Now that the 2008 regular season is in the books for the Miami Hurricanes, it is time to take a look back at what it meant.
I think that the takeaway message is that the team improved but has a lot of work to do.
It was very encouraging to see the youngsters step up and play as well as they did. Many freshmen showed the promise of great things in their future. They also showed why it is hard to win with a group of kids months removed from senior prom.
The problem that the Canes ran into down the stretch is known as the “rookie wall.” When players have never played a down of college football, they have a big adjustment to make. One of them is the grind of a 12 game schedule at a very high level of competition.
This phenomenon affected the Canes so drastically because of the number of freshmen and sophomores in prominent roles. It is one thing to have a handful of youngsters getting serious playing time and quite another to have 15 on the 22 player two-deep depth chart.
It is evident that the future of this team has already begun; it would be wise to fully commit to it next season. Veterans that have completed their studies should be encouraged to graduate so as to not hold people back. This season was one of growing pains and next year will be too.
However, next season will come with the expectation of an ACC championship game appearance. The players who have failed to succeed for four or five years already will not be the players to deliver.
It will be the guys who went through their pains this year.
And that is why this year was successful.
A bowl game looms. Whether it is the Emerald Bowl in San Francisco (against a Pac-10 team), the Music City Bowl in Nashville (against an SEC opponent) or the Meineke Car Care Bowl in Charlotte (against a Big East team), we do not know.
The beautiful thing is that it really does not matter.
The bowl berth earns this team an extra month of practice. For a team this young, that is the important thing.
When the Canes run out onto the field in a month, you will see more youngsters in key roles. There will be times when they look flat out awful. But you can bet they will be hungry.
A win will give the team momentum going into the next season. Next season will see more improvement.
Last season was one of getting rid of dead weight and figuring out who had to go.
This season was one of forcing the youth to sink or swim.
For the most part, they swam – and inspired a jaded fan base while they were at it.
What about next season? What will next season be?
I guess we will all have to wait and see…