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Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
The Miami Hurricanes were one of the first teams in the country to start spring practice on Tuesday. I spoke with coach Randy Shannon Tuesday morning about his expectations for the program heading into his third season. Here are the highlights of our conversation:
To start, what are some of your top priorities this spring?
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|Miami coach Randy Shannon is putting a positive spin on his team's difficult 2009 schedule.|
RS: Building depth on the offensive line. The two positions we've got to get some depth at are offensive line and linebacker. We have your so-called first units, but you don't want to get caught in a situation without depth at those positions and that's the one thing we have to develop. We've got a lot of guys back -- (Jason) Fox was a starter, (Joel) Figueroa played a lot, Orlando (Franklin) played a lot, (A.J.) Trump played a lot, (Matt) Pipho played -- but that next batch, we need to develop that sixth, seventh guy.
How many early enrollees do you have?
RS: Six. The last two years we've had seven or eight.
How much will it help you to have those guys for the spring?
RS: It helped us a lot last year because we played so many of those young guys. Of the eight guys that came in, seven helped us last year. These guys come in and they may have an opportunity to help us also. They get ahead.
Do you think the fact that last year's class did that and played so much helped you guys recruit this year because people saw they do have a chance to play as true freshmen at Miami?
RS: I think it did. People understand we're not afraid to play young guys coming in, and that if they're better than the guys we have on the football team they'll definitely get an opportunity to play.
With that said, how big of a step does this sophomore class now have to take and grow up a little bit more?
RS: They have to grow up a lot. Those guys played a lot last year and we have to now move forward. The seniors we do have, they're going to be very key to being leaders now. These guys have played two or three years under the new staff and we look for big things from them.
How did you wind up with such a brutal schedule?
RS: It is what it is, Heather. We have to look at it from the standpoint of, after the first four games you have an opportunity to be in the top 10 in the country. That's how you've gotta look at it. You can't look at it like the world is coming to an end, how are we going to get through this? You can't.
How far back did you schedule Oklahoma?
RS: That was before I was the coach. That was some years ago.
What kind of immediate differences are you hoping your new coordinators can make?
RS: You always want them to make a quick difference. That's the one thing you're always looking for. Offensively, we're looking for the offense to score a lot of points, and defense -- coaches are going to say the same thing -- we want guys to stop guys. We feel like we've got some talent to do that, and we want to be exciting on both sides of the football and have fun.
I know the media has made a lot about the turnover on your staff. Is it important for you to eventually get some staff stability?
RS: Yeah. Eventually. That's what you need to be successful. Sometimes turnover is good, sometimes it's bad, but it seems like everybody in the country is going through turnover right now.
You guys played so well during that five-game winning stretch on defense, is there something you need to do to get back to that?
RS: You know what I think happened? I think with so many young guys playing, we got to that point where, you don't ever want to say hit the wall, but I think they hit the wall at that point in time. That will help us out in the long run because in the upcoming years they'll understand hey, we've been there. Let's move on, we can't slack off.
Do you think that answer you just gave me also translates to the bigger picture with the whole team?
RS: Yes, I think it will. The whole team will understand.
I guess the question is, what do you guys need to do as a team to take the next step? You were in contention there for the Coastal Division.
RS: We were. Until we played Georgia Tech, and that's what got us. I'll tell you what happened. The guys, we're taking everything step by step. The guys understand that and they know we're going to be very competitive and we need everybody to win these games. We don't want anybody to take anything for granted. We need everybody to work hard, and do things on and off the field the right way. And you need a little luck every now and then, but we tell the guys on the team you create your own luck by doing all of the positive things.
How much better do you think your secondary can be than it was last year?
RS: I think it will be a lot better. We've got some young guys back there. You've got Randy Phillips coming back, you've got Demarcus VanDyke, Brandon Harris ... we put some guys over there. Sam Shields is not going to cornerback. He's doing a great job as far as picking it up in the classroom, now we've got to see if he can do it on the field.
You and I have talked before about how the idea of a three-year time limit for head coaches to turn programs around is more of a pressure the media creates, but what are your expectations for yourself? What kind of pressure are you putting on yourself in your third season?
RS: I put more pressure on myself every year to win. That's the one thing you always have to do -- you have to be better than you were the year before to consider that success. I think that's the thing we always have to do as coaches -- be better than you were last year and you will be successful.
How close do you feel you guys are to being where you want Miami to be?
RS: I don't know. I really don't know. It always comes to, like I said, you need a little luck here now and then. Do I think we can do it this year? You always think that as a coach. Realistically, you've got the linebacker position with the depth, and the offensive line position with the depth is going to be key to this team's success.
How does your defensive line look?
RS: We've got a lot of bodies. We've got a lot of guys returning. We've got all of our defensive ends, we've got Eric Moncur coming back. We moved Allen Bailey down to defensive tackle; he's about 300 pounds now. We're athletic, we're young, but we've got a lot of numbers there. A lot of guys up front have played.
I hate asking you this question because I feel like I know your answer, but are there any true freshmen coming in you have a gut feeling are going to make an immediate impact?
RS: Don't know.
I knew it.
RS: You don't know. Every year since I've been here, we've had freshmen come in and play, so there's a chance it may happen.
Aside from building depth, is there a starting position battle that's going to be a good one this spring and summer?
RS: All of them. The one position you could say is quarterback. We've got to find a second guy, which is between Cannon Smith and Taylor Cook. We'll see who emerges as the second guy.
Did that really hurt your depth there, (Robert) Marve leaving?
RS: Yes, but we've got confidence in the other two guys they can get it done. That's why we recruited so many that year.