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25 August 2013

Football season at a glance

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Miami football is just four days away. The Canes host their first game at 8 p.m. Friday against Florida Atlantic.

Hurricane fans have a lot to be excited about. Coach Al Golden returns a large majority of his starters, and the improved defense should support Miami’s  high-powered offense.

New players like Al-Quadin Muhammad and Stacy Coley will have an immediate impact on both sides of the ball.

Take a look at this breakdown to get familiar with the Canes before heading to Sun Life. Here are three fresh faces with legendary surnames, their biggest regular season games, and the top playmakers on offense.

Three players with big shoes to fill

  • Ray Lewis III: The son of UM and NFL legend Ray Lewis, this 5-foot-9 defensive back out of Longwood, Fla., is ready to take on the challenge of maintaining his family’s penchant for Hurricane swagger.
  • Greg Golden: Miami football is a family business for the freshman receiver. Under the leadership of his uncle,  Golden, he will follow in his father’s footsteps. Greg Golden Sr. played for the Canes under Howard Schnellenberger.
  • Wyatt Chickillo: The walk-on from Miami Palmetto Senior High is the fourth Chickillo to suit up in orange and green since 1950, joining his cousin, current defensive lineman Anthony, grandfather Nick and uncle Tony.

Three games to circle on the calendar

  • Sept. 7 vs. Florida: The Canes and Gators face off in what could be the final matchup in a historic rivalry. Some parking lots at Sun Life Stadium will open as early as 5 a.m. for the most devoted tailgaters. Since 1938, Miami leads the series over Florida, 28-26. The last time the teams met in 2008, Gators quarterback Tim Tebow orchestrated a 26-3 victory on his way to a second national title.
  • Nov. 2 at FSU: Miami has come up empty in its past three games against Florida State. That means the anticipation will be building long before their prime-time matchup on Nov. 2. A victory here would legitimize the hype around Miami’s ACC chances, and would make the seven-hour drive up to Tallahassee well worth the effort.
  • Nov. 29 at Pitt: The regular season finale against ACC newcomer Pittsburgh will take place at chilly Hines Field. Miami has struggled in cold weather in years past. This is a chance to finish the ACC schedule with a tough road win. Miami last faced the Panthers in 2010, coming away with a 31-3 victory.

Three offensive weapons to watch

  • Duke Johnson: The perfect complement to a strong passing game is a fearless running back. Miami has just that in Duke Johnson, the 5-foot-9 true sophomore who was named ACC overall and offensive rookie of the year, freshman of the year, special teams player of the year … and so on. Not a bad start. His explosiveness will make a difference all season long.
  • Phillip Dorsett: Among the Canes’ talented groups of receivers is St. Thomas Aquinas product Phillip Dorsett, who saw the field in all 12 games each of the past two years. He led Miami with 842 receiving yards on 58 catches last season. Dorsett is consistently a favorite target for Morris. He will, however, have to break his habit of dropped passes.
  • Stephen Morris: Look out, ACC. This is his time to shine. Morris was Miami’s offensive MVP a year ago after throwing 21 touchdowns against just seven interceptions. He set a school and ACC record against N.C. State with 566 passing yards. Morris has more scoring threats this year, so his arm is potentially even more dangerous.