Football team hopes to carry experience into 2009

UPENDED: Miami punter Matt Bosher flips as his punt is blocked by Florida's defense for a safety during the first half of the Canes/Gators game last Saturday night. Florida topped the Canes, 26-3. COURTESY INDEPENDENT FLORIDA ALLIGATOR // Andrew Stanfill
And it’s good!: Team MVP and junior placekicker/punter Matt Bosher went 18 for 20 on his field-goal attempts and a perfect 40 for 40 on extra points to lead the Canes with 94 points. He also recorded eight tackles and made the All-ACC Second Team. Courtesy The Alligator

Despite a 7-6 record, the Miami Hurricanes had their ups during their 2008 campaign.

In the face of a slow start, the Canes still had the opportunity to make it to the Atlantic Coast Conference Championship after defeating Virginia Tech on a Thursday night ESPN showdown. The victory had extended their win streak to five games.

Many freshmen showed great promise towards their future, including quarterback Jacory Harris, wide receiver Travis Benjamin, defensive tackle Marcus Forston and linebacker Sean Spence.

But Miami had its lows too.

Quarterback Robert Marve was suspended twice, for the first and last games of the season, and ultimately transferred.

The Hurricanes also dropped their final three games to Georgia Tech, North Carolina State and California. The latter was a 24-17 loss in the Emerald Bowl.

On the season, the Canes finished 4-4 in the ACC.

“Last year, we had our ups and downs,” head coach Randy Shannon said. “I think the things we went through last year, a North Carolina tough loss, a Florida State tough loss, a Georgia Tech tough loss, it makes our team a lot stronger because our team was so young and couldn’t handle success last year. We had a lot of young guys. They will learn from last season and carry it into next year.”

Players have already put the 2008 season in the past.

“Last year was last year,” sophomore cornerback DeMarcus Van Dyke said. “We are just trying to focus on this year and getting better. I’m not really worried about last year.”

During the off-season, Shannon had to replace offensive coordinator Patrick Nix and defensive coordinator Bill Young. Mark Whipple, who has an NFL background with the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Philadelphia Eagles, was hired to man the offense. On defense, John Lovett, a special teams coach from North Carolina, will call plays.

“Our offense will be different,” Shannon said. “Like I tell everybody, the creativity of Whipple and the versatility in the way he uses the players is going to be unique. With Coach Lovett it’s going to be the same thing.”

With the departure of Marve, the team is now completely under the guidance of starting quarterback Harris, also known as “J12.”

Even though he started just two games, Harris threw for 1,195 yards last year and had 12 passing and two rushing touchdowns.

“It’s his team,” sophomore wide receiver LaRon Byrd said. “I told him to lead us to a championship. He’s got a Peyton Manning mind with a Tom Brady arm.”

Miami will face a tough start to its schedule as the team opens the season on the road against rival Florida State for the first time in three years. The Hurricanes then play ACC foes Georgia Tech at home and Virginia Tech away.

In their fourth game, the Canes host Oklahoma, which returns to Land Shark Stadium after losing to Florida in the BCS National Championship Game in January.

Regardless, UM looks forward to the challenging competition in the fall.

“We are up for the challenge,” junior running back Graig Cooper said. “We are not afraid. We are ready to go out there and show every team what we are about.”