Print and Go Back ESPN.com: ACC [Print without images]

Tuesday, August 30, 2011
Miami can still be a contender

By Heather Dinich

Miami can finally move on.

The biggest question of the offseason in the ACC -- who will play for the Hurricanes and who will not when Miami lines up against Maryland on Labor Day -- has been answered.

The NCAA has mandated that defensive lineman Olivier Vernon will sit out six games, while Ray-Ray Armstrong and tight end Dyron Dye will miss four games apiece. Quarterback Jacory Harris, Sean Spence, Travis Benjamin, Marcus Forston and Adewale Ojomo all must sit out one game.

Cornerbacks Brandon McGee and JoJo Nicolas, defensive tackle Micanor Regis, safety Vaughn Telemaque and linebacker Marcus Robinson have been cleared by the NCAA to play.

There are your 13 players whose eligibility was in question.

Now, not only can Miami prepare for Maryland this week confident in its starting lineup, it can also move forward knowing the majority of its roster will be intact for the most critical games of the season. This could have been a lot worse for the Canes, but they’ve got a capable starting quarterback in Stephen Morris, and the majority of top players will miss no more than the season opener. Maryland is Miami’s lone conference opponent in the first four weeks, so the Canes will almost be at full strength when they need to be the most -- for the Oct. 8 game at Virginia Tech.

Miami is still very much in the Coastal Division race.

The Canes’ season could have been over before it started, but this is a very manageable punishment for a team loaded with talent. It's not over yet -- the Hurricanes could still face more sanctions as the NCAA continues to investigate. There's no reason to believe this will be fully resolved faster than any of the other NCAA investigations, but as far as the impact it will have on the field this season, Labor Day will be the worst of it.

The biggest hits will obviously come against the Terps, but mainly on the defensive side, as the offense will be missing only two starters. Defensively, Andrew Smith steps in for Vernon. It’s not NFL talent, but Smith is experienced and more than capable of handling the job. He played in 11 games last season and had three sacks. Marcus Robinson, a senior who played in 10 games last season, is another veteran who fills in at the other end spot. Nicolas moved from corner to safety to take over for Armstrong, but Nicolas has played safety the majority of his career anyway -- including 10 starts at the position last season.

The biggest drop off will be at linebacker, where Jordan Futch replaces Spence, but we’re only talking about one game.

No, this is not an ideal way for Al Golden to start his career at Miami, but so far, these suspensions don’t look like they’ll stand in the way of him making a case to finish his first season strong.