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Friday, June 13, 2014
Ask Mark: How many wins for Miami?

By Mark Schlabach

ESPN.com columnist Mark Schlabach is stopping by the ACC blog this week to answer some of your most pressing questions about the league as it enters the 2014 season. You can tweet your questions to Mark here.

Mark: The Hurricanes are making progress under coach Al Golden, who has a 22-15 record in three seasons and has shown improvement each campaign. Last season, the Hurricanes finished 9-4, even after losing star tailback Duke Johnson to a broken ankle in a 41-14 loss at Florida State in their eighth game.

I still contend it’s a minor miracle the Hurricanes were able to persuade Golden to stick around through the ridiculously long NCAA investigation and subsequent penalties. He’s a heck of a coach, and might have had his choice of some desirable jobs if he’d wanted to leave.

I’d feel much better about Miami winning 10 games in a season for the first time since 2003 if quarterback Ryan Williams hadn’t injured his knee during the spring. Williams, a senior transfer from Memphis, was UM’s only experienced quarterback coming back but underwent surgery to repair a torn ACL.

Without Williams, redshirt freshman Kevin Olsen will go into preseason camp as the favorite to start under center. Olsen has good pedigree -- his older brother Greg was a star tight end at Miami and in the NFL and another brother, Christian, played quarterback at Virginia. Olsen needs to improve his accuracy and has yet to play in a college game. Sophomore Gray Crow and incoming freshmen Malik Rosier and Brad Kaaya will push Olsen this fall.

The good news for UM: Johnson is back after recovering from his broken ankle. He’s a difference maker at tailback and on kick returns and can take a lot of pressure off the quarterback. He averaged 171.4 all-purpose yards before getting hurt last season, and is a threat to break loose any time he touches the ball.

More than anything, Miami has to do a better job on defense, after allowing 426.4 yards per game last season, which was 13th-best in the ACC. The Canes have a couple of nice players coming back on the defensive line, and their linebacker corps and secondary are solid.

If Miami is going to equal or better last season’s record, it has to find a way to win on the road. It opens the season at Louisville on Sept. 1; the Cardinals walloped the Canes 36-9 in the Russell Athletic Bowl last season. Miami also plays games at Nebraska, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech and Virginia. UM is 8-8 in road games in Golden’s three seasons. The Canes play a few of their tougher ACC opponents -- Duke, UNC and FSU -- at home.