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2008 Football Preview

Canes look to take recruiting success onto the field

By: Pravin Patel // Sports Editor

Issue date: 7/8/08 Section: Sports
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Graig Cooper is sacked by a University of Virgina player. The Canes lost their last game in the Orangebowl with a record 48-0.
Media Credit: Billy Gilbert
Graig Cooper is sacked by a University of Virgina player. The Canes lost their last game in the Orangebowl with a record 48-0.

Coming off a 5-7 season, where the Hurricanes missed out on their first bowl game in 10 years, the Hurricanes look to take recent recruiting success and turn it into on-the-field wins.

After a disappointing first season under Head Coach Randy Shannon, the Canes will look to their young arrivals to step in and contribute right away. The Canes loaded up during this recruiting period, coming away with what most regard as the No. 1 recruiting class in the nation. Amongst these recruits, the Hurricanes loaded up at linebacker and wide receiver, while picking up key recruits on both lines, in the secondary and at quarterback.

The Hurricanes will look to overcome a few major losses - defensive end Calais Campbell, linebacker Tavaris Gooden and safety Kenny Phillips - heading into the season. The strong recruiting class will help to alleviate the losses, but it will be tough to overcome the loss of three of the team's top defensive players.

With this said, though, the Hurricanes have a very manageable schedule. Most of their tougher games - Virginia Tech, Wake Forest and Florida State - are at home, while they only have one especially challenging road game, at Florida. The games against Georgia Tech and Virginia, on the road, could prove tough, but they are winnable games.

In actuality, besides the game at Florida, none of the teams on the Canes' schedule are terribly frightening. Florida State is rebuilding, Virginia Tech does not have the impact players it once did and many of the other teams lost key players to the draft, while being unable to put together a recruiting class even comparable to the Canes.

This leaves the Hurricanes in a position where they could see a huge turnaround this season. For this, though, some of the major questions, based on last season, that the Hurricanes will have to face are at wide receiver, on the offensive line, in the secondary, at linebacker and, of course, at quarterback.

The quarterback-wide receiver combination was a major issue for the Hurricanes last season. To help try to solve this, the Canes brought in a number of talented wide receivers, who display various faucets of skills. Additionally, the arrival of Jacory Harris and the return of Robert Marve, from a season-long injury, gives the Canes hope at quarterback. Talent is not the question, for both displayed tremendous talent in high school. The question lies in their ability to translate and adapt to the collegiate level of play. This is not to mention that neither has any collegiate quarterbacking experience. Despite this, the two do give a renewed hope, as they bring with them a winning attitude and great talent.

The offensive line did see some improvement last season, but it still is an area where the Canes must improve. With development of Orlando Franklin and Harland Gunn, with Jason Fox getting another year under him and the arrivals of Benjamin Jones, Xavier Shannon and Brandon Washington, the Canes will hope to make this a stronghold of the team. A healthy running game featuring Graig Cooper and Javarris James should also help the line, as they will help to take pressure off the quarterbacks.

In terms of the secondary, they allowed a number of big plays last season, and they were unable to come up with key stops in big game situations. The Canes will rely on incoming freshman Brandon Harris and the development of Damien Berry, Chavez Grant, Lovon Ponder and DeMarcus Van Dyke to try to correct this. As for the linebacking situation, the Canes simply lacked depth last year. This will not be the case, as they loaded up at the position, including adding some of the nation's top linebacker prospects in Arthur Brown and Ramon Buchanan.

The big questions for the Hurricanes will have to be answered by the kicking game. The kicking and punting game, last season, was a major problem and very inconsistent. Everyone will have to wait and see how the Canes attempt to address this problem area.

Taking all these things into consideration, the Canes have a lot to be excited about. Sure they have some holes and lost some playmakers, but they also gained a plethora of talent. This team loaded up on playmakers and winners, and the Canes look to bring this winning culture back to the "U."

Pravin Patel may be contacted at p.patel7@umiami.edu.
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