There’s also (finally) some stability as both Miami coordinators are returning for the first time in five years.
Heisman hopefuls: Harris received some early Heisman mention last year, particularly following his electrifying effort in a riveting season-opening road victory against Florida State. Expect the same treatment if Miami jumps to a successful start.
Overview: ACC members probably braced themselves when Miami, winner of five national championships, joined the league in 2004. How long before the Hurricanes would dominate the conference? Actually, Miami hasn’t won any titles in six seasons. It has never captured the Coastal Division or played in the league’s championship game. That has strong potential to change. Miami isn’t all the way back — not yet at least — but look for the Hurricanes to play in its first BCS bowl since becoming an ACC member.
Next up: No. 7 Boise State
CFT: The Detroit Lions are expected to own and operate their own bowl game at Ford Field, starting play in 2014, according to a report by ESPN.
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