Posted on: April 26, 2011 3:00 pm
Edited on: April 26, 2011 3:04 pm
Posted by Chip Patterson
With all six spring games completed, we wrap up spring practice in the ACC Coastal Division.
DUKE: Head coach David Cutcliffe exits his fourth spring practice with the Blue Devils with as much optimism as ever, but knows that the 2011 Blue Devils have some work to do before kicking off the season against Richmond on Sept. 3.
"A successful day," Cutcliffe said after the spring game. "But I told them this is just the beginning. In college football now, [you have] the remainder of the spring term to work on weights and conditioning. And a summer that's going to very important to a young team."
Almost two-thirds of the Blue Devils roster is made up of freshman and sophomores. While youth can easily breed optimism, there is also a realistic expectation that this group needs to put in more work on the fundamentals this summer. Duke does have the benefit of returning both pieces of their quarterback rotation from 2010. Junior Sean Renfree will remain the starting quarterback, coming off a pleasantly surprising 3,131 yard, 14 touchdown season. Sophomore Brandon Connette will continue in his role as a run-first quarterback in rotation with Renfree, but the spring has shown some improvement in Connette's passing game. Defensively, we didn't learn much about Duke this spring due to widespread injuries across the unit. If anything the injuries made a talented Blue Devils offense look spectacular at times. Duke will likely not be able to escape a similar bowl-less fate in 2011, but at least now they have the athletes on the roster to remain competitive.
GEORGIA TECH: Georgia Tech set out to improve defensively this spring and try to focus on special teams. The good news is that the Yellow Jackets defense finished spring practice looking much better than the offense. Which might actually reveal more issues with the offense than it does compliment the defensive improvement. At different times this spring, both Tevin Washington and Synjyn Days have struggled in scrimmage situations against the first-team defense. Both quarterbacks have struggled to find a rhythm, and as head coach Paul Johnson said, they have been "running for their lives" on the field.
The defense was highlighted this spring by players like defensive end Jason Peters and inside linebacker Quayshawn Nealy, who entered spring practice as a backup. Nealy, a redshirt freshman, has seen time with the first-string this spring due to injuries to Julian Burnett and Daniel Drummond. He has made the most of the opportunity, capping off his spring by leading the Yellow Jackets in tackles during their annual T-Day game. Paul Johnson also wanted to increase the mistakes in the special teams after last season. Unfortunately that is not completely solved as Georgia Tech's kickers combined for misses from 28, 47, and 49 yards in the T-Day game.
MIAMI: Miami's spring has been much publicized due to the arrival of new head coach Al Golden . Therefore it should come as no surprise that we learned just as much (if not more) about Golden's vision for the Miami football program this spring than we did about the actual players on the roster. In following the Hurricanes this spring one word stands out to describe Golden's brief time at Miami: demand.
Golden demands that Miami play, practice, and think at a fast pace. He demanded that the Hurricanes get in better shape, and instituted a rigorous winter conditioning program. He demanded that players need to earn starting positions, and that is obvious with the unusually fluid final spring depth chart.
But will all these demands and the implementation of a new attitude around Miami catch on in time for the 2011 season? There are still plenty of question marks on the field, most notably the ongoing quarterback battle between Jacory Harris and Stephen Morris. The Hurricanes have a stable of running backs and a solid offensive line that should provide stability to the offense, and take some pressure of whichever signal-caller ends up as the starter. If nothing else, Golden has brought hype back to "The U." More than 300 former players showed up for the Hurricanes' spring game in Ft. Lauderdale, a who's who of active and retired NFL players.
Something else I learned from Miami this spring? I really need to get a Michael Irvin alarm clock.
NORTH CAROLINA: - While several former North Carolina defenders are preparing to hear their name called this weekend in the NFL draft, many of the stars from 2010's defense are still in Chapel Hill preparing for next fall. If anything, the spring showed us that the heart of of the Tar Heels' defense will be on the defensive line. The Tar Heels will be able to rotate 8-9 defensive lineman, highlighted by Quinton Coples, Jared MacAdoo, and Donte Paige-Moss. Much of the depth and added experience on the defensive line is due to the suspensions of Marvin Austin and Robert Quinn forcing players into positions unexpectedly before the season started. One of the things that makes North Carolina's line especially dangerous is the ability of several players to play multiple positions. Both Coples and MacAdoo are able to play inside or out, and that versatility can benefit a team when injuries hit during the long season. One of the biggest surprises on the already deep defensive line has been the play of junior college transfer Sylvester Williams. Williams has been building buzz since he arrived in Chapel Hill, and could end up challenging Jordan Nix for a starting defensive tackle job by next fall. North Carolina's secondary is a concern once again, making it even more important for the defensive line to put pressure on the quarterback to prevent opposing wide receivers from getting space down the field.
Offensively much of the focus will be on quarterback Bryn Renner, who is taking over for four-year starter T.J. Yates. Renner showed promise at times this spring, but he is still getting accustomed to his new role as leader of the offense. Thankfully he'll have Dwight Jones and Erik Highsmith to throw to, and an experienced offensive line to give him time to operate. Ryan Houston was a touchdown machine in 2009, but after redshirting last season and undergoing shoulder blade surgery this summer the depth at running back will be a concern heading into the fall.
VIRGINIA: Earlier this year, head coach Mike London made headlines by pulling in yet another unexpectedly strong class on National Signing Day. Unfortunately, these small victories will take some time before they translate into more marks in the "W" column for the Cavaliers. This spring did not answer many of the questions that existed near the end of last year's four-win season. Defensively, the Cavaliers return seven starters from a unit that finished only better than Duke and Wake Forest in both scoring and total defense. Improvement from those numbers will be necessary considering the lack of offensive firepower.
Virginia rotated through four different quarterbacks during their spring game (Michael Rocco, Ross Metheny, Michael Strauss, and David Watford), but no candidate stood out among the group. The offensive line has been porous, and the Cavaliers still lack an answer at running back as well. What did I learn about Virginia? Greener pastures may lie in their future, but unless someone steps up to make the Cavaliers a threat on offense they will have a difficult time keeping up with opponents in 2011.
VIRGINIA TECH: Not to drone on about new quarterbacks, but when a sophomore takes over for the ACC Player of the Year it is going to turn some heads. Logan Thomas has looked impressive this spring, grabbing most of the positive notes out of Blacksburg across the last several weeks. He finished spring practice as the star of the spring game, throwing for 131 yards and two touchdowns while also leading the Hokies in rushing with 46 yards on just five carries. However, Thomas' impressive performance did showcase some depth issues for the Hokies on offense. With starting running back David Wilson away with the track team, backup running backs Daniel Dyer, Josh Oglesby, and James Hopper struggled against the Hokies' defense in the spring game. Last season head coach Frank Beamer had the benefit of three NFL-caliber running backs to choose from, right now it looks like Wilson is the only competent option. The backup quarterbacks did not fair well either, with second-string Ju-Ju Clayton completing just three of his ten passes, and tossing two interceptions.
Defensively, Virginia Tech's returning talent seems charged up by the 40-12 lashing they took from Andrew Luck and Stanford in the Orange Bowl. The competition on the field has been aggressive, and defensive coordinator Bud Foster has not backed down from calling his team's performance in that game "unacceptable." Players to keep an eye on heading into the fall include linebacker Tariq Edwards and defensive end James Gayle, who was voted the spring defensive MVP. For those still curious, wide receiver Danny Coale did punt in the spring game and is still considered in the running for the job come fall.
Tags: ACC, ACC Coastal, Al Golden, Brandon Connette, Bryn Renner, Bud Foster, Butch Davis, David Cutcliffe, David Wilson, Duke, Erik Highsmith, Frank Beamer, Georgia Tech, Jacory Harris, James MacAdoo, Lamar Miller, Logan Thomas, Miami, Michael Irvin, Mike London, North Carolina, Paul Johnson, Quinton Coples, Ryan Houston, Sean Renfree, Stephen Morris, Synjyn Days, Tevin Washington, Virginia, Virginia Tech, What I Learned, What I Learned Spring Edition
Posted on: April 19, 2011 4:51 pm
Edited on: April 19, 2011 5:44 pm
Posted by Chip Patterson
With Miami's spring game in the books, Al Golden and the Hurricanes coaching staff released their final post-spring depth chart on Monday. Then, a few hours later, they made a few last-minute changes and released another. Many fans and critics have taken to speculation as to what the many changes and final results might mean for Miami heading into the summer break. One item that has been particularly headline-worthy is the lack of a starting quarterback.
That "controversy" should come as no surprise considering the attitude that Golden has brought to the Hurricanes since arriving in December.
If there is one thing that has jumped out from following the Hurricanes' spring practice it has been Golden's love for competition. One of his first goals after observing the Hurricanes was to increase the speed and toughness during Miami practices. He constantly is asking for more of the Hurricanes, but has shown he is not afraid to compliment/promote a deserving player.
Take the running back position, for example. Lamar Miller, Mike James, and Storm Johnson have been shuffled all spring in the multiple depth charts. When one player brought his best stuff and did something that deserved recognition, they found themselves atop the depth chart. In Saturday's spring game, Miller exploded with a 166 yard, three touchdown performance to lead the Orange team in a 30-17 victory over the Green team. When the depth chart was edited and re-released for the final time until the fall, Miller found himself standing alone as the first-string running back.
At the quarterback position, the coaching staff entered the weekend hoping that one player would emerge the way that Miller did.
"We’re continuing to let them compete and at the end of spring we’ll see where they’re at," offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch said of Harris and Morris earlier this spring. "But right now I see good things from both guys, and they’ve got to continue to compete and step up and show who wants to be the leader and No. 1 guy."
But when spring workouts came to a close neither Harris nor Morris had done enough to convince the coaches that they were THE choice at starting quarterback.
Morris certainly got the better of the spring game, completing 14 of 22 passes for 140 yards and two touchdowns. Morris did throw one interception to 2nd team all-ACC linebacker Sean Spence, which was returned for a touchdown. But the performance still outshone Harris' 18-for-30, 149 yard performance with no touchdowns and two interceptions.
Morris and Harris combined for 24 interceptions last season, and there has not been enough improvement in the spring for Golden to award the starting job to either quarterback. So just as he promised, Golden will let the players compete until someone has stepped up and earned the job.
But the quarterback indecision becomes even less of an issue when you realize how many different places on the depth chart the Hurricanes have a similar issue. Middle linebacker, right tackle, tight end, wide receiver are all positions still in open competition, and while Golden has identified starters at the cornerback position - all signs point to possible mix-ups before September's kickoff.
Different coaches have their own quirks about how to do deal with personnel, particularly in the offseason. Maybe this is just Golden's style. He has entered a situation of predictability and wiped the slate clean. There is a new formula being written at Miami, we just have to wait until the fall to see how well it works.
Posted on: April 15, 2011 2:38 pm
Edited on: April 15, 2011 3:11 pm
Posted by Chip Patterson
Al Golden has been in college football for over 21 years as a player and coach, but the greatest support he will have on Saturday will be from a program that he has only been a part of for less than four months. Golden has made a point to reach out to Miami's long and impressive list of former players and coaches since he was introduced as the next Hurricanes coach in December. That alumni group plans to show their support of Golden and the 2011 Hurricanes at Saturday's spring game in Fort Lauderdale.
Golden told reporters that they are expecting over 300 alumni at the event on Saturday, highlighted by the reunion of the 2001 National Championship team. Ken Dorsey, Phillip Buchanon, Antrel Rolle, Brett Romberg, Bryant McKinnie and Willis McGahee and many more notables are all expected to be in attendnace. The players in from the 2001 squad are scheduled to eat dinner with the current Canes on Friday night before the game. After wrapping up their final practice on Thursday, Golden was asked if his players felt extra pressure with so many alumni coming in town for the weekend.
"There's pressure?" Golden responded. "I hope for their sake that they understand there are over 300 players back, and it's clearly a who's who. I hope our guys are excited about that and they don't feel pressure, but they feel grateful to be a part of that lineage.
"I've never seen it. I've been in college football for 21 years as a player and coach and I've never seen 300 football alumni anywhere that would come back for a spring game."
There are several aspects to Saturday's game that have drawn extra attention. The teams for the Green-Orange game were picked by two Miami alums who won the responsibility in a charity auction. They met with the coaching staff earlier this week to draft each squad. The team has reportedly embraced the playground-style competition, already cheering and jeering each other through practice.
For the full video of Coach Al Golden speaking to reporters after Thursday's practice, Click here [via Canes All-Access]
Posted on: April 14, 2011 10:48 am
Edited on: April 15, 2011 1:39 pm
Posted by Chip Patterson
On Saturday, nearly half of the ACC will wrap up their spring practice with an annual spring game. Some teams will engage in game-like scenarios in front of thousands of onlookers, while other teams will engage in a more “drill-centric” display for their eager fans. Regardless of the setup, there are always pertinent questions to be answered whenever a team takes the field competitively. Here are your things to watch in the ACC spring games on April 16.
Boston College - 1 p.m. Alumni Stadium
Judging by the statistics and observations from the last two scrimmages, new offensive coordinator Kevin Rogers has been dialing up the passing attack for all three of his quarterbacks. The play of Chase Rettig (the starter for now), Mike Marscovetra , and Dave Shinskie has been spotty; with different signal-callers shining at different times. Once the season has Montel Harris is expected to be the foundation of the Eagles’ offense, but the ACC’s second-leading rusher in 2010 has remained quiet this spring. Boston College’s spring game will be made up of situational drills, so it will be difficult to judge much from the play in the trenches. Keep an eye on the Boston College secondary, as the Eagles look to improve their passing defense that gave up over 226 yards per game a season ago.
UPDATE - We will be streaming the Boston College spring game LIVE. You can watch it HERE on Saturday.
Florida State - 4 p.m. Doak Campbell Stadium
Despite all the hype and anticipation, head coach Jimbo Fisher has been frequently frustrated with Florida State’s effort and attention to detail during scrimmages. When asked about his thoughts on last Saturday’s scrimmage, Fisher felt the Seminoles still have “a long way to go." E.J. Manuel in a jersey will be nothing new for FSU fans, but it will be his first spring game after missing the last two due to injury. It will be intersting to see if the Seminoles tighten up on a bigger stage or continue the small mistakes that have been frustrating their coach. Also, this is the only ACC spring game receiving national coverage (ESPN3) so you might as well sneak a peek since you can.
Miami - 12:00 p.m. Lockhart Stadium
New head coach Al Golden has made it a point to change several aspects of Miami’s preparation since taking over back in December. On Saturday fans will get to see the results of Golden’s first offseason and spring practices. Golden has kept the depth chart in constant rotation since the beginning of spring practice, encouraging open competition at nearly every single position. Despite the exciting improvements on the defensive end, Hurricanes fans will likely have their eyes set on the skill positions in the backfield on Saturday. Miami boasts a loaded running back corps of Mike James , Storm Johnson , and Lamar Miller ; who should all receive significant opportunities on Saturday. Also, Jacory Harris and Stephen Morris will get to go head-to-head in the “fantasy-style” scrimmage between two rosters picked by fans. Miami held a charity auction for the right to pick the teams in the spring game, and two Miami alumnus made their selections earlier this week. With no first-team or second-team alignment, the game should be ripe for some outstanding plays on both sides of the ball.
N.C. State - 1 p.m. Carter-Finley Stadium
Head coach Tom O’Brien prefers to focus on improving as individuals during spring practice. Instead of focusing on elaborate scheme’s or sets, the Wolfpack have spent their spring workouts with a focus on fundamentals. With many key positions to fill, that makes Saturday’s spring game particularly interesting on an individual level. New starting quarterback Mike Glennon has shown his chops to the Wolfpack fans during spring games, but he will be throwing the ball to fresh crop of wide receivers. Also with Mustafa Greene undergoing foot surgery, Saturday should be an opportunity for the now-healthy Brandon Barnes to make an impression on the coaching staff. Also keep an eye on the secondary, where this staff is notorious for swapping personnel.
Wake Forest - 1 p.m. BB&T Field
Last season Wake Forest’s inexperience burned them on both sides of the ball. The good news for the Demon Deacons is that 17 of those starters will get a chance to prove themselves again in 2011. The number one thing to watch out of Winston-Salem will be signs of improvement from all the underclassmen. From quarterback Tanner Price to a (rising) sophomore-laden secondary, Wake needs to get better all over the field. With the coaching staff jumble sparked by Brad Lambert’s departure, look for more individual improvement as the team has yet to dive into much heavy scheming this spring.
Tags: ACC, Al Golden, Boston College, Brandon Barnes, Chase Rettig, Dave Shinskie, E.J. Manuel, Florida State, Jacory Harris, Jimbo Fisher, Lamar Miller, Miami, Mike Glennon, Mike James, Mike Marscovetra, Mustafa Greene, N.C. State, Spring Game, Spring Game Preview, Spring Practice Primer, Stephen Morris, Storm Johnson, Tanner Price, Wake Forest, What To Watch
Posted on: March 2, 2011 3:20 pm
Edited on: March 29, 2011 3:47 pm
Posted by Chip Patterson
College Football has no offseason. Every coach knows that the preparation for September begins now, in Spring Practice . So we here at the Eye on College Football will get you ready as teams open spring ball with our Spring Practice Primers . Today, we look at Miami , who opens spring camp this Saturday, March 5.
How will Miami buy into Al Golden's plan to change the culture around Miami football?
When Miami left the Big East, they were on a four-season streak of winning the conference and making an appearance in a Bowl Championship Series game, including one national championship in 2001 and the infamous double-overtime loss to Ohio State in the title game the next year. But since moving to the ACC Miami has failed to even win their own division, much less the conference. Randy Shannon put together a 28-22 record in his four seasons as head coach, failing to deliver success with a team loaded with highly-touted recruits at one of the most notable programs of the last 30 years.
Whether you think the blame falls on former coach Randy Shannon, the administration, or the players themselves; the Hurricanes are hungry to be back among college football's elite. At the conclusion of a coaching search that tossed around names like "Gruden" and "Leach," Miami settled on Temple's Al Golden as the head coach of the future. On Saturday, Miami kicks off Spring Practice. It will be the first of fifteen opportunities Golden will get to build the foundations for a new era in Miami football.
But Golden does not want to focus on changing the schemes, but instead changing the themes. His first goal is to change the attitudes and culture of the team.
"Number one we have to become more disciplined. We have to become more physically and mentally tough. We have to become a smarter football team," Golden recently told CBSSports.com's Bryan Fischer. "Those are things you can work on and, as I say to the players all the time, the culture is really the collective capacity of everybody in this building to create value. How are we going to create more value from our four hours today from the other 14 teams we're going to play? Those are the things we're trying to teach them, something larger than the offense and defense and special teams, the culture is larger than that."
After observing a few practices leading up to Miami's 33-17 Sun Bowl loss to Notre Dame, Golden immediately commented that he wanted to change the speed of practice. That mental toughness has been tested in the winter conditioning workouts already. Players are said to have been pushed like never before with the offseason conditioning, with different stories that paint a picture of vomit-inducing physical exertion. Message boards always give birth to hyperbole, but the fact these things are shocking and different support Golden's message of improving physical and mental toughness.
One of the reasons Golden wants to focus on the toughness and culture in Coral Gables is because the talent is already there. Miami's 2008 recruiting class was heralded as one of the best in the ACC. Those players (now mostly juniors and seniors) came to Miami to be champions. Instead, the class has a combined 23-15 record with three straight bowl losses.
One thing that has helped Golden's cause is that this frustrated group of upperclassmen welcomes the change. With their college days numbered, the leaders of the 2011 Miami team know that they must buy in to Golden's culture or everyone will suffer together. In fact, Golden recently said that it is the older players that have "bought in" first. Starting Saturday, he will count on those players to set the example for the rest of the roster as the Hurricanes begin sorting out the details for the 2011 season.
While Golden has mostly focused on the big picture changes/decisions, there will be a lot of attention on the position battles this spring. According to the head coach, every position is "open" at this point. The hope being that the competition for starting jobs will help push player development and lead to a more polished final product. But most of the attention will fall on the quarterback position.
Jacory Harris has had the opportunity to see the field since he arrived with the rest of the 2008 recruiting class. But between injury and inconsistent play, the hometown Miami native has yet to really take ownership of the quarterbacking duties. Harris recognizes the competition ahead, and welcomes the challenge.
“I really feel like I need the push,” Harris said during an interview last week according to the Palm Beach Post. “The past two years it was me being too comfortable. I think that’s how we felt as a team – too comfortable. These new coaches are bringing the dog out in us. Competition is good for you. All that comfortable stuff is out the door.”
But there is also Stephen Morris. The talented quarterback was called to take over after Harris was sidelined with a concussion against Virginia. Morris displayed flashes of potential at times, but the 9 interceptions in less than 6 full games of action do not support his case as the immediate answer for Harris-based frustrations
So the competition will begin this spring, pushing both quarterbacks to prove why they should be the starter next August. Harris appears to have bought in to Golden's philosophy, and the coach thinks that many of the other leaders have as well. But now he has to make an entire roster buy in to "Al Golden's Miami."
It's a little more hard-nosed and gritty than most of the team has become accustomed to, but after watching the last couple seasons of Hurricanes football it might be their only option for success.
Miami kicks off Spring Practice on March 5, they will hold their annual spring game on April 16.
Click here for more Spring Practice Primers
Fischer: Golden brings new plan to return Canes to Miami of old
Posted on: January 27, 2011 4:50 pm
Edited on: January 27, 2011 4:52 pm
Posted by Chip Patterson
Jacory Harris has been a polarizing figure for Hurricanes fans since his breakout as a freshman splitting time with Robert Marve. When he's playing well, he looks like one of the best quarterbacks in the ACC. He has even been put on several Heisman watch lists at different times throughout his career. Then come the arm-punts.
Harris has failed to string together a consistent streak of mistake-free games through his three years in Coral Gables. After missing three games with a concussion in 2010, Hurricanes fans saw a glimpse of the post-Jacory era with freshman quarterback Stephen Morris. Harris was beyond frustrating this past season, throwing at least one interception in 8 of his 10 appearances. He totaled 15 interceptions on the season, which look even worse compared with only 14 touchdowns.
But there is a new regime at Miami under head coach Al Golden, and a fresh chance for Harris to reclaim the starting position for his senior year. New offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch recently addressed the quarterback situation in a recent radio interview on WQAM 560.
“If [Jacory] has what we’re looking for in a quarterback, he can have a great year, and Stephen the same,” Fisch said, “They both have an opportunity to do something special. What I can’t wait for is to be a part of that with them, to help them along, not hold anything back and not hold anything against them for what they’ve done in the past.”
Fisch was the quarterbacks coach for the Seattle Seahawks in 2010, and was offensive coordinator for Minnesota in 2009. He plans to institute a pro-style offense, asking the quarterbacks to be "the point guard" of the offense; delivering the ball to the different playmakers on the field. He has already addressed the nation-leading 27 interceptions in 2010, a number that Fisch says he wants to "at least cut in half."
If cutting down interceptions is a main focus, it could be tough for Harris to win the starting position outright. Unless he has overcome his knack for giving the ball to the other team, in which case this "clean slate" is the best thing that could happen for his career.
Posted on: January 11, 2011 3:08 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
Hey, did you know that there are other coaching searches going on right now besides the one at Michigan? I'm serious, there are! UConn still needs to find a head coach since Randy Edsall decided to leave following the Fiesta Bowl and take over for Ralph Friedgen at Maryland. Though it's starting to look as though the job vacancy in Storrs has been filled.
Reports out of Florida say that former Miami offensive coordinator Mark Whipple, now out of a job following the firing of Randy Shannon and hiring of Al Golden, will be named the new head coach at UConn.
If the reports turn out to be correct, and the 53-year old Whipple lands the UConn gig, it will be his first head coaching job on the FBS level, and his first head coaching job anywhere since he left UMass in 2004. While at UMass he won a Division-IAA national championship in 1998. Whipple has spent the last two seasons as Miami's offensive coordinator, assistant head coach and quarterbacks coach. After a nice 2009 season that saw the Hurricanes score the most points they had in a season since 2002, things took a big step backwards in 2010. Of course, that could be the fault of Jacory Harris throwing interceptions like they were going out of style more than it was Whipple's offensive system.
Either way, to lose a job as an offensive coordinator only to find yourself getting a job as head coach at another BCS program is a pretty nice turn of events for anybody.
Posted on: December 31, 2010 7:09 pm
Edited on: December 31, 2010 7:11 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
Notre Dame never breaks a sweat during 33-17 win over Miami in El Paso
Offense: Tommy Rees probably isn't the best quarterback on scholarship at Notre Dame, but he's proven that sometimes there's more to the quarterback position than talent. The Irish improved to 4-0 on the season when Rees starts, though even Rees would tell you it's a lot easier to play quarterback when you have a talented wide receiver like Michael Floyd at your disposal.
Floyd says he hasn't made a decision as to whether or not he'll return for his senior season, but there are likely some NFL scouts drooling after his Sun Bowl MVP performance on Friday. Floyd finished the game with 6 receptions for 106 yards and two touchdowns. Still, as nice as Floyd was for the Irish, the real key to their success was the running game, which racked up over 200 yards behind Cierre Wood, Robert Hughes and Theo Riddick. If it weren't for the Irish offense slowing down a bit in the second half -- which is understandable considering the game was already over at halftime -- I'd be giving them a higher grade than this. Grade: B+
Defense: The Notre Dame defense had flown a bit under the radar this season, and came into the Sun Bowl allowing only one touchdown in the last 12 quarters of play. That one touchdown was by USC, and it was a four-play three-yard drive following a turnover. The Irish stretched that streak to 15 quarters before Miami found its way into the end zone, and forced four turnovers on the day with safety Harrison Smith intercepting three passes by himself.
Miami finished the game with over 400 yards and 17 points of offense, but just about all of those came when the game was well out of reach late. Grade: A
Coaching: Brian Kelly didn't come to South Bend with the same fanfare that Charlie Weis and Ty Willingham did, but it's starting to look as though he may finally be the head coach that restores the winning tradition of Notre Dame. The Irish attacked Miami's defense early and built a big enough lead that it was able to coast through the second half, and Bob Diaco's defense stuffed Miami's running game and forced Jacory Harris to throw. And when you force Jacory Harris to throw, it's but a matter of time before the turnovers happen. Grade: A
Offense: It was really a tale of two quarterbacks for Miami. Jacory Harris came into the game looking to redeem himself and just made things worse. Here's what you need to know about Harris' day: he completed seven passes. Only four of them were completed to Miami receivers, the other three ended up in the hands of Notre Dame.
Stephen Morris came on, and though he threw an interception of his own, Miami's offense looked a lot better while he was in the game. Morris threw for 283 yards and two touchdowns, and even though a lot came in garbage time, the fact he didn't quit says a lot about him. Had he played the entire game, the outcome may have been a bit different. Grade: D
Defense: I can't blame Miami's defense for this one, as Jacory Harris didn't put them in a very good position in the first half. Hard as it may be to believe given the outcome of the game, I was actually impressed with Miami's defense in this game for the final three quarters. Even though the outcome of the game was never really in doubt, Miami's defense never stopped playing, and kept holding Notre Dame to field goals. Marcus Fortson, in particular, was impressive in the second half, frequently disrupting life in the Notre Dame backfield.
All that being said, however, Miami's defense never made a play to bail out its offense either. Grade:C+
Coaching: I do not envy the task that Jeff Stoutland had going into this game. A lame duck coach filling in for the recently fired Randy Shannon, and in charge of a team that seemed to lose interest in the 2010 season over a month ago. My only qualm with anything he did was starting Harris over Morris at quarterback, but given the fact that Morris sprained his ankle in practice, I can't even blame him for that. Grade: Incomplete
If you were tuning into this game hoping to see a classic like the meetings between these teams in the late 80s, then you were no doubt disappointed. Still, the game was a microcosm of the directions these once mighty programs seem to be going. Each team has plenty of work left to do, but Notre Dame seems to have already taken the first step back to respectability, while Miami needs to build a foundation first. Grade: D