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The Miami Hurricanes are not a bad team. They would not be 4-1 if that were the case. As they demonstrated against Texas A&M, they have the ability to beat anyone in the country at any time. The speed and athleticism of this team can be simply mesmerizing at times. This is why games such as Saturday’s against Duke are so frustrating.
The Hurricanes feature as much top-end talent as any team in the country, including USC and LSU. The problem over the last few seasons has been their ability to use it correctly. It is impossible to argue that one player should be playing over another when it comes to this team. There are simply too many good players on the roster, and not enough is known about what goes on in practice for these arguments to be justified. However, it is acceptable to say that over the past few seasons we have not been able to consistently deploy the immense talents that we possess in the most effective fashion.
Let us use a favorite example of Hurricane Nation: Devin Hester. Hester was very similar to Forrest Gump on a football field. He was never one to adhere to the structure of set plays, but he was at his best when given the ball and told to find the end zone. He is the type of player that makes plays for his team even when he does not touch the ball. Instead, he got lost in the positional shuffle and never fully realized his potential.
Another recent problem for this team has been accountability. Players such as Willie Williams and Ryan Moore were promised starting jobs from the time they got here. This was not the best way to instill a competitive spirit into the team, and certainly not the best way to hold people accountable for their actions. When “lesser” players saw these stars get preferential treatment based on name alone, their morale went down and their performances followed.
While the game on Saturday was not the blowout expected by most, I for one did not come away totally disappointed. What the game on Saturday taught us more than anything was the following: Randy Shannon has this ship headed in the right direction. Shannon realizes that his two best offensive players are Javarris James and Graig Cooper. Instead of rotating them, Shannon has begun to use them at the same time, lining up Cooper in the slot while James is behind the quarterback. This is the type of creativity that has been lacking when it comes to utilizing talent and leaves plenty of promise for the future, when the program will once again be inundated with South Florida talent (which is a topic for another time).
Shannon’s decision not to play Sam Shields and Ryan Hill was a direct assault upon the accountability concerns of this squad. Simply put, Shannon does not tolerate those who do not practice well and refuses to allow his players to think he will. That is why games like that against Duke are just as indicative of a bright future as the win against Texas A&M. After all, a win is a win, and in the end that is what Miami has: a win. So for those who think this team is a disappointment, I leave you with one message: in 1999, Miami finished 9-4. They then proceeded to go 46-3 over the next four seasons. Consider yourselves warned.
Dan Stein may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org