Randy Shannon was told he was destroying, oh, maybe 25 years of tradition.
|Can Kirby Freeman or Kyle Wright step up and lead this team? (Getty Images)|
Shannon was reminded that flies in the gum-flapping face of everyone from Michael Irvin to Kellen Winslow II.
"A 15-yard penalty is detrimental to the game," Shannon said flatly. "If they do it, they're on the sideline. We had an occasion in the spring. Lance (Leggett) caught a great pass. As soon as he got up and tossed the ball in the air, a flag came out. After practice me and Lance did about 300 yards with him tossing the ball up in the air. He hasn't tossed the ball in the air since."
But what about that 'Cane swagger? The way those Miami teams used to have you beat before kickoff -- and then make you like it for the next 60 minutes?
"I'm trying to build a team," said Shannon, who was elevated from defensive coordinator after Larry Coker's firing. "Sometimes guys are so individualized because they get all the publicity."
Funny how "individualized" combined with a 7-6 record makes a program find the straight and narrow. Miami tried it that way once. Butch Davis rebuilt the program after NCAA probation but left for the NFL a week before signing day in 2001.
|2. Boston College|
|3. Wake Forest|
|4. Florida State|
|6. N.C. State|
|1. Virginia Tech|
|2. Georgia Tech|
|3. Miami (Fla.)|
|5. North Carolina|
|Team to beat:|
|Matt Ryan, Boston College|
|Calais Campbell, Miami (Fla.)|
|Coach of the year:|
|Butch Davis, North Carolina|
Davis' players provided the foundation for a 60-15 record and a national championship during the Coker years. When the record dipped to unacceptable nine-win levels in 2004 and 2005, Coker was on notice.
It didn't help that in the middle of the 2006 season, the program spiraled out of control. But let's tell the truth: Coker could have fielded a roster of pirates and would still be coach if they finished 12-1. He couldn't survive 7-6.
So Miami has a cop, but does it have a coach? Shannon was something less than the first choice after Rutgers' Greg Schiano turned the job down. Since then, though, Shannon has done all the right things.
Who knew that the day would come when a coach, anywhere, would have to ban guns? Shannon did, with dire circumstances for violators. Get caught with one at Miami and you're off the team. Forget due process or those other copouts that programs use to keep a guy on the roster.
Cell phones in class? Forget it. If a football player's cellie rings, all the players in that class turn in their phones to the coach. Names have been removed from the backs of jerseys. A 2.5 GPA must be maintained. Doors are held open for women.
"It's character more than anything," said Shannon, a linebacker under former Miami coach Jimmy Johnson. "Going into homes I let parents know what we expect out of a kid. I don't even talk playing time."
If it's all about character then Miami should be back in the national championship picture soon. Shannon has been through more trying times himself.
His father was murdered. Three siblings died of AIDs. At 16, Shannon was a father. Seven years later he was first in the family to get a degree. The former 11th-round pick of the Cowboys became the first rookie linebacker to start for Dallas since expansion in the 1960s.
"Everything he's done I've been a big fan of," said preseason All-American defensive end Calais Campbell. "Take the names off the back of the jerseys? When we start playing like a team, he'll put them back on ... I'd give up all the accolades I got to win a game. We're going to win as a team one day."
One day. That's an ominous statement for a program whose fans demand it win right now. The ACC has been cruel to the Hurricanes. They are tied for fourth in conference winning percentage since the rebuilt league kicked off in 2004.
How much of that is due to the competition and how much is due to negligence in Coral Gables is uncertain. Going into 2007, the offense has serious questions. One of the quarterbacks -- senior Kyle Wright or junior Kirby Freeman -- has to step up. It would help if Leggett became the dominant receiver he was projected to be out of high school.
|2007 Conference Previews|
|Sun Belt||Big 12|
Practice observers are raving about true freshman tailback Graig Cooper.
The offensive numbers of 2006 cannot be repeated -- 87th, 84th and 62nd. Those were Miami's national rank in scoring offense, rushing offense and passing offense. Offensive coordinator Patrick Nix was hired away from Georgia Tech, where the Yellow Jackets were 54th, 35th and 91st in those categories.
That suggests the defense will have to carry the team, at least part of the way. Both Campbell and safety Kenny Phillips are All-America types.
After all that we'll see if the cop can coach.
Predicted order of finish
|Think Wake Forest will sneak up on teams this year? Guess again. (Getty Images)|
2. Boston College Can Jags screw this up? Tom O'Brien left so much behind that the Eagles will contend for the division title. The nine returning starters on defense are the most since 1992.
3. Wake Forest: The surprise factor is gone but Jim Grobe has built a solid program right under our noses. This team is probably better than last year's ACC title group. The difference is, the league has been alerted.
4. Florida State: It's hard to envision much better than 6-6 for the Seminoles. Bobby Bowden has new coaches but the same old problems. An abundance of turnovers, lack of offense and, until further notice, lack of a big-time quarterback.
5. Maryland: Ralph Friedgen had the quietest nine-win season in the country. This year the Terps trend downward with a brutal second-half schedule. Watch for the beginning of the Josh Portis era at quarterback.
6. North Carolina State: O'Brien will do great things in Raleigh, just not this year. It will take a while to break the undisciplined habits left over from Chuck Amato.
|Who to turn to at Georgia Tech? Well, there's always Tashard Choice. (Getty Images)|
2. Georgia Tech: Don't forget this team played for the ACC title 10 months ago. Jackets get way better at quarterback with Taylor Bennett taking over for (pause to brush teeth) Reggie Ball. Tashard Choice ran for almost 1,500 yards. Philip Wheeler is an All-America-quality linebacker.
3. Miami: Randy Shannon was not the first choice but he might be the best choice. The defense will have to carry the 'Canes while Shannon figures out what's happening with the offense.
4. Virginia: Another classic good recruiter (Al Groh) who must turn the talent into victories. Lots of questions on offense. Lots of talent on defense.
5. North Carolina: A classic honeymoon season for Butch Davis. The Tar Heels will be good again. Davis will make sure of it, but he gets time and sympathy for fighting non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
6. Duke: And Coach K complains that the ACC sold its soul when it expanded for football? Not in your backyard, coach.