The Golden era is set to kick off this Monday against the Maryland Terrapins. Miami will look to get over an NCAA scandal buzz that has surrounded the team for the last few weeks and will finally turn its attention to playing and competing for an ACC title. Here are five questions to which fans are seeking answers:
1.How will the team react in its first game after weeks of NCAA scandal talk?
Ever since the Yahoo! Sports article implicating the University of Miami was published, talk about the scandal and potential allegations is all that has flown around the program. With the NCAA levying down suspensions on eight different players, for now there is at least a sense of closure while they continue to investigate the athletic program. With the game against Maryland just four days away, and all questions about who will play answered, the team will look forward to finally moving past the allegations and getting to answer questions based on what they can control.
2.How will Al Golden’s offseason changes take effect on the field?
UTough. Identifying leaders and breakout players by the jersey they wear. Inviting and reaching out to Canes alumni to speak to the team and bringing back Art Kehoe. All offseason, Golden has made it a point to reemphasize the things that turned Miami into a dynasty during their glory days. Players have mentioned all throughout camp that the camp was designed to prepare them as much mentally as it does physically. Canes fans have shown their excitement about Golden’s changes. Now it just comes down to translating the ideas into success on the field.
3.What under-the-radar player should make the biggest impact?
Heading into fall camp, there weren’t a lot of people looking at Jimmy Gaines to be a major contributor. He only played in six games last year and only recorded half a tackle. But Gaines has quickly risen up the depth chart, donning the black jersey used to distinguish standout players throughout camp and has wowed teammates and coaches. Not bad for a former two-star recruit. Now that he has solidified the middle linebacker spot after beating out senior Jordan Futch, Gaines will have to translate his success in camp onto the field, especially in the first few games while the team is missing, among other defensive starters, Sean Spence and Ray-Ray Armstrong.
4.Can Lamar Miller and Mike James be stopped?
Probably the biggest strength the Canes have to utilize comes from the duo in the backfield. James and Miller both bring a different element to the run game, with James being the hard bruising runner and Miller the evasive “catch me if you can” style back. Miller showcased his talents in the spring game, scoring three touchdowns on 10 carries and 166 yards. He’s already said earlier in camp that he was sure both he and James would crack the 1,000-yard barrier this season. It’s going to take a talented, well-disciplined approach by opposing defenses to slow just one of them down, let alone the two of them.
5.Can the defense force turnovers?
Last season, the Canes finished the year with a minus eight-turnover margin. Although much of this can be attributed to the 27 combined interceptions thrown between Jacory Harris and Stephen Morris, the fact is as a unit the team has been seeking that ball-hawking player for a few years now. Safeties Vaughn Telemaque and Ray-Ray Armstrong both had three interceptions apiece, but among returning starters Ramon Buchanan, Micanor Regis, and Marcos Forston had a combined three picks. With Jojo Nicolas taking over for Armstrong during his suspension and Brandon McGee picking up where Brandon Harris left off, the team needs to find a way to force opposing teams to give up the ball.