Miami has three key position battles to determine
Quarterback, middle linebacker and cornerback are issues Hurricanes must iron out
By Steve Gorten, Sun Sentinel 5:07 p.m. EDT, July 31, 2011
The Miami Hurricanes are quite comfortable with their situation at running back and offensive line.
As new coach Al Golden says, they have what they would want at those positions — the tandem of Lamar Miller and Mike James
in the backfield, and a line that's two-deep at every spot. There will be intense competition among the mammoth front for starting jobs, as there was in spring, but other position battles loom larger.
The 'Canes still don't know who their starting quarterback will be — Jacory Harris
or Stephen Morris — and there is uncertainty at middle linebacker and in the secondary.
Here's a look at three uncertainties heading into the first practice Saturday:
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Harris or Morris
We've wondered ever since the Sun Bowl
whether Harris or Morris would be Miami's starter for the 2011 season opener. At the end of spring practice, it was too close to tell, Golden said, so he's held off on a decision.
He said last week he plans to name a starter by the team's second scrimmage, which will be between Aug. 19-22.
"If someone jumps to the front before that, we'll name him before that," Golden said. "But I don't want to go much farther than that because I want to have some time to make sure the offense is geared to things they do best."
The senior Harris is the ACC
's most experienced quarterback. He has played in 36 games and started 24. The sophomore Morris started four games last season (2-2) after Harris suffered a concussion and played well. Both have made poor decisions at times and must improve reading coverages.
The duo combined to throw 24 interceptions in 2010.
While Golden isn't a fan of playing two quarterbacks, he said he wouldn't rule it out and wouldn't hesitate to yank either quarterback if he wasn't playing well.
Who's in the middle?
The Hurricanes went into fall camp last year not sure who'd be their middle linebacker. They wound up moving Colin McCarthy inside. It worked out, as McCarthy finished as the team's leading tackler.
The option to move Sean Spence inside this season is there, but the 'Canes want to avoid that. Based on spring practice, they won't need to shift Spence. Senior Jordan Futch really emerged, showing the potential that's yet to be fulfilled — he had nine tackles (seven solo) and two sacks in the first scrimmage.
The hard-hitting Futch, who has played on the outside most of his career, finished spring co-No. 1 in the middle with sophomore Jimmy Gaines, who turned in strong performances in the scrimmages.
Gaines was not heavily recruited out of Getzville, N.Y. — his top choices were Buffalo and Akron — but UM's late interest in him now has him fighting for the starting job playing between Spence and Ramon Buchanan.
Sophomore Kelvin Cain also will be a factor, but will start camp behind Futch and Gaines on the depth chart.
Waiting at corner
There was no doubt cornerback was going to be an issue after Miami's top three corners from last season departed for the NFL
. One of the moves Golden made was switching redshirt senior JoJo Nicolas from safety to corner, where he has yet to play a down in college.
Nicolas made a surprisingly smooth transition in spring, though, and for now appears to have secured a starting job. It's open competition on the other side.
Junior Brandon McGee has the most experience, but converted running back Lee Chambers beat him out for the top spot on the post-spring depth chart. Freshman Thomas Finnie also figures to compete for a starting job.
Finnie enrolled early in January, and participating in spring practice helped speed along his development. Former running back Eduardo Clements, a sophomore, and incoming freshman Dallas Crawford could ultimately figure in at corner, but for now Golden will use them at safety because of the need for depth behind starters Ray Ray Armstrong and Vaughn Telemaque.