College football never ends, and during the next few weeks teams will be getting ready for the 2013 season in their spring practice sessions. Here's a look at the Miami Hurricanes and what they'll be working on this spring.
Spring practice begins: March 2
Spring game: April 13
2012 record: 7-5 overall, 5-3 ACC
Returning starters: 19 (ten offense, nine defense)
The Least You Should Know about Miami This Spring
-- Miami returns more starters than anyone in the ACC. The Hurricanes' 19 returning starters is tops among FBS teams, but this added value should not be mistaken for experience across the board. Al Golden has made quick use of back-to-back nationally ranked recruiting classes, playing 21 freshman -- including 16 true freshman -- during the 2012 season. Ten freshman started at least one game, and a few rookies -- like running back Duke Johnson and right tackle Ereck Flowers -- took on major roles in their first year of play. The maturation of this youthful squad will be a constant theme in 2013, and the coaching staff hopes that early playing experience will benefit the team in their development.
-- A proven offense has a brand new staff. Led by quarterback Stephen Morris and running back Duke Johnson, the Miami offense was fueled by explosive plays last season. When the offense was able to hit home runs, the Hurricanes found success. Miami scored at least 30 points in each of their seven wins, including 40-plus points in four of their five ACC wins. Now that unit, which returns every starter but running back Mike James. However, there are new faces for the offense on the sideline. James Coley, a Miami native, was named offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach after five seasons at Florida State. Hurlie Brown (running backs) and Larry Scott (tight ends) were also added to the staff in the last three months. Brown won two national titles with Miami as a safety and Scott both played and coached at South Florida. Coley clearly recognizes the explosive nature of the Hurricanes offense, citing their big offensive line and downfield threats as a reason to run a scheme that focuses on the vertical passing game with a vertical rushing attack. He has kept much of the terminology from Jedd Fisch's pro-style offense, but explained that a vertical attack would work better than "dink and dunk" with this personnel.
-- Looking for more consistency on defense. Statistically, the defensive numbers from 2012 would suggest a struggling defense. The Hurricanes ranked dead last in the ACC in total defense (468.4 yards per game) and No. 10 in scoring defense (30.5 points per game). But the major struggle for defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio was getting consistent play from game-to-game, even from quarter-to-quarter. Much of that can be blamed on youth and/or lack of experience, but now that excuse is gone. There are concerns at every level -- needing more pressure from the defensive line, likely needing a replacement for Eddie Johnson (suspended indefinitely) at linebacker, and avoiding breakdowns in coverage. Defensive end Shayon Green, linebacker Denzel Perryman, and safety AJ Highsmith can help lead their respective units as the Hurricanes look to firm up the defensive side of the ball.
-- The elusive ACC championship could finally be in reach. Before 2012, Miami had not finished better than third place in the Coastal Division. A wide open division and the explosion of Miami's offense led to a 5-3 finish in conference play -- good enough to finish in a three-way tie atop the division standings. But Miami was unable to compete for their first ACC title because of their second self-imposed postseason ban. The NCAA investigation is a mess, but outside of possible distractions it is not expected to affect Miami on the field in 2013. When a first-place team returns the most starters in the conference, that team is expected to win the division. If Miami can get it done, Al Golden will have a chance to what Larry Coker and Randy Shannon were unable to do in a seven-year span: deliver an ACC football title to Coral Gables.
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