As the Miami Hurricanes prepare for Charleston Southern on Thursday night, a new page turns in the book of this storied football program.
Gone is last season’s 5-7 record. So are Larry Coker’s malcontents and underachievers. Perhaps biggest of all, so is the Old Lady of Little Havana – the Orange Bowl.
The historic arena, college football’s version of Fenway Park, has been demolished.
The Canes will take on the Buccaneers at Dolphins Stadium. How NFL is that?
As the Canes transition homes, they also transition toward a new wave of football, as they have so many times in the past.
Whether moving from Howard Schnellenberger’s overachievers to Jimmy Johnson’s high speed flyers, or from Dennis Erickson’s troublemakers to Butch Davis’s off-the-radar scrappers or, most recently, to Larry Coker’s let-downs, this program has always found a way to connect back to its winning roots, to the indomitable will that defines “The U.”
Randy Shannon is as close to transcendent as it gets with this program. He played under Johnson; coached under Erickson, Davis and Coker; and last season, took the reins as head coach. This season, he looks to create his own indelible mark upon the program.
They say a coach improves the most between his first and second seasons on the job. I think this is a function of both experience and roster composition. After going through some growing pains in his first season, Shannon now has a year’s worth of experience under his belt, which has already manifested itself in practice performance and attitude.
Gone should be Shannon’s struggles with clock management and discipline. He is no longer coaching someone else’s players. The guys on this team are unquestionably his.
So the question is no longer whether Shannon can get his team to follow him. Indeed, Shannon realizes that his role as disciplinarian took away too much of his time last season, and he has turned over many of those police duties to a group of senior leaders.
The question is what kind of mark Shannon is able to make with his team on the field. After trimming fat for most of the past year, Shannon looks to unleash a new roster predicated upon speed and athleticism. They are young, but so were Ed Reed, Ken Dorsey, Andre Johnson and Jonathan Vilma, at one point.
Shannon will look to combine Johnson’s emphasis on speed and pro-style offense with Schnellenberger and Davis’s quiet discipline to create a new era of Miami football which does not sacrifice class for winning.
This is Shannon’s blueprint for success. Whether or not it will bear weight remains to be seen. However, the first field test will be Thursday night in Davie.
Expect to see a blend of old school and new as the Canes take the field against what should be an overmatched opponent.
Expect the Canes to hit them in the mouth early and often – and maybe even talk a little trash along the way.