NCAA Football Preview - Miami-Florida Hurricanes

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Updated: 8/19/2013 9:21 am

However, momentum was halted in early October, as the Hurricanes were once again humbled by a powerhouse, getting routed by Notre Dame (41-3). The team would also return to earth in league play, as the loss to the Irish was followed by back-to-back ACC setbacks to North Carolina (18-14) and Florida State (33-20).

Golden got his squad back on the right path though, as Miami closed out the 2012 campaign with three wins in the last four games, kicking off the run with an impressive 30-12 victory over Virginia Tech. The team dropped its third conference game in heart-breaking fashion after that, falling at Virginia, 41-40, but again rallied with victories over USF (40-9) and Duke (52-45) to finish at 7-5.

2013 ANALYSIS:

OFFENSE: Miami got it done last year with an explosive offensive attack, balanced, with strong quarterback play and a potent rushing attack.

Ten starters return from an offense that averaged just over 440 yards per game, including senior quarterback Stephen Morris. The 6-2, 214-pounder had a strong junior campaign in 2012, completing 58.2 percent of his passes, for 3,345 yards, with 21 touchdowns against just seven interceptions.

Matching those numbers will be made easier by a deep receiving corps that returns the top three pass catchers from a year ago. Headlining the group is 5-10 junior Phillip Dorsett, who led the team with 58 receptions, for 842 yards and four TDs last year.

The emergence of tailback Duke Johnson last year, has provided Miami with great balance going forward. As a freshman in 2012, Johnson averaged a whopping 6.8 yards per carry and finished second in the ACC in rushing with 947 yards and 10 TDs.

The Miami offense will also benefit from the return of the entire starting offensive line from 2012, highlighted by junior guard Malcolm Bunche (6-7, 323) and senior tackle Seantrel Henderson (6-8, 346), both of which earned honorable mention All-ACC l season ago.

Golden thinks a veteran offense is certainly a plus going into the season.

"I would hope I don't have to guard against anything, especially on the offensive side with the experience and leadership we have. I hope they're chasing excellence right now, and not waiting for me to motivate them. I think Stephen [Morris] has a lot to do with that."

DEFENSE: Defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio has his work cut out for him in 2013, despite 10 starters returning on the defensive side. Last year, the Hurricanes were abused both by the run and the pass and gave up an ugly 486.4 yards of total offense per game.

The defensive line returns four starters, led by rush ends Shayon Green (team- high 67 tackles) and Anthony Chicklillo (45 tackles, four sacks). Junior linebacker Denzel Perryman (64 tackles, five TFL) leads the way for Miami in the linebacking corps. An unproven secondary will need players to step up and become leaders. Sophomore DBs Tracy Howard, Deon Bush and Rayshawn Jenkins are talented but must step up their games, while junior Ladarius Gunter and senior A.J. Highsmith push for playing time as well.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Miami's kicking game will be completely revamped in 2013, with the loss of place kicker Jake Wieclaw and punter Dalton Botts. Sophomore Matt Goudis is the likely replacement for Wieclaw. Goudis played sparingly last season, mostly kickoffs. Cincinnati transfer Pat O'Donnell will step in and handle the punting duties, after earning All-Big East Second-Team honors with the Bearcats. The return game should be one of the best in the ACC with Johnson's explosive return abilities, after averaging 33.0 yards per return with two touchdowns as a freshman last season.

OUTLOOK: The Hurricanes are one of the favorites in the Coastal Division for good reason. The offense will once again be one of the ACC's best. It will be up to the defense to shore things up in 2013.

The non-conference schedule is taken care of in the month of September. The Hurricanes should get wins over Florida Atlantic, Savannah State and USF, but the real test will come week two at home against the Florida Gators.

Conference play kicks off October with a home date against Georgia Tech. Other ACC foes that make the trip to Miami are Wake Forest, Virginia Tech and Virginia. Road trips in-conference consist of North Carolina, Florida State, Duke and Pittsburgh.

Miami is the only top team in the Coastal Division with the Seminoles on their schedule, so that game in early November will be key to Miami's run at the division crown.

Golden is ready for the challenge of contending for a conference title.

"I don't make excuses for last year, every team is different," said Golden . But every time we talk about what we weren't last year, I remind the staff and the team what we were. We were a team that were underdogs seven times, we were a team that played the third-hardest schedule in the country, we were a team that played 21 freshmen, we were a team that played three of our first four games on the road. They played in some hard venues, way before a lot of those guys were ready, and I'm proud of them. Now let's take that experience, add some poise, some composure, a little more of a quiet mind to eliminate some mental errors and penalties, and let's go."

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