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Thursday, April 23, 2009
Young Miami QBs made progress this spring

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

 
  James Lang/US Presswire
  Jacory Harris shows signs of flourishing under offensive coordinator Mark Whipple.

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

It was more than a month ago, at Miami's first controlled scrimmage of the spring in full pads, and coach Randy Shannon could remember without hesitation last week that quarterback Jacory Harris completed 17 of 18 passes that day.

It was an accomplishment Shannon attributed almost entirely to his new offensive coordinator, Mark Whipple.

"That's what coach Whipple brings to this team, is getting Jacory to understand that you're the guy who controls what we do offensively," Shannon said recently. "You can get it to the playmakers' hands, take your shots downtown, get it deep, take the short passing game, let guys make some plays and make guys miss. By him bring that aspect to Jacory and sitting with him and teaching him coverages, and understanding what we're try to do offensively, I think has really helped Jacory out more than anything."

It's a progression that has to be made if Miami is going to contend for the Coastal Division again this year. Harris started the first game of 2008, and Robert Marve left him the job to finish, both during the season (Virginia, Duke) and in the end for good. Harris will be in his first season as a full-time starter, and has plenty of talent surrounding him, but the quarterback position will be key -- backup included. Following the end of spring practices, Shannon said Taylor Cook earned the No. 2 spot, but left open the possibility Cannon Smith could win it this fall.

"Taylor knows he has to get better and Cannon knows he has to get better to make us be successful," Shannon said. "You have Jacory, everybody knows Jacory. But I think your team is going to really prosper and develop more if you can develop that second team guy. I think that's going to be very valuable to this team's success, who becomes the second team quarterback."

Harris completed 60.8 percent of his passes for 1,195 yards and 12 touchdowns as a true freshman whose role was mainly off the bench last year. Considering the experience he got last year, combined with the lessons he'll continue to learn this offseason from Whipple, it's possible Harris could emerge as one of the top signal callers in the ACC. He's definitely worth watching to find out.